|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Two years later, Chevrolet has taken this as the opportune time to refresh the Sonic. So let’s see how the 2014 model fairs this time around.
A walk around the 2014 Sonic reveals that nothing has changed with the exterior. And that’s not such a bad thing. The Sonic always felt that it had its game face on and up to now, it still does. It’s like Chevrolet went through various design books and threw all their creative know-how into the Sonic’s design. On paper, it sounds like a mismatched hodge-podge, but the execution is just stellar. It’s young and urban from the quad-barrel headlights (without the traditional lens covers), the oversized dual port grille, and the 16-inch alloy wheels. The 5-door model features a dramatically reduced length (minus 360 millimeters) resulting in a chunkier appearance. Together with the reduced length, the Sonic gains the same coverless lens look on the rear lamp clusters. Notable this year is the fact that the turn signals have migrated from the front quarter panel to the side mirrors. Also, the Sonic is available in a wider range of colors including the attention-grabbing Orange Rock.
The Sonic’s most unique design cue is the “hidden” door handles for the rear occupants. It’s lovely, but unfortunately, it’s more form over function as small kids will find opening the rear doors quite a challenge.
Like its exterior, the Sonic’s interior remains almost unchanged for 2014. It features a gray-and-black color motif similar to the Cruze and the love-it-or-hate-it motorcycle instrument cluster. Two years on, I’ve personally taken a liking to this kind of instrument cluster since it displays all pertinent information that’s accessible with a single glance. It also happens to integrate the multi-information display which can be operated via a steering column stalk. If there’s one complaint I’ll throw towards the Sonic’s way, it would be the lack of a dimmer. The ice-blue instrumentation can get pretty blinding after a long, tiring drive home from the office. The Sonic also doesn’t have any leather in its interior, but at least the plastics are good and show great fit and finish. New for 2014 are features like automatic headlamps and rain-sensing wipers.
The biggest news for 2014 is the adoption of Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. A stable found in larger Chevrolet models like the Trailblazer and Colorado, MyLink is a welcome addition to this sub-compact pretty much modernizing its entertainment experience. Not to be mistaken for the North American MyLink system, the Sonic’s is based off a re-skinned Windows CE-based system designed for Chevrolet in the region. But, I don’t care. It works well and that should be fi0ne. I’m normally not a great fan of button-less systems, but the Sonic’s MyLink looks great with crisp colors, large graphics, and intuitive menus. The touchscreen is also responsive and the screen rarely washes out in direct sunlight. On that note, audiophiles who cling to physical mediums will be surprised to know that MyLink doesn’t have a slot for CDs and DVDs. In short, you’ve got to go digital.
Chevrolet’s decision to concentrate on infotainment seems to have affected the Sonic’s driving dynamics which are, like the exterior and the interior, unchanged from before. With its looks (and the recent product placement from Transformers 4), the Sonic doesn’t drive sportily but rather solidly. All in all, the suspension itself is great. It doesn’t have razor-sharp reflexes, but it’s still agile and more importantly, grippy when pushed. The generous tires (205/55R16 on all fours) quell torque steer while also giving excellent straight-line stability. The steering, hydraulically-assisted as opposed to electric, is slow to respond around the middle, but is a good match for the chassis.
The biggest weakness of the Sonic is the engine. The 1.4-liter ECOTEC delivers “good enough” numbers with 100 horsepower and 130 Nm of torque, but since you’re pulling a 1,200-kilogram frame, the end result is a car that’s largely, well, slow. It’s apparent from a standstill where the Sonic will struggle to keep up with other sub-compacts, most especially in an impromptu stoplight duel. With a 6-speed automatic, the Sonic fairs better at higher speeds (it’s surprisingly smooth and quiet) but any sort of overtaking becomes a calculated risk. The heavy frame and weak engine also doesn’t do wonders for the Sonic’s fuel economy. It manages just 8.3 km/L in city driving.
After all’s said and done though, the best thing about the Chevrolet Sonic is the price. Two years ago, it was priced at P 838,888. Today, it’s actually cheaper at P 828,888; take that, inflation! It now begs the question: is it a better sub-compact? Feature for feature, pound for pound, the Sonic’s certainly becoming to look much more attractive than it did. It now feels more like a complete car and now comes with a much more convincing package. It’s a solid, well-kitted sub-compact that’s the perfect entry-point for the Chevrolet brand.
2014 Chevrolet Sonic 1.4 LTZ
|Ownership||2014 Chevrolet Sonic 1.4 LTZ Hatchback|
|Year Introduced||2012 (facelift: 2014)|
|Body Type||5-door hatchback|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Inline-4|
|BHP @ rpm||100 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||130 @ 4,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / ~91|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,200|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt|
|Steering Wheel Material||Urethane|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|