The Truth About Cars » Sonic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:37:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Sonic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-fiesta-hatchback-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-fiesta-hatchback-with-video/#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=683986 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior

For many Americans, the words “Ford Fiesta” dredges up memories of a claustrophobic rattle-trap competing with “Geo Metro” for the title of Worst American Small Car. Personally, the only time I ever wanted a fiesta was during a drunken weekend in Cabo, and it had more to do with tequila than cars. But that was four years ago and 214,000 Fiestas ago. Since then the Fiesta has proved that an American car company is capable of creating a desirable compact car. Is the party over, or is the car’s first refresh a sign that the party has just begun? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

After being on the market for just four years I hadn’t expected much for 2014 which makes me all the more impressed with the Fiesta’s transformation. Ford’s new “Astonesque” grille which debuted on the new Fusion turned the plain-Jane family hauler into one of the sexiest cars Ford has ever made, and Ford indicated the look was going to trickle down the lineup. I was worried. You see, when a new nose is penned for a new cars, and the existing line-up is modified to accept the new schnozz, you end up with something like the questionable looking Lexus GX 460. Fear not , Ford didn’t just paint on a their trapezoidal grille, they poked and prodded the hood and lamps as well until things looked right, and right they do. The launch photos looked impressive but the final product was even better in person.

It’s hard to avoid Aston Martin Cygnet references so I’ll just say it now: add some hood louvres and a leather dash and Ford’s compact would be more Aston than the iQ based Cygnet. Paired with the new nose, is a tweaked rear end featuring new tail lamps. The only downside in my mind is that the minor nip/tuck to the rear fails to bring the Fiesta’s rump up to the same level as the front. Park the Fiesta nose first in your driveway, and nobody will notice. But back it in, and passers-by are likely to be impressed. As before there is a considerable difference in dimensions between the sedan and the hatchback with the sedan being a whopping 13-inches longer. Thanks to that length, the sedan looks less like a caricature than it would otherwise.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-006

Interior

Four years ago I praised the Fiesta’s interior as class leading in terms of materials choices and fit/finish. That largely remains true despite the Fiesta undercutting the Kia Rio in price. That’s not to say the Fiesta is a revolution, but compared to the hard plastics in the competition, the Fiesta looks and feels more premium. The injection molded dashboard, refreshed steering wheel and seats would not be out of place in the slightly larger compact car category. I found our tester’s black-on-black interior somewhat cold while the lighter interiors available on my local Ford lot were warmer, more attractive and showed off the optional ambient lighting better. (The upper half of dashboard is black on all models.) Helping the Fiesta’s new “premium compact” theme is ability to add real leather seats as opposed to the “leatherette” you find in all but the Kia Rio. Dominating the dashboard in our tester was Ford’s downsized MyFord Touch infotainment system, lower trim levels get a revised SYNC display nestled in a similar binnacle. As you’d expect with any car starting at $14,100, base “S” trim cars suffer severe de-contenting with manual windows, no dome lights, no ambient lighting, only one 12V outlet and no cruise control. This is an important distinction as the majority of the competition feel like upper trim levels are base models with do-dads added.

The front seats don’t offer much thigh or back support unless you opt for the sporty Fiesta ST with its Recaro thrones. Even the Titanium model lacks the range of motion, or support, you’ll find in most mid-sized sedans and power seats are not an option at any price. Even so, the Fiesta’s seats are among the more comfortable in the class. Finding an ideal driving position is easy thanks to a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Rear seat passengers encounter the same firm padding in the sedan or hatchback, and essentially the same amount of headroom with the sedan form factor taking only a 1/10th of an inch toll and ranking near top of the class. Sadly however, the Euro origins are clear when it comes to rear legroom. The Fiesta trails here, and not by a small amount. The Sonic and Rio offer three 3-inches more while the Versa Note is a whopping 7.1-inches more spacious. Likewise, cargo hauling ability of 12.8 cubes in the sedan and 15.4 in the hatchback are on the smaller end of the spectrum.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-004

