Review and photos by Steven Bochenek

Starting at $22,645, the Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 5-Door Automatic is nearly top of the line for a subcompact and surpasses many of its competitors in price. That said, it’s still a pretty good car with more positives to share than negatives.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 5-Door
2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 5-Door . Click image to enlarge

Firstly, it boasts an effervescent 1.4L four-cylinder turbocharged engine that, following a touch of lag, leaps to attention and rewards the driver. Compared to its four-door sister, this tester hatchback is cheerfully peppy looking. That’s why, each day during the week I had it, there was a slight disappointment when my leg reached for a clutch and found nothing – because it was automatic.

Predictable segue: If you’re buying this for yourself, consider the standard transmission. It costs $1,350 less, suddenly taking it much closer to its competitors in price. If you don’t know how to drive stick, get lessons. You’ll never regret it.

But if you’re sharing this with someone who insists on automatic, don’t despair: in Sport mode, the Sonic LTZ is a whole other customer. It enters the realm of fun, which is really what you want most from a wee city car.

If you like a bit of fun, don’t be afraid to turn off the traction control. The button is conveniently to the right of the handbrake. (On the left is the safety lock for rear doors, whose icon is a creepy big-headed, alien-looking stickman. ‘Oh, it’s supposed to be a child,’ you’ll realize.)

2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 5-Door
2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 5-Door . Click image to enlarge

Take off the traction control with the transmission in Sport mode to maximize your pleasure. You can also do it when stuck in snow because, by design, it doesn’t allow your tires to spin fast enough to unstick you.

Perhaps less predictable segue, re all-wheel drive: I’m a patient guy; I’ve waited decades for Madonna, Don Cherry and David Hasselhoff to go away – and continually and futilely to await the end of North Americans’ love affair with AWD. The LTZ doesn’t have it and doesn’t need it. Riding on 17-inch Michelin X-ice winter tires, it handled well on the slippery sludgy streets during an interminable winter driving season.

More about the drive: like a lot of miniature cars these days, the Sonic’s wheels are placed almost in the corners of car. This longer wheelbase allows for a bit more legroom inside and, more importantly, better stance on the road. I often liken this design to driving a table, which, when you think about it, would be quite hard to flip. That sturdiness translates into confidence behind the wheel. Not that you want to push it too hard in the corners. The steering’s a bit loose for that tight sport suspension and aggressive little turbo engine.

With a curb weight of just 1,259 kilos (2,776 lb), it’s no surprise that the soundproofing is underwhelming – especially if you like to push that engine.

The published fuel economy stats for the city and highway are 7.7 and 5.5 L/100 km. I typically was over 8, even on the highways. However, all my highway driving was daytime within the GTA, which involves a lot of braking and little cruise control.

With so many places to store things in the Sonic, Chevrolet seems to have the Honda Fit in their sights.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 5-Door 2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 5-Door 2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 5-Door 2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 5-Door
2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 5-Door . Click image to enlarge

The five-door Sonic hatchback is 4,038 mm long and 1,734 mm wide with 1,061 mm of legroom in front and 879 mm in the back. Maxing out at 1,516 mm tall, it leaves 538 L of cargo space in the back. That expands to 1,350 L when you fold the back seats to almost flat. There’s also an extra level for storage in the trunk. Remove the false floor and there’s a long and wide storage area about seven inches deep. It’s no Fit, but is also no slouch for storage. When it comes to folding away and inventing space, the Fit is closer to Transformers than to any other subcompact car.

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