One of the most entertaining light car-based hot hatches on the market is the Fiesta ST, which costs R259 900. That means you would part with just short of R5 500 every month (the calculation is based on a 10% deposit, the current interest rate and a 54-month payment period with no residual at the end). It’s not an insignificant amount. But what happens if you want a new car that offers some of driving thrills of a hot hatch, but your budget doesn’t stretch as far as that? There’s not much out there, is there? Well, Chevrolet believes the Sonic RS, at R225 300, is just what you are looking for...
Here’s the deal though – the Sonic RS – especially with that overt RS badge on its rump – is quite a tease. It looks the part with the burnt orange paint job and an purposeful front-end combined with a unique grille and large foglamps. There’s also a roof-mounted spoiler and a sporty, large exhaust outlet. Inside, the Sonic has comfortable bucket seats that are wrapped in leather and an Alcantara-aping material, and garnished with red stitching, while the pedals are trimmed in metal.
And then there’s the driving experience. It’s not bad. It really isn’t. The RS is well sprung and rides pliantly. It’s a comfortable car for the long road, but when cornering it exhibits a body roll – and that’s the chink in its armour.
I expected a more involving drive. While 103 kW 1,4-litre turbocharged unit feels strong and gearing of the six-speed manual ‘box is short, there’s a sense that the RS is too soft and despite its 200 N.m of torque, it doesn’t stir the senses as a sporty supermini should. There’s a soft limiter at about 6 500 r/min when you’re in first gear, so whenever I wanted a quick pull away, I had to change up to second sooner than I had hoped. Also, the clutch is difficult to modulate.
As I said before, the Sonic RS is a tease. It leaves you frustrated because its packaging leads you to hope for a spicy little hatchback that will tackle mountain passes and plaster a permanent smile on your face. What you actually get is a very capable everyday car that simply tantalises your taste for a sporty number without being able to follow it up with a dynamic driving experience.
Other than that, it’s packed with features, so you get a lot for your money. I love the MyLink touchscreen system. It’s slickly designed and simple to use. It plays music and videos via USB, aux-in or Bluetooth. However, there’s no CD player. Other features include dual front and side airbags, ABS with EBD, ESC with traction control and hill hold, cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel.
I know it may seem as though I don’t care much for this car, but I do. It has much more street cred than the regular Sonic and – I’m just going to come out and say it – the MyLink system is one of my favourite multimedia systems at present.
However, I feel that it’s priced a little too close to the Fiesta ST. I’d take a look at the two prices and I’d wonder what I need to do to get that extra R700 per month so that I could buy the ST instead.
(The Chevrolet Sonic features as a road test in the March issue of CAR, on sale 24 February)
Price: R225 300
Engine: 1,4-litre turbopetrol
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power: 103 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque: 200 N.m @ 4 000 r/min
0 - 100 km/h: 9,5 seconds
Top speed: 197 km/h
Fuel consumption: 6,6 litres/100 km
CO2 emissions: 155 g/km
Service plan: 3 years/60 000 km
Service intervals: 15 000 km