Chevrolet Sonic 1.3D Review

Chevrolet Sonic Main

Chevrolet has needed a power injection desperately for some of its models and for the Chevrolet Sonic, a 1.3-litre diesel motor may just solve that problem.

Chevrolet Sonic 1.3D – Driven and Reviewed By Dave Taylor

Sporty looks suit the Sonic

The Chevrolet Sonic hatch isn’t a bad-looking car and from certain angles appears quite aggressive. Take those headlights for example. They’re rather in your face, aren’t they? The rear is rather neat, with integrated back passenger door handles. While some have suggested the Sonic has a distinct rental look about it, I’m prepared to overlook that; it’s an interesting, affordable car with mass appeal.

Small, potent diesel engine

What makes this particular Chevrolet Sonic different is the power plant. General Motors has tried its best, but the current crop of 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre motors is a little bland. Enter the 1.3-litre turbodiesel engine. It has 70kW and 210Nm, which does sound rather appetising on paper. That torque figure looks like something from a 1.6 turbo petrol, not a small diesel.

Aside from the excellent overtaking ability, the other bonus from this engine is the fuel economy. General Motors reckons the Sonic 1.3 will average 4.5L/100km. I tried my best and could only manage just over 5L/100km – impressive and certainly to be applauded. As I write this another petrol increase is about it hit the country, and vehicles which sip fuel are to be recommended.

Plagued by turbo lag

In Chevrolet fashion, it’s not a bad drive either and the ride ain’t too bad. The problem is the vehicle suffers badly from turbo lag. Without going into too much techie stuff, the turbocharger has to build pressure before the engine delivers its maximum torque. Essentially, you can be cruising along at 70km/h in top gear. You wish to overtake, put your foot flat and nothing much happens. That slight pause and hesitation is called turbo lag. The only solution is to drop down a gear and then plant your right foot. This means that you will be giving your clutch leg and left arm a good work out as you work the gearbox. Thankfully the six-speed unit from Chevrolet is a decent enough unit.

The bonus of this off/on nature is that when the engine comes on song, the car leaps forward with a surprising amount of grunt. It’s quite amusing changing gears early and waiting for the sudden surge of power to hit. The rev counter hits 2000rpm and you’re pushed into your seat in a rather satisfying manner. This in-gear power makes the Chevrolet Sonic quite good when it comes to overtaking.

Some faults

In terms of downsides, there’s no mistaking this is a diesel vehicle as the engine note is a typical tractor-like sound. First gear is also a little too short, which you’ll discover if you’re in a hurry from standstill. This engine also requires 50ppm diesel, which is only available in urban areas. This specialised fuel is gradually being rolled out around the country though.

Good levels of specification

Inside it appears as if you’re seated in a Chevrolet Spark. It may have a decent amount of kit, but the rev counter and speedometer look out of place. The Spark is an entry level vehicle, while the Sonic is a little more upmarket. There’s power steering, RDS radio with front loading CD/Mp3/Aux input and a trip computer. It’s safe too and features decent brakes with ABS as well as front/side airbags for the driver and passenger. The options list is short and sweet. For an extra amount, you can upgrade the radio which includes Bluetooth, a USB port, six speakers as well as having the radio controls fitted to the steering wheel. Is it necessary? Probably not. Cruise control, however, is one thing that is worth having though.

Chevrolet Sonic 1.3D LS - Conclusion

Thanks to a damn good engine, the Sonic suddenly moves from bland and underpowered to quite a desirable B-segment runabout. It offers good performance from a small motor once you get used to it, with the added benefit of great fuel economy. It is practical, sensible and boasts good specification. However it does feel a little cheap due to some interior fittings.

View the new Chevrolet Sonic 1.3D LS

Chevrolet Sonic - Price

Chevrolet Sonic 1.3D LS - R196 800
  • Why you should: Looks sporty, drives okay, exceptionally light on fuel,
  • Why you shouldn’t: On/off nature of the diesel engine takes some getting used to. Plasticky interior.
  • It would be better if: Make that engine a little more useable.
  • Competitors worth checking out: Honda Jazz, Hyundai i20, Kia Rio, Renault Clio