If you’re looking for a new subcompact car, you’ll probably find that most automakers, including Ford, Honda, Toyota and Nissan, offer only one model. But Chevrolet has two choices for you to pick from: the Spark and the Sonic. What exactly sets Chevrolet’s two subcompact cars apart from each other? To find out, we’ve created a detailed comparison between the 2015 Chevrolet Spark and the 2015 Chevrolet Sonic, and we’ve highlighted all the key distinctions between both models.
Although the Spark and the Sonic hatchback share a general profile, exterior differences between the two cars are obvious from a quick glance. One major difference is in front, where the Spark’s huge headlights, which nearly span the entire length of the hood, give the car a highly unique look. The Spark also clearly has a smaller footprint on the road, with a narrower body and tiny, narrow tires. Of course, another major difference between the two cars is that the Sonic comes as a 5-door hatchback or a 4-door sedan. The Spark, on the other hand, is only offered as a 5-door hatchback.
Comparing only the dashboards, the Spark and Sonic have a surprisingly similar interior, with circular air vents on each side, a pointy center stack in the middle and a similar central control layout. But sitting in the two vehicles feels very different. That’s when the Spark’s smaller size clearly stands out, as its interior is nowhere near as roomy as the Sonic’s more substantial cabin. That’s especially true when you consider hip- and legroom, where the Sonic offers big gains over the smaller Spark. The Sonic’s interior also touts nicer materials, in keeping with its higher pricing.
Although you might expect Chevrolet’s two subcompact cars to offer roughly the same powertrains, the Sonic and Spark actually differ dramatically under the hood. The Sonic offers two engines: a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that makes 138 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque, and a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that offers better fuel economy and 148 lb-ft of torque, but the same 138 hp as the standard engine.
The Spark also offers two powerplants. Standard is an 84-hp 1.2-liter 4-cylinder, which can be mated to a continuously variable transmission or 5-speed manual transmission. Optional in California and Oregon is an electric motor, which boasts a truly muscular 140 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.
Interestingly, the Spark doesn’t offer significantly higher gas mileage than the Sonic. The Spark tops out at 31 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway with its manual transmission, while the Sonic can reach up to 29 mpg city/40 mpg hwy. With the automatic, however, the Sonic drops to 27 mpg city/37 mpg hwy, while the Spark remains as high as 30 mpg city/39 mpg hwy. Fuel economy ratings are a little lower for the non-turbocharged Sonic.
Features & Technology
Given the base price difference between the Spark and the Sonic, with the Spark about $2,000 less than the Sonic, you’d probably expect the Spark to offer less equipment. Indeed, you’re correct: The Spark features only the basics, with even simple upgrades such as power mirrors, power locks, cruise control and floor mats reserved for the higher-end LT trim. The Sonic, meanwhile, boasts all of those items as standard, along with a few surprises such as Bluetooth and GM’s OnStar system with 4G Wi-Fi.
When it comes to options, the Sonic also has a few additional benefits. For example, while both cars boast Chevrolet’s 7-inch MyLink touchscreen infotainment system, only the Sonic touts an Advanced Safety package with lane departure warning and forward collision alert. The Sonic also offers a few other unique features, including leather upholstery, 18-in wheels and a backup camera.
On the road, both the Spark and the Sonic handle better than expected, offering surprisingly direct steering and unusually minimal body roll for a subcompact car. We’re also impressed with the ride quality in both cars, though it’s a little better in the Sonic, no doubt the result of beefier suspension and extra padding in the seats.
The Sonic offers far better acceleration than the Spark, which is dramatically hampered by its 84-hp engine. Simply put, unless virtually all of your driving is low-speed city cruising, you’ll probably find the Sonic’s additional power to be a huge benefit or, for some drivers, a complete necessity.
The Sonic is safer than the Spark. That’s proven by government crash-test data, where the Sonic earned a 5-star overall rating to the Sonic’s 4-star score. It’s also clear when you consider the Sonic’s additional safety equipment, which includes an available backup camera, a forward-collision alert system and a lane-departure warning system; none of which are offered in the Spark. With that said, the Spark impresses us with its standard side-curtain airbags and standard anti-lock brakes, two items you don’t always see on cars at its price point. Still, in the event of a collision, we prefer our odds in the more substantial Sonic than in the tiny Spark.
The 2015 Chevrolet Sonic is a competitive, well-equipped subcompact car that can easily go toe-to-toe with rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Mazda2. It’s a great car, and we highly recommend it. The 2015 Chevrolet Spark is also a good car, but it takes a little explaining. While it’s technically a subcompact car, it would probably be best defined as a sub-subcompact, a segment where few items are standard except for the peace of mind you get with a new car. If you have the extra money, we recommend a Sonic. If you don’t, we suggest a used car or a certified pre-owned vehicle. But if you just have to have a new car on a very tight budget, the Spark is a top choice, as long as you don’t expect many luxuries, features or optional extras.