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Roadshow Video Reviews
2013 Chevrolet Sonic RSThe 2013 Chevy Sonic RS is a small little go-getter with some nifty tech toys but not much power to back up it's sporty intentions.
When I first started out at CNET and every now and then now still I spend a lot of time behind the wheel of our 2007 Chevrolet Aveo, and it was yellow and it was crap, but I kind of liked it in spite of that. So it's only fitting that they've started me behind the wheel of this car this week. It's the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS. It's not the spiritual successor. It's the actual successor to the Aveo. It's sold under the Aveo badge in the world market. Now if that yellow car was the lemon, I guess this bright red one is the tomato, I'll call it. Let's get behind the wheel and check it out. Now the Sonic comes with a lot of small touches on the outside that also make it look pretty sporty. Out here in the back we've got these tail lamps that kind of look like aftermarket tail lamps for about 10 years ago, kind of dated but I don't mind it. I've also had a lot of fun watching people look around for the door handles here. They're actually integrated into the window which kind of hides them. Other touches that are specific to the RS include these larger alloy wheels that are actually dark color which kind of look again cool and aftermarket, and around front we've got fog lights and again headlights that kind of have it a sort of aftermarket headlamp feel. Now on the cabin we've got a lot of neat little touches that sort of speak to the RS' sporty message. We've got these RS sport seats with embossing on the actual seat and a little bit of embroidery on the back with those RS logos and red trim everywhere that you look. And we've also got this motorcycle-inspired gauge package that's supposed to look like the sort of gauge pod on a sport motorcycle with a big digital speedometer right there and a large, large tachometer on the other side. One of the other things that the RS model also comes with is yet another variant of Chevy's MyLink system. This is the 3rd variant that we've seen in the 2013 model year vehicle. You go into the different menus. You've got your audio sources which includes AM, FM, Sirius XM satellite radio. You've also got USB for audio and pictures. It also says video but I haven't gotten any codecs to play on this particular model. The interesting thing about this version of MyLink is that it works very well with apps on your smartphone. You see we've got Pandora. We've also got BringGo which is actually a navigation app that you can install on your Android or iOS phone, and when you connect an Android phone via Bluetooth you get all of that connectivity, so I can pop into Pandora and it'll actually open the app on my phone, sign in to my account and start playing songs from the last custom Pandora station that I've chosen, and then I'll actually also even have access to Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down, and then I can pop into the menu here and view the rest of my custom stations that I've already preset. If we pop back into the smartphone link, you can go into BringGo, and what it does is it doesn't exactly mirror the interface on the phone. It gives you a sort of custom car interface. It'll allow you to do things like search for destinations, enter addresses and get those turn-by-turn navigations. The interesting thing about BringGo is that it's a 50-dollar app that you install on your phone and you get locally-stored map and turn-by-turn navigations as opposed to buying like an 800 or 1200-dollar navigation option. That's a very interesting way to keep costs down on this really inexpensive car and give the owner the sort of tech that they want. Now underneath this Sonic's short hood there's not a ton of space in the engine bay, but that's okay because it's got a teeny tiny little engine here. This is the 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec engine and it's got about 138 horsepower, but the base 1.8-liter also has 138 horsepower. What you're getting here actually is an Eco engine and performance guys. You get 148-pound feet of torque which is more than the base engine so it's a little bit more get up and go, but this isn't really a fast engine. Now when equipped with the manual transmission the EPA tells us, you only get about 34 miles per gallon on the highway, 27 miles per gallon in the city and that evens out to about 30 miles per gallon all around. Now I've only got about 25 in change out of this engine and that's because I didn't actually realize that there wasn't any power to be had and I've been revving the crap out of it all week. Now we called our 2007 Chevrolet Aveo the lemon because, well it was yellow and it was crap. The Sonic isn't crap. It's actually pretty good. It's got an interesting engine. That turbocharged engine makes just enough power, but like I said earlier don't fool yourself into thinking that it's a high-performance engine just because you've got a turbo badge on there. 138 horsepower is just enough power for a vehicle of this size and it's pretty high up in the power band, so you've got to actually rev the crap out of it to get access to it. What I find weird is the gearing which is a little bit odd particularly in stop-and-go traffic or when tooling around the city where I often find myself in a weird no-man's-land between 1st and 2nd gear, where 1st gear is just maybe a little too many revs making a little too much noise, a little too jerky, and 2nd gear is maybe just not enough power to keep the vehicle moving, and I find myself constantly throwing back and forth and back and forth between 1st and 2nd gear. You gotta do a lot of shifting in this car if you wanna have any amount of fun with it. Now one thing that the Sonic RS does really well though is handle. The suspension is actually pretty well sorted out for a cheap Chevy car. It has really good turn in, the sort of initial like responsiveness of the handling is pretty good. There's not a lot of feedback that you get through the steering wheel, but that's kind of par for the course in this day of electronic power steering. Not sure if this vehicle is actually equipped with it or not but I wouldn't be surprised. I'm not feeling a lot through the wheel but I am getting a pretty good seat-of-the-pants feel through the suspension which is firm but not punishing. I think 16-year-old me would love this car but 16-year-old me didn't really know better. 16-year-old me was happy with a 1990 Toyota Camry. I'd be as giddy as a schoolgirl in this. Now CNET shows that Chevrolet Aveo we're looking for a test car for our stereo installs because it was the cheapest car in America in 2007 when we bought it. Now the Sonic is no longer the cheapest car that Chevy makes. Far be it, it's not the cheapest car in the market anymore, but it is still pretty cheap. It starts at $14,785 for the entry-level hatchback model. Now our RS steps above that with a lot of nice amenities and touches, features but it still only tips the scales at $20,185. Now there are no options to add on top of that unless you count the BringGo app for navigation. That's only about 50 or 60 bucks. Other than that, what you see is pretty much what you get, and as long as you're looking to look sporty and maybe not drive too quick, what you get isn't that bad.