2020 Chevrolet Sonic

Reviews

The 2020 Chevrolet Sonic looks and drives younger than its age, and still offers value and a pinch of fun.

The 2020 Chevrolet Sonic is a solid small car in an SUV world. With impressive value, safety scores, and a decent amount of fun in the right form, it’s an engaging hatchback or sedan, but is outsold in droves by even the dreariest of small crossovers. For that we give it 4.8 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The only changes to the 2020 Sonic are two new hues in the paint department (Oasis Blue and Cayenne Orange Metallic). All 2020 Sonic models are also turbo-4 and automatic-only now, but we won’t miss the outgoing naturally aspirated base engine.

Chevy’s pint-sized economy car isn’t its smallest offering—that honor still goes to the Spark—but the Sonic does battle with an ever-shrinking list of subcompacts like the Hyundai Accent and Honda Fit. In terms of looks, it’s sharper and more business-like than the pre-refresh version, but next to newer models like the Kia Rio, the Sonic looks dated, especially on the inside.

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Available with turbo power, a hatchback or sedan body style, and an automatic transmission, the 2020 Sonic is versatile for such a small, low-volume vehicle. The now solo turbo-4 provides decent power but only middling fuel economy (29 mpg combined), and the Sonic manages to be both fun and comfortable in the ride and handling department.

While no subcompact is going to be particularly roomy, the Sonic has space for four adults and marginal cargo room, with more versatility in hatchback form than sedan despite a slight increase in price. Safety scores are impressive too, a rare bright spot in a segment that’s generally plagued by a lack of safety tech and subpar crash test results.

The 2020 Chevrolet Sonic is handsome but clearly aging, especially on the inside.

The 2020 Chevrolet Sonic wears its styling well but is starting to show its age, especially on the inside. We give it 4 out of 10 here for the business-like looks. 

While the first Sonic featured cartoonish round headlights and taillights to go along with a big, protruding grille, its refreshed face is comparatively sedate, but looks fine to our eyes. The hatchback is more attractive than the ungainly sedan, even with a stubby rear end, but neither version could be called “ugly.” Offered in a few bright hues, like a new orange shade for the hatchback model, the Sonic can be a welcome pop of color among a sea of grays, blacks and whites.

The interior hasn’t aged as well, but is refreshingly simple and void of unnecessary flourishes, to save on cost and to increase functionality. Cheap plastics abound, and the center stack and steering wheel feel and look at least a decade old.

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The 2020 Chevrolet Spark generates turbo fun and has good small-car moves.

The 2020 Chevrolet Spark can be a lot of fun to drive, especially now in its only form. We give it 5 out of 10. 

Gone is the miserly base engine, and we won’t miss it. The 1.4-liter turbo-4 that remains makes 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, and while the 5-speed manual transmission has also been cancelled for 2020, its long throw shifts and lack of a 6th cog made it take a back seat to the relatively smooth 6-speed automatic anyways. Front-wheel drive is standard on the Sonic, as with most economy cars.

Short-wheelbase vehicles often make for tossable toys, and the Sonic is no exception. With sharp, playful handling and responsive steering, this little Chevy can be a lot of fun, and though highway cruising is a less comfortable experience than in larger vehicles, suspension quality is above average for an economy car.

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With plenty of space for its size, the 2020 Chevrolet Sonic is among the most practical subcompact cars.

No subcompact can be an oasis, but the 2020 Chevrolet Sonic is reasonably spacious and comfortable for its size. We give it 4 out of 10 for comfort and quality as such, with a point docked for its budget-car interior finishes, but with one added for its cargo space. 

Available in a hatchback or sedan, the Sonic fits two adults up front with decent room, while the rear seats will accept two adults in a pinch. The sedan model offers an impressive 14.9 cubic feet of trunk space, just a cube less than the mid-size Malibu sedan, while the hatchback expands that figure to 19 cubic feet behind the rear seat, not including a hidden storage bin in the cargo floor.

As with any American car, cup holders abound and there are a few bins for small item storage, but other, more versatile competitors like the relatively cavernous Honda Fit make better use of the passenger compartment.

Where the Sonic falls slightly short is in the material quality department, which is not necessarily bad, just old. Compared to the newer Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent, the Sonic feels dated.

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The 2020 Chevrolet Sonic performs well in crash tests, but lacks automatic braking functionality even as an option.

The 2020 Chevrolet Sonic is among the safest subcompacts, but an automatic braking system would be a welcome addition for the next generation, if there is one. We give it 5 out of 10 here.

Both the federal government’s NHTSA and the independent IIHS give the Sonic top marks for crash tests, earning five stars overall and “Good” ratings in every category, respectively. That makes the Sonic one of the safest cars in its class, but it must live on the roads with much larger cars.

Subcompacts are meant to keep costs as low as possible, both for the buyer and the automaker, so Chevy makes the Sonic’s passive safety tech package an option. While it does include blind-spot monitors, forward-collision warnings, and rear parking sensors, there’s no automatic braking system available, which costs it a point here.

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The 2020 Chevrolet Sonic is well-equipped as standard, provided you don’t choose the rental fleet base model.

It’s no Mini in terms of feature content, but the 2020 Chevrolet Sonic represents great value beyond its spartan base trim. We award 5 out of 10 points here; it gets docked a point for lean standard equipment, and adds one for good infotainment. 

The only change to the Sonic for 2020 is the addition of two new paint colors, one blue for all models and an orange hue available only on the hatchback as an extra-cost option. The base Sonic LS sedan starts at $17,595 including destination charges, but includes such throwback features as manual windows and mirrors, 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers; it doesn’t even come with cruise control. You do get a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth, so it’s not all dreary.

Still, we recommend starting with the LT trim, which can be had in either sedan or hatchback form for less than $3,000 more than the LS, and includes power features, two additional speakers, 15-inch alloy wheels, and cruise control. Hatchback models come standard with the RS package (optional on the sedan), which adds a sportier body kit with a rear spoiler, black bowtie badges, black interior trim, RS-badged floor mats, and unique upholstery.

The top-tier Premier model adds power front seats, 17-inch alloys, fog lamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and better digital instruments, but we suggest sticking with the LT for maximum value.

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The 2020 Chevrolet Sonic is not as efficient as it should be, at just 29 mpg combined.

While subcompacts are generally among the most efficient vehicles, the 2020 Chevrolet Sonic manages only average fuel economy for the segment. We give it 5 out of 10 here.

The Sonic suffers a drop in overall fuel economy for 2020 thanks to the cancellation of its manual transmission option, but the remaining powertrain makes 26 mpg city, 34 highway, 29 combined. That’s worse than some larger compact cars overall, and disappointing for what is normally the most efficient class of vehicle. Average fuel cost is about $1,350 as a result.

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