2019 Chevy Sonic

By Eric Peters

January 1, 2019 6 min read

Chevy's second-smallest car is also, as it turns out, one of its roomiest.

It's also less than half the price of Chevy's smallest car — and it goes twice as far.

What It Is

The Sonic is Chevy's entry-level subcompact sedan/five-door hatchback. It's slightly larger than the electric Bolt, which is Chevy's smallest car and (like several non-electric rivals, including the Hyundai Accent) sold in sedan form only.

It's also much more affordable than the Bolt, which emphasizes performance as much as electric power and costs $36,620 to start.

Sonic prices start at $16,295 for the base trim sedan with manual transmission and $19,290 to start for the five-door hatchback. The hatchback gives you nearly three times the cargo room and more access to that space because of the liftgate versus trunk and because the cargo area is an integral part of the passenger compartment.

Either way, you get a standard turbocharged engine that feels bigger than it is because of the turbo, while still approaching 40 mpg on the highway.

It replaces the 1.8-liter engine that was standard last year.

What's New

In addition to the stronger (and more economical) 1.4-liter engine, the 2019 Sonic comes standard with a new six-speed manual transmission, which replaces the five-speed manual transmission that was standard last year.

This transmission has two overdrive gears — fifth and sixth — which (along with the more efficient 1.4-liter engine) accounts for a roughly 5 mpg uptick overall over last year's Sonic.

What's Good

The standard turbocharged engine is peppier than rivals' non-turbo'd engines —and just as easy on gas.

There are two body styles: sedan and hatchback.

It has a subcompact footprint and the interior room of a midsize car.

What's Not So Good

The price uptick from last year: You're paying more for the now-standard 1.4-liter engine and the new six-speed transmission.

There's no more option to go with the less expensive 1.8-liter engine.

Rivals like the Hyundai Accent sedan cost less to start (base price $14,995) and deliver about the same mpgs.

Under the Hood

The previously optional 1.4-liter turbocharged engine becomes the Sonic's standard — and only — engine for 2019. This engine produces significantly more low-end power than the formerly standard 1.8-liter engine, improving acceleration without imposing a mileage cost. It has the same 138 horsepower as the old 1.8-liter engine but 148 foot-pounds of torque at just 1,850 rpm versus the 1.8-liter's 125 foot-pounds at 4,850 rpm.

This is why the '19 Sonic can accelerate to 60 mph in a speedy 8.2 seconds while the '18 Sonic with the 1.8-liter engine needed 9.3 seconds.

Even better, the '19 achieves an EPA-rated 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway with the new six-speed manual transmission — a very noticeable improvement over the '18 Sonic 1.8-liter five-speed manual's 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.

The '19 Sonic's upticked mileage also matches the mpgs of less powerful (and peppy) rivals like the Hyundai Accent sedan (28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway).

On the Road

Cars in this class are chiefly designed to be fuel-efficient, but the Sonic adds some driving fun to the mix.

Turbocharging used to be a power adder for already peppy cars that cost mileage for the sake of improved acceleration. The Sonic gives you the pep without the penalty at the pump.

Also, it's agile — because it's small.

The short wheelbase (99.4 inches) and overall length (173.9 inches) make it an ideal city car that's not out of its depth on the highway.

At the Curb

It's becoming harder to find entry-level subcompacts offered in more than one body style, which gives the Sonic an edge, because it is available in two. And both are roomier than others in the class, as well as more versatile.

If you pick the sedan, you'll get a 14.9-cubic-foot trunk — nearly as much trunk space as several current midsize sedans, which are two sizes larger than the Sonic on the outside.

If you go with the five-door hatchback, you'll get 47.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the second-row seats folded flat. That's comparable to the cargo capacity of several small crossover SUVs but at a lower price point and with the option to select a manual transmission, if you like.

Almost all 2019 crossovers are automatic only.

With either sedan or hatchback, you'll get an exceptionally roomy back seat with 34.6 inches of legroom.

The Rest

The Sonic is very well-appointed — even the base trim. All come standard with a 7-inch LCD touch screen and 4G in-car Wi-Fi, 10 air bags and most power options.

You can get unusual-for-the-class (and price) features like a heated steering wheel, too.

Also, the car comes standard with 15-inch wheels, which means softer, smoother, quieter riding and less cost to replace them.

The Bottom Line

The Sonic is a small car that's bigger inside than you'd expect — and under the hood, too.

 View the Chevy Sonic this week.
View the Chevy Sonic this week.

Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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