If you’re shopping low-price cars like the Nissan Versa and the Toyota Yaris, you’ll want to be sure to add the 2019 Chevrolet Sonic to your short list. Why? Because the Sonic offers features and abilities uncommon in this class, such as a standard turbocharged engine, sporty handling and such high-tech must haves like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Offered as a sedan or a hatchback, the Sonic competes with the likes of the Ford Fiesta, the Kia Rio and the slightly larger Honda Fit. Although it’s compact on the outside, the 2019 Sonic offers a roomy interior constructed of high-quality materials and some of the most comfortable front seats we’ve tested in a subcompact car.
There are lots of little goodies, such as an available power driver’s seat, MyLink audio and a heated steering wheel, that one wouldn’t expect from this type of vehicle. 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 2019?
The 2019 Chevy Sonic drops its base engine and goes with the 1.4-liter turbo on all trims. The Fun and Sun package is gone, and remote start is added to the LT Convenience package.
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 engine can get winded on hilly roads
Standard on every trim this year is the 138-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. Available with manual or automatic transmissions, the 1.4-liter Ecotec engine makes for some seriously fun driving. On sedan models, the EPA estimates are 26 miles per gallon in city driving and 34 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission or 27 mpg city/38 mpg hwy with the 6-speed manual. The 5-door hatchback gets 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the manual and 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the automatic.
Standard Features & Options
The Chevrolet Sonic comes in three trim levels: the base-level LS, the midlevel LT and the upscale Premier.
The base LS model ($16,295) 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, 10 airbags, Bluetooth, manual windows and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel.
Next up is the midgrade LT ($18,795 sedan, $18,895 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 Premier ($20,895 sedan, $20,895 hatchback) adds a higher list of creature comforts, including heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 6-way power driver’s seat, keyless entry and ignition, leatherette seating surfaces and the contents of the RS package. 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, a heated 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. The turbo tended to lose power on moderate-to-steep uphill climbs, however, 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
2019 Ford Fiesta — Ford’s smallest model comes in a sedan or hatchback body style. It also offers a great driving experience and frugal engines, but this is the last year it will be offered to U.S. buyers.
2019 Hyundai Accent — The Hyundai Accent offers a higher level of sophistication, with upscale styling and performance but no hatchback model. Standard equipment is generous, and the Accent has a better standard warranty than the Sonic.
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, but its price is a bit higher, so you may have to consider a used model.
For our money, the 2019 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. In each case, we’d take the hatchback for its improved practicality — even if it means spending a little extra cash.