Infotainment

My major gripe about the 2011 Fiesta was a lack of infotainment love. The SYNC-only 2011-2013 models used a small red display in the center of the dashboard while Kia and Nissan were offering touchscreen navigation units. To address, Ford shrunk their 8-inch MyFord Touch system down to 6.5 inches and dropped the system in a new binnacle on the dash for SE and Titanium Fiestas. Because Ford reduced the system’s dimensions, not the resolution, the system’s graphics have a crisper and high-quality look to them when compared to the 8-inch system in the Focus. There are a few ergonomic downsides however. The screen’s high position on the dash means it’s quite far from the driver requiring a decent reach for most functions and it makes the screen look smaller than it actually is. Also, because the “buttons” have shrunk, it’s easier to stab the wrong one. Thankfully most system operations can be controlled via voice commands negating the need to touch the screen for the most part. Ford’s latest software update (3.6.2 in August 2013) seems to have finally fixed the crashing and random re-boots that plagued earlier versions of the software.

Some buyers won’t care about the 6.5-inch woes as the snazzy system is standard on the Titanium, a $995 option on the SE and not available on the base model. Those shoppers will be happy to know that the Fiesta delivers one of the better audio system values. S and SE models come with six standard speakers, two more than you usually find in a stripper sub-compact, while Titanium models swap in an 8-speaker Sony branded audio system. The base speaker package is notably more crisp and accurate than the four-speaker fare in the competition while the Sony audio system sounded almost too bright at times. Both the S and SE models share the same AM/FM/CD/USB/iDevice head unit with SYNC voice commands and smartphone streaming integration.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-002

Drivetrain

The big news under the hood for 2014 is the arrival of a 3-cylinder turbo option. Sadly one was not available for testing, so keep your eyes peeled for that review later in 2014. All trims get a standard 1.6L four-cylinder engine producing the same 120 HP and 112 lb-ft as last year, meaning that three-banger is optional, yes optional, for 2014. Aside from the novelty of paying $995 to have one cylinder removed, the 1.0L Ecoboost engine promises 32 MPG in the city, 45 on the highway and 37 combined which is a 7 MPG bump on the highway and 5 in the combined cycle. If the fuel economy wasn’t enough to pique your interest, the 1.0L engine cranks out 123 HP and 125 lb-ft across a flat torque curve, with a 15 second overboost good for 145 lb-ft. Ford mates the boosted engine exclusively to a 5-speed manual while the 1.6 can be mated to an optional 6-speed dual-clutch box.

Ford’s 6-speed PowerShift gearbox has received plenty of criticism from owners and Consumer Report. After talking with a number of Fiesta owners I have come to the conclusion the problem is mainly a lack of understanding. You see, PowerShift is Ford-speak for DSG. While Volkswagen’s robotic dual-clutch manual is smoother under certain circumstances (thanks to their use of wet clutches) VW seems to do a better job marketing and explaining their fuel-sipping tranny. Inside the Fiesta’s gearbox lies essentially two robotically shifted manual transmissions, one handling the even gears and the other taking the odd ones. The lack of a torque converter increases efficiency, and the twin-clutch system allows shifts to happen faster than in an automatic. By their very nature, dual-clutch transmissions feel more like a hybrid between a manual and an automatic. When you start from a stop, you can feel the clutch slip and engage. If you’re on a hill, the car will roll backwards when the hill-hold system times out. Occasionally you can hear a bit more gear noise and shifting noise than in a traditional slushbox and reverse has that distinctive sound. Because the Ford system uses dry clutches, starts are more pronounced than in VW’s DSG units with wet clutches (not all DSGs are wet clutch anymore).  2014 brings a major software update that noticeably improves shift quality but there is still a difference in feel. My opinion is: I’ll take PowerShift over a standard automatic any day as I prefer fuel economy and rapid shifts to “smoothness.” What say you?

