2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT Review: So Much Good - So Little Cost

The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT fitted with a handful of optional accessories shows that you can have a sharp looking, fun to drive and high tech GM hatchback that you can look forward to driving without paying an arm and a leg – with a price just over $20,000 with all of the optional goodies.

The Chevrolet Sonic is arguably the best subcompact Chevy that we have ever seen with lots of space, an impressive list of available features and a lineup of spunky, efficient drivetrains that make the Sonic more entertaining to drive than any past tiny Chevy cars. Best of all, all of the most enticing aspects of the Sonic are available across the whole model line so you don’t need to buy the top of the line model to really enjoy this sporty hatch. The test subject for this review – a 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT – is one step above being a base model but this car offers all of the fun and all of the amenities of the pricier models while doing without some expensive standard features (like heated leather seats) that budget minded buyers can do without.

My 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT in Topaz Blue Metallic exterior paint and a Jet Black/Dark Titanium interior carried a base price of $16,380. Factory options include the 1.4L turbocharged engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission (+$700), the Chevrolet MyLink radio (+$200), the Rear Camera Package (+$200) and the Advanced Safety Package (+$395). This particular Sonic LT also wore a set of dealer installed 16 inch black wheels (+$995), a Black Color Flash Package (+$670), fog lights (+$275) and a Borla Performance exhaust system (+$705) for a total price of $21,345. This car is very similar to the pricier Sonic RS with the exception of the RS-specific body package, the RS-specific transmission gearing (which hurts fuel economy) and the loaded leather interior.

The Exterior
The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT doesn’t include many exterior features that you don’t get from the base Sonic LS so that means that the LT looks a great deal like the LS. The LT includes 16 inch aluminum wheels that you don’t get with the base model but my Sonic LT test car was fitted with a set of 16 inch black painted aluminum that look much sportier than standard wheels. My test car was also equipped with the Black Color Flash package that adds gloss black mirror caps, a gloss black rear spoiler and a gloss black grille treatment in addition to an optional fog lamp package – all of which work to give this Sonic LT a far sportier look than your run of the mill LT hatchback. Those features only serve to spruce up the outside of the Sonic but they do so in a way that leads me to think that they are worth every cent.

sonic lt front

Other than those features added at the dealership level, my 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT looked a lot like every other Sonic on the road today. This includes the aggressive face with the 3D headlights that I love, the big, sporty two piece grille and the standard chin spoiler that adds style and aerodynamics. Along the sides, the Sonic LT has tons of black features that work with the dark metallic blue paint to provide a very sinister appearance with the help of the optional color flash package and the 16” Chevy Accessory wheels. Out back, the Sonic LT has the same black-trimed 3D taillights as the rest of the lineup along with the aforementioned gloss black spoiler that extends straight off of the rear roofline while the Borla exhaust tip pokes from under the driver’s side of the rear fascia.

sonic lt rear

The exterior design of the 2014 Chevy Sonic LT isnt going to blow you away with cutting edge sporty styling but the basic lines of the Sonic combined with the list of optional items added to my Sonic LT test car really make this a great looking little hatchback. I think that this particular Sonic looks like something that is ready to hit the rallycross course and while the lack of all wheel drive (and 600 horsepower) might make this little Chevy struggle on a dirt lined road course – this Sonic still has the look of the production-based Sonic rallycar.

The Interior
The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT falls is just one step above a base model but shy of the lack of leather seats, this doesn’t look like a base model cabin. Granted, the optional MyLink radio system and the reverse camera system help to jazz up the interior but the Sonic LT comes with the same steering wheel controls, the same power window controls and the same general interior layout as the pricier, higher end trimlines. The MyLink radio is super clean looking with only a few simple touch sensitive “buttons” for volume control, power and the home button while all other infotainment functions are controlled via the big, bright touch screen or the steering wheel mounted controls. Beyond that button clad steering wheel is the same compact gauge cluster as is found on all new Sonic models with a huge tachometer on the left side and a large digital readout on the right that includes vehicle speed, fuel economy figures, the fuel gauge, a compass and the odometer.

sonic lt dash

To someone who hasn’t seen this type of floating gauge cluster, it might seem a little odd as it is extended out away from the dash where most gauge clusters are sunken into the dash but I really like the Sonic’s gauge layout. It looks like an aftermarket system that you would see in a purpose built race car and while some would disagree – I think that this gauge cluster adds to the sporty nature of the Sonic. Joining the unique gauge cluster and the high tech MyLink radio is a pair of glove boxes that present more space to stow small items than many cars in the class and as someone who loves places to pack things away in my vehicles, I really like the over-under glove box setup. It goes a long way in making you forget that there is no center console but there are two big cup holders located behind the manual transmission shifter along with cup holders mounted in the door map pockets. There are also small storage cubbies on either side of the radio console and another one (that is ideal for cell phones) at the bottom of the center stack, in front of the shifter.

