The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic’s claim to fame goes way beyond the fact that it’s the only subcompact built in America. Designed to be a car of firsts, this hatchback has impressive bragging rights: It's the first car in its class with an available turbocharged engine and first (read: only) car in its class to ever receive a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score for safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The Sonic is available in four trim levels — LS, LT (tested here), LTZ, and RS — and boasts an average of 33 mpg in a combination of city and highway driving.
The turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine (optional in the LT and LTZ, but standard in the RS) cranks out 138 horsepower and a snappy 148 foot-pounds of torque. The 6-speed manual clicks through nicely, and an upshift light tells you when to move to a higher gear for best fuel efficiency.
This car is fun to drive, yes, but there are practical features as well. The hatchback offers 19 cubic feet of storage and the rear has copious basement storage that is among the deepest we’ve seen in any car.
However, drivers may find the ergonomics a bit off; the center armrest and cup holder are awkwardly positioned. And although the Sonic reportedly seats five, backseat passengers will be a bit scrunched because legroom is a little tight. Finally, this ride is really low to the ground — even for a subcompact.
In addition to the Sonic’s top score from the NHTSA, it comes standard with 10 airbags. Optional safety features include a rear-vision camera ($200), MyLink’s 7-inch digital touch-screen ($200), and an advanced safety package ($395) that includes forward collision alert, warns drivers when they are approaching the vehicle in front of them too quickly, and a lane departure warning that beeps when they veer outside of a marked lane.
The Sonic is affordable, fun, and safe, and continues to gain traction as a sound option for anyone in the market for a subcompact.
CLINT WILLIAMS, a Phoenix freelance writer, is the former automotive editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.