If you were to define what a city car should be, the Sonic would tick most of the boxes. Easy to handle, equipped with a dash of everyday convenience (even USB and Bluetooth connectivity is a part of that list these days), a design that gets your peers talking, and all that.
The name Sonic evolves from the Latin word for sound, quite like “Sony”. The name of the car could well be a reference to all the noise that accompanied its launch in the US: ‘Hey, Sonic does a bungee!’ ‘Sonic does the flip jump!’ So it was imperative that the successor to a pretty modest entry-level hatch had to be tested out with expectations and reservations. The latter helped, coz there are definitely plenty of good things about the Sonic that should not bear the brunt of blown-up expectation.
While the car has character, the drive elicits mixed response. The steering is surprisingly responsive, feels full to the grip and measured in road manners. It’s a sporty drive with a clear distinction of gearshifts. I was almost tempted to give it drifting lessons, when the first roundabout I encountered kicked those hopes out the window. At high speeds, whether it’s going about curves or switching lanes to make way for a tailgating bulldozer, the car has the tendency to over-steer a bit. Yet, before you write off the Sonic on highway commute, let me add that I covered the distance of 120 km from Yas Marina to Sheikh Zayed Road in one hour flat in what was a brisk and balanced drive.
But then, there were no crosswinds. But on the way up, there had been plenty that morning and the car tends to move on roller-skates in the face of strong winds! Then again, that is pretty much true to almost all cars in its class.
Sonic impresses with unconventional design, unlike its predecessor, Aveo. (That nametag seems to have remained with the Sonic in some markets.) The pronounced wheel fenders and the definitive stroke just beneath the window dress up the car with a personality, in a segment cluttered with a ridiculous enthusiasm to impress. While my test vehicle was a saloon, the Sonic hatch would look more stylish and individualistic to any eye, with a coupe-like profile, thanks to its hidden rear handle. (check out the banner picture on top)
The circular headlamps in black look good, (in red bezel, theylook awesome) but “motor-cycle inspired” as Chevy calls it is a bit of an ambiguity. Nevertheless, it lends Sonic its personality and the functional benefit is that they can be individually repaired or replaced if a need arises. This strange inspiration continues in just one more feature – the hooded instrument panel. It practicably offers a better view on a sunny day, but as an attempt to stand out, the irregular design of the tachometer hood is err… tacky or wacky – the way you see it!
Cabin and comfort
The mix of hard plastic and fabric in the cabin lends a comfy feeling, and features like the propeller-shaped air vents are stylish and modern. The beige and black cabin décor is pretty well matched and largely comfortable but what is most striking is the cabin’s soothing icy blue backlighting.
Innovative storage marks the sonic dash with a thoughtfully carved, lidded compartment for stuff like CDs or documents that don’t fit the glove box. The console storage is also pretty good apart from the cup-holder niches. But I can’t understand why these compact sedans don’t provide an extra light at the rear – it could be so useful at times! The A/C is pretty effective, and on the cool windy day, I kept switching it off to prevent a wind chill factor build up in the cabin weather.
Sonic is largely frill-free. Keyless entry and fog lights are standard while rear parking assist and ABS are present in the LS versions.
Though the fabric seats offer reasonable comfort, you would probably insist on a stop or two on long drives. Unlike the base version, the Sonic provides both passenger and driver airbags in the LS. (The Sonic LT version with cruise control and sunroof as options is not being imported.) Child restraints and ISO fix are available in all the higher models. As for storage, the 397 L space in the sedan is impressive enough while the hatch offers more than double that with its foldable backseats.
If the Sonic sounds good, it’s because the energetic 1.6 L doesn’t show off with noise. Ironically, the wind plays up a bit of cacophony and the constant road noise can be quite irksome – even the music system, which is pretty uninspiring, doesn’t help. The radio tuning also wasn’t giving the best results with some stations. The Sonic cabin isn’t your ideal conversation spot. You could start with the weather, but if the forecast is windy, don’t pursue it too hard!
In case the talk centers on a compact car with unique design elements and a reassuringly robust drive – you can be sure that the new Chevrolet Sonic rides the talk. At AED 49,000 the Sonic is certainly a good entry-level choice and with several accessories to deck it up, like the chrome fuel door and the red bezel headlights, it’s quite the fun car in its category!
UPSIDE: Taut and responsive steering, Composed drive, Surprise storage options, Soothing blue backlighting, Good fuel efficiency, Fun accessories
FLIPSIDE: Noisy cabin, Mediocre audio system, Wind pull factor, “Like it or hate it” design elements
Drive Courtesy: Al Ghandi Motors
Picture Courtesy: Sudeep Koshy