Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted November 12, 2012 14:39
The X Factor
To be blunt, I didn't know why it took so long for Chevrolet to replace the Aveo. On their own, the Aveo sedan and hatchback are decent subcompact cars with good space, nice features, a modern design and good pricing.
No car, however, is an island. It has to compete with its peers in the class, and the fact that the Aveo was in the same category as the all-conquering Vios, it had to offer more than what the top-selling Toyota can; whether it be in style, value, features, design, reliability and even the perceived resale value. That's where the Aveo's decent attributes fell short.
Now, Chevrolet is moving on. They've shown us how they can change opinions about their cars with the Cruze after sticking with the Optra for so long. Could the new Sonic can do the same for the Aveo?
Let's find out.
As a whole, I like how the new Sonic looks. There's quite a bit of visual impact from the front end, especially given the crease line that runs around the hood from A-pillar to A-pillar. The signature Chevy grille is present, though the bowtie logo sits a little lower than what we've become accustomed to. What is interesting about the front are the projector headlamps; there's no glass covering the whole headlamp housings, just the lenses for the individual projectors. You could almost think it to be an aftermarket job.
This is the Sonic Notchback, meaning it's the 4-door sedan version (the hatch has just arrived, according to TCCCI). The side profile seems well balanced for the 3-box design, and the 16 inch 10 spoke wheels roll on Continental ContiPremiumContact tires. The rear end looks pretty nice, with the taillights lined up against the crease that runs from the front all the way to the back. Overall, it looks good, and is definitely more interesting to look at than the usual suspects in the class.
Being in the subcompact sedan class, it's common to have a relatively cheap interior. Not the Sonic. Even though plastic is the predominant material inside, they've made quite an effort to mold, shape, and design it in a way that makes it seem more expensive than it really is; and that can only be good. A similar double blade dashboard theme (like in the Cruze) runs around the dashboard and the front doors. The center console is busy but well thought out, and I particularly like the upgraded version of the Spark's pod-style gauge cluster installed in this Sonic, as well as the circular A/C vents on the flanks of the dashboard.
Don't be fooled by the DVD/Navigation system at the center of the dash; it's an option. As standard, the Sonic will come with an integrated AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system that also has a USB port, so no need to fret there. Of course, it's still a manual A/C system, but you've got electric power steering, power windows, central locks with an alarm, as well as power mirrors. For safety, ABS is standard, along with dual front airbags.
Legroom in the back as well as overall space for is quite decent for its size, but a quick glance at the Sonic's measurements explains why. The Sonic sedan measures in at 4399mm long, 1735mm wide and 1517mm, making it bigger on all fronts when compared to the two leading models in the class: the Vios from Toyota and the Accent from Hyundai. Another interesting thing about the interior is the abundance of storage options all around. There are cubby holes on the center console next to the A/C vents, a secondary glove box above the conventional one, rather big door pockets and a capacious boot.
Powering the Sonic is a 1.4 liter Ecotec motor. Horsepower and torque figures aren't really much to celebrate about, as it produces just 101 PS and 130 Newton meters. In the U.S., the Sonic variants are far more powerful, and even includes a turbocharged version of the Sonic's 1.4L and produces 138 horsepower.
Around town, the Sonic feels, well, slow. At low to mid RPMs (1000-3000) there's less than expected in the area of pep 'n go. I found this odd because 101 PS is still decent for this body size and for a 5-speed manual transmission. As such, fuel economy around town isn't stellar at 8.3 kilometers per liter with moderate traffic, nor is it bad either.
I took it out on the open highway and it almost did a 180; not literally, just figuratively. Highway manners are surprisingly good for a car of its size, as if felt like a stable, solid car at speed; almost like the larger Cruze. And the misgivings of the powertrain in town were gone at higher revs, as the Sonic did get to be a lot more fun on the open road. Fuel economy on the open road (no passengers) was pretty good too, returning 14.5 kilometers per liter with a 100 km/h average cruising speed.
Handling isn't particularly a strong suit for the Sonic sedan (err, notchback), as for that I would defer to the better sorted dynamics of the Ford Fiesta sedan or the Mazda2 sedan. If anything, it felt like a heavier version of the Vios or Accent.
Overall, the all new Sonic built on the weaknesses of the old Aveo. GM and Chevrolet have worked very hard to improve the design, the quality and feel of their entry level subcompacts and it really shows. They've worked hard to give the Sonic the X factor that the Aveo never had.
They still need to work on the drive and performance, but overall, despite being one of the more affordable vehicles in the market at PhP 778,888, the Chevrolet Sonic Notchback 1.4L LTZ is a subcompact that I wouldn't mind getting stuck in traffic in on the way to work everyday.