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2013 Chevrolet Sonic Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic was new.


Performance: 7.6

Most reviewers think the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic has smooth transmissions, sharp handling and adequate engine power. Some test drivers are disappointed with the Sonic’s fuel economy ratings.

  • "As a whole, the offerings in this category have become less skittish and less buzzy in recent years, but Chevrolet's Sonic for 2013 drives like a bigger, pricier car than any of its competitors." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Yes, it's a subcompact, but it drives like it has a spring in its step. With a feisty four-cylinder engine, this is no Point A to Point B drone." -- Cars.com (2012)
  • "Like the larger Cruze, its steering is far too light, a trait that belies its accuracy. And though its six-speed manual is sufficiently smooth, it still doesn't match the Fit's five-speed for precision or its clutch-to-throttle calibration." -- Automobile Magazine (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The base 2013 Chevrolet Sonic has a 138-horsepower, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. There is also an optional turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower, but produces 23 pound-feet of torque more than the base model. A five-speed manual transmission is standard with the base engine, while a six-speed manual is standard with the turbocharged engine. A six-speed automatic is optional with both. Fuel economy ratings are good, but less than what the Sonic’s rivals average. The turbocharged engine averages 27/37 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission, according to the EPA. Gas mileage is 25/35 mpg with the 1.8-liter engine and automatic transmission.

While test drivers think the base engine shows its weakness when accelerating out of corners, they tend to prefer the optional turbocharged engine because of its higher torque rating, though some say it isn’t much faster than the base model. Reviewer opinion of the Sonic’s transmissions are divided. One test driver thinks both the manual and automatic transmissions shift smoothly. A different reviewer mentions that the automatic transmission’s shifts are slow and rough.

  • "The RS now feels quicker off the line, and there's no need to constantly downshift to find optimum power." -- Motor Trend
  • "It's a solid motor and does its job without drama or complaint, though gas mileage for Sonics with the base five-speed manual transmission is an unimpressive 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway." -- The Los Angeles Times (1.8-liter engine, 2012)
  • "During spirited driving, the turbo model eagerly pulled out of a corner compared to the 1.8-liter. In more common straight-line acceleration, like merging onto the highway, the turbo doesn't accelerate much more briskly than the base engine, though it's the smoother, quieter choice. For those who don't live on the picturesque winding canyon roads of our drive route, the 1.8-liter is still a solid, though a little noisy, choice." -- Cars.com (2012)
  • "The manual transmission is excellent, with a smooth but meaty shifter, and low-effort clutch. The automatic delivers crisp, timely shifts." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The automatic transmission in our Sonic shifted rather slowly and wasn't particularly smooth either." -- Autoblog (2012)

Handling and Braking

Test drivers give mixed reviews of the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic’s handling and braking abilities. Many reviewers report that the Sonic’s accurate steering is one of its best qualities, and like that it adapts to different environments, such as parking lots and highways, easily. Other test drivers, however, think the Sonic’s steering is too light, which keeps it from being precise. Reviewers also say that overall ride quality is good, though like many small cars, the ride can get rough over uneven pavement. Reviewers say the brakes are strong, though one mentions that the pedal is mushy.

  • "Non-RS models have the same suspension tuning. Any difference in ride quality comes down to tire size. The LS and LT use 15-inch tires while the LTZ has 17s. Even then, you'd be hard pressed to find much variance between the LS/LT and LTZ. Sonic's impressively solid body structure enhances the impression of comfort. Very large bumps can jolt, but no more so than in other cars with a short wheelbase." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Steering is one of the car's strong points. It's light when it needs to be, allowing you to easily maneuver at low speeds in the parking lot, but tightens up to create a natural, well-weighted feel when cruising at highway speed." -- Edmunds (2012)
  • "The essentials - steering precision, brake feel, cornering ability - all seemed more than satisfactory." -- USA Today (2012)
  • "The pedal was a bit soft and we did experience a little nose dive, but the Sonic's braking was still impressive." -- Motor Week (2012)

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