Last year, we drove the all-new Chevrolet Sonic. This was the 1LT Turbo model and I was quite surprised by just how much I liked this compact hatchback. I’ve always been a fan of small, zippy cars, but at the same time, I’ve never been a fan of Chevy’s small cars. This car really changes the game, though. The Sonic is well built and well thought out. It’s just an all-around good little car. In the 1LT Turbo, you can already begin to have some fun around town where you find small streets and tight corners. RS has long been a manicure with Chevy symbolizing sportiness and fun. It’s also the top trim level with the Sonic. So how’d the RS model fair? What do you get with the RS over the 1LT we had last year?
Comparing this RS to the 1LT we had last year, you instantly see the flair added to the exterior styling. This car boasts a new front fascia with a new fog lamp design, RS-specific grille, a new rear spoiler, rocker moldings, exterior RS badging, and a unique mirror cap finish. The RS also features standard 5-spoke 17-inch Midnight Silver-painted aluminum wheels. These look real nice on this small car and give it a sportier look. The headlights are still one of my favorite styling cues on the new Sonic. The round lenses protrude out coming flush with the bodywork. This is a great touch and easy way to bring more interesting and upscale feeling design to this inexpensive ride.
Inside the RS is where all the magic happens. This is what really sets the car apart from the rest of the lineup, more than exterior styling or overall performance. The interior includes leather-appointed sport seats with suede inserts that are incredibly comfortable and look the part when it comes to sportiness. A new leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with race-inspired design also greets you inside this car. The steering wheel is beefy with molded areas for your hands to rest at optimal positions. It also has a more flattened bottom to give it a more racing look. At the bottom of the steering wheel, you also get a nice RS badge to help indicate you’re in something a little more special. They’ve also used red stitching to bring it all together.
Also new to 2013 and featured in our RS tester is Chevrolet’s MyLInk Radio which includes Bluetooth audio streaming, voice recognition, 6 premium speakers, and Pandora Radio. This is all controlled through a 7-inch touchscreen sitting in the dash. Like just about everything else in the GM lineup, it’s not just the screen that’s touch-sensitive, all of the interface buttons on the radio are touch-sensitive as well. This felt a little awkward in the Cadillac XTS we drove as that system was a little more complex yet the vehicle is targeted to an older audience, but here it makes more sense as the respective buyer will be younger and more tech-savvy.
Under the hood of this RS is a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. This small engine pushes out 138-horsepower and 148-lbs.ft of torque. Our tester was equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission although it can be had with an automatic. These numbers might not seem like much, and they’re not. This isn’t a fast car. You’re not looking for 0-60 times here. This car is more at home making its way through busy city streets or tight and twisty country roads. That brings us to the ride and handling.
What makes the RS a sporty ride is not the power from the engine by the way it maneuvers around the street. Although you only have 138-hp, the curb weight of the Sonic is only 2,811-lbs. This car also comes standard with disc brakes at all 4-wheels, something Chevy has been slow to implement. Connecting the front wheels to the road are MacPherson Struts and torsion beam in the rear. This may not be the most sophisticated setup, but it seems to get the job done. Coming around corners you can just feel the car around you. You know right where to place it and the light weight makes it easy to accomplish that, even at high rates of speed. Like I said before, this car is great for in-city driving or taking out on a twisty and tight country road.
More and more competition is forming for this market. The Fiesta has been a big rival of the Sonic, but now has introduced the ST which should blow the Sonic away in performance realm, but cost a bit more. The Hyundai Veloster and the Elantra GT could both be considered competitors to this car as well. The new Veloster Turbo is a great little ride with lots of power, although because of it’s sloppy steering, the RS is a much more enjoyable ride when it comes to driving enthusiastically. The Fit has always been good competition in this segment although I still have yet to drive one. All I can say about the Honda Fit is, I’d much rather have the looks of the RS.
So the bottom line is that this is a really good car for what it is. Our decked out tester had an MSRP just over $21,000 which is great! If you’re not looking for all the show, you can still get a 1LT turbo for just over $18k and get basically the same car. This is really a great car by GM. I think its biggest competition will be the Fiesta ST which is a small yet more powerful option for customers, and although I have yet to drive one, I can almost be certain in saying it’ll drive better.