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-002

Drive

Little was done to the Euro suspension for American duty, making the Fiesta the firmest ride in the segment, tying with the Mazda 2. The Honda Fit is a close second, but the Japanese compact is starting to show its age, feeling less refined and composed over rough pavement. The Versa Note feels composed but delivers more body roll, while the Rio’s suspension feels softer than I prefer while at the same time transmitting more road imperfections to the driver’s spine. Regardless of trim, the Fiesta handles incredibly well. This is due as much to the suspension as the light curb weight. Ranging from 2537lbs to 2628lbs, the Fiesta is a featherweight in America and it shows when you toss the Ford into corners, being far more willing to change direction than a Focus.

When it comes to straight line performance, the 6-speed PowerShift scooted our tester to 60 MPH in 9.08 seconds, a full second faster than the last manual-equipped Fiesta hatchback we tested. The reason for the variation is down to the gear ratios in the 5-speed manual. Ford combined low first and second gears with a tall fifth gear (taller than the Euro Fiesta) for better hill starts and improved EPA numbers but the decisions take a toll on performance and driveability. By dropping first and second, the delta between second and third grows to an odd gap that hampers acceleration after 50 MPH while the tall top gear means frequent downshifts on moderate inclines. Although I normally prefer a manual to any automatic, the Fiesta is one of my exceptions. The PowerShift box seemed to always have the right gear for the situation and made hill climbing a much less frustrating experience.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-008

The Fiesta has always been small, but the Fiestas and Festivas of my youth were mainly known for being cheap. The new Fiesta however is all about value. Ford’s new pricing strategy is a mix of an aggressive $14,100 starting price for the sedan, a $500 premium for the hatchback and an options list that pushes most Fiestas on the lot to between $17,000 and $18,000. Fully loaded, (excluding the ST) the most expensive Fiesta you can get is $21,705. My realistic starting point for the Fiesta is the SE at $15,580 which includes all the essentials the S lacks.

When you compare that to the competition, the Fiesta starts only $110 more than a Versa Note and at the top end is just $855 more than a Rio. Nissan’s Note stacks up best at the bottom of the food chain, delivering more room, better fuel economy and a similar level of equipment for less. Putting things nicely, the Mazda 2 is outclassed by the Fiesta in every way at every level, while the Kia matches the Ford closely in terms of price for content. Although the Rio is the more spacious alternative and it offers a more powerful engine and 6-speed manual, the Fiesta is more attractive and more fun to drive. Chevy’s Sonic suffers from a bargain basement interior and a price tag that doesn’t offer much of a discount vs the Ford, even when you take into account some of the features Chevy offers that aren’t available on the Fiesta.

What the Fiesta does best of all however is wear that $21,705 price tag. No matter how you slice it, the Rio, Sonic and Fit feel like an economy car at the top end of their price range. The Fiesta Titanium however feels like a decent deal for the cash. Those shopping lower in the food chain benefit from a cabin that feels like a cheap version of a more expensive cabin, unlike the Versa Note SL which feels like an expensive version of a cheap car. Plenty of you will baulk at a Fiesta that lists over 21-grand when a base Fusion is just 2000 bucks more, but those looking for mid-size sedan comforts and luxuries in a compact carrying case will do well to drive a Fiesta.

 

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.4 Seconds

0-60:9.08 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.9 Seconds @ 81.6 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPG over 561 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 72.5 db

