2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS

2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS Review

Bite-sized fun.

By: Tim Healey

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: May 16th, 2014

Chevrolet loves to market its Sonic and Spark subcompact cars to Millennials, going on and on about the MyLink infotainment system with its smartphone-enabled Pandora connection and BringGo navigation app. But maybe Chevy marketers should forget about smartphone-obsessed twenty-somethings and focus on enthusiasts of all ages who are drawn to compact cars, since the Sonic RS is a hoot to drive. Pandora and BringGo are nice, but they shouldn't be needed to sell this car.

Yeah, yeah, the RS is merely one trim level out of four, and it won't appeal to every Sonic buyer for various reasons. But so what? Those who choose the sportiest Sonic will be rewarded every time they get behind the wheel.

  • On the Road

    That's a strong claim above, but it's true. Not that the Sonic is perfection personified - we'll get to its flaws shortly - but it is, quite simply, a delightful daily driver. The market has proven in recent years that small cars need not be penalty boxes, thanks to cars like the Honda Fit, Mazda 2, and Ford Fiesta. Now you can add the Sonic RS to that list.

    We'll start with the clutch and shifter in our six-speed manual tester. While one staffer found the throws a little long, another found them just right, and either way, the shifter is a joy to row. The clutch has just the right amount of heft on take-up, making smooth launches a cinch. Aggressive gearing assists with acceleration.

    Point it at a corner, and the RS sets up nicely and firmly, with little body roll. It encourages you to push it and it gains confidence with you as you get more used to it. This works well with a steering system that generally feels nicely weighted.

    We did wish for more power from the rev-happy 1.4-liter turbo. It may jump to redline quickly, but 138 ponies and 148 lb-ft of torque can only do so much, even in a small, relatively light-weight (2,811 lbs) car.

    More refinement from the engine is on the wish list, too. It gets buzzy when pushed hard, and some of that buzziness is still evident in daily commuting, too. If peace and quiet is what you're after, the RS doesn't fit that bill. Think of the RS as more like someone who's OD'd on coffee - it's constantly caffeinated.

    Ride quality is stiff enough for sport duty but generally acceptable on normal pavement. Rough patches didn't disturb it too much, but it's clear that the suspension is tuned for sport over comfort.

  • Exterior

    Perhaps the Sonic's biggest downfall is its styling. It's aggressive and angular, but not necessarily attractive. Ugly is too strong a word, but the Sonic isn't winning any design awards soon.

    Perhaps the silliest part of the look is how tiny the brake rotors look compared to the 17-inch wheels.

  • Interior

    Aesthetically, it's a mixed bag. We like that the tachometer takes priority in the gauge cluster, but the "motorcycle inspired" digital readout for speed and warning lights comes off a bit tacky, like a bit of desperate trickery to market to the "kids." It is, however, easy enough to read, and the menus aren't hard to manipulate.

    As for that aforementioned infotainment system, we like its form but had some issues with its function. Some of this is of the "get off my lawn" variety - we miss volume and tuning knobs. Yes, the buttons on the system's face work fine for volume, as do the steering wheel buttons, but knobs are still the easiest to use.

    The BringGo nav app looks great, but you must download it to your smartphone and then tether your phone by USB cable, through a hook-up located in a cubby above the glovebox. This wouldn't be so bad if the cubby wasn't a bit of a reach from the driver's seat and if the cable didn't have a tendency to get tangled.

    Some minor electronic niggles bothered your author: His phone wouldn't automatically connect to the Bluetooth on start up at times, and while using BringGo with the smartphone that Chevy provided, the phone's music playlist cut in in conjunction with the turn-by-turn at times before apparently fixing itself. After a couple days, all these issues seemed to resolve themselves, making us wonder if a gremlin or two took a liking to the Sonic. It should be noted that both the author's phone and the Chevy phone are older iPhone 4S models, and the Chevy phone was still running the old iOS. At least Pandora streamed smoothly.

    Materials struck us as class-appropriate, and neither headroom nor legroom were skimped on, at least up front. Storage space is limited, as there are cupholders in lieu of a center console.

    Trunk space was more than adequate, but the opening was narrower than we'd like.

  • Final Thoughts

    Small cars need not be boring, and the Sonic RS proves that. Not to mention that it's also fuel efficient (up to 40 mpg) and practical. And affordable: Our well-optioned test vehicle was just a tick over $20K.

    It's hard not to like this little rascal, especially if you like spirited driving while still passing gas pumps. We admit its roughness around the edges might wear on you if you daily drive it for a long time, but the combination of sportiness and fuel saving might just offset any complaints.

  • Specs, Features, & Prices

    Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

    Transmission: Six-speed manual

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 138 hp / 148 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy: 27 mpg city /34 mpg highway

    Base Price: $19,705

    As-Tested: $20,925 (incl. $825 destination) Available Features: Advanced Safety Package (forward collision alert, lane departure warning)

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