Earlier, we drove the Sonic sedan, a model that we found to be a respectable competitor in the subcompact sedan class and does wonders for the shortcomings of the Aveo of old.
Now, we get a chance to truly try out the other Sonic variant, and this time, it's ditched the rear end in favor of a hatch. Will it be any different?
From the front, they're identical; something that wasn't true of the Aveo hatchback and sedan, as they had very different front ends. The Sonic hatch gets the same individually-housed round multi-reflector headlamps, the signature Chevy family face, and other details that made the Sonic quite a uniquely designed entry into a very competitive subcompact class.
The difference, of course, begins with the back; being a hatch, this one has a lift-up tailgate rather than a bootlid. The rear end isn't an afterthought at all, as it comes with some unique touches like the detailed taillamps. I like the way how they removed the grip-type doorhandles on the rear doors, and instead moved them up to the blacked out parts of the C-pillar (like the Spark's), giving the Sonic a coupe-like side profile.
Inside, again, it's the same as the Sonic notchback (sedan) we tested earlier, though this hatchback has the standard audio unit rather than the optional DVD system. Again, I like the treatment the Sonic was given to present a sportier and funkier cabin to the customers with that rally-style gauge pod and multi info display, the rather unique storage pockets on the dashboard, the stylish steering wheel, and other bits and pieces. Gone was the manual transmission in the sedan we tried out, as this one has the 6-speed automatic; more on that later.
The seats are definitely comfortable, and that can only be good with our frequently increasing traffic jams as much as it would be great with the longer destinations we drive to thanks to a growing network of expressways out of the metro. There is definitely less cargo space given that the trunk is gone, but the hatchback can swallow bigger boxes of cargo or bags with the rear seats folded down.
Powering the hatchback is the same 1.4 liter Ecotec motor in the sedan, and it still makes 100 PS and 130 Newton meters; the difference is the transmission, as this one has a 6-speed slushbox instead of the 5-speed, 3-pedal arrangement of the previous model. This should be interesting.
Around town, the Sonic HB with the automatic does work well, though its markedly slower in acceleration compared to the manual. Once you're up to speed, it's fine, though revs seem a little high, so in moderate to heavy traffic, the Sonic HB returned 6.9 kilometers to the liter; such is the way with slushbox automatics, as they sacrifice efficiency and power so your left foot can take a break. Out of town and up to speed, the Sonic A/T can't match the 14.5 km/l we got in the Sonic M/T sedan, but 12.3 is still respectable.
What's really different is the cornering. On a mountain switchback or even a 90 degree turn in the city, the absence of the trunk means the hatchback lost 360 millimeters of rear overhang. The result is significantly sharper handling and thus, more fun. Well, at least for the driver.
How much for this little package? The Chevrolet Sonic Hatchback LTZ, with the 1.4 liter engine and the 4-speed automatic, retails for PhP 838,888, just PhP 10,000 more than the sedan automatic.
Personally, I think this Sonic hatchback is a great starting car. It's styled right, it drives decently both in and out of town and it's specced and priced right. If you ask me, I'd get it with a manual instead; the Sonic is just more fun that way.