sonic lt front seats

The long roofline of the 2014 Chevy Sonic allows for tons of headroom for front and rear riders while also creating a very large rear cargo area. This rear cargo hold can hold large boxes but you can also lift the floor panel up to expose a smaller cargo area that keeps bags from sliding around after a quick shopping trip. In addition to the hefty amounts of head space created by the long roofline, the Sonic hatchback also supplies enough front and rear passenger space to comfortably seat a 6 foot tall adult in both front and both rear outboard seating positions. As is the case with all subcompacts (and many cars in larger classes), the rear middle seat really isn’t very useful for adults but you can fit three kids in the back seat with only minor amounts of elbow wars. Elbow space is a little tighter in the front seats and the passenger may be disappointed to see a lack of a place to rest their left elbow while on a long ride but there is plenty of leg, knee, hip and shoulder room for the driver and front passenger. All in all, the Sonic hatchback offers more cargo space and passenger space than you would expect from a car of this size and I would consider the Sonic – even at the budget minded LT trimline – to be a very comfortable little car.

sonic lt rear seats

One thing that some consumers will love about the 2014 Sonic LT is the lack of leather seats. These cloth wrapped seats are comfortable for both front and rear riders so while you cannot have the warm buns that you get with the heated leather seats of the LTZ and RS package – these seats offer just as much actual comfort just with cloth coverings rather than leather. Whether you are driving to work or driving across the country, the Sonic LT seats will comfortably seat four adults.

sonic lt cargo

The interior of the 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT isn’t going to trick anyone into thinking that they are sitting in a luxury car but unlike American subcompact economy cars of the past – the 2014 Sonic LT doesn’t force you to go without the modern comforts like power windows, a touch screen infotainment system with steering wheel controls and plenty of space for people, cargo and random small trinkets whether you are seated in the front or rear seats. Whether you are fresh out of college and you want a car that has plenty of space for your friends and their stuff or you have a family of four and you need space for kids and their stuff – the Sonic can fit your needs.

The Drive
My 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT test car was fitted with the optional 1.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder that sends 138hp and 148lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission. While that isnt a whopping amount of power, it is enough to allow this lightweight subcompact hatchback to offer impressive acceleration across the low and mid range…with enough gusto to get this sporty 5-door to climb way past the posted highway speed limit in far less time than you would expect from a subcompact Chevy. You aren’t going to tear up any muscle cars but in terms of an American subcompact that was designed with an emphasis on interior space and fuel economy – the 2014 Sonic LT with the optional turbocharged engine is a blast to drive. This drivetrain also allows the driver of the Sonic LT to do smokey burnouts…or so I’ve been told. The addition of the Borla Performance exhaust system likely adds a little power through the increased flow but it also adds some grumble when you are hard into the throttle. This Borla system adds just enough sound to add that special something that you want from your Sonic but it isn’t loud enough that the pizza boy with the noisy Civic will get to asking you who did your exhaust.

sonic lt front road

The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT offers impressive acceleration for a subcompact economy car but where it really shines is when you get to hammering the turns. The Sonic LT is lighter than the higher end models that come packed with weight-adding interior luxuries and that means that you can throw this little hatchback into turns with plenty of confidence. The Sonic is light on its toes in tight areas so whether you are blasting along a desolate country road or wiggling your way through tight traffic, the Sonic LT feels very capable. More importantly, Chevy was able to grant the Sonic LT with these spirited handling capabilities without killing the ride quality. This is a lightweight, inexpensive subcompact so the interior isn’t whisper quiet when cruising down the highway at 75mph – with a touch of road noise and wind noise sneaking into the cabin – but the ride is smoother than I expected for a car that offered such responsive road gripping and cornering. In other words, there is some interior noise when cruising at higher speeds but you won’t find any 5-door models in this price class and size that don’t offer at least as much interior sound and in my experiences – the Sonic is still quieter than some of the competitors at 70mph.

sonic lt side

This 2014 Sonic LT offers fuel economy figures of 29mpg around town, 33 combined and a whopping 40mpg on the open road – which I consider to be an impressive figure for a sporty, fun to drive hatchback. I found myself always wanting to push this turbocharged hatch to its limits and that had a negative impact on my overall fuel economy so I was unable to hit the 33mpg average. However on a long drive where I wasn’t running the Sonic very hard (without 5mph of the speed limit), I was able to hover above the 40mpg mark and although I ran the Sonic pretty hard – I was still able to average better than 30mpg.

