But the high point of the interior is the gauge cluster, inspired by the now comically common motorcycle display – predictable, considering everyone on the Korean design team rides bikes. Unlike other instrument panels, the LCD display doesn’t wash out in direct sunlight, the tach is the size of a Big Gulp lid and all the pertinent information – speed, MPGs, trip, etc. – are all cleanly laid out and easily viewed. It’s just one in a variety of elements that proves GM is finally sweating the small stuff inside and taking advantage of a design department that’s nothing if not diverse. The Sonic’s lead designer, Katherine Sirvio, is proud to point out that the team working on the interior wasn’t comprised of an uninspired band of industrial designers. Among the crew is a fine arts major, a graphic designer, an interior planner, a lighting guy, one designer from the footwear industry and another that specialized in jewelry design. It shows, particularly with the tasteful – yes, tasteful – use of chrome and the blue backlighting that shines through the stereo controls. Even the leatherette and accent stitching on our LTZ tester (in place of black-on-black or black-on-grey cloth) came across as more upmarket than the material used in higher-priced compacts.
On the topic of trim, three models are for the taking – LS ($14,495 sedan/$15,395 hatch), LT ($15,295 sedan/$16.495 hatch) and LTZ ($17,295 sedan/$17,995 hatch) – with the LS and LT coming standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder mated to either a six-speed automatic or five-speed manual. Swilling regular unleaded fuel, the 1.8 returns a respectable – if not segment-busting – 26/35 mpg with the manual or 25/35 with the automatic, and puts out 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. We spent time in what’s sure to be the Sonic’s volume model – an LT sedan equipped with the six-speed auto and 1.8-liter – and found it more than adequate, even with three lanky journalists and their luggage in tow. But as you’d expect, we spent the majority of our drive behind the wheel of a kitted out LTZ with the turbocharged 1.4-liter and standard six-speed manual.While the turbo’d four-cylinder puts out the same amount of horsepower as the 1.8 (138 hp at 4,900 rpm), it’s the torque that matters. One-hundred and forty-eight pound-feet comes on at 1,850 rpm and plateaus around 5,000 revs as the engine starts outrunning the turbo. As such, there’s practically no motivation above 5,500 rpm as the DOHC four begins losing its breath. Just shift. That said, it’s good to scoot the 2,684-pound hatch to 60 mph in the low nine-second range and fuel economy hits the magic 40 mpg figure on the highway, with the city cycle coming in at 29 mpg. Commendable considering you don’t have to top up the tank with anything over 87 octane.
Come see the all New Chevrolet Sonic at Performance Chevrolet. Located at: 1005 W Ehringhaus St., Elizabeth City, NC 27909