Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sonic Boom: Maybe I Like This Little Chevy Too Much...Nah!

Wow! I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but Chevy has a compact car that I absolutely love!

I have become a slobbering mess over its new Sonic.

I first drove one between the Raleigh, NC airport and the Virginia International Raceway where Chevy previewed the new Camaro ZL1. It was a turbocharged version like the one I am currently piloting.

A 138-horsepower 1.8-liter four-banger is Sonic's standard powerplant. The higher-end trim LT and LTZ versions can replace the standard engine with a turbocharged one. It still harnesses 138 ponies, but increases peak torque from 125 lb. ft. to 148.

Changing cogs falls to a six-speed manual transmission on my current test Sonic. The less potent engine gets a five-speed manual. Either manual tranny can be upgraded to a six-speed automatic for $1,070. The manual gearbox is pretty darn good, too. I'm not kidding.

I have now clocked a total of about 500 miles in the Sonic turbo on a variety of roads, and I am more impressed with every mile.

For years Chevy took such an indifferent interest in its subcompact offering that it outsourced the car to the Koreans. What they got for this lack of interest and effort was a series of assorted buzzbombs that, quite frankly, weren't worthy of wearing the Bowtie.

With the Sonic we have a beautifully styled, smartly engineered, carefully executed world-class small car. The hatchback -- Chevy makes it as a five-door and a four-door -- is particularly stunning in its design.

The interior, as well, is neatly styled and well constructed.

Here's something else I didn't expect: The Sonic is quiet! I mean not just sort of quiet, but study-hall quiet.

For its size, the Sonic hatchback has a cavernous cargo area. With the rear seat in place, the luggage space is about the same as in a Ford Taurus and more than a Dodge Charger. With the rear seat folded, it's maximum cargo capacity approaches that of some small crossovers.

What's more, pricing begins at $14,765. My current Inferno Orange turbo-charged Sonic LTZ rings the register at $18,260 before the $795 destination fee.

I've actually startled a couple of friends asking about the car with my unbridled enthusiasm. I like it so much that I included it on my list of "7 Best Cars for Urban Driving" that I recently wrote for Also on that list are cars like the Honda Fit and Kia Soul -- high praise, indeed.

When you've been writing about cars for nearly 25 years, it takes a lot to get to get the old heart pumping. The Sonic does it for me.

Oh, and did I mention that Chevy is screwing together the Sonic in Michigan? Yep, it's built right here in the good ol' U.S. of A.

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