So Long, Sonic: Another GM Car Bites the Dust

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

This was a long time coming. In fact, Wednesday’s announcement of the discontinuation of the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact was expected to arrive by the end of last year, not halfway through the present one.

Regardless, the small hatchback and sedan that greeted buyers near the outset of the 2010s will not last more than a year into the 2020s. It’s dead come October.


The news comes to us via CNBC, which quotes company spokeswoman Megan Soule as saying GM’s Orion Assembly will switch to manufacturing a crossover version of the Chevrolet Bolt (Bolt EUV) come 2021. The Michigan factory already cranks out the all-electric Bolt. The discontinuation of the Sonic was the product of “declining demand,” Soule said.

Appearing for the 2012 model year, the Sonic was a subcompact, youth-oriented companion to the larger Cruze compact car. Both models shared their thrifty, downsized powertrains (1.8-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder, 1.4-liter turbo).

Initially, as the U.S. bounced back from the Great Recession and cheap, fuel-efficient passengers cars briefly exploded in popularity, the Sonic fared fairly well. After climbing to a high water mark of 93,518 units sold in 2014, demand for the nimble little car tapered off. Sales declined each year thereafter, falling to a barely significant 13,971 units in 2019.

The far more expensive and complex Bolt sold more examples last year, though not considerably more.

Following the recent scrapping of the Chevy Cruze, Volt, and Impala, the departure of the Sonic leaves Chevrolet — and GM — with a single non-sports, non-electric, domestically built passenger car: the Malibu. And that’s a sedan that’s also facing its eventual demise. The tiny, imported Spark remains in the catalog.

What a difference a decade makes.

While the Sonic’s days are soon over, the assembly plant will retain its current complement of workers in order to build the Bolt EUV — a vehicle no one’s yet laid eyes on, but one that should bump up the electric nameplate’s cargo and utility factor.

In the meantime, expect to see cheap deals this fall as dealers rid themselves of all remaining examples of the Sonic. No longer offered with the base 1.8L and saddled with a standard six-speed automatic, the Sonic retains its initial hatchback usability and fun-to-drive characteristics.

[Images: General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Akear Akear on Jul 08, 2020

    I have just been to the Car and Driver website and found the xt5 finishing dead last. That is GM for you. Their review for the xt4 was even more negative than the review on this site. Well, at least the xt4 finished 4th to last, which is an improvement.

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Jul 13, 2020

    I had a couple as rental cars and I didn't mind them. In fact, if GM had leased this car like they leased the '16 Cruze "Classic" I got for $105/mo for 24 months, I would have leased the Sonic instead. I liked the unique front end and the "motorcycle inspired" gauge cluster in the earlier cars. The 1.4T would have been slightly better in this car than the Cruze, though just as coarse and thrashy above 4k. I'd rather GM keep this than soul-less, shapeless Trax.

  • C-b65792653 I'm starting to wonder about Elon....again!!I see a parallel with Henry Ford who was the wealthiest industrialist at one time. Henry went off on a tangent with the peace ship for WWI, Ford TriMotor, invasive social engineering, etc. Once the economy went bad, the focus fell back to cars. Elon became one of the wealthiest industrialist in the 21st century. Then he went off with the space venture, boring holes in the ground venture, "X" (formerly Twitter), etc, etc, etc. Once Tesla hit a plateau and he realized his EVs were a commodity, he too is focused on his primary money making machine. Yet, I feel Elon is over reacting. Down sizing is the nature of the beast in the auto industry; you can't get around that. But hacking the Super Charger division is like cutting off your own leg. IIRC, GM and Ford were scheduled to sign on to the exclusive Tesla charging format. That would have doubled or tripled his charging opportunity. I wonder what those at the Renaissance Center and the Glass House are thinking now. As alluded to, there's blood in the water and other charging companies will fill the void. I believe other nations have standardized EV charging (EU & China). Elon had the chance to have his charging system as the default in North America. Now, he's dropped the ball. He's lost considerable influence on what the standardized format will eventually be. Tremendous opportunity lost. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos I never used winter tires, and the last two decades I am driving almost only rear wheel drive cars, half of them in MI. I always bought all season tires for them, but the diff between touring and non touring flavors never came up. Does it make even the smallest bit of difference? (I will not read the lengthy article because I believe it does not).
  • Lou_BC ???
  • Lou_BC Mustang sedan? 4 doors? A quarterhorse?Ford nomenclature will become:F Series - Pickups Raptor - performance division Bronco - 4x4 SUV/CUVExplorer - police fleetsMustang- cars
  • Ede65792611 Got one. It was my Dad's and now has 132K on it. I pay my Mercedes guy zillions of dollars to keep it going. But, I do, and he does and it's an excellent vehicle. I've put in the full Android panel for BT handsfree and streaming with a backup cam.