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Rental Car Review: My Wisconsin Week With a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/rental-car-review-my-wisconsin-week-with-a-2012-chevrolet-sonic-lt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/rental-car-review-my-wisconsin-week-with-a-2012-chevrolet-sonic-lt/#comments Mon, 21 Oct 2013 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=628786 27 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn my travels as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, I spend a lot of time in bottom-end rental cars. Sometimes I get press cars and write about them on these trips, but that’s usually more of a hassle than it’s worth. For about 15 four-day race weekends a year (plus a few vacation trips here and there) I’m in a Dodge Avenger, Nissan Altima, Ford Focus, or other rental-fleet favorite. 2013 is a year of Wisconsin visits for me; first, I went to my wife’s Milwaukee high-school reunion with a ’13 Jaguar XJL Portfolio, then I spent nine days in Door County with a rental ’12 Sonic, and next month I’ll be at the Chubba Cheddar Enduro at Road America with a ’14 Mitubishi Evo. The Sonic made an unexpectedly strong impression on me in August, so let’s see what life with Chevy’s little Daewoo is like.
00 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen we arrived at the Milwaukee airport, the rental-car agency had just one car available in the class I’d reserved: a 2012 Chevy Sonic with more than 25,000 miles on the clock. Twenty-five thousand miles, on a rental car! Rental-car miles are like dog years, with one rental mile roughly equivalent to seven owned miles, and I had never before seen a rental car (in the United States) with more than 15,000 miles under its belt. I figured I’d be getting a sneak preview of what a Sonic with 175,000 hard miles would be like in the year 2025— an opportunity, not a disappointment, for the serious automotive journalist.
08 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMinutes after leaving the airport, I spotted a good-sized car show, complete with live music, so I figured I’d get right into Upper Midwest car culture.
31 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn a way, trips to the Upper Midwest serve as reminders of my cultural roots; though I spent most of my childhood in California, I spent my first six years in Minneapolis. Here we see the Martin Family Motor Pool, circa 1970.
30 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, before the commissars of California turned me into the coastal-elitist Zaporozhets lover I am today, my family lived a proper Old Milwaukee-drinking, sauerkraut-eating, snow-shoveling, Custom 500-driving life in the heartland. In fact, every photo from my early childhood features Old Milwaukee (or Old Style, or Grain Belt) beer bottles and/or Old Dutch pretzels somewhere in the frame.
10 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRight. So, a Milwaukee car show did a good job of getting me back in touch with my inner Midwesterner, plus there were a few interesting machines standing out from the usual background of first-gen GM F-bodies and pre-Pinto Mustangs. Say, this Stovebolt six with vintage Offenhauser intake.
09 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOr this more modern version of the custom-Chevy theme.
24 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe were hungry, so we headed to the south side of Milwaukee to grab some dinner. Before leaving, however, I futzed around with the audio system of the Sonic long enough to get my MP3 player hooked up to the stereo’s AUX jack…
22 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin… at which point I discovered that this no-frills econobox has functioning Bluetooth integration. How long ago was it that only luxury cars had this stuff? Ten years?
13 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Sonic felt a bit loose and rattly, as you’d expect with a high-mileage rental, but everything worked fine and the 1.8 liter Ecotec still made decent, if buzzy, power. In fact, I can say without reservation that this is by far the best overseas-designed badge-engineered subcompact in General Motors history; the mildly unpleasant Aveo was better than the punitive Metro, which was better than the miserable Sprint, which was far superior to the wretched LeMans, which beat the hell out of the excremental Chevette, which seemed like a fine automobile next to the unspeakably terrible Kadett. With those comparisons in mind, we rolled into the south Milwaukee neighborhood in which my wife’s grandparents spent their entire lives.
11 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinDinner was at Three Brothers, a little Serbian joint located in the building that once housed one of Joseph Schlitz’s first breweries.
12 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s always a good sign when you’re eating dinner at a restaurant with one of these things on the roof.
14 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinReally getting into the Upper Midwest thing at this point, I tried to imagine rolling up to this restaurant in 1964, driving the rental-car equivalent of a Sonic. A Chevy II sedan with four-cylinder engine and 10,000 miles on the odometer?
15 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFor dinner, I had the stuffed zucchini with dumplings. Highly recommended. No, I didn’t drink Schlitz with it; there is such a thing as carrying local authenticity too far.
18 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAfter spending the night at my mother-in-law’s place just north of Milwaukee, we hit the road for the 140-drive to Sturgeon Bay, a Lake Michigan town about midway up the Door County peninsula.
23 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Sonic’s suspension was a bit rattly and the body was pockmarked by old hail damage, but the unapologetically plasticky interior had held up to all those miles of rental-car punishment pretty well. I continued to be impressed by the number of once-luxurious features that are now standard on even the stripper rental version of the lowest-end car of a car company’s entry-level marque. Cruise control!
21 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinTilt steering wheel! No power seats, but we may see them go the way of manual-crank windows in the next few years.
07 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI had to supply my own GPS device for the Sonic, but once backup cameras become mandatory in all new cars we can expect all those little screens to enable GPS in even the cheap Daewoos of the US car marketplace.
02 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPassing through Belgium, Wisconsin, not far out of Milwaukee’s sphere of influence, I spotted a highway sign for the Luxembourg American Cultural Society Museum. As my legal surname should make clear to any lifelong resident of southern Wisconsin or Minnesota, I am a proud Luxembourg-American— just like Chris Evert and Dennis Hastert.
17 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe museum wasn’t open at the time, but it seemed like a pleasant place. No, I don’t understand why the Luxembourg American Cultural Center is located in Belgium when the town of Luxembourg, Wisconsin is nearby.
16 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere we are in traditional Luxembourger outfits, which gave me a powerful hunger for some traditional Lëtzebuerger Grillwurscht. So, we climbed back into the Sonic and resumed our journey.
03 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRural Wisconsin is one of my favorite road-trip states, not least because you can stop in just about small town and snarf up an excellent meal based on the principles of the Upper Midwest Food Pyramid (more of a Food Holy Trinity, really): cured meat, cheese, and beer. The Port O’Call in Kewaunee didn’t have Lëtzebuerger Grillwurscht, but they did offer the full spectrum of New Glarus beers and a good selection of meaty, cheesy fare.
25 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinArriving in Sturgeon Bay, which is sort of a weird mashup of corn-fed Midwestern town, salty port city, and upscale resort community, I wanted to pose the Sonic by all the old-school taverns with nicely weathered Malaise Era beer signs.
26 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI suspect that the Red Room’s Blatz sign predates the Malaise Era by a decade or two.

