By on July 8, 2020

2017 Chevrolet Sonic

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.

Sad?

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.

2017 Chevrolet Sonic, Image: General Motors

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.

2017 Chevrolet Sonic

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]

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27 Comments on “So Long, Sonic: Another GM Car Bites the Dust...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    In hatchback RS trim and outfitted with a manual, I actually kind of liked the Sonic.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      Yes, it’s not a bad little bucket, but the USP is just not there, or it might actually sell.

    • 0 avatar
      ccto

      Twice or three times I ended up with one of these from airport car rentals, and I was very impressed, even with the automatic. Great on the highway, lots of room inside for people and stuff, comfy for passengers, and I really got to like the little instrument cluster. Rear-quarter sightlines were even worse than on my late-90s Golf and the rear door handles are silly but overall it’d be a contender if I were in that market…which apparently nobody else is either. Shame the Big 3 learns to build very good small cars about 40 years too late.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Small hatchback RS trims with manuals, are pretty hard not to like, now that everything else is of offer is bloated, rolling dullomatics.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Can this be clarified:

    “manufacturing a crossover version of the Chevrolet Bolt”

    Isn’t the Bolt already a crossover?

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      GM called it a hatchback sedan but yeah you’re right.
      The EUV is a 3 inch stretch version and definitely looks more crossoverish (if that’s a word).

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      I knew I wasn’t imagining things:

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-200-mile-chevrolet-bolt-to-debut-at-naias/

      https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/a15099446/2017-chevrolet-bolt-ev-test-review/

  • avatar
    lstanley

    The Sonic and Spark in hatchback form always brought a smile to my face especially in some of of their more crazy colors. Both seem like they would be great buys as city runabouts

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      I rented a 2015 HB LTZ when on a Business trip in DFW about 5 years ago. It was quick and sipped gas despite being an automatic. Cargo room was pretty tight though, only 2 carry ons would fit with the seats up. Overall, it was a good car but it withered on the vine in typical GM fashion.

  • avatar

    The Sonic I drove six years ago was a real hoot. Plenty of power, tight handling and the ride was better than expected. Felt planted to the road. I’d own one if in the market.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Yes, a little sad. I’m no GM fan, but the Sonic sedan was a good-looking little car, and I think they offered affordable, reliable service to many.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I had a ’13 Sonic. By 50k miles, it was using as much coolant as it was gasoline. Good riddance.

  • avatar

    Since the Sonic only had 20% US content I will not miss it. I should mention the Sonic outsells the Bolt by more than a 2 to 1 margin.

    GM is a dumpster fire.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      WHAT A DISGRACE!

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “I should mention the Sonic outsells the Bolt by more than a 2 to 1 margin.:”

      Year to date 2020: 8,371 Bolts. 6,452 Sonics.

      The Bolt currently outsells the Sonic. They adjusted the Bolts price so the starting MSRP is essentially $28,995 by putting $8500 cash on the hood. With a dealer discount, some options, and my States $2500 subsidy, I can probably get one out the door for $22,500.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      Wasn’t aware about such low NA content, however I recall GM advertising the Sonic was the only subcompact made in the US. I believed it didn’t matter much anyway sales-wise.
      What sub compact stands anyway? Fiesta, Sonic, Yaris, 2, 500 all gone. Fit won’t be refreshed, may neither be long for this world.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I honestly thought it got the axe a long time ago. If I were to pick one I preferred over the other it would have to be pre-refresh for both this and the Cruze. From certain angles the pre-refresh versions looked pretty cool.

  • avatar

    Very sad.

    But not surprised. With decreased sales and little marketing, the writing was on the wall.

    I bought a new ‘15 Sonic to replace the horrendous, penalty box Honda Fit we had previously. We still have it to this day and I love it more than ever. Aside from the carpet bunching up in the driver’s footwell (a strange issue that was resolved under warranty) we haven’t had a single issue. Not one.

    Compared to our Fit, and almost every subcompact we test drove, the Sonic has the NVH and refined ride of a larger car. The front seats have heaps of room and are cushy. Handling is flingable and the five speed manual slips slicky into gear. I love the quirky styling and digital speedometer, it’s whimsical without being overdone, ala Mini. Although the Sonic lost some that personality in the muddled ‘17 restyle. We can get 43mpg with the 1.8 litre. Plus it’s made in the U.S. It’s obvious that GM did its homework and sweated the details. Aside from the cramped back seat, there’s few compromises and it’s been so much better than the Honda.

    Once again, no surprise about its demise and it’s a car that didn’t get the credit it deserved

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Very under-appreciated car (sans the oil leaks on the engine in earlier examples).

    The interior was TARDIS-like compared to exterior dimensions. Highway dynamics were C-Segment good in a B-Segment package. With the turbo engine, it was a hoot to drive.

    I preferred the first-generation body styling and the oversized headlights, and always preferred the hatch over the sedan. We were horrified to get one as rental several years back but returned it very impressed.

    NVH was good, seats were comfortable, would cruise all day at 80MPH, surprisingly quiet inside for the class. I get it, America doesn’t want these types of cars anymore and GM isn’t interested in investing in a new platform. There is nothing on the horizon that is going to bring gasoline back to $5 a gallon and they have electrification already.

    An underrated and underappreciated car.

  • avatar

    Sonic was an awesome little car, especially in a hatch, and a surprising joy to drive with a stick and turbo. Car handled like a midsize Olds on the open road and hated gas. I’ll miss it.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I always liked the looks of the hatchback, especially the round headlight years, and was quite impressed with the quality compared to bigger more expensive Chevy’s.

  • avatar

    Is it me or is GM almost impossible to respect. In just about every comparison test on the Car and Driver website GM vehicles almost always finish at the back of the pack. This even includes trucks and SUVs, which GM is supposed to be good at.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    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.

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