Last year's update helped keep the aging Sonic competitive, adding technology and optional active safety features to an already fun-to-drive small car. It has some flaws, but most subcompacts are compromised in one way or another.
The 2018 Chevrolet Sonic sets itself apart from most subcompacts with its standard infotainment system. For most subcompacts, you'd pay extra for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. On the Sonic, it's standard. And with standard OnStar, even the lowest trim of the Sonic can have an onboard 4G LTE data connection and a Wi-Fi hotspot. As a bonus, the Sonic is a fun little car to drive, and it comes with a spacious interior and plenty of cargo room.
Of course, the lowest-cost Sonic does give up quite a few other conveniences, such as power windows and mirrors. Getting your hands on the eminently practical hatchback also requires stepping up to the midlevel trim. And the base engine is not only a bit anemic, but it also returns subpar fuel economy when compared to the rest of the class.
Additionally, the cabin can get noisy, and opting for the suspension that adds the most to the Sonic's driving experience makes the ride borderline harsh. There's also a lot of hard plastic on display in the cabin, even in the Sonic's top trim, and some competitors offer more in the way of active safety features and driver aids.
There are some solid alternatives in the segment, depending on your needs. The Honda Fit is a monster of practicality thanks to its large cargo area and versatile folding seats, but its handling does feel a bit floaty and it's pricey for the class. There's also the all-new Kia Rio, which is easy to recommend thanks to its upscale interior and sporty driving dynamics. Still, if you're willing to pay a little more than the base price, you can get a well-equipped and relatively spacious Chevy Sonic with both good fuel economy and performance.
The 2018 Chevrolet Sonic's trim levels actually have a few surprises, though on the surface they seem straightforward enough. There are three trim levels: the LS, LT and Premier.The Sonic is also available in sedan and hatchback body styles. Chevy offers two engine choices along with a plethora of options.
The two powerplants for the Sonic are a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine (138 horsepower, 125 pound-feet of torque) and a turbocharged 1.4-liter four cylinder (138 hp, 148 lb-ft of torque), which offers dramatically improved fuel economy. The 1.8-liter engine comes with either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic, while the 1.4-liter receives either a six-speed manual or the six-speed automatic
The base Sonic LS sedan is, in many ways, a bare-bones commuter, although it doesn't skimp when it comes to infotainment. Standard equipment includes 15-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, manual side mirrors and manual windows, a rearview camera and remote locking and unlocking. Inside, you'll find a four-way manually adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a 60/40-split folding rear bench.
Infotainment duties are handled by a 7-inch touchscreen running Chevy's MyLink system. This includes Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, two USB ports and a four-speaker sound system. GM's OnStar is also included, which adds a 4G LTE data connection and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The base LS trim is only available with the sedan bodystyle and the 1.8-liter engine. It does not have access to any major options packages.
Moving up to the LT sedan adds 15-inch alloy wheels, power windows, heated power mirrors, upgraded cloth upholstery, a six-speaker stereo system and satellite radio. Oddly, the cheaper LT manual sedan comes standard with the 1.4-liter engine and the six-speed manual, while the automatic comes with the 1.8-liter engine and its six-speed automatic. The 1.4-liter engine is available as a stand-alone option, or with some upgrade packages, for the LT automatic sedan.
Quite a few packages are available for the LT sedan. The Convenience package adds heated front seats, a six-way power-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with heating, an upgraded trip computer with more functionality, and proximity entry with push-button start. The Driver Confidence package adds forward collision alert, lane departure warning and rear parking sensors.
The optional RS package adds sporty styling cues to the exterior and interior, and a leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel. The Fun and Sun package includes a sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels and the 1.4-liter engine (with the LT automatic). This package can be had with or without the RS package. Opting for Sun and Fun with RS gets you the RS appearance package and a sport-tuned suspension.
The Sonic LT can also be had in the hatchback bodystyle. Both the automatic and manual LT hatchback come with the 1.8-liter engine and the RS package. Otherwise, similar upgrade packages are available.
The Sonic Premier sedan comes with 17-inch wheels, the 1.4-liter engine, simulated leather upholstery, proximity entry and push-button start, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver seat and a heated steering wheel (automatic transmission only). Opting for the manual transmission gets you the RS package as standard. The Driver Confidence package is available for the Premier sedan, and the sunroof is a stand-alone option. The Premier hatchback with either the automatic or manual transmission comes with the RS package.