Photo Gallery: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic

The Chevrolet Sonic has been around for about a year now, but this is the first chance I've had to spend some quality time with the vehicle. You'd think Chevy was hiding it from me or something. And I have no idea why they'd do that because what I have to say is this: The Sonic is awesome. If you're looking for a compact car, it's a must test. Potentially even a must buy.

The test car was a top-tier LTZ model with an automatic transmission and heated leather seats. While the base price for this model is a little steep at $19,185, it comes standard with whistles and bells like Bluetooth, MyLink, steering wheel audio controls and traction control. The tester had the 1.8-liter, 138-horsepower engine, which was peppy and -- dare I say -- fun.  The Sonic is compact, comfortable and easy to drive. In short, I really liked it.

My one complaint, however, (and you knew there had to be one) is fuel economy. EPA estimates city/highway fuel economy of 25/35 mpg. In mostly highway driving, I was getting around 28 mpg. Yes, that's the estimated combined driving, so maybe I should shut up. But still ... in mostly highway driving, I'd expect something more than 30 mpg.

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  • 1. I'm surprised that GM isn't promoting it, given that it is an assembled in America car, as a result of the reorganization. Maybe the profit margin isn't what GM expects.

    2. I concur on highway mileage. Of course, the way I measure highway mileage is to fill up, and then go on a considerable trip, such as to Cincinnati, and fill up when reaching there, and checking the trip odometer. No car I have had in the past 25 years failed to get 32 mph, and the last 2 had V6s.

    3. But maybe the point is that your test was not as "pure," and thus you drove something like the combined. In which case, the more interesting question would be how "city worthy" this small car is.

  • In reply to jack:

    all good points jack. there was definitely some city driving involved. but not a lot. i live close to the highway, and work is a straight shot off the highway. commute is about 18 miles both ways ... so there was a lot of highway time involved. i kept trying to get better than 30 -- even with the city stints, but i just couldn't get there. on the flip side, the 1.8L engine is REALLY nice. :)

    all that aside, i think the sonic is a GREAT city car. very parkable, comfortable and drivable in urban spaces. and even 28 mpg for combined driving doesn't completely stink. i'd give it a 9.5 on the city scale ...

  • In reply to Jill Ciminillo:

    As you put it is explainable.

    As I mentioned, my highway mileage estimate is based on a "considerable trip."

    If I am doing expressway trips in the area, I usually get the city 20 mpg up to only about 22, based on biweekly fill ups instead of as I described in the first post. I assume that your 18 mile commute pattern isn't that much different, especially if you are on somewhat congested expressways instead of the open road. So, maybe getting the combined isn't too bad.

    Finally, while C&D described how the EPA gets the city mpg using a "treadmill," I don't know how they get the highway. The city was a complicated cycle; maybe they get the highway by just running the car at a steady 55 mph. Also, it appeared that the EPA figures are based on exhaust components rather than how much gasoline they put in the tank. Do you have any information on these items?

  • In reply to jack:

    One of the most thorough explanations of EPA testing is from the CleanMPG forum:

    http://www.cleanmpg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1510

    The problem I have with the EPA testing is the lack of consistency. With automakers like Hyundai, for example, I always come closer to the HWY than the CTY. But with other automakers, I somehow get closer to the CTY than the HWY -- in the same driving routes with the same driving conditions.

  • In reply to Jill Ciminillo:

    The two interesting things there were:

    (a) the manufacturer does the test, and the EPA only confirms some of them, which may confirm your Hyundai observation.

    (b) The Highway test assumes an average speed of 48 mph, and a pretty steady one at that. Highway driving around here is either 65 mph or stuck in traffic.

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