2013 Chevrolet Sonic Review and Prices

Last Updated: Feb 2, 2012

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2013 Chevrolet Sonic Buying Advice

The 2013 Chevrolet Sonic is the best car for you if you’re duly impressed that one of America’s best – and best-selling -- subcompact cars is a built-in-the USA Chevy.

The 2013 Chevrolet Sonic represents the second model year for this fresh-faced small sedan and hatchback. The 2013 lineup gains the sporty Sonic RS model and likely will expand its connectivity options to include the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system. The product of a GM plant in Michigan, Sonic’s sales success proves a small, inexpensive car assembled in America can compete with such class leaders as the Honda Fit (made in Japan), Ford Fiesta (Mexico), and Hyundai Accent (South Korea).

Should you wait for the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic or buy a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic? Wait for the 2013 Sonic if you’re intrigued by the sporty RS version, though its modifications won’t include more horsepower. And tech mavens may wish to hold out to see if Chevrolet MyLink expands beyond the RS to other models in the lineup. Otherwise, buy a 2012 Sonic. The car’s styling, engineering and basic features won’t change. And buying a 2012 gets you into this impressive car without suffering the inevitable model-changeover price escalation.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic Changes back to top

Styling: The 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS model will turn up the wick on Sonic’s styling, with more aggressive exterior touches and sporty interior accents. But primarily, it’ll complement a Sonic design that’ll continue virtually unaltered from its model-year 2012 debut. Sonic will again slide into the Chevrolet family between the smaller Chevy Spark minicar and the larger Chevy Cruze compact sedan.

Sonic will remain the only one of these three Chevys to offer both four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. Both Sonic bodies will again share a front end highlighted by motorcycle-inspired quad headlights. The 2013 Sonic sedan will continue with its arched roofline leading to a generously sized 14-cubic-foot trunk. The 2013 Sonic hatchback will reprise its baby-wagon profile, creating a squared-off cargo area that furnishes 19 cubic feet of volume behind the rear seat and 30.7 with the rear seatback folded.

Both body styles will again settle nicely in the middle of the subcompact-size spectrum, though the Sonic hatchback is 14 inches shorter front-to-rear than the Sonic sedan. The hatchback also conceals its rear-door handles in the roof pillars.

The 2013 Sonic RS will join a lineup in which both sedans and hatchbacks are almost certain to repeat three main levels of ascending trim: LS, LT, and LTZ. Chevy likely will continue to subdivide each into 1LS/2LS, 1LT/2LT, and 1LZ/2LZ designations. The 2013 RS will come only as a hatchback.

Aside from the amped up appearance of the RS, visual distinctions should again run mainly to such details as more exterior chrome trim on LTZ models. The ’13 Sonic RS will get its own front fascia and grille, rocker moldings and rear spoiler, and RS insignia. The RS will also have unique five-spoke alloy wheels, though they’ll be in the same 17-inch size that’ll repeat as standard on the LTZ model. Expect 2013 LS and LT Sonics to again come with 15-inch alloys and for 16s to again be optional on the LS.

Inside, all 2013 Sonics will repeat with main instrumentation that combines a digital speedometer and analog tachometer in another homage to motorcycle design. All will again include front bucket seats and a 60/40 split/folding rear seat. The RS will get its own sport front seats and steering wheel, aluminum pedals, and specific gauge graphics.

The 2012 RS will also have a distinct upper central dashboard section shaped to accommodate a 7-inch color touchscreen. The screen enables another feature the RS will introduce to the Sonic lineup, Chevrolet’s MyLink system. This augments onboard infotainment by tapping smartphone apps (see the Features section below for details). The 2013 RS also will introduce to the Sonic family a new exterior color, Black Granite Metallic.

Mechanical: The 2013 Chevrolet Sonic isn’t in line for any mechanical changes and should again borrow its engines from the larger, heavier Cruze compact, giving it a slight power advantage over most subcompact rivals.

The standard engine for all 2013 Sonics should again be a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque (consider torque the force behind acceleration, horsepower the energy that sustains speed). Standard on the 2013 Sonic RS and returning as an option on LT and LTZ models will be a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque.

