Car Comparison

2015 Chevrolet Sonic vs. 2015 Chevrolet Cruze: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2015

Chevrolet is currently the reigning king of the compact car, with one very small model (the Spark) and two others that could be described as merely small: the 2015 Chevrolet Sonic and the 2015 Chevrolet Cruze. With so many small cars to choose from, you might be wondering what exactly makes these two different -- and which one you should pick. Fortunately, our latest article explains exactly that and offers an in-depth comparison of all the key differences between the Cruze and the Sonic.

Exterior

On the outside, the Cruze and Sonic are clearly very different, with the Cruze offering a larger, more substantial look compared to the Sonic's noticeably smaller sizing. This isn't just your eyes playing tricks on you or a successful designer using shapes to make you think one car is bigger. The Cruze is, in fact, nearly a foot longer than the Sonic, placing it at the very top end of the compact-car segment. Another major difference is that the Sonic is offered as either a sedan or a hatchback, while you can only get the Cruze as a sedan.

Admittedly, there are a few similarities -- such as the shared Chevrolet grille design and a few other small touches. But in general, we think most drivers will have no trouble telling these two cars apart.

Interior

The Cruze and the Sonic share a lot more on the inside than they do on the outside. Specifically, the two cars share a steering wheel, along with a similar center-stack design -- though the specific elements are a little different in each car. Still, drivers familiar with one will have no trouble finding their way around the other. In fact, the main interior difference between the Cruze and the Sonic isn't style but rather size: The Cruze offers more space than the Sonic in every area, especially when it comes to rear-seat legroom and hip room.

Mechanicals

Despite size differences, the Cruze and Sonic share roughly the same powertrain lineup. Standard in both models is a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that makes 138 horsepower. It delivers up to 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway in the Sonic, and roughly the same figures in the Cruze.

For drivers who want a more responsive engine and better gas mileage, the Cruze and Sonic both offer an optional 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Although it makes the same 138 hp as the 1.8-liter engine, the 1.4-liter turbo has more torque for improved acceleration. Fuel economy with this engine stands at up to 29 mpg city/40 mpg hwy in the Sonic, and the Cruze sees slightly more impressive figures if you choose the fuel-saving Eco model.

Drivers interested in even better fuel economy can also take advantage of a diesel engine option in the Cruze: a 151-hp 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder. Although the diesel isn't offered in the Sonic, it makes an impressive 264 lb-ft of torque and returns an excellent 27 mpg city/46 mpg hwy in the Cruze.

Features & Technology

When it comes to features and technology, the more expensive Cruze predictably offers more equipment than its Sonic stablemate. For instance, only the Cruze offers an available blind spot monitoring system, and only the Cruze offers a rear cross-traffic alert feature, though the Sonic is so small that you may find it doesn't really need either of those items. And it isn't just safety features where the Cruze has a benefit: Only the Cruze offers automatic climate control, keyless ignition with push-button starting and rear park assist. But if it's infotainment you're interested in, there's no need to worry: Both the Cruze and the Sonic offer the same MyLink system, a 7-inch touchscreen and a 4G Wi-Fi hot spot.

If technology is your thing, we suspect that you'll like the Cruze a little more than the Sonic, though you might be surprised to learn just how much the Sonic offers given its lower price and smaller size.

Driving Experience

On the road, the Cruze feels like the more-substantial car that it is. While neither of these vehicles feels luxurious, the Cruze certainly touts more of a robust driving experience, offering more secure handling, less exterior and engine noise and a more surefooted driving position.

With that said, we don't exactly dislike how the Sonic performs on the road. On the contrary, it offers surprisingly responsive handling, although its acceleration doesn't improve much despite its smaller size. By comparison, the Cruze's steering and handling feels a little more conventional and numb.

So which is better? If you're looking for a typical, staid small car with a solid feel, the Cruze is the right choice. Think of the Sonic as its bouncy younger brother with a little more verve and enthusiasm.

Safety

In crash testing carried out by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, both the Cruze and the Sonic earned a perfect 5-star overall score. In crash testing carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the newer Sonic outperformed its Cruze stablemate, earning a Top Safety Pick rating after showing excellent crash performance. The Cruze fell short of that distinction by earning a Marginal rating in the challenging small front-overlap crash test.

When it comes to safety features, however, the Cruze is the winner. While both cars include expected features such as standard anti-lock brakes and side-curtain airbags, only the Cruze offers helpful extras such as rear cross-traffic alert, a blind spot monitoring system and rear park assist. Drivers with a keen interest in safety would probably prefer a Cruze equipped with those options.

Conclusions

If you think of the 2015 Chevrolet Sonic as a smaller, more youth-oriented version of the 2015 Chevrolet Cruze, you'd be almost exactly right. While the Sonic doesn't offer as many features as the Cruze, it touts more personality, more exciting road manners and a practical hatchback body style. But it doesn't have as much equipment as the Cruze -- standard or optional -- or as much room inside. So if practicality and equipment matter to you, you'll want to choose the Cruze over the Sonic. If you want something a little more enjoyable and a little more affordable, the Sonic is your car.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Chevrolet Sonic vs. 2015 Chevrolet Cruze: What's the Difference? - Autotrader