Driving a Hedgehog

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2019 Chevrolet Sonic

Remember Sonic the Hedgehog?

Having never played a video game, I had no idea what Sonic did or why he was such as cash cow for Sega Games Co., Ltd. However, a bit of research explains that Sonic was a game character that ran in supersonic speed to stop the world from evil domination.

That cute blue video game hero that you played with on your Sega console was quite an inspiration. Perhaps an inspiration for General Motors to create a subcompact car for a global market becoming the video game's namesake…

They did – in 2011.

GM was developing a new generation of small cars from their former Daewoo base in the Republic of Korea. One of them was to replace the much-maligned Chevrolet Aveo. And, believe me, the malignancy was well deserved. It would be the last not-so-desirable product GM would sell to the global marketplace.

2019 Chevrolet Sonic Premier sedan

The Aveo would become the Chevrolet Sonic for 2012. There was a muted rejoicing. Rather, a held breath as to whether this is indeed an improvement upon the much derived Aveo.

I never actually reviewed a Sonic. I never got a chance to work with one. Nor had I rented one when I had a break in my vehicle schedule. That is, until now.

Sometimes, when you play the Rental Car Roulette, you have to gamble more than you should. I was looking for a vehicle that was not damaged and can easily connect to my phone via Bluetooth and through a smartphone connection.

After rejecting a few other possible vehicles, a 2019 Chevrolet Sonic Premier sedan in gray popped up on the line. I jumped in, connected my phone (after deleted dozens of others that were still programmed into the Chevrolet Infotainment System prior to me), and I was off to do some work for other outlets.

There are many reasons to cover the Chevrolet Sonic. One of them would be the reduction of car models in the Chevrolet lineup. So far, one vehicle has been canceled with the USA plant closed because of it – the Chevrolet Cruze. During the recent United Auto Workers strike on GM, the union was hoping to keep the Lordstown plant near Cleveland, Ohio open. GM declined to reopen the plant, but the new contract was ratified with this huge loss in jobs and plant capacity.

P2096205
For reference purposes, this is a Chevrolet Sonic hatchback

However, the Sonic had been removed from Chevrolet's catalog in other countries. Canada last saw the Sonic sold as new for 2018. The Republic of Korea eliminated the Sonic earlier this year. I also noticed that the Sonic has been eliminated in other markets in Latin America and Asia.

For now, the Sonic is still on sale in the USA for the 2020 model year, as the Lake Orion, Michigan assembly plant the car is produced in is still online.

As the last subcompact Chevrolet standing – OK, the smaller Spark is being sold alongside it – is this a car worth owning when (a) SUV/crossovers of this size are outselling similarly sized sedans and hatchbacks and (b) it competitors are getting, well, better?

Since the first models in 2012, Sonic customers have two body types to choose from – a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback. My Sonic was the four-door sedan, which one could argue would be the less desirable of the two body styles. I would argue equally for both because I found the sedan quite handsome for what it is. The front end follows current design trends for Chevrolet, while the rear end received some upgrades a couple of years ago.

This Premier sedan model is pretty handsome, in an unassuming way. This trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels with some chrome trim all around. I don't know about you, but the Sonic Premier seems like the more desirable in this lineup.

2019 Chevrolet Sonic Premier sedan

Inside the sedan model is a cabin that looks straightforward but offers some quirks. For example, the information screen on the instrument binnacle is controlled by the left stalk – something I found frustrating since GM got rid of this control some years ago. The rest of the dials in the instrument binnacle are clear, though I was OK with having just an LED-lit incremental fuel gauge.

The center stack is a mix of the latest Chevrolet infotainment touchscreen and a mish-mash of controls that dot the space all the way down to the center console. The climate controls are low and behind the shifter, which can be a stretch for a tall guy like me. The steering wheel controls might be confusing, except for anyone who had a five or more year-old GM product. 

My Premier sedan came with a perforated leatherette upholstery that looks luxurious. However, you only get a power adjustment for the rake and height, along with a manual adjustment for the recline. There is no lumbar adjustment available, and frankly, I needed that.

The rear seat room is great for children – possibly for average-sized adults. You can get better rear-seat room for adults in the Nissan Versa sedan. However, trunk space is pretty sizeable – 14.9 cubic before you fold down the rear seatbacks.  

2019 Chevrolet Sonic Premier sedan

Sonic customers have two engine choices, depending on which trim you choose. The pick of the range is the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque on tap, this engine is just fine – and noisy on full throttle. Performance is far from supersonic if you ask me.

You can mate this engine to a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, driving the front wheels. Our tester had the latter, which shifted just fine, despite the noise when I was trying to pass someone or get on the freeway.

As for fuel economy, we averaged 32.4 MPG. I would expect better, but it is a rental car. I'm sure when you buy your own, you should get a better fuel economy overall. If not, you can do better with another subcompact sedan.

The ride quality was OK – just OK. The suspension worked overtime to keep things on an even keel. Handling is pretty decent, though you may find some lean and roll. It corners quite well, which is attributed to the upgraded tire/wheel package on this Sonic Premier. 

Steering the Sonic through tight maneuvers was quite easy, thanks to the size of the car. The action feels a tad numb and on-center feel is simply OK. Brake pedal feel is quite good, sending solid power down to the wheels. In both normal and panic situations, I felt that the stops were quite good.  

2019 Chevrolet Sonic Premier sedan

The 2019 Chevrolet Sonic lineup starts with an LS sedan, equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission – with a base price of $15,420. My Premier sedan is priced out at $21,595. If you're looking at a 2020 Sonic, expect to pay a few hundred dollars more over the 2019 model.  

With the sedan and hatchback market dwindling in the USA, the Chevrolet Sonic seems like a decent car to own. I would prefer it to the Trax, which is built off the same platform as the Sonic.  Then again, customers are buying more Trax than Sonics.

Yet, there are still a few other choices in this segment. One such choice touts the fact that sedans are here to stay – thanks to a study made by Nissan.

How did I do in this round of Rental Car Roulette? I was not dissatisfied with the Chevrolet Sonic. It did what it had to do and was actually quite fun to drive.

That's all you really need to know about the Hedgehog's namesake.

Vehicle rented by Victory & Reseda for evaluation purposes.

All photos by Randy Stern

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