Beer at local prices! I gave up on the Sonic-with-vintage-beer-signs idea once I realized that such a project would take about a week to finish.
32 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinActually, I lost focus on beer signs when I spotted this Nissan Figaro parked in downtown Sturgeon Bay. I couldn’t find the owner, so I can’t tell you what no-doubt-innovative paperwork magic was performed to make this car legal for US roads.
33 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNor can I tell you how a Citroën 2CV can survive in Wisconsin without vaporizing in a cloud of red dust within hours of arrival.
19 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOne feature that really struck me about the Sonic was the cheap-and-cheerful instrument cluster, a discrete standalone unit that can be mounted on left or right side of the dash without too much trouble. No doubt using the same Korean-design/Taiwanese-capital/Chinese-labor system that brought us $25 boomboxes that can be tumbled down several flights of concrete steps and still crank out the Tang Dynasty, Daewoo has produced a tough, easy-to-replace analog/digital instrument cluster that provides all the needed driver information, looks vaguely science-fictiony, and probably cost less than the fuel gauge on a Maepsy.

In fact, this cluster is the first thing you see in the add for the Japan-market Chevy Sonic. Wild compact!

Now that we’re watching Sonic commercials, let’s take a look at a few more examples of the way this Daewoo is conquering the world. Here’s how they pitch it in Brazil.

In Australia, the Sonic gets badge-engineered into the Holden Barina.

In Argentina, this Sonic ad gives the econo-futuristic instrument cluster heavy billing.

The Thai-market Sonic is So You. Note the instrument cluster on the right side.

This US-market ad features Theophilus London and the sort of hoonage that would have been illegal under Malaise Era car-ad restrictions.

Speaking of hoonage, marketers of the Korean Sonic (still called the Aveo in 2012) encourage “Fun Riding” in Italy.

