Having sampled Chevrolet’s latest B-segment offering, I’d feel inclined to phone the firm’s marketing department and suggest that this car be renamed “Spruze” or possibly “Crark” (“Cronic” was another witty suggestion from one office wag) as there is a sense of stylistic hybridisation between the Spark and Cruze at play here.
That’s not to say that the Sonic is a bad looking car – distinctive new touches, such as the exposed double-barrel head- and taillamps, meld neatly with the Spark-inspired wedge-shaped profile and more established cues like the raised bonnet with its central spine and two-tiered grille. The interior is a similar story, with a facia layout similar to that of the Spark (think motorcycle-inspired instrument pod and dual-cockpit layout) married with the sort of two-tone finishes and switchgear you’d find in the Cruze. Much like the Spark, visibility from the Sonic’s cabin is good and there’s a feeling of airiness about the passenger compartment that belies what are otherwise adequate rear accommodations.
Power is provided by a naturally aspirated 1,6-litre petrol engine developing 85 kW at a fairy peaky 6 000 r/min and 155 N.m – it’s no ball of fire and does become rather vocal at speeds over 80 km/h, but it punts the Sonic along at an acceptable, if not overly sporty, lick.
The Sonic is underpinned by GM’s new Gamma small-car platform, which will soon form the basis of several of the firm’s future models. In the case of the Sonic, it is suspended on a MacPherson front/torsion-beam rear setup that serves up a fairly composed ride that only becomes jittery when encountering broken road surfaces. Despite the car’s sporty packaging, the handling is firmly in the predictable stable with manageable, if evident, body roll under heavy cornering and a pleasantly weighted but not overly responsive tiller.
Kicking off at R168 000, the Sonic in 1,6 LS guise sits squarely in VW Polo 1,6 Trendline and Hyundai i20 1,6 GLS territory, so specification could be a deal-breaker with those looking in this part of the market. To this end, the Sonic features 15-inch alloy wheels, power steering with rake and reach adjustment for the column, air-conditioning, electric front windows, electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors, height adjustment for the driver’s seat, an MP3-compatible CD audio system with aux-input, onboard computer, alarm/immobiliser with central locking and front foglamps. On the safety front, the Sonic features ABS with EBD, front/side airbags with passenger-side deactivation and outer-rear Isofix child seat anchorage points. Given the funky, youth-oriented target market, it’s a little surprising that the uprated sound system with additional speakers, Bluetooth and steering wheel-mounted controls, is only part of an optional comfort pack.
Both this model and its 1,4-litre sibling are covered by a five-year/120 000 km warranty with roadside assistance and a three-year/60 000 km service plan – services are every 15 000 km. A compact saloon model bolsters the range with specifications mirroring those of the hatches, while an automatic and a 1,3 diesel model are also on the cards for next year.
Overall, the Sonic is a pleasantly styled and able-enough town car, but it perhaps lacks the excitement required to turn the segment on its head and send Volkswagen/Hyundai buyers flocking to GM showroom. That said, the Aveo with which this model is set to share showroom floors, has served the company well, so this distinctive newcomer could well win some admirers…