It’s interesting to see American automotive manufacturers like Ford and General Motors cranking out turbocharged compact cars like no one’s business, when it was the Japanese and Europeans that first became the champions in this segment. But with government regulations causing automakers to turn to smaller, turbocharged engines, the turbocharger’s time is upon us, and even compact crossovers like the Chevy Trax have snails attached to them.
This year, Chevrolet has taken it a step further by giving every Sonic LTZ model a turbocharged engine to go with its 4G WiFi hotspot capabilities, which is fantastic to hear. Available in either sedan or hatchback configurations, the LTZ has what critics over at Edmunds call “well-tuned suspension,” and praise it for both its “steady handling and respectable ride comfort.”
Pair that with a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder that cranks out 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, a six-speed manual gearbox, and a 33 mile-per-gallon EPA average, and you’ve got an American micro machine that doesn’t suck to drive.
Opting for the RS version the way we would gives you a sportier gearbox, disc brakes all around, an aero kit, stiffer suspension, 17-inch alloys, leather and simulated suede upholstery, and a race-inspired steering wheel. Throw in an additional “Advanced Safety Package” for lane-departure warnings and forward collision alerts, and you’ve got something to zip around in that will protect your every move.
Sure, there are plenty of other cars in this segment that could steal your attention, but the 2015 Chevy Sonic in turbo form sure knows how to keep drivers interested. It has a healthy splash of performance, safety, value, and youthfulness all rolled into one. Here is what you should check out if you test drive one.
We say skip the lesser models if you can, and just spend the extra four grand and get the LTZ model. It’s still under $20,000 and offers you the turbocharged engine, those 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, simulated leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rearview camera, and Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. This last feature offers buyers a seven-inch touchscreen, smartphone app integration, Bluetooth audio connectivity, and an easy to use USB/iPod interface, which in today’s world are all mandatory accessories.
A “Dusk” package is also available for buyers who want a bit more, offering 18-inch wheels, disc brakes, one-off aero mods, and a leather and simulated suede upholstery blend that looks pretty damn good to boot. Driving turbo models with a manual means hitting 60 takes around 8.8 seconds, which is relatively quick considering the segment and how small the engine is; the standard traction and stability control will help keep you planted once up to speed.
Safety-wise, knee airbags are standard for front seat occupants, as well as front seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags. OnStar comes standard too, so automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle assistance, and remote door unlocking can all be had for nothing extra. Speaking of safety, the Sonic also landed a perfect five-star rating overall during government crash tests, and many people find the Sonic’s Siri Eyes Free helps keep them focused on the road ahead.
A 14-cubic-foot trunk found in the sedan is one of the largest in its class, and while some people may not like the use of plastics inside, it’s not like it is an unattractive interior either; the excellent driving feel highlights the best part of this car. Noted for its responsive steering, comfortable ride, and surprisingly serene cabin, critics and consumers alike are saying that Sonic’s RS and LTZ versions are cars you have to consider if small, cheap, and fun are all on your shopping list.