With a stiff structure, ride and handling developed by Corvette engineers and a proven powertrain portfolio adapted from the 300-plus-lb heavier Cruze, the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic squares off against established subcompact contenders such as the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit. Both 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback versions are available, the hatch some 14.1 inches shorter than the sedan but providing up to 31 cu ft. of cargo space with the rear seat folded. The U.S.-built Sonic can deliver up to 40 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-rated highway miles per gallon with the optional 1.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual transmission. New for 2013 is a sporty RS model and the available MyLink navigation app.
The Sonic is a good used-car choice, offering an impressive interior package, comfort and sporty handling in a fuel-efficient subcompact layout, plus Chevrolet parts and servicing are readily available. See the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic models for sale near you
What We Like
Sedan and hatchback body styles; fuel economy of 1.4-liter engine; sporty RS model; communicative steering; roomy trunk; motorcycle dash design; 10 standard airbags
What We Don’t
Cramped rear seat; disappointing fuel economy with the 1.8-liter engine; hard-plastic door armrests; heavy for its size
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
The 2013 Chevy Sonic has two available engines, both rated at 138 horsepower but with very different performance characteristics. On all but the new RS model, the Sonic’s standard engine is a 1.8-liter dual-overhead-camshaft (DOHC) 4-cylinder with four valves per cylinder and continuously variable intake and exhaust cam phasing. The 1.8-liter must be revved to a lofty 6,300 rpm to make its 138 hp and produces just 125 lb-ft of peak torque at 3,800 rpm. It burns regular unleaded gas and is the only engine available on the base Sonic LS. The 1.8-liter has EPA ratings of 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway with the standard 5-speed manual transmission and 25 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the optional 6-speed automatic.
The 1.4-liter turbo is optional on the LT and LTZ and standard on the RS. The turbocharged 1.4-liter DOHC turbo 4-cylinder also produces 138 hp but at a more accessible 4,900 rpm. It also develops a more robust 148 lb-ft of torque over a broad range of 1,850-4,900 rpm, so it doesn’t have to work as hard in traffic. The turbocharger kicks in at low speed, so there is no noticeable turbo lag. It also runs on regular unleaded (although premium will help performance in hot desert climates) and is EPA-rated at 29 mpg city/40 mpg hwy with the 6-speed manual and 27 mpg city/37 mpg hwy with the 6-speed automatic.
Standard Features & Options
The 2013 Sonic is available in LS, LT, LTZ and RS trim.
The LS includes air conditioning, cloth upholstery, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, a fold-down center driver’s armrest, automatic headlamps, remote keyless entry, OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation, a 4-speaker AM/FM stereo, 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, 10 airbags and power door locks. Bluetooth for phone and steering-wheel controls is now standard.
The LT adds heated power mirrors, power front windows, upgraded cloth trim, 15-in alloy wheels, cruise control and an up-level 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with SiriusXM radio. Optional on LT are wider 205/55 tires on 16-in alloy wheels, fog lamps and the 1.4-liter turbo and 6-speed manual transmission.
The LTZ comes standard with heated front seats, leatherette upholstery, the up-level 6-speaker stereo, Chevrolet MyLink infotainment, fog lamps and 205/50 tires on 17-in alloy wheels. The 1.4-liter turbo engine, remote starting, a power sunroof and a rear spoiler are optional.
The RS comes as a hatchback only with the standard 1.4-liter turbo, short-geared 6-speed manual, 4-wheel discs, 17-in alloys, a lowered ride height, stiffer springs and shocks, aluminum sport pedals, a bright exhaust tip, a leather-wrapped shifter and flat-bottom steering wheel, and leather and suede seat coverings.
The Chevy Sonic is a great small car, but it lacks the track record of offerings from brands such as Toyota and Honda. Steeper depreciation, however, means there will be some bargains out there, especially on the used-car lots of competing brands.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced the following recalls for the 2013 Sonic:
Exposed wires on the optional engine block heater risk electrical shock when the heater is plugged in.
A fuel-tank strap bracket may separate, allowing the tank to come loose, leak fuel and create a fire risk.
The brake lights may flash intermittently without the brakes being applied. This may also disengage cruise control and confuse following drivers, increasing crash risk.
The system may not detect a malfunctioning turn-signal lamp, failing to indicate to the driver that the lamp needs to be repaired.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed, and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
NHTSA gave the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic five stars for frontal and side impacts and four stars for rollover performance.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2013 Sonic 4-door sedan a Marginal rating for small-overlap front impacts and a Good rating for moderate-overlap front impacts, side impacts, roof strength, and for head-restraint and seat-crash performance. It didn’t test the hatchback.
General Motors covered the 2013 Sonic with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty with roadside assistance and a 6-year/100,000-mile corrosion-perforation warranty.
Chevrolet certified pre-owned (CPO) cars cannot have more than 75,000 miles on the odometer and must be 5 years old or less. Every CPO Sonic undergoes a 172-point inspection. Those that pass receive a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, plus whatever remains on the transferable, original 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage. Also included is a 2-year/30,000-mile maintenance plan with roadside assistance.
Other Cars to Consider
2013 Ford Fiesta — Also available as a 4-door sedan or 5-door hatchback, the Fiesta delivers sporty handling, good fuel economy (up to 40 mpg hwy with the optional Super Fuel Economy package) and the latest in infotainment and safety systems. A 120-hp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder is the only engine choice. However, rear-seat room is cramped, the dash design is very busy and the 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is jerky.
2013 Honda Fit — This subcompact 5-door hatch is 3 feet shorter than a Honda Crosstour but offers more interior space due to innovative packaging that places the gas tank under the front seat. Despite its mini-minivan look, the Fit is fun to drive, making the most of its 117-hp 1.5-liter 4-cylinder.
Unless you need the security of a trunk, get a Sonic hatchback. It’s way shorter than the sedan, easier to park and maneuver and has more cargo space with the rear seat folded. The base 1.8-liter isn’t bad, but it won’t deliver the fuel economy and performance that makes 1.4-turbo Sonics fun to drive. Look for a Chevrolet certified pre-owned Sonic when available, and check with the dealer to make sure the car you’re considering has had safety-recall items resolved.