Chevrolet introduced the Sonic with transmissions segregating by model subcategory. Barring a change in policy, the 2013 Sonic 1LT, 1LS, and 1LZ models will again be available only with a five-speed manual transmission. The 2LT, 2LS, and 2LZ models will again come only with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Chevy initially mandated a six-speed manual transmission for Sonics equipped with the turbocharged engine but was scheduled to begin offering them with a six-speed automatic late in the 2012 model year. Chevy confirms that the 2013 Sonic RS will be available with both the six-speed manual and six-speed automatic.    

Only a minority of subcompacts offers more than one engine, but the 2013 Sonic otherwise will hew to modern small-car convention with front wheel drive, a torsion-beam rear axle, and electric power steering.

Though the 2013 Sonic RS will not boast more power than any other Sonic equipped with the turbocharged engine it could prove slightly quicker, thanks to acceleration-enhancing transmission gear ratios. It should have sharper handling thanks to a lowered and stiffened suspension. And it might sound sportier, courtesy of a retuned sport exhaust. The RS will be the only 2013 Sonic with disc brakes on all four wheels. Lesser Sonics will conform to subcompact-class tradition with front-disc and rear-drum brakes. All models will come standard with antilock and antiskid control.

Features: Addition of MyLink will expand an already thoughtful range of features expected to return on the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic. MyLink will debut on the Sonic RS and on uplevel 1LT and 2LT models of the less expensive 2013 Chevy Spark. There’s little reason to doubt Chevy plans to also make MyLink available on other versions of the Sonic, though whether that would occur during the 2013 model year is uncertain.

MyLink essentially allows a smartphone to function in the same way a hard drive would in an embedded infotainment system. Owners of compatible devices can bring their own media into the vehicle through a USB interface or by docking the smartphone using the radio’s hands-free Bluetooth streaming connection. The touchscreen provides access to personal playlists, photo galleries, phone books, and other stored media and data. Pandora and Stitcher internet radio will also be available, though the MyLink version offered in the 2013 Spark and Sonic RS won’t include integrated voice recognition or Gracenote digital-file recognition capability.

Expect standard features on every 2013 Chevy Sonic to again include air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver’s seat with fold-down armrest, tilt/telescope steering wheel, power door locks, and remote keyless entry. An outside temperature gauge, variable intermittent windshield wipers, automatic off-on headlamps, tinted glass, and antitheft alarm also should return as standard.

All 2013 Sonics are certain to again come with 10 airbags including front- and rear-seat torso-protecting side airbags and head-protecting curtain side airbags for all outboard seating positions.

In keeping with their entry-level status, the 2012 Sonic LS sedan and hatchback came only with manual windows and mirrors. Chevy could decide competitive pressure compels it to extend to those models the power heated mirrors and the power windows that are will again be standard on LT and LTZ models.

Look for 2013 Sonic LS models to continue with a basic four-speaker AM/FM audio system with auxiliary jack. Optional again on LS models and standard on LT Sonics should be a six-speaker CD system. And standard on 2013 Sonic LTZ models and optional on LTs will again be a six-speaker setup with a USB iPod interface and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity for phone and audio streaming. Chevy probably will continue to make XM satellite radio (with three months’ complimentary service) optional on LS models and standard on other Sonics.

Steering-wheel-mounted controls for audio and Bluetooth systems will again be standard on LTZ Sonics and included on LT models optioned with the audio upgrade. Don’t expect the 2013 Sonic to acquire a navigation system; very few cars in this price range offer one. But Chevy will equip every 2013 Sonic with GM’s OnStar support system (with six months’ free basic service). OnStar can furnish turn-by-turn audio directions and stolen vehicle tracking, among other assistance.

Notable among features that’ll return for 2013 are remote vehicle start, which should again be standard on Sonic 2LZ and optional on 2LT models. Heated front seats are likely to again be the province of LTZ and RS models. Same for the optional power sunroof.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic Prices back to top

Prices for the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic were not announced in time for this review but, aside from addition of the RS model they shouldn’t stray far from those of the 2012 Sonic.

That suggests a base-price range of $14,990-$21,000. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Chevy’s fee for the 2013 Sonic was $795).

