By on October 3, 2019

2017 Chevrolet Sonic

One of the more vibrant paint choices for the 2020 Chevrolet Sonic is “Red Hot” — a name that most certainly does not accurately describe the Sonic’s U.S. sales.

Chevy’s Michigan-built subcompact remains in the Chevy lineup for the coming model year, joined by an Impala that sees its production end in January, and accompanied by the ghosts of the remaining unsold Cruzes littering lots after that model’s cancellation. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Chevy’s 2021 lineup contain just the Malibu, Spark, and Bolt in the non-sporty passenger car stable.

Why? Because, while General Motors chose to deep-six the Sonic in Mexico and Canada earlier this year, buyers apparently didn’t get the message that it remains on sale in the U.S. 

It was a good third quarter for GM, with sales rising 6.3 percent in Q3; Chevrolet eked out a 4.6-percent gain compared to the same period last year. And, while some Chevy passenger cars saw their fortunes rise last quarter (Malibu up 4.5 percent, Bolt up 22.3 percent), the subcompact Sonic saw its sales fall 70.5 percent. Through the end of September, Sonic volume has decreased more than 40 percent.

To put it another way, more than twice as many Americans bought a Chevy Cruze in Q3 — a vehicle killed off this past spring — than they did a Sonic. And that’s after GM offered $2,000 off the already affordable Sonic in September (and nearly the same amount off the month before). Currently, there’s $1,000 in discounts to be had on a 2020 model, with the base LS sedan ringing in at $16,595 after destination.

Did we mention it has a standard turbocharged engine now? Well, it does.

Overlooked in the presence of the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit almost since its introduction, the Sonic remains a fun little car to drive. I’ve taken a liking to one in the past, and so has Bark. It’s just the American new car buyer who’s apparently not impressed.

Hailing from GM’s Orion Assembly, the Sonic’s fate has been in question for some time. Orion, you see, builds the Bolt and Cruise AV autonomous test vehicle, and the automaker recently tapped the locale for production of a future Chevy-badged electric crossover. As Sonic sales dwindled (2014 saw 93,518 Sonics sold; 2018 brought only 20,613), the low-profit vehicle’s presence in a valuable domestic assembly space became ever more conspicuous, leading to rumors of its cancellation.

However, those rumors have not yet panned out. 2018 passed with no word on the model’s fate, and 2019 has thus far given us a 2020 Sonic. We’ve reached out to GM for comment about the Sonic’s Alfa Romeo-like sales performance last quarter and what it means for the model, and will report anything we hear back from them.

[Image: General Motors]

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19 Comments on “Still Not Officially Discontinued, the Chevrolet Sonic’s Days Are Numbered...”

  • avatar

    “Did we mention it has a standard turbocharged engine now? Well, it does.”
    GM and turbocharged engines have about the same relationship as Rover did to Lucas and VW to the concept of reliability. That is enough reason to run far away as possible.

  • avatar

    When tarted up as RS hatchbacks these are really good looking cars, but I still think if push came to shove and I wanted this type of vehicle I’d go with the Abarth.

  • avatar

    For openers, hardly any Chevy dealers, at least around my home in metro Detroit, has any Sonics in stock.

    The inventory search on the Chevy web site shows 9 Sonics within 25 miles of my home, and 7 of those are at one dealer.

    The Chevy site shows 195 Cruzes and 1085 Trax.

    A couple months ago, I looked at local inventory of Sonic hatckbacks. There were only a couple hatchbacks to be had in all of metro Detroit, but every Chevy dealer had several Trax in stock that were priced lower than the Sonics.

  • avatar

    Residual Aveo stink, carpocalypse, and a 2016 refresh that took it from cool-looking to a car for the poors all torpedoed it.

  • avatar

    One rental experience with one of these horrid little turds was enough. I actually avoid rental Malibus too, they’re not in the same loser category as a Sonic but they are an uninspired, bland bore.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Rented a one a few years ago. I liked driving it, but far too small for me to consider purchasing.

  • avatar

    RS manual 3-door would be fun.

  • avatar

    We had as a rental 4 years ago (LT model) and we were really impressed. The interior is TARDIS grade, seeming much larger than the exterior dimensions. It is a great urban runabout with enough power to squirt through holes in traffic and easy to park. Visibility is great considering the state of vehicles today. The big shock came on the highway. At 70 to 80 MPH it was compeetent, rode nice and for a B-segment car, surprisingly quiet.

    I would think one of these with a manual and the turbo 4-pot would be a pretty fun car in the “slow car drove fast” category.

    The hatchback is definitely more attractive/functional than the sedan. Even if the Sonic dies it lives on in the Trax and Encore, you know — profit.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    Why kill it. When you could put a set of snow tires on it, and start selling it as a crossover.

  • avatar

    I have a 2015 Sonic LT hatch that we purchased brand new and it’s been a great car. No problems aside from some minor trim issues fixed under warranty (sunvisor clip broke, the carpet came unhinged and started bunching up). But nothing mechanical or serious has worn out.

    I did make the mistake of purchasing a ’15 Honda Fit before the Sonic. We liked the Sonic more but were skeptical of GM’s sketchy record versus Honda’s stellar one. What a penalty box that Fit was! Loud, slow, unrefined. Cramped front seats and terrible gearing. And so many quality issues on the ’15. We rid ourselves of it after 5k miles. The only good points were the big back seat (not much good for being the driver) and the fuel economy.

    The Sonic was a breath of fresh air. It’s quieter, faster, and much roomier up front. Compared to the Honda, the quiet cabin feels like a Bentley. I like the quirky styling and digital dash. It’s different without being annoying, and easy to read. The smooth ride and solid feel give it a big car feel. Ours is the 1.8 litre with the manual, and it does feel sluggish at times. But still faster than the Fit.

    The restyle for ’17 lost me. Most of the charming character was lost and the style is generic. Gone are the digital gauges and the whole package feels like the warmed over restyle that it was. I’d still buy a new one if I had to, but it doesn’t have the same appeal as my ’15

    It’s a shame that the Sonic will likely be discontinued, but the writing is on the wall and it’s not the same car I fell in love with. Now, if only Honda would drop the dreadful Fit…..

  • avatar

    “Bolt up 22.3 percent”

    That’s good, but as of July it was still only 8,281 units. Even if it does the same amount by Dec, that’s 16,562 units. Meanwhile 280,886 Corollas were sold in 2018.

  • avatar

    Q1) Has General Motors ever engineered and manufactured a truly world-class small car?

    Q2) If not, why not?

    Q3) Why do they keep pretending to try?

  • avatar

    Looks about as exciting as a wet fart, which I suppose could be exciting in its own way. I kind of found the original endearing in that way where I would never own one, but didn’t actively dislike it. I suppose the best that could be said about this one is that ambivalence is a thing.

    To my mind this suffers the same issue that the Fiesta did; for not much more money (in a monthly payment) you could get the larger Focus and not take a huge hit on fueling costs. The styling on the original Sonic was never as incoherent as the Fiesta, though the proportions suffered in the same ways: too tall and narrow for the length.

  • avatar
    Guitar man

    Orion is basically a sheltered workshop.

    They don’t even make these things in South Korea or China anymore.

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