In Mexico, all night party people use the Sonic sedan to escape oppressive techno-state control.

Former Warsaw Pact countries got local-language versions of this ad.

This Indian-market ad is for the previous-generation Aveo, but I’m including it for general entertainment value (and to provide yet more evidence that GM has gone seriously global with its Sonic/Barina/Aveo/Zafira/whatever).
20 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin
OK, back to Wisconsin! After admiring the instrument cluster a while longer, I headed to the log cabin.
29 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMy wife’s grandparents bought this log cabin on the Lake Michigan shore back in the 1940s, and I parked the Sonic in the spot where generations of Buicks and Packards once parked.
05 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOver the course of the next week, I took the Sonic on many trips into town, to purchase crucial supplies (and to get internet access, so I could write about my Bonneville Salt Flats adventures of the previous week).
06 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSonic trips to fine Wisconsonian eating establishments such as the Nightingale Supper Club, took care of my recommended yearly allowance of perch and whitefish.
04 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin
Naturally, the Sonic went on a few shopping expeditions for treats to bring back to Denver.
28 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn the end, I was a little sad to return the hail-battered, much-traveled Chevy to the rental-car lot at MKE. The current generation of Sonic turned out to be a decent transportation appliance. If it can survive 25,000 miles in a rental fleet, you have to figure it should be good for at least 200,000 miles on the street, right? My Rental Car Review Verdict™ of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT: Utterly bereft of Mack Daddy style, surprisingly pleasant to drive. If given a choice between this car and a Nissan Versa at the rental-car counter, take the Sonic (and if given a choice between the Dodge Journey and walking, take walking).

01 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Review: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ Turbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/review-2012-chevrolet-sonic-ltz-turbo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/review-2012-chevrolet-sonic-ltz-turbo/#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2012 02:46:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=425906 Let’s face it; we Americans have rarely created a small car worth considering, we have also rarely built a small car in our own backyard. Case in point: the former Chevy Aveo. While I wouldn’t say the Aveo was abjectly horrible, there was nothing to excite a shopper and it wasn’t cheap enough to compensate. While the Aveo was born out of old-GM’s need to buy every ailing car company around the world (in this case Daewoo), it’s replacement, the new Chevy Sonic, is the only subcompact car currently sold in the United States that’s actually assembled here as well. The platform used by the Sonic is far better traveled than most Americans. GM’s “Gamma II” architecture was designed by GM Korea with considerable input from Opel (as the Opel Corsa will share the platform soon) and re-skinned by Chevrolet. To make the Sonic LTZ Turbo from this multi-national compact car, Chevy dropped a 1.4L turbocharged engine and six-speed manual tranny under the hood. Unlike the Hertz-ready Sonic hatchback Michael Karesh has last year, the Sonic LTZ Turbo is the top-of-the-line Sonic attempting to please those who want a hair more shove and, paradoxically, better fuel economy. Sound like a good start? Let’s see if GM got it right this time.

On the outside, the Sonic strikes some interesting poses. The side character lines are assertive, and the bold nose worn by this baby-bow-tie might be the best look I’ve ever seen from Chevrolet (I’m glad they didn’t get all Camaro-cartoonish on the Sonic). While it seems that the last decade was marked by compact cars that were egg-shaped contraptions with no pizzazz, the Sonic’s headlamps are the polar opposite with “individual” lamp assemblies instead of a single aerodynamic unit. While the look is both unique and striking, I can’t imagine they are “pedestrian friendly” and they look like they’d be a bear to clean (a problem not lost on a guy that washes his own cars). Out back things get a touch awkward with a stubby trunk, tear-drop shaped tail lamps (side view) and a plain trunk lid. While compact sedans are difficult to style to begin with, Chevrolet’s dramatic schnoz makes the boring booty a bit more pronounced. To soften the blow, the LTZ trim includes well-integrated fog lamps and a bump from the base car’s 15-inch wheels to 17-inch 5-spoke aluminum rollers that fill out the wheel wells better than most in this segment (I’m looking at you, Honda Fit).


