The last month was good to Chevrolet's tiny Sonic. In addition to finally going on sale at dealerships nationwide, the automaker's smallest car also received Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's coveted "Top Pick" safety rating. Now, Chevrolet can add another feather to the Sonic's cap as the subcompact is officially certified at 40 miles per gallon.
The Sonic's 40 mpg rating is achieved in highway driving with a six-speed manual transmission mated to its optional 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. The EPA pegs city fuel economy for the 1.4-liter Sonic at 29 mpg, making it one of the most efficient non-hybrids on sale. Direct competitors include the Ford Fiesta, which achieves 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway with its automatic transmission, and the recently-redesigned Hyundai Accent, which was rated at 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway with either manual or automatic transmissions.
"Sonic changes the sub-compact stereotype and puts an end to the term ?econobox,'" said Joaquin Nuņo-Whelan, the Sonic's vehicle line director and chief engineer. "The 1.4L turbo saves money at the gas pump and is a ridiculously fun car to drive. So, our buyers are getting a safe, exciting and fuel efficient car at a great price with the 1.4L turbo."
Unfortunately, drivers interested in the Sonic's miserly 1.4-liter engine and an automatic transmission are out of luck, as the subcompact - sold as a sedan or five-door hatchback - doesn't offer the two together. Instead, drivers who prefer automatic have to settle for the Sonic's 135-horsepower 1.8-liter base engine, rated at a still-thrifty 25 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.
To us, that's all the more reason to stick to three-pedal driving - especially since the Sonic's 1.4-liter turbo motor combines new technology like variable valve timing with surprisingly muscular power and torque ratings. The 1.4-liter Sonic's 138 horsepower is nearly 20 more than the Ford Fiesta, while its 148 pound-feet of torque figure bests the Accent by a whopping 25 pound-feet.
Regardless of engine choice, the Sonic's arrival means the already-crowded subcompact class just added a formidable new challenger.