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2018 Chevrolet Sonic: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Chevrolet Sonic, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Chevrolet Sonic Review

If you’re looking for a little car with great fuel economy, cheeky good looks and features usually reserved for larger, more expensive models, check out the 2018 Chevrolet Sonic. Offered as a sedan or hatchback, the Sonic competes with the likes of the Ford Fiesta, the Kia Rio and the slightly larger Honda Fit and Nissan Versa. Although compact on the outside, the 2018 Sonic offers a roomy interior constructed of high-quality materials and offering some of the most comfortable front seats we’ve tested in a subcompact car.

There are lots of little goodies one wouldn’t expect from this type of vehicle, such as an available power driver’s seat, MyLink audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a heated steering wheel. Although the Chevrolet Sonic isn’t as roomy as the Honda Fit nor as fun to drive as the Ford Fiesta, it offers buyers a nice go-between, teaming good value with great fuel economy at a reasonable price.

What’s New for 2018?

Changes for 2018 are minor, consisting of some new color choices and a reshuffling of some package features. A sport suspension is now offered on the 1LT sedan. See the 2018 Chevrolet Sonic models for sale near you

What We Like

Good handling; great value; a slew of segment-first features; great gas mileage

What We Don’t

No factory navigation system; no base hatchback trim; small engines can get winded on hilly roads

How Much?


Fuel Economy

Standard on LS and LT models is a 138-horsepower 1.8-liter engine with a 5-speed manual transmission. It returns a decent Environmental Protection Agency rating of 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Adding the optional 6-speed automatic transmission makes for more convenient in-traffic driving and reduces estimated city/highway mileage by an almost imperceptible 1 mpg.

Although the 1.8-liter standard engine is a solid performer in this size category, the Sonic’s dark horse is the optional 138-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. Available with manual or automatic transmissions, the 1.4-liter Ecotec engine — standard on the Sonic LT manual sedan and both Premier models — makes for some seriously fun driving. It returns 27 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the automatic transmission or 28 mpg city/37 mpg hwy with the 6-speed manual.

Standard Features & Options

The Chevrolet Sonic comes in three trim levels: the base-level LS, midlevel LT and upscale Premier.

The base LS model ($16,170) comes with 15-inch steel wheels as standard equipment, along with air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a rearview camera, MyLink with a 7-in touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth, manual windows and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel.

Next up is the midgrade LT ($18,570 sedan, $18,670 hatchback). It adds a 6-speaker sound system with Sirius XM radio, 15-in painted aluminum wheels, cruise control, power windows with one-touch up and down and power adjustable heated exterior mirrors. The LT manual sedan features the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, while the LT hatchback comes with the 1.8-liter engine.

The Premier ($20,670 sedan, $20,670 hatchback) adds the turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. It also boasts a higher list of creature comforts, including heated front seats, a 6-way power driver’s seat, keyless entry and ignition and leatherette seating surfaces. Outside, 17-in aluminum wheels and a rear deck spoiler add a sporty look.

Options include the sporty RS package, the LT Convenience package (includes keyless entry and start, heated seats and steering wheel and a 6-way power driver’s seat) and the Driver Confidence package (rear park assist, lane-departure warning and forward-collision alert).


The Sonic boasts a slew of standard safety features, including a class-leading 10 airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and crash-collapsible pedals to protect the driver’s feet and legs. Safety options include forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning and rear park assist.

The Sonic has received a 5-star overall crash-test rating from the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To earn that rating, it scored five stars in frontal- and side-impact tests and four stars in rollover tests.

Behind the Wheel

On flat to slightly sloping uphill runs, the 1.4-liter turbo was incredibly zippy. While we didn’t measure it ourselves, Chevrolet claims the engine can get the car to 60 miles per hour in about 8 seconds — a claim that our experiences certainly supported. However, the turbo tended to lose power on moderate-to-steep uphill climbs, requiring what we felt was an excessive amount of downshifting on the 6-speed manual to power through. Even with rather sporty driving at average speeds of about 40 mph both in the city and on hilly canyon roads, we were able to squeeze 32 mpg out of the 1.4-liter turbo with the manual transmission.

The Sonic’s gauge cluster is more traditional, placing a conventional tachometer to the left of a large analog speedometer that replaces the original car’s bright blue digital display. An optional enhanced Driver Information Center collects everything from current speed and direction to average fuel economy and distance driven into one easy-to-read package.

When combined, the Sonic’s supportive seats, excellent suspension, standard driver armrest — a rarity in the subcompact market — and tilt-telescopic steering wheel made for one of the most comfortable rides of any small vehicle we’ve driven. Over the course of the day, the seats blended into the background and never caused any noticeable dead spots or discomfort.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Ford Fiesta — Ford’s smallest model comes in a sedan or hatchback body style. It also offers a great driving experience and frugal engines.

2018 Hyundai Accent — The Hyundai Accent is all-new this year, with upscale styling and performance but no hatchback model. Standard equipment is generous, and the Accent has a better standard warranty than the Sonic.

2018 Nissan Versa — Nissan’s latest Versa can’t match the Sonic for driving enjoyment. Pricing, however, is a strong suit, as the Versa remains one of the least expensive cars on sale.

Used Chevrolet Cruze — If you like the Sonic but want more space or more power, consider the larger Chevy Cruze. It’s both bigger and more powerful, though prices are higher, so you may have to consider a used model.

Autotrader’s Advice

For our money, the 2018 Chevrolet Sonic is one of the best subcompact cars available. If we were on a budget, we’d choose the LT with the Convenience and Driver Assist packages. But if we had a little more money to spend, the Premier offers just about everything we could want, including the turbocharged engine. In each case, we’d take the hatchback for its improved practicality — even if it means spending a little extra cash.

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