The problem with looking at the top trim-levels of a particular car is that the interior can disappoint. The reason of course is a practical one; while you might be paying nearly $20,000 for the top-end model, the same interior is used in the base model costing some 25% less. The Sonic LTZ is no different from the rest with plenty of hard plastic on the dash and doors. Fortunately, the interior styling is modern and fairly unique which helps distract from the parts quality. The dilemma of a fully-loaded sub-compact for $20,000 or a base mid-size sedan like a Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry or VW Passat is not lost on me. For the money, if the interior quality matters to you, jump up a size and you will be far happier with your decision. Within its class however, the Sonic is no longer at the bottom of the pack in terms of interior refinement, instead trailing behind Hyundai and Ford but notably above Chrysler and Nissan’s discount offerings. Yet again, features on the LTZ help to distract from any haptic concerns with standard heated seats, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, leather seating surfaces, and a thick-rimmed leather steering wheel. What isn’t standard is an abundance of rear leg room, a problem common among the majority of the competition (the Nissan Versa is a notable exception). The cargo capacity of 14 cubic feet is very competitive and unlike some of the competition, split folding rear seats are standard on the Sonic.

On the safety front, the Sonic has recently scored an IIHS top safety pick along with the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte and Ford Focus. All Sonic models come with a bevy of airbags including knee airbags for the driver and front passenger. GM is quick to point out OnStar as a safety feature; however the Sonic only gets a 6-month subscription for free. While I found OnStar handy on my last vehicle that came equipped with it (a 2000 GMC Envoy), the price could be a problem for budget shoppers with the cheapest package costing $199 a year (there are multi-year discounts available). If you want the turn-by-turn navigation feature (GM’s solution to the lack of an in-dash nav system), that’ll set you back $299 a year. Shoppers with smartphones might want to just stick to their Google Maps app and a basic AAA membership. Still, if you are risk averse and want to know that someone hears you when a tree falls in the forest, the Sonic is the only OnStar equipped car in the class.

Car companies equate small car buyers with young car buyers and for good reason; in the US small means cheap and the young buyers typically have little cash. The problem with this segment and the supposed target demographic is that the young demand technology. Unfortunately for Chevrolet (aside from OnStar), the Sonic has little going for it in the cellphone/music device integration department. There is an “OnStar app” which allows you to perform a variety of tasks from your Apple iPhone or Android device including: locking or unlocking the car, getting vehicle service information, setting up service appointments, viewing your tire pressure and finding your car in a parking lot. Two problems exist with this; the yearly fee and the fact that none of those features address the behind-wheel experience. While you can plug your iPod or iPhone into the Sonic, there is no voice command ability for your tunes ala Ford’s SYNC or Kia’s UVO. Adding to the frustration is an incredibly slow interface and tiny screen. I’d say you would be better off unplugging your device, browsing, then plugging it back in – except the system seems to always start at the first tune on your device in alphabetical order. If you’re young and not a Luddite, good luck finding your beat. On the bright side, the Bluetooth system operated flawlessly with above average sound quality.

Ford has been touting their turbocharged engines as the answer to all the world’s ills, so it was only a matter of time before GM hopped on the boosted-bandwagon. Instead of a boring name like Ecoboost, by checking the $700 option box (on LT and above trims) Chevy gives you the “Turbo Sonic” or “Sonic Turbo.” Take your pick. Either way it sounds like something from The Jetsons. For turbo duty, the engineers blessed the 1.4L cast-iron engine with aluminum heads, dual variable valve timing, a suitably small appetite for fuel and a tiny power bump verses the base 1.8L engine. While both engine choices are good for 138HP, the 1.4L turbo delivers peak power 1,400RPM lower than the 1.8 and, typical of turbo engines, it delivers 23 ft-lbs more twist with the peak hitting at 2,500RPM (1,300RPM lower than the 1.8). What does this mean for the driver? As long as you don’t mind the turbo lag, the 1.4L engine will serve up 60MPH about a half second faster than the 1.8L while delivering a 22% improvement in economy (4MPG city and 5MPG highway better). If you are waiting for the Sonic RS, be aware there are no planned power upgrades, just styling and possibly wheel changes.


