Is the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic Chicago-worthy?

Is the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic Chicago-worthy?

Living in the city, I often look for things that are multifunctional. You know, like a decorative cube that triples as an ottoman, storage compartment and extra seat. A bed that has drawers. A bag that can fit my purse and an iPad.

Stuff like that.

I suppose that’s why I think the Chevrolet Sonic is such a good city vehicle.

It’s small but utilitarian. It’s packed with content, yet well-priced. It’s peppy. And if you opt for the LT or LTZ models with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, it’s also fuel-efficient at an estimated 40 mpg on the highway.

My favorite thing about the Sonic, however, was the available BringGo app. This is the low-cost alternative to purchasing navigation for your car. It’s an app you download to your phone and then sync to your car. You can try a $0.99 trial to ensure compatibility, and then you can either purchase a $49.99 version of the app that offers lifetime use but no updates or a $59.99 version of the app and map updates in the second and third year of use.

While this price seems steep for an app, consider what it does. It provides all the navigation functionality of a traditional nav system at a fraction of the cost. And, even better, you can take it with you. So, if your route includes a pedestrian area, your directions don’t end with the car. For someone like me who gets lost in an indoor mall, that’s a pretty good idea.

The app is easy to use, colorful and displays perfectly on the car’s 7-inch in-dash screen. My only complaint is that I couldn’t operate the app with voice commands through the car. So, once the car is moving, you can’t set or change the navigation without pulling over.

My most recent Sonic test vehicle was a top-of-the-line RS model. And I loved it. It was easy to drive, zippy when I needed it, easy to parallel park and comfortable. Plus it had an as-tested price of $22,280, which included heated front seats and Bluetooth connectivity – two Chicago must haves.

Sonic replaced the Aveo for the 2012 model year, and it has aggressive good looks and a really nice interior. The compact gauge cluster behind the wheel is easy to read and well placed. And the intuitive center stack is both simple and attractive.

Though the Sonic doesn’t have an armrest cubby hole, there is a second glove box to store all your extra bits and bobs. Another bonus, cargo volume with the rear seats up is 19 cubic feet, which rivals many sedans. If you drop the rear seats, you have an amazing 47.7 cubic feet of cargo space.

Sonic has two engine options, a 1.8-liter that comes standard on the LS, LT and LTZ models and a 1.4-liter turbo that is optional on the LT and LTZ and standard on the RS. Both deliver 138 horsepower, but difference is in the torque. The first delivers 125 pound-feet and the latter delivers 148 pound-feet.

Due to it’s compact size, you won’t necessarily glide over all the city’s potholes, but the ride isn’t too rough. Overall ride and handling in the Sonic RS is one part sporty and two parts utilitarian. Which is about right for a car in this segment.

RS-specific features on the test car included: sport exhaust and suspension, performance-tuned dampers, 17-inch silver-plated aluminum wheels, RS badging throughout and RS-specific styling changes.

The test car had the 6-speed automatic transmission, but I would much prefer the manual option. It’s more fun. However, I anticipate that the automatic transmission kept my fuel economy closer to the city/highway EPA estimates of 25/33 mpg than a manual would.

Regardless, the Sonic RS was still fun. And, I would have no problem recommending this as a Chicago car.

Chicago-worthy rating: 9. I give the Sonic RS a small ding for fuel economy. EPA estimates this model should get 33 mpg on the highway 28 mpg in combined driving. I was closer to the city 25 mpg average in combined driving. Otherwise, the compact size lends itself to urban driving with easy parallel parking and peppy handling. I like the pricing that hovers around $20K, and I especially like that you get heated seats at this price point. Overall, a fun and functional car for Chicago.

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  • This (and I suppose stuff like the Ford Fiesta) will test Ford's former view that Americans won't pay big bucks for tiny cars. $22 grand is high for that small of a car (compares to the list price for an Accord LX or Camry LE).

    Also, for possibly a positive change, it is a Korean car assembled in Michigan.

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