Introduced in 2012, the Chevrolet Sonic is a subcompact front-wheel drive vehicle with room for five. Both five-door hatchback and four-door sedan models are available.

For 2017, the Sonic offers a refreshed exterior, including a new front face with updated lighting elements, a new hood, fresh exterior colors, and the latest wheel designs. Interior and technology changes include keyless open and start, an updated infotainment system, and available heated cloth seats.

Pricing and Equipment

The 2017 Chevy Sonic offers two powertrain choices. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is standard and makes 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. Here, you have your choice of five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. Also available is a 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.

The EPA rates the 2017 Sonic at 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway when powered by the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine paired with the five-speed automatic transmission. Models outfitted with the turbo engine and paired with the six-speed manual transmission are EPA-rated at 28 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.

The 2017 Sonic offers two trims for the hatchback (LT and Premier) and three trims for the sedan (LS, LT and Premier). The sedan is priced from $16,020 and the Sonic hatchback begins at $18,455.

Sedan LT editions start at $18,045; Premier editions begin at $20,595. Upgrading to the automatic will add $695 to $1,250 to your price, depending on the trim. The Premier hatchback is priced from $20,595. Add $1,390 or $1,495 for the automatic, depending on the trim.

Sedan LS models are equipped with 15-inch steel wheels, daytime running lights, automatic headlamps, power door locks, Chevrolet MyLink Radio with a 7-inch color display, OnStar with 4G LTE and built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, air conditioning, and cloth seats.

Sonic LT models add aluminum wheels, power-heated side mirrors, power windows, SiriusXM satellite radio, and upgraded cloth seats. Premier models add imitation leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an enhanced driver information center, and RS package trim.

Performance Pros

Mitsubushi i-MiEV

The manual transmission isn’t dead yet, at least not in budget models. With five or six gears at the ready, today’s manual gearboxes are far easier to operate than what many of us “mature” drivers experienced way back when. Add in sufficient clutch play and “rowing your own” in the Sonic is a blast.

The available turbo engine is ideally matched with this model. Some lag is noted, but once the turbo spools up, you have a zippy sedan or hatch on your hands.

Performance Cons

Chevrolet doesn’t seem interested in taking on the competing Ford Fiesta ST with a performance model of its own. In RS badging, the Sonic has the looks, but it can’t pretend to compete against other pocket rockets.

The standard 1.8-liter engine offers the same horsepower as the turbo engine, but only 125 pound-feet of torque compared to 148 pound-feet for the turbo. The difference becomes especially noticeable when climbing steep hills with the automatic and you find yourself coaxing more power from the car.

Interior Pros

Mitsubushi i-MiEV

The motorcycle-inspired cockpit gives the Sonic a fun, youthful persona. Dominated by the tachometer, the monochrome display needs updating.

Providing 4G LTE with Wi-Fi as standard equipment was a smart move on Chevrolet’s part. As young drivers look at their cars as an extension of their digital lives, the Sonic delivers something very important to them and at no extra charge.

Interior Cons

Most competing models have roomier back-seat space than the Sonic. An updated seat configuration layout along the lines of the Honda Fit’s magic seat are in order. Happily, the rear seat in both the sedan and hatchback do fold all the way back to expand cargo space.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

We’re not surprised the Chevrolet Sonic offers 10 airbags—ever since the car made its debut in 2012 it has had them. However, we think most buyers will be impressed by the offering, which includes both driver and front passenger knee airbags.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Fuel economy for models equipped with the standard engine comes in no better than 34 mpg on the highway. Much larger models such as the Honda Accord with bigger engines get at least 36 mpg on the highway.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for an affordable small car, the Chevrolet Sonic should be on your short list. Its styling is sharp, the standard amenities are very good, and the hatchback offers excellent storage space. Well-equipped models can be had for about $20,000 and that’s a smart deal no matter how you look at it.