Due partly to the turbo engine and the 2,850lb curb weight, the Sonic LTZ Turbo is rated for 29 MPG city and 40 MPG highway. Our tester came with the 6-speed manual transmission and, until sometime this spring, this is the only transmission choice for the turbo. I am told however that when the 6-speed automatic does drop, we should expect to see essentially identical EPA numbers. If you live in the mountains as I do, just wait for the automatic. As much as I love a good manual, the tiny engine runs out of steam around 5,000 RPM and as with most small turbocharged engines you don’t just have to downshift to get up a hill, you have to downshift and wait for the turbo to spool-up. When the mountain roads start twisting, the electric power steering is as numb companion, however the chassis is well sorted and grip from the 205-width low-profile Hankook Optimo tires was greater than I had expected. Despite our testing, mountain climbing and plenty of idling at the photo shoot, we averaged 34.6 MPG during 865 miles and easily hit 41 MPG on the open highway.

While the outgoing Aveo was named the Least Satisfying vehicle by Consumer Reports, the new Sonic has a few things going for it. Aside from being the patriot’s choice for being in Michigan, it delivers a competent driving experience with excellent fuel economy. While the $19,420 price tag may seem high, it is less than a Hyundai Elantra Limited and a hair cheaper than a fully loaded Fiesta SEL sedan. The Sonic wins points for being more fun to drive than either, unfortunately it loses more than it gains(in my book) for its poor smartphone integration. Fortunately GM has announced that their new “MyLink” infotainment system is coming to the Sonic in the 2013 model year. While I hesitate to speculate on new products, I have to say the thought of a 2013 Sonic Turbo with the 6-speed automatic and the new MyLink system makes me think GM is finally on to something.

 

Statistics as tested

0-30: 3.0 seconds

0-60: 8.7 seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.6 seconds @ 83 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 34.6 MPG over 865 miles

Chevrolet provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

 

2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, side 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, side 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, side 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, side 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, glove compartment, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, glove compartment, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, glove compartment, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, HVAC vent, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, radio, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, center console, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, HVAC controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, 6-speed shifter, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, gauges, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, gauges, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, rear seat side view, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Interior, rear seat folded, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, trunk, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, trunk, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, trunk, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ Turbo Exterior, headlamp, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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@PPL W/ #Klout: Free 3 Day #Sonic Frm #@GM http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/ppl-w-klout-free-3-day-sonic-frm-gm/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/ppl-w-klout-free-3-day-sonic-frm-gm/#comments Sun, 04 Dec 2011 10:16:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=421319

Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! If you have enough followers on Twitter and the like, Chevrolet might give you a free 2012 Sonic. Not for keeps. But for 3 days. It’s the new long-term tester of the 140 character age.

According to Automotive News [sub], General Motors has hired Klout, a company that ranks a person’s “social influence.” Well, social networking influence. In the past, people with high Klout scores received free review copies of software, deodorant, or coffee. Now, they get a car.

To be eligible, you need a “Klout score” of at least 35. It’s probably too late to prostitute yourself for followers, AN says the program already began in November and runs through Dec. 14. follows a collaboration earlier this year promoting the Volt, Chevy’s $40,000 plug-in hybrid.

139 (gee, why not 140???) drives will be offered in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco. All it costs GM is four or five Sonics on loan in each of the five cities.

The twitterati better be careful. A Federal Trade Commission guideline requires bloggers and social-media agents to disclose when writing about products they’ve gotten for free. It’s nice that the FTC has followed an example TTAC has set since day one.

 

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