Since its debut in 2012, the Chevrolet Sonic has been heralded as one of the best-looking and most entertaining subcompacts. What’s more, its turbocharged powerplant injected that touch of performance some buyers craved. But after six model years on the market and only one refresh, can the Sonic still hold up in the subcompact world?

Continue reading to find out just how we feel about the 2018 Chevrolet Sonic.

Best Value

If value’s your goal, then the LT trim is the version of the 2018 Sonic that we recommend. Not only does it come with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, but it also gets other desirable features like power windows and mirrors, cruise control, 15-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker audio system, and more.

This trim also opens up the optional equipment, as it’s the lowest trim allowed access to the RS, Convenience, Driver Confidence, and Performance packages. For our budget, we recommend adding the Convenience and Driver Confidence packages, as they add a collection of safety and convenience features on the cheap. And stick with the standard six-speed manual – not only is it a lot more fun, but it saves $1,400.

The Sonic is still available in both four-door sedan and five-door hatch bodies, and while the hatchback's price is higher, the difference with the LT manual is only $100. That's an easy premium to live with for a vehicle that's so much roomier and attractive.

  • Model: 2018 Chevrolet Sonic LT Manual Five-Door
  • Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 138 hp / 148 lb-ft
  • Transmission:6-speed manual
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel-drive
  • MPG: 28 city / 37 hwy
  • Options: Convenience Package ($875, keyless entry and ignition, and six-way power front seats) and Driver Confidence Package ($495, rear parking sensors, forward collision alert, and lane-departure warning)
  • Base Price:$18,595 ($875 destination fee included)
  • Best Value Price:$19,965

Performance

Chevy Sonic

The 1.4-liter turbocharged engine is a must-buy in the 2018 Sonic, as it delivers smooth and perky performance, plus it’s easy on fuel at 28 miles per gallon city, 37 highway, and 32 combined. Additionally, the Sonic's electric power steering system feels well balanced, nicely weighted, and precise, all the better to exploit the Sonic's charming, tossable handling character. If it's been a long time since you've driven an American sub-compact, a spin in the Sonic will erase any bad memories left by stuff like the old Chevy Aveo.

On the other side of the coin, the Sonic’s base 1.8-liter engine is wheezy and struggles to motivate this subcompact. In that way, it is like the Aveo. Making matters worse is the 1.8-liter engine’s outdated base five-speed manual transmission.

Style

Last year’s refresh gave the Sonic an even more refined appearance for its class – something it’s excelled at since its debut in 2012. It's not as sporty or aggressively youthful as it was when it debuted, but the Sonic is still a stylish little bugger. The interior is also well done, as its dashboard is notably less cluttered than some of its competitors. Space is tight in back, which should be expected at this price point, but the front seats are spacious and comfortable, even on longer trips.

While the refresh helped a bit with new taillights, the Sonic sedan still doesn’t look quite as well put together as its hatchback version.

The Best and Worst Things

The higher-trim Sonic is a performance standout in a class that’s relatively boring. Its 1.4-liter turbocharged engine delivers sharp performance, and its chassis is well suited for tossing around. What’s more, the optional Performance Package wraps this up nicely with a throaty exhaust rumble and a lowered suspension.

At risk of speaking from both side of our mouths, we also found the Sonic’s performance sorely lacking in its base trim. The 1.8-liter engine’s 125 pound-feet of torque offers little pulling power, and its five-speed manual transmission feels like it’s pulled straight from the early 1990s. If you're in the market for a Sonic, you need to drive the optional 1.4-liter before deciding on the base engine.

Right For? Wrong For?

Chevy Sonic

The 2018 Sonic is the perfect car for a young person just entering the workforce and looking for their first new car. Its low base price saves the buyer some money, while its slew of options gives them the ability to customize if they have deeper pockets.

Established families will likely find the Sonic a touch on the tight side for them. Sure, its cargo capacity is good at 14.9 cubic feet in the sedan and 19 to 47.7 cubes in the hatchback, but the rear seats are way too tight for growing kids.

The Bottom Line

The Sonic excels in the subcompact range with something for just about every buyer: a turbocharged engine and RS package for the performance minded, great fuel economy and low base price for the budget minded, and great looks for the more discerning buyer. But growing families should skip the Sonic and its tiny rear seats.