Friday, January 25, 2013

Something Big and Something Wonderful: Chevrolet Sonic and Trailblazer Ride and Drive

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Chevrolet’s exclusive importer and distributor, The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCCI) started their 2013 with a bang after a fun-filled ride and drive activity that featured their two newest “babies”: the Sonic sub-compact and the Traiblazer mid-sized SUV. Although launched in the latter half of 2012, this is the first time most of the motoring media has sampled Chevrolet’s latest offerings. Overall, the consensus was these two cars are impressive, proving that Chevrolet is off to a great start this year.

Gymkhana with the Chevrolet Sonic

The day started with a specially-prepared gymkhana course at the Cotsworld Village in Tagaytay Highlands featuring the all-new Chevrolet Sonic. Designed to highlight the Sonic’s excellent handling and nimble driving dynamics, the Sonic had to navigate through a series of tight twists and turns while drivers had to complete some physical challenges. All this and you had to be mindful of setting a consistent lap time (the winner must match the 2 minutes and 10 second time—no more, no less). And what made the challenge even more exciting? No timers, stopwatches, or mobile phones were allowed.

Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be a problem for the Chevrolet Sonic which is imbued with “driving fun” from the get-to. At its core, a new 1.4-liter ECOTEC engine which provides efficient power. With 100 horsepower and 130 Nm of torque, it gave the Sonic ample thrust through the tight and hilly course, while the segment-exclusive 6-speed automatic (with manual override, to boot) made the most out of the engine’s power band.

Putting all that power to the road is a European-tuned suspension featuring independent MacPherson Struts upfront and a torsion beam axle with a double-walled V-shaped beam at the back. Although this chassis is already tried-and-tested in the segment, the Sonic sets itself apart by having a stiff and rigid body structure with a unique “flat top frame” cradle that ensures optimal stiffness in the front portion of the car. Plus, the power steering system is surprisingly responsive while the five-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels with generous 205/55 R 16 tires provided excellent grip.

After setting a time of 2 minutes and 11 seconds (which was still not enough to win the challenge), an Oceanic Blue Sonic hatchback was also on-hand for people to get acquainted with. Though the five-door is the sportier, hands down; both models are clearly youthful and eye-catching with a wide and planted stance. Upfront, the Sonic has Chevrolet’s signature dual-port grille and exposed four-cluster headlamps. From the side, the raked body lines suggest movement even when the car is stationary and from the back, the five-door has its rear handles “hidden” in the C-pillar area suggesting the style of a three-door hatchback.

This youthful appeal is carried into the Sonic’s interior which is headlined by the motorbike-inspired instrument cluster complete with a Driver Information System display. The ice-blue lighting and “cobra head” shift knob for the automatic reinforce the sporty feel while the dual cockpit design provides adequate interior space to accommodate five adults. And though the Sonic is already blessed with a large cargo capacity (466 liters for the sedan, 253 liters for the hatchback), the back seats actually fold down in a 60/40 split allowing for an even larger luggage capacity.

Aside from its driver-centric and practical interior, Chevrolet has equipped the Sonic with high-tech convenience features such as Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio streaming capabilities. In addition, it has a full-featured multimedia entertainment system with CD, auxiliary input, and even USB ports that allow popular devices such as MP3 players, iPods, and iPhones to be connected. It even comes with a 6-speaker sound system as well as steering wheel mounted controls that offer easy audio management with just the touch of a finger.

Off-Roading with the Chevrolet Trailblazer

The large 12-foot high “Trailblazer” erected at the entrance of Tagaytay Highlands is a sure sign of Chevrolet’s confidence in their new 7-seater mid-sized SUV. With tremendous and continuous growth in this particular segment, Chevrolet has thrown in its hat, bringing their all-new Trailblazer into the fray. Knowing quite well that they needed to set the Trailblazer apart from the competition, Chevrolet has given it class-leading design, features, and safety equipment to make sure would-be owners will be ahead of the game.

Designed by Chevrolet’s South American design studio in Brazil, the Trailblazer is powerful and refined outside with its dual-port grille, projector-type headlamps, flushed roof rails, and power dome hood that all evoke attractive ruggedness. These design cues are further enhanced on the 4x4 model with standard 18-inch alloys (265/60 R 18 tires) and LED tail lamps. All in all, it looks athletic and agile.

While the exterior exudes a certain rugged appeal, the Trailblazer’s interior cocoons its occupants with spacious and comfortable seating clad in either high-quality fabric (4x2) or leather (4x4). These seven seats, particular the second and third row, are designed for true cargo flexibility—tumbling or folding in a 60/40 split—making the Trailblazer the perfect vehicle for family outings, trips to the mall, or even a business hauler. Where the roads (or trails) will take you, the Trailblazer comes equipped with an integrated audio system with CD, auxiliary, and USB inputs as well as Bluetooth functionality. The sound is challenged through an 8-speaker sound system on the 4x4 and a 6-speaker system on the 4x2. Steering wheel-mounted controls allow full control of digital toys and gadgets without distraction.

