While Chevrolet is well known for its powerful line of full-size pickups and SUVs, the company hasn’t forgotten the other end of the automotive spectrum. Take the 2020 Chevrolet Sonic, for example. It’s an affordable subcompact with a standard turbocharged engine, sporty handling and tech-savvy must-haves, like standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and even a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Offered as a sedan or a hatchback, the Sonic competes with the likes of the Nissan Versa, the Kia Rio and the slightly larger Honda Fit. Although it’s compact on the outside, the 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 also lots of little goodies that one wouldn’t expect from this type of vehicle, such as an available power driver’s seat, MyLink audio and a heated steering wheel. Although the Chevrolet Sonic isn’t as roomy as the Honda Fit nor as fun to drive as the Toyota Yaris hatchback, it offers buyers a nice go-between, teaming good value with great fuel economy at a reasonable price.
What’s New for 2020?
Other than some color upgrades, there are no major changes of note for the 2020 Chevy Sonic. The manual transmission has been dropped. See the 2020 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 engine can get winded on hilly roads
$17,595-$24,000 (including $875 destination charge)
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 both the sedan and hatchback models, the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimates are 26 miles per gallon in city driving and 34 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission.
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 ($17,595) comes with an automatic transmission and 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-and-telescopic steering wheel.
Next up is the midgrade LT ($19,495 sedan, $20,690 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 ($21,595 sedan, $22,790 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.
Additional 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 that 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 frequent downshifts from the automatic transmission. 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 33 mpg out of the 1.4-liter turbo.
The Sonic’s gauge cluster is rather traditional, placing a conventional tachometer to the left of a large analog speedometer to replace the original car’s bright blue digital display (we liked it better). An optional enhanced Driver Information Center collects everything from current speed and direction to average fuel economy and distance driven — all in 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-and-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
2020 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.
2020 Toyota Yaris — The Yaris is competitively priced but has a new design and more standard driver assist safety features. Based on the European Mazda2 (we don’t get it here), the Yaris and Yaris 5-door also get better gas mileage 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 want to consider a used model.
For our money, the 2020 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. Find a 2020 Chevrolet Sonic for sale