2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS Review

We take a spin in Chevy's new hot hatch.

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September 28, 2012

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS Review

Steering initially felt twitchy and too light, but it seemed to firm up a bit when attacking the corners.

Introduction
Ford is about to flood our shores with the Euro-influenced Focus ST and Fiesta ST hot hatches, and Chevy isn't taking the challenge lying down--the bow-tie brand is fighting back with the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS.

Lowered and equipped with a turbo four that puts out more torque than the standard Sonic, the RS is a trim package that aims to appeal to enthusiasts who like their cars (and their monthly payments) on the small side.

Chevy tossed us the keys to both manual transmission and automatic transmission versions of the car and turned us loose in the hill country north of San Francisco.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic Features & Prices The RS is only available for hatchback Sonics, and it comes with unique 17-inch wheels, Chevy's MyLink infotainment system, a front fascia and fog lamp design that is unique to the RS, a different rear fascia, leather seats and shift knob, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, aluminum pedals, a RS-specific grille, a RS-specific exhaust outlet, and badging and trim that's unique to the RS.

Pricing starts at $20,995 including destination.
2013 Chevrolet Sonic On the Road The added torque (148 lb-ft as opposed to the standard Sonic's 125) helps get the RS off the line with some panache, but we'd like some more guts. The clutch in the manual version felt a bit spongy at first, but there's a nice take-up, and the more time we spent in the car, the better it felt.

Steering initially felt twitchy and too light, but it seemed to firm up a bit when attacking the corners. The RS sets well while cornering, although the rear end got a bit wiggly during late braking while approaching one particularly dastardly hairpin.

Some body roll intruded, but it was tolerable. The shifter on the manual was a bit too loose with throws that were a tad too long, and overall the RS does a nice job zipping from corner to corner while also taking them well, but the car needs a bit more seasoning. Lowering the suspension 10 mm and giving it a sporty tune does make the car more playful than the standard Sonic, but a little more fine-tuning wouldn't hurt.
2013 Chevrolet Sonic Exterior Although the exterior changes are relatively subtle, they do give the RS a sportier look and more aggressive stance. The differences are still subtle enough that unsuspecting onlookers probably won't notice the difference, so in those rare instances in which a Sonic competes in a red-light drag race, RS drivers might surprise their opponents.
2013 Chevrolet Sonic Interior The biggest differences between the standard Sonic and RS are the standard MyLink system and the flat-bottomed steering wheel. The wheel adds sporting flair, while the MyLink system is easy enough to use--it's intuitive with a clear seven-inch screen.
2013 Chevrolet Sonic Fuel Economy and Safety Fuel economy is rated at 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway for the manual and 27/37 for the automatic.

The Sonic RS has the usual complement of airbags, along with front-knee airbags, and the usual assortment of driving aids, such as ABS and stability control.
2013 Chevrolet Sonic Final Thoughts Chevy admits that the RS package is a bit short of a full SS performance package, and while that doesn't mean a Sonic SS is planned, that does explain why this car feels more fun than the Sonic while failing to fully engage the driver. This is probably what the standard Sonic should've been, if not for the need to appeal to mainstream buyers who care not about performance.

The standard Sonic is already a darn good car.The RS feels like a nice improvement, but something seems to be missing. It's kind of like putting whipped cream on a sundae--it improves it, but if you add fudge and a cherry on top, it's even better.

A touch more torque, some sharper responses, a tighter shifter--these additions would go a long way towards making the car even more fun. Right now, the RS is the Sonic of choice for enthusiasts, the sporty version of a solid small car. We just wish it was bit sportier.

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