The 2013 Sonic sedans should again be priced slightly below Sonic hatchbacks. Expect sedans to start at $14,990 in LS trim, around $16,160 in LT form, and around $17,760 in LZT guise.

Estimated base prices for 2013 Sonic hatchbacks are $15,860 for the LS, $16,960 for the LT, and $18,360 for the LTZ. Estimated base price for the 2013 Sonic RS is $20,000.

To these prices, tack on about $1,100-$1,300 for automatic transmission, depending on model. Adding the turbocharged engine to a Sonic LT or LTZ sedan or hatchback should again cost an additional $700 or so.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic were not released in time for this review but are not likely to change from those of the 2012 model. That would leave the 2013 Sonic somewhere in the middle of the subcompact class for gas mileage, evidence of engines that are a bit more powerful than the norm and that Sonic sedans and hatchbacks weigh 200-300 pounds more than many cars in their competitive set.

With the base 1.8-liter engine and the five-speed manual transmission, expect the 2013 Sonic to rate 26/35 mpg city/highway and 29 mpg combined city/highway. With the six-speed manual transmission, 1.8-liter Sonics are likely to again be rated at 25/35/28 mpg.

With the turbocharged 1.4-liter engine and either the six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic expect 2013 Sonic LT, LTZ, and RS models to rate 29/40 mpg city/highway and 33 mpg combined city/highway.

Chevy likely will continue to recommend regular-octane gas for both Sonic engines.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic Release Date back to top

The 2013 Chevrolet Sonic should be in showrooms during the second half of 2012.

What's next for the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic back to top

Additional engine power costs money and Chevy might be hesitant to imbue the Sonic RS with more muscle because its price will already encroach on that of the automaker’s larger Cruze. Be that as it may, the RS will provide a nice hedge against Ford’s likely addition of the sporty, turbocharged Fiesta ST to its lineup of Sonic competitors.

Otherwise, don’t expect major changes to the Sonic for several years. Chevy is likely, however, to shuffle feature availability. Spreading MyLink and Bluetooth capability to more models is a good bet, for example.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic Competition back to top

Ford Fiesta: Confining our direct competitors to subcompacts that offer both sedan and hatchback body styles puts Fiesta front and center as a Sonic rival. The two are almost exactly the same size on the outside, though the Chevy has more passenger room (most noticed in slightly more rear-seat space) and both Sonic body styles have more cargo space. Fiesta fights back with ride and handling befitting its origins as a car designed to meet demanding European tastes. For better or worse, its styling is decidedly more flamboyant, inside and out, too. Look for mainstream 2013 Fiestas to return with 120 horsepower and 112 pound-feet of torque while the proposed turbo ST model is likely to have around 150 horsepower. Fiesta’s lighter than the Sonic and fuel economy is better, topping out at 39/40/33 mpg with the $700 Super Fuel Economy option.

Nissan Versa: Versa’s appeal begins with its compact-car size at subcompact-car prices. The sedan was all-new for model-year 2012 and will be joined for model-year 2013 by a similarly redesigned hatchback. Both are indeed larger inside than subcompact rivals and have more cargo space than many larger cars, too. Estimated base-price range, though, is a tempting $12,000-$17,000 for the Versa sedan. Expect the hatchback to have a base-price range of around $16,000-$20,000, making it an outstanding value. Versas tend to lack the youthful styling flair of the other cars in this review, and they don’t aim for quite the same driving sharpness. But they can feel more refined and better suited to long drives.

Hyundai Accent: Here’s one subcompact that puts styling flair at the top of its agenda. Accent sedans and hatchbacks, however, back up their curvy sheetmetal with feature-packed pricing and terrific fuel economy. Expect 2013 versions to return with 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque and to rate 30/40/34 mpg with both the six-speed manual transmission and six-speed automatic. Passenger room is similar to the Sonic’s and so is the sedan’s trunk, but the Accent hatchback has an impressive 21.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seat and 47.5 with the seat folded. Estimated 2013 Accent base-price range is $13,500-$16,500 for the sedan and $15,700-$17,900 for the hatchback. Hyundai is the rapidly growing South Korean automaker and Accent’s basic design is used for the Kia Rio from Hyundai’s corporate partner.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic Next Steps