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Old 09-08-2013, 08:51 PM   #1
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2013 Sonic LT

Initial impression/reason for buying - I was looking for a subcompact car that was decently equipped, cheap, either a 1.6 or turbo, and either reliable/decent warranty. This car was 17k flat and had every option I care for including the 7" touch screen bluetooth stereo. I also wanted a four door hatchback. I'm very surprised I didn't consider the Yaris or FIt more, but the crappy little 1.5 engines gave them a distinct disadvantage.

Utility/interior - I am satisfied with this category. It is neither great nor lacking. The interior is vastly improved over basically any GM interior made in the prior 1.5 decades, though I don't care for some of the details, such as the door lock button being put under the radio, the e-brake handle just feeling out of place, and the gauge cluster is just stupid looking, though functional, besides the lack of a temp gauge I find the seating to be satisfactory for a subcompact car, and the cargo capacity with the rear seats folded is sufficient. I like the added storage compartment in the trunk. Everything is easy to reach and easy to see at night, but the steering wheel radio control sucks, as it is too round to use when my hands are even the slightest bit sweaty, which is frequent since driving with the AC on through the city sucks so bad as it does in any small car.

Performance - The handling is quite good with this little car. It takes the cloverleaf offramp just as well as my old 6 speed Accord coupe did, even with the crappy little Hankook H426 tires. This was the only car available that had a turbo engine and an MSRP under 20k, and it came in way under 20k, so the torque makes lower revs simply vastly superior to any of the competition, even the Accent which has equal acceleration overall. The car simply moves when I need it to.

Last but not least, fuel economy - I've owned this car for a bit over six months now. My average fuel economy over this mild summer has been about 35-36 MPG overall as measured at the same gas station. I have a paper route, which absolutely destroys gas mileage, yet this car takes it like a champ. Without any hypermiling tactics whatsoever, I'm getting about 30 mpg delivering about 120 papers in 1.3 hours each morning, and about 2.5x as many on Wednesdays and Sundays, which gouges my MPG. My average speed for my Sunday route is about 12 mph. Highway mileage has been just as relatively ridiculous. Since buying this car I've seen 55-71 MPG on the dash avg MPG indicator when filling up and resetting everything before getting on the interstate to go to work. I drive 50 the whole way, but it is so hilly, both ways, I need to have it in 5th gear half the time to save the engine from lugging up hills. In standard city driving, I actually get around 40 mpg driving to the bank, grocery store etc. in my city, seeing lots of stop sign/light action.

Overall, I am very happy with the car. I love both the potential it has for hypermiling due to the small displacement, but additional displacement on demand, and the potential for a nice performing car with the Trifecta tune which offers about 40/60 hp/tq at the wheels for a few hundred dollars, and seemingly no change in fuel economy. I do not have any regret choosing this car vs. the seemingly endless subcompact market, as it was named the most reliable domestic small vehicle by CR's thorough research and I plan on owning it through the five year powertrain warranty and then trading it in. If you're looking for a new car that will allow you to stay with, or return to (in my case) your MPG enthusiast roots, this is absolutely a car to consider, possibly the best car in its class. My city MPG > my old Civic's highway MPG by about five MPG, even comparing old non-ethanol gas to today's E-10 garbage. You would have to drive the car like a maniac in order to see anything close to the EPA ratings. Straight up city/highway 50/50 driving would be very close to qualifying for hyper miler status, without a single bit of hypermiling by the driver.
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Old 09-10-2013, 04:06 AM   #2
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Thanks for the review. I disagree that the Fit engine is "crappy" though. It is buzzy at speed, but only because it does not have a 6-speed. A 1.5L Fit is just as quick as a Sonic Turbo, and our lifetime fuel economy is over 38 mpg. If I drove it on my commute instead of my wife driving it on hers, I would probably be over 40 mpg.
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Old 09-10-2013, 06:04 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fetch View Post
It is buzzy at speed, but only because it does not have a 6-speed.
It seems common that when they add more speeds they don't increase range, instead they make closer ratios (except GM and maybe Ford)...so I would merely say it's because the car lacks an appropriate highway gear.
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Old 09-10-2013, 06:33 AM   #4
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A better way to accomplish those goals would be to change the final drive ratio after adding a 6 speed.

I also disagree with the yaris statement. When I actually tried for mileage, I was getting around 40-41 mpg and now that I have gone more of a performance route, I am getting 38-39 (that is taking it to 6000+ rpms in 1st almost every time (man that's fun)).

