With the departure of our faithful Toyota Yaris, we feared that the crankandpiston office runabout, the epitome of practicality, would become but a distant memory. But luckily, in stepped Chevrolet to offer us a replacement – the Sonic.
This is Chevrolet’s latest compact hatchback, replete with aggressive styling on the outside and futuristic touches on the inside. We’re fans of the Sonic‘s twin headlights which give the front end a glaring look. A similar, black plastic-surrounded treatment exists at the back too. We’re less keen on the fake metal fuel filler cap, however.
Our test Sonic, as befits its name, comes in a stylish hedgehog blue (OK, it’s not actually called that, but humour us, Sega fans) and rocks some tasty alloys, front fog lamps and a bootlid spoiler. Not bad for $15,437. Inside, there’s an unusual dashboard arrangement mounted on top of the steering column, dominated by a large analogue rev counter and accompanied by a digital speedometer. It’s certainly different, and a couple of weeks into our custody of the Sonic, is actually growing on me.
Other interior features include a stereo with both an auxiliary input socket for MP3 players and, I’ve discovered the day before writing this, a USB input socket in the glove box, hopefully for direct iPod connectivity. I’ll check that out over the next month to see how it works. The Sonic also comes with cruise control, which is welcome for this price bracket.
On the move, the driver sits in a relatively sporty and supportive seat, holding a thick-rimmed steering wheel. Sadly there are no wheel-mounted paddles for manual gearchanges in the Sonic, but one can flick through different-sized cogs using an unusual arrangement of buttons on the side of the gearlever. I struggled to get used to this layout when we had the car in for the feature, but perhaps with a couple of months practice it’ll become more intuitive.
Power in the Sonic is supplied by a four-cylinder 1.6-litre engine with 113bhp – more than our old Yaris – and it flows to the front wheels through a five-speed gearbox. We’re hopeful that the compact size of the Sonic and its relatively low power output will give us a similar opportunity for fun as the Toyota did – the chance to thrash a small and light little hatch and work it hard without troubling speed limits. Usable fun, as well as practicality and utility, is what we’re expecting from the little Chevrolet, and we’ll keep you posted as to how the Sonic is getting on in that regard.