As handsome as the Trailblazer is on pavement, it truly is a gem when it’s a bit dirty and tackling some challenging terrain. Showcasing the Trailblazer’s standard features, Chevrolet provided two Trailblazer 4x4s for a short off-road driving activity at the Katsura Subdivision of Tagaytay Highlands. Though the trail lasted just 10 minutes long, it highlighted some of the Trailblazer’s commanding features such as Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, and shift-on-the-fly Drive Select Mode 4x4. Even the Double Wishbone/5-Link suspension set-up was given a workout thanks to the undulating surface that consisted of loose sand, gravel, and broken pavement. On the open road, peace of mind is assured thanks to standard Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control on the 4x4. And because the Trailblazer is designed in tandem with the Colorado pick-up truck, it also boasts of a 800-mm wading depth, though this wasn’t tested during the two-day Ride and Drive event.

Of course, all these safety aids work best with the Trailblazer’s greatest asset: the best-in-class 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine. With common rail direct injection and variable geometry turbo, the Trailblazer 4x4 puts out a robust 180 horsepower and 470 Nm of torque. Mated to a 6-speed automatic (with manual override), the Trailblazer has unparalleled power enabling it to tackle steep slopes. It can even start in the middle of the incline and still have enough power left over.

“This event is a glimpse of what Chevrolet has in-store for the Philippine market this year. We gained a 20% increase in sales in 2012 (from 2011 YoY) and these two new models along with our existing product line puts us on a solid footing to grow a stronger brand and business this 2013. With the Trailblazer and the Sonic leading the way, we hope to capture the market's need and desire for a performance-oriented lifestyle vehicles,” said TCCCI President and Managing Director Atty. Albert Arcilla.

And he’s absolutely right: by catering their vehicle line-up to a very dynamic and discriminating market and by realigning the Chevrolet into a lifestyle-oriented brand, things are certainly looking up for Chevrolet. All in all, Chevrolet’s Ride and Drive activity is a constant reminder to highlight TCCCI’s pursuit to provide more exciting products this year.


  1. I wish you had more honest reviews with these cars. Admittedly, this is a media event and you were probably commissioned to make this article in exchange for some bucks, but do keep in mind that this does very little to serve the buying public.

    This is as much sales talk as the next agent from the showroom can give, except with better English and fancier pictures.

    For example, the Sonic - what's up with its transmission? Does it really do a good job of putting the power down to the tires? Other reviewers have been critical about it. And its handling, does it beat out the impeccable performance of the Fiesta or Mazda 2?

    For bigger auto sites, like say, C! or TGP, it's understandable that their articles must always be taken with a grain of salt since you can't get that large without turning into a sellout. But is just on the early stages of growth, it'd be nice if it can be the site that people can turn to when they look for honest, objective reviews.

    1. Hi there.

      Thanks for these frank comments. As you mentioned it yourself, this was a media ride & drive, and the article was written specifically as such.

      However, I'm one of the first to have passed judgement on the Chevrolet Sonic (see link) and it does have both good points and bad points. Try seeing a review like this in any other website, newspaper, or magazine!

      Chevrolet Sonic Review:

      I haven't driven the Trailblazer extensively, but it does feel much better than the Fortuner or Montero Sport. Of course, it remains to be seen how it will perform on the open road. Hopefully, I'll get my hands on one real soon.

    2. Oops...wrong link. Here's the Chevrolet Sonic 4DR Review:

    3. Thanks for acknowledging the critique, Uly. Not many journalists take stuff like this in an amicable manner.

      Props for having a good, real review of the Sonic too. Must've missed it when I was browsing through the site.

    4. Thanks! Actually, I'm still figuring out a way to actually put all the "Driver's Seat" reviews on an easy-to-search way.

      Right now, if you want to find out more about the cars I've test driven, check out the Philippine Car Price Guide. All those with links are those with reviews.

  2. "while the segment-exclusive 6-speed automatic"
    Isn't the Fiesta with a 6-speed Powershift in the same B-segment as the Sonic?
    - AM

  3. Sorry AM if I wasn't being clear. When Chevrolet says segment-exclusive 6-speed automatic, they mean automatic in the traditional sense. The Fiesta, as you know, as a dual clutch system. I guess for them it makes all the marketing difference :-p

    1. "The Fiesta, as you know, as"---I meant "has"! Typo!

    2. I had a feeling that was the case, the way GM Philippines put it sounds a bit misleading though like they are the only one who offers a 6-speeds in that segment, but I guess that was their intention anyway.

    3. typo: "like they are the only ones who offer 6-speeds in that segment"

  4. Uly: when will you come out with a review of the 4x2 trailblazer? It would be interesting to know if the additional 350k is worth it considering that the trailblazer doesn't have a locked 4x4 mode (from what I read online, once you activate it, it has to detect a slip first before engaging the 4x4 mode.)


    1. Hi Richard. I'll try to schedule something with TCCCI :-)