Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: 2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ Hatchback A/T

Photos by Ulysses Ang
We’ve driven the Chevrolet Sonic LTZ sedan (full story here), and although we commended it for its stylish exterior, well-built interior, and solid driving dynamics it wasn’t a fool-proof choice given its lack of fuel efficiency, tech, and value. With a change of body style from the staid 4-door to a sportier 5-door, will the Chevrolet Sonic score better? Let’s find out.

The Outside

Compared to the sedan, the hatchback can be referred to as the “Ultimate Sonic” with Chevrolet throwing all their design know-how to make it look young and sporty as possible. From the front to the middle part of the car, the hatchback and the sedan share the same cues from the quad-barrel headlights (mounted without lens covers), the oversized grille, and even the five-spoke 16-inch alloys with Continental rubber.

What’s changed is basically everything from the B-pillar backward. Whereas the sedan has a formal three-box shape, the hatchback lops off the trunk area right behind the rear wheels for a dramatically reduced footprint. This is made most apparent when viewed from dead-on side. Together with the reduced length, the Sonic hatchback gains the same lens cover-less look on the rear lamp clusters as well as a standard roof spoiler. The most unique design cue though is the “hidden” door handles for the rear occupants. Unfortunately, design triumphs over function as small kids will find opening the rear doors quite a challenge (the handle’s on the upper part of the C-pillar).

The Inside

Chevrolet has taken the approach of replicating the Sonic’s interior whether you’re getting the 4-door or the 5-door. There’s no differentiating factor or unique color motif. So the Sonic hatchback has the same Cruze inspired gray-and-black dashboard. It also has the love it or hate it motorcycle instrument cluster. And like the Sonic sedan, the Sonic hatchback doesn’t have an ounce of leather and the plastics are rather of the hard variety. However, fit and finish are simply superb.

Despite the reduction in exterior size, no changes happened to affect the Sonic’s interior room. It’s still a comfortable place to be in, especially if you’re ferrying just four adults. Front and rear quarters have good leg and hip room, and there’s even an arm rest for the driver. The driver will enjoy solidly executed ergonomics with good reach for all controls. The Sonic’s standard six-speaker system with steering wheel controls and iPod connectivity/Bluetooth hands-free also make for a great aural experience.

The Drive

Despite the sporty demeanor of the Sonic hatchback, its driving characteristics are more of ‘solid’ than ‘sporty’. Again, the biggest weakness is the 1.4-liter ECOTEC 4-cylinder engine which was plucked straight from the Aveo. With just 100 horsepower and 130 Nm of torque, the Sonic is hampered by a lack of straight-line power, especially when equipped with the 6-speed automatic. Overtaking, impromptu stoplight duels and the like are often met with a big meh. Things aren’t helped by the coarseness of the engine. Together with the old engine, the Aveo neglected to use some basic fuel saving technology such as electric power steering, and for that, you’ll pay dearly at the pump: it registered just 8.1 km/L in city driving.

If only Chevrolet would equip the Sonic with a new mill and electric power steering (for lighter effort), it would transform the entire driving experience altogether. The Sonic has good foundations. It is tidy through corners with almost no wallow, and there’s good amount of grip from its generously wide tires.

The Bottom Line

Feature for feature, pound for pound, the Sonic hatchback and the sedan are one and the same, though the 5-door is priced P 10,000 more at P 838,888. The question is: is the additional price worth it? This seems like a very small price to pay for the additional style and pizzazz provided by the hatchback body style (just two percent more in terms of overall vehicle value).

Given its diminished cargo carrying capacity compared to the sedan, the Sonic hatchback still feels more like a complete car. It feels like a better, more convincing package (especially in terms of looks) compared to the sedan. Families are still suggested to gravitate towards the sedan, but for those who’re opting for a first car or those who aren’t exactly looking to raise kids in the next few years, the Chevrolet Sonic is better experienced as a hatchback.


  1. Chevrolet has the worst service centers ever.

    Technicians don't even know what's happening with your car.

  2. "Again, the biggest weakness is the 1.4-liter ECOTEC 4-cylinder engine which was plucked straight from the Aveo."

    The Sonic's Ecotec 1.4 with DCVCP (Double Continuous Variable Cam Phasing)is the same engine found in the Opel Cors. This is not the same as the 1.4 E-TEC II used in the old Aveo.

    Visially the first thing you would notice is the Family-0 Ecotec engine of the Sonic uses a timing-chain, while the old Family-1 Etec-II engine of the Aveo uses a timing-belt.

    Opel Corsa 1.4 with the same Ecotec engine as the Sonic 1.4.


  3. Not true. No proof to show