2015 Chevrolet Sonic RS Review
Great Bang For The Buck!
By Robert “GODZILLA” Smith III
With My many years testing vehicles for media outlets, I can say with a clear conscience that the Chevy Sonic RS is one of the best-driving car General Motors sells for under $35,000. Before you start ratcheting yourself up to protest on behalf of the Omnipotent Camaro, allow me to explain myself. The Sonic has always been something of a Gem in the Rough. When it first came on the scene about two years ago, it blew the geriatric pants off of its predecessor, the Chevy Aveo (God forgive them…). That wasn't exactly a herculean feat by any means, but the Sonic also gave major competitors like the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta more than a moment of pause.
Now Chevy has turned out a cool RS model into the lineup. This upgraded machine adds a healthy dose of styling inside and out in addition to providing a genuinely fun-filled driving experience; the result is a small car without the punitive aftertaste. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss the RS as just another body-kit job, but unlike the Honda Fit Sport, the RS trim actually hones the Sonic's edge. Engineers threw disc brakes at all four corners, lowered the car by nearly half an inch and stiffened up the springs and dampers, thereby addressing most of my personal “performance suspension must-haves” for the standard variant.
The Sonic RS also comes outfitted with the more potent, turbocharged, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine. The little GM mill spins up 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, and while those numbers are not jaw-dropping in any way, shape nor form, the Sonic RS doesn't disappoint or leave me wanting more power. At only 2811 pounds, the Sonic RS is light enough to take full advantage of its deceiving stout 138 hp.
The designers reworked the cabin with new, heavily bolstered bucket seats. The pilot and co-pilot seats are trimmed in leather, embossed with the RS logo, and stitched in red; an overall nice touch. Otherwise, the cabin remains unchanged from last year’s offering save for some fancy floor mats and sport pedals.The Sonic RS also gets special five-spoke wheels wrapped in low-profile tires. Besides the wheels, the Sonic RS receives a few other rather pleasing aesthetic changes. New fog lights and fog light surrounds, as well as a raked lower front bumper and a new grille with hexagonal designs, give the front fascia a more aggressive look. The rear of the Sonic RS receives a new extended spoiler with a center dip, plus a lower bumper with a quasi diffuser and a trapezoidal exhaust tip. Broader side skirts, badging (RS and Turbo) and a contrasting graphite treatment to the side mirror housings round out the beefier exterior look.
You can choose either a six-speed auto or a six-speed manual gearbox like the one in my tester. The latter is clearly the recommendation here, but even when saddled with the former, the Sonic RS is nothing less a pocket rocket. The turbo four pumps out enough muscle to be fun. It’s not exactly quick, but it doesn’t need to be, either. Throw a few corners at this Mini-Might tackles them with the kind of glee only a small car can muster. Pick a line; hold fast, and the RS drops down onto its suspension and vaults out of each turn. Like the old-school Hondas of yore, the Sonic RS wants nothing more than to have your hands firmly gripping its responsive steering wheel and your foot welded to its accelerator on the floor. There’s a nice Macpherson strut setup in the nose and a semi-independent torsion beam out back. No, it isn't fully independent, but that beam doesn't seem to hold the car back, either.
For your in-car entertainment, the Sonic RS is equipped with Chevy's new MyLink system that adds several ingenious Smartphone app-based services to the car's other infotainment features and controls them all with a touch-screen interface.
With all of My praises for the Sonic RS, there are only three relatively small things to whine about. The first is the exhaust; even at full tilt, the 1.4 turbo sounds more like a vibrator with low batteries than what this snappy little go-getter it is. Give this thing a set of pipes; Please! I want to hear the kind of snarl the Fiat 500 Abarth delivers, not the hum of a lonely female’s endorsed bedroom appliance; ‘Nuf Said...
What is my second complaint, you’re wondering? That would be an appreciable concern with the manual transmission’s sport pedals. I found the pedals to be rather slippery with shoes on; once I swapped out my Brooks Brothers for a pair of Adidas, everything was copacetic!
What about that third complaint, you ask? That would be the competition. The 2015 Sonic RS automatic starts at $22,435, including destination (the manual starts at $21,150). Ford will kindly ask $22,195, including destination, for its wicked little 2015 Fiesta ST offering-you know, the one with 197 hp and nearly 70 pounds less weight to haul around? Catch My drift?
Of course, Ford will only sell you a Fiesta ST with a six-speed manual transmission, and while that earns Ford a few extra points in my book, it will definitely be a turnoff for some buyers; because of a lack of competent manual transmission operators on the road. In addition, you’ll have to cough up an extra $1,995.00 for the sexy Recaro seats and leather interior in the Ford.
Still, in all honesty, it’s hard to beat cheaper and faster, and that’s the Biggest Thorn in the little Chevrolet’s side (and it Does sting…). As it stands, the Sonic RS is some of the most fun you can have under the Bow-Tie’s banner. Unfortunately, as much as I am a GM Man, the party’s just a little hotter over under the Ford Tent in this segment.
In closing, the 2015 Chevrolet Sonic looks awfully good on paper. It's efficient and relatively powerful, well stocked with features and a top performer in crash tests thanks in part to a Costco-load of standard airbags. Heck, it's even built right here in the good ‘Ole USA! Usually, there would be a "but" coming right about now. However, the Sonic not only looks good on paper but it looks good in person, too, and is one of the more rewarding subcompact cars to drive. This is a car that both the right and left halves of your brain can endorse. Quote GODZILLA! Nevermore…
I would like to extend a Big Thank You to Chevy Sonic’s Brand Manager Annalisa Bluhmand, the Dynamic Duo; Kim Carpenter and Steve Martin at General Motors, Pierre Kanter and Eric Dolis at FMI Media Fleet along with My New B.F.F. Georgina Turpin over at the MLS Group!