Recently, we took a family vacation to watch my son and the Riverside Regiment Marching Band march Main Street in Disney- sure to be one of the highlights in my career as a parent!, While my son tour-bussed with bandmates, my Wife, Teen Daughter and I spent two and a half days traveling in a 2012 Chevy Sonic Turbo- and we couldn’t have been more pleased! I bought the Inferno Orange hatch as a fun, cheap, high-mpg commuter, and, at 6500 miles, it continues to surprise with its capabilities. The build quality is excellent, the paint amazing and the interior, though a bit austere, quite comfortable and roomy. Performance with the 6-speed manual and turbo 1.4 has been quite entertaining, and the handling, despite the 15″ high-mileage Hancook tires is (with stability and traction control OFF) is quite tossable and fun. I can see a set of wider, performance-oriented AS tires and lowering springs in the not to distant future, which would add to the fun without compromising the eco-intent of the Sonic. Despite its lineage to the Aveo (which Chevy wants us to forget) using the Michigan-built Sonic on the days I’m not on the motorbike has actually been a pleasure. When we realized how much flying was going to set us back, we decided to drive to Florida. At nearly $4/gal for gas, we decided the Sonic was a much better choice then the Enclave, Rendezvous or Mustang, so we packed it for travel.
First, there is an amazing amount of room between the seatback and hatch, especially if you remove the “false floor” in the cargo area. We had more than enough space for duffels and food for a six day trip. We tossed a bunch of road food and drinks in the floor of the back seat and were ready for life on the road. One way-cool advantage of the digital age is I no longer need to load the car with cassettes or CDs. An 8-gig thumbdrive plugged into the upper glovebox USB and my daughter’s Bluetooth linked iPod provided far more music than we had time to listen to. The interior seems like it should be a tight fit, but we all had more than enough leg and elbow room, even when I traded off driving and stuck my 6-foot frame in the back seat for a powernap. The seats were firm, but very supportive for the four hours or so between gas/ rest stops- no back issues at all for me! Teen Daughter even managed to sleep for part of trip, and she NEVER sleeps on road trips. Keeping in mind the Sonic IS a low-buck econobox, road noise is very subdued and the cabin is tight, whistle and rattle-free. Very well done.
The best part (for me) though, was the drive. Rain, high winds, mountains, snow and high temps with A/C- we got it all heading from spring in NEOhio to summer in FLA, and the Sonic handled it all with absolute composure. A downshift was occasionally needed to pass in the mountains (this is just a 1.4l 4-cylinder, turbo or no), but we maintained freeway speeds with traffic in the 75-90 mph with no problem at all- and returned 42.1 mpg on the way down and 39.0 on the return trip (and no oil usage)! The clutch is almost too light, and the shifter is buttery smooth with just the right amount of mechanical “click” to indicate positive shifts. The controls are intuitive and easy to use, and the speedo/ instrument cluster is very easy to gather info from. My only complaint is, the enthusiast in me would love to see small temp and boost gauges added to the cluster. The Sonic was stable in the high winds (first time I’ve ever seen the flashing warning) through Virginia/ West Virginia, and unflappable in rain and wet snow. The headlights were bright and well-aimed for the night driving, though I would like to have been able to turn the cluster lights down even further, especially on the radio. Overall, the Sonic was the perfect car for a perfect family vacation
Did I have any complaints with the car? Not really… There is a bit too much wind noise at the roof in the rear, probably from the hatch spoiler or roof mounted antenna, but it was minor even sitting in the back. Sometimes my thumb slid over the rubber button/ roll switches on the steering wheel without the desired result, but I could never get it to do the same the next time I tried. An additional power plug closer to the backseat would have been nice, and door cubbies in the back would have been convenient, but we did fine without,. These are all nitpicky, however, and don’t change my thoughts about the Sonic at all. GM buried the Aveo and got the Sonic right- especially for the price. Now if they can just get the 130R into production about the time my son graduates from college. I can easily see an Inferno Orange Sonic Turbo being handed down and replaced by the 130…