You may have wanted to test drive a yaris or fit to see how they really were instead of just disregarding them. I have taken my family to the mountains (6 hrs round trip) with no issues. I have a wife and 2 daughters. I do know that it has limited trunk space.

all that being said, I do like the review and did consider the new little turbo engine but worried about longevity. the 1.5 toyota motor is a very stout motor and can handle qutie a bit of punishment over the years. The weak link seems to be the connecting rods and they are limited to around 180whp (turbo yaris guys are nuts). I feel that my little yaris will last me a long long time. I don't know that I could say the same for a domestic in general.
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Old 09-10-2013, 11:56 AM   #5
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I got a 2013 Sonic hatch back in Feb, and might as well stick my impressions here.

Love it or hate it, the exterior styling is an improvement over the Aveo's 'this is a car' school of styling.

The interior will be surprise to those expecting something from an econobox of years past. The designers made good use of colors, finishes, and textures on the plastic to keep it interesting. Two glove boxes and some little cubbies give plenty of space to stick stuff. I'm not thrilled with the 12-volt output sticking up between the front seats. I can picture something spilling into it. I only wished I had been able to find a brick/black interior to buy.

The front seats are comfortable, with the driver's being 6way adjustable. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes, so finding the right spot shouldn't a problem for most. I only got into the back once to see how much space there was. About what you expect for a car this size. Fine for people going to lunch, but too tight for a long trip. The cargo area is bigger than it looks. Removing the floor/cover allowed everything for two adults and two largish dogs to fit under the cargo cover for a weekend trip.

I got the 1.4L turbo with automatic. Depending on what hypermiling techniques you use, the 1.8L base engine might return mpg close to the 1.4L. It, however, has a timing belt, and the replacements will eat into the purchase price difference.

The automatic can be shifted without button pushing between N and D. It is also flat towable(note: not on the RS model) up to 65mph. So engine off techniques are possible. There is no low or intermediate selections for the tranny. The only other position on the shifter is M for manual mode. The little experimenting I did with M didn't lead to much difference from to D with some neutral coasting on my commute. I'll note that it is possible to start from a stop in second or third gear with manual mode. I've made use of that in stop and go, crawling traffic.

DFCO is much more aggressive than in the HHR that the Sonic replaced. The engine braking doesn't get heavy until the speed drops to 27mph.

Performance was fun enough for me the few times I have opened it up. More enthusiastic drivers report body roll, but the car stays on path. They don't like the OEM tires, but I have no complaints. Placard pressure is 38/38 psi, but I have it set at 43/42 right now. At 44 on these tires, the ride gained a little bit of bounce, and rear tires shoulders where starting to lift from the pavement.

The 1.4L is actually a premium fuel engine. I tried out a tank of premium, and netted 2mpg more than the regular tanks before and after. With a 25 cent price difference, the premium came out a hundredth of a cent less in per mile cost. That might increase with more experience with the improved performance.

One last thing, there was an engine bay belly pan that came with the 2012s that will bolt right on to the 2013s.
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Old 09-11-2013, 05:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theholycow View Post
It seems common that when they add more speeds they don't increase range, instead they make closer ratios (except GM and maybe Ford)...so I would merely say it's because the car lacks an appropriate highway gear.
The Fit only pulls about 20 mph per 1,000 RPM in 5th, so 70 mph is about 3,500 RPM. I think if they added a 6th gear, that might get it down to about 3,000 RPM @ 75 mph, which is a bit more tolerable (and efficient!).

My old VX was 30 mph per 1,000 RPM, and my del Sols were around 24 or so. My Accord is almost 30. All of my Civic Si's (coupe, hatch, sedan) were geared pretty short, with my '99 Si screaming at 4100 RPM in 5th at 75 mph.

Hondas with automatics are geared a lot taller, due to the torque (I know, I know... what torque?) converter.
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Old 09-11-2013, 06:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fetch View Post
Hondas with automatics are geared a lot taller, due to the torque (I know, I know... what torque?) converter.
I'd say due to automatic downshifting. So many manuals don't come with a real highway gear because reviewers who don't have instant hard acceleration in high gear say the car lacks power and drivers don't like shifting.
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Old 09-12-2013, 05:09 AM   #8
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That probably has something to do with it, too. The Fit does have plenty of passing power in 5th, something that could not be said if it had a taller top ratio.
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