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Chev's diesel hatch, baby Cruze here!

2012-02-03 11:05

THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD: The new 1.3-litre turbodiesel Sonic gets our vote for the pick of the bunch, even though it carries a heftier price tag.

Chevrolet has set itself a tough task in 2012, with a rumoured eight models set to be launched. To kick things off, GM's bolstered its Chevrolet Sonic line-up with a new turbodiesel engine for the hatchback and added sedans to the range.

Oh, and the US automaker updated its Captiva range with a 2.2-litre turbodiesel, but first we got behind the wheel of the new hatchback variant.


Launched in October 2011, the Sonic hatchback range in 2012 gets turbodiesel power in the form of a new 1.3-litre powerplant.

The 1.3-litre produces 70kW at 4000rpm and 210Nm between 1750 – 2500rpm; yeah, our jaw dropped too looking at those figures. Unlike its petrol siblings the new engine is mated to a six-speed manual and has a claimed fuel consumption of 4.6l/100km.

What’s it like to drive? In short, surprisingly fun.

Much like the base 1.4 petrol model, the diesel hatch has a large amount of oomph and will easily fill the role of a city runabout. It handles corners commendably and its voluminous boot makes short work kit of family trips.

All this fun, however, comes at a cost...

My pick of the Sonic bunch would definitely be the 1.3 turbodiesel, though at over R170 000 it’ll be tough for buyers to justify buying the diesel over the base 1.4 petrol considering the R21000 price difference.

Chevrolet Sonic

FEATURES APLENTY: At least the Sonic turbodiesel, and in fact the entire range, makes up for its price tag with a high level of standard creature comforts such as cruise control, air-conditioning, power windows, airbags and USB/aux connectivity.

It has a lower fuel consumption and is a surprising amount of fun, but it will be interesting to see how it fares against the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20 or Kia Rio.

And then there’s the sedan.


The Sonic sedan brings back memories of Chev’s entry-level barge, the Optra. In terms of looks, the front is unchanged while the rear sports an elongated boot with an overall increase in length of 360mm to 4399mm (from 4039mm). I’m always wary of hatchbacks turned sedans as it always seems to me like an afterthought: good idea on paper, but at times sloppy in the execution.

The sedan is available with two petrol engines (1.4 or 1.6) and two transmissions (five-speed manual or six-speed auto). The 1.4 produces 74kW at 6000rpm and 130Nm at 4000rpm and, only available in five-speed manual guise, has a claimed fuel consumption of 5.8 l/100km.

The 1.6-litre petrol produces 85kW at 6000rpm and 155Nm at 4000rpm with a claimed fuel economy of 6.4l/100km for the manual and 6.9l/100km for the auto.

Chevrolet Sonic sedan

FAMILY ORIENTED: While the Sonic hatch is the perfect student car, in sedan guise, with its extra space, it's suitable as a family car.

The auto is finicky: sure, it’ll find the correct gear but there’s a significant delay. If you’re cruising along you’ll barely notice the gear changes, but should you be late for work and you need to flat-foot it, the Sonic sedan will become temperamental as it hunts for gears. This is somewhat mitigated by the manual shift option or tapping off the accelerator when it’s “supposed” to change. This, and the increase in weight, may have something to do with the Sonic’s claimed fuel consumption as you're essentially wasting fuel - according to the trip computer, we averaged 9.9l/100km over a loop covering around 110km. 


Not to be outdone by its Sonic siblings, the Captiva gets a new turbodiesel engine for 2012, too. The 2.2-litre engine produces 135kW at 3800rpm and 400Nm of torque at 2000rpm. The engine powers all four wheels and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The new engine is capable of a rather frugal 8l/100km considering its 2.5 ton mass.

Road deaths

DIESEL GRUNT: The powerplant is timid though overall with a relatively low fuel consumption its worth considering amongst its SUV rivals.


A surprisingly fun hatchback addition, hum-drum sedan models and a frugal SUV; Chev’s first batch of models may not be all that exciting but they’ve certainly got the ball rolling. Who knows, maybe it's saving the best for last... Sonic RS anyone?

In other news from General Motors SA, Opel fans can look forward to the Astra GTC and Meriva due to be launched in SA early 2012.

Sonic Hatchback model range:

1.4 LS five-speed manual - R156 990
1.6 LS five-speed manual - R168 570
1.3 LS Diesel six-speed - R178 730

Sonic Sedan model range:
1.4 LS five-speed manual - R156 990
1.6 LS five-speed manual - R168 570
1.6 LS six-speed automatic - R178 570

The Sonic hatch and sedan are offered with a three year/60 000km Service Plan with service intervals at 15000km.

Captiva model range:
2.4LT FWD MT - R313 500
2.4LT FWD AT - R329 000
2.4LT AWD MT - R356 700
3.0LTZ AWD AT - R454 600
2.2LTZ Diesel AWD AT - R427 500

The Captiva is offered with a three year or 60 000km service plan with service intervals at 12 months or 15000km.

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