The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT offers solid acceleration, impressive handling and some of the best fuel economy figures available from a non-hybrid in the US market. The Sonic adds a surprising amount of acceleration without hurting fuel economy while offering lots of fun to drive factor through its handling and braking capabilities – all without killing the ride quality for those who aren’t always worried about precision handling. As subcompact hatchbacks go, the 2014 Chevy Sonic LT is one of the best bargains on the market today.

The Final Word
If you want the Chevy Sonic RS but you don’t want the reduced fuel economy, the leather seats and the higher purchase price, the 2014 Sonic LT with the optional 1.4L turbo engine and the Chevy accessories listed above get you very close to the RS without some of the features that don’t add performance. While my test car had a price nearing that of the Sonic RS, this car offers just as much fun to drive factor and interior comforts if you opt against the wheels, the exterior package and the exhaust system that add some $2,500 to the purchase price. Better yet, when you add in those aftermarket items to the Sonic LT, you have a hatchback that offers very comparable performance and similar interior gadgetry but without the leather seats or the reduction in fuel economy.

sonic lt rear road

If you want a 5-door hatchback that has tons of passenger and cargo space, is fun to drive whether you are cruising on the highway or carving along backroads, offers better than 40mpg and carries an MSRP just over $20,000 with the optional goodies or under $19,000 without these appearance items – the 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LT is a car that you should most definitely drive while shopping for your new car. I really enjoyed driving this sporty little hatchback but as affordable, fun to drive cars go – the Sonic offers far more passenger space and cargo room than most small cars that offer similar driving attributes. Chevrolet’s goal in moving from the Aveo to the Sonic was to do away with the demons of past Chevy subcompacts and this car achieves that goal with flying colors.

Comments

I had a great time in the new Sonic. It trounces the horrible Aveo it's replacing and that six-speed manual really sells the car, but is simple enough to operate that even newbies won't have a problem shifting. It's a very fun car for the segment and we had few problems getting two child safety seats in the back and toting around the kids. http://carnewscafe.com/2013/11/2014-chevrolet-sonic-shoebox-fun/
Even with the sort of cool black out trim, I think the Sonic's styling is butt ugly which is why I won't even consider buying one while shopping for a new compact car. No argument though that the optional Turbo 1.4 liter engine's performance is stellar at this price point.
Well, Dean, nearly every car in this class has this same basic shape. It maximizes interior space without much compromise to aerodynamics. The Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa Note, etc. all look basically just like this. So if this is the segment you're shopping in, the shoebox on wheels look is likely what you'll end up with.
Years ago I drove British sports cars, now I'm much more energy conscious, and to my surprise I found the LT Sonic we bought, with the 1.4 liter turbo and six speed manual, bridges both worlds. It's plenty quick (0-60 better than a TR4, matches a TR6), and the Sonic handles very well in tight corners. I keep the rear seats folded down all the time, with black carpet we installed, and the result is a sporty little car with a lot of cargo space when needed, which gets 40 mpg on the highway. It's solid, and my wife is happy with the ride and noise level on the freeway. Totally fun to drive as far as I'm concerned, and the price was right, giving us room to do other things we want to do. I never in my life thought I'd buy a new Chevy, after years of Japanese cars, but I'm glad I did.
I second Steve's comments. The Sonic (with turbo) is next best thing to driving a MG again. Hadn't even considered the Sonic until I read a Consumer Reports recomendation. Drove a Honda Fit, CRZ, Civic SI, Mazda 2, Mazda 3, and couldn't get comfortable in any of them. Had just about given up on the idea of a small sporty car until I test drove the Sonic. Love at first drive. And the six speed is a joy. Even for an old guy with sore joints. Haven't owned a Chevy since 1969. I too was wary about owning a Chevy, but the Sonic rocks.
Add me to the list of folks who: 1. Would never buy a new car 2. Would NEVER buy a Chevy I scratched both off the list when I test drove a loaded Dragon Green LT turbo. Oh man I LOVE this car! It is the perfect balance of gas economy, comfort, price, and fun. My commute is 40 minutes each way, and I smile every day when I glimpse my car in the parking lot once I clock out.
am disturbed that when it rains there is no vision on the side mirrors they are spotted with rain and cannot get them to clear, any ideas on how to fix this or replace these mirrors with something else
Spray them with Rain-X.