New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Chev Sonic booms into SA

2011-10-27 09:43


It looks like an Aveo with a sporty body kit, has the benefits of the Spark’s funky interior, and is rather fun to drive; Chevrolet’s new Sonic is here!
Chevrolet has launched some increasingly popular models through the past two years. The Cruze arrived in 2009 and though the automatic was a dud, the manual sedan continues to be a volume seller. The Spark, originating from the Beat concept, continues to fly off showroom floors. What the brand’s been missing, apparently, is a larger hatchback.

Job done... Chev has bypassed the Aveo and instead introduced a high-end version in the form of the Sonic hatchback.

it comes in two derivatives, 1.4 and 1.6 petrol, with optional extras offered on the more powerfull model. A 1.3 diesel auto and sedan version are the works but more on that later.

Prices for the hatchback are yet to be set but expect them to fall into the R148 000 – R155 000 band for the 1.4 and  R155 000 - R177 000 for the 1.6. The 1.3 diesel auto will probably bill between R180 000 and R190 000.

The Sonic has some striking design features, especially at the front and along its flanks. Chev's new bowtie logo and grille coupled with it’s quad exposed headlights give the Sonic an assertive look. The rear is rather humdrum except for a sporty spoiler.

Chevrolet Sonic Wheels24

NEW DESIGN: Despite Chevrolet insisting the Sonic does not borrow from the Aveo, it's hard not to notice the similarities.

I’m not sold on the exposed headlights; it looks sporty but up close it seems like something is missing... er, the headlight housing? The "hidden" rear-door releases and sporty wheels tucked into the body ar eye catching, if not more so than its Spark sibling.

Overall the car looks like an Aveo with a sports kit and is priced and positioned as a more high-end model but has an identity all of its own. Curiously, General Motors has no plans to get rid of the Aveo and it is positioned as the middle child between the Spark and Sonic.

If you’re looking for a new car, a R30 000 price difference, as is the case between the Aveo and Sonic, will make a big impact on your instalments.

The 1.4 petrol engine produces 74kW/130Nm at 6000 and 4000rpm repectively. Fuel consumption is rated at a claimed 5.8 litres/100km (combined cycle).

The 1.6 engine is a also new-generation quad-valve four with two overhead camshafts but produces 85kW/155Nm at 6000 and 4000rpm. Fuel consumption is listed as 6.5 litres/100km (combined cycle).
On the road the Sonic is let down by fiddly gear changes and, like the larger Cruze, the suffers from a rather short fifth gear. Overall it’s pleasing to drive and rather neutral in terms on handling – sure it can handle bends but it's jarring on irregular surfaces. Ultimately it proved to be a fun city runabout and kudos to Chev for making such a relatively inexpensive vehicle handle corners so well.

As  for as power it’s "meh" – adequate for city driving and cruising on the open road but decidedly lacking if speed is what you’re after.
I was dreading the grey-on-black bland interior of the Aveo and Cruze but the Sonic's cabin is a comfortable space to be in; the materials aren’t luxury grade but it is roomy and attractive enough to please any driver. The fascia has dials and gauges borrowed from the Spark and, like its little brother, they look rather funky.

Chevrolet Sonic Wheels24

FUNKY INTERIOR: The chunky steering wheel, radical dials and gauges in the dash and the slick centre console design creates a superb interior.

I liked the little storage areas on each side of the dashboard and they serve as an excellent storage spot for your iPod, with aux ports mounted in the glove compartment. At least you don’t need to worry about dangling cables anymore...

The interior is surprisingly spacious and the boot large, considering the vehicle’s size. Standard on both models are alloy rims, power-assisted steering, height and reach adjustment for the steering column, aircon, powerfront  windows, power external mirrors and a radio/front loading CD with MP3/aux input and four speakers.
For an extra R7500 you can get the Comfort package: an upgrade to the sound system (six speakers, a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity and audio controls on the steering wheel. Cruise control is another option.

The Sonic sedan will arrive early in 2012. Petrol and diesel engines, manual and auto gearboxes, are planned along with a choice of manual or auto transmission. For those who prefer an auto, a 1.3 diesel auto hatchback will arrive in 2012 along with the new Spark.

So, the Sonic does exactly what it says on the tin; provide a comfortable road experience and more than a customer might expect. The B-segment is a tough market that includes Suzuki’s Swift, Ford’s Fiesta and stylish newcomer the Hyundai Accent. It’s hard to fault any of them so much will come down to brand loyalty.

The Sonic isn’t as high-end as the Fiesta (at least in the interior department) and not as striking as the Accent but if you’ve loved the Spark and feel like trading up, the Sonic shuld prove good value. The cars come with a three-year or 60 000km service plan (service intervals 15 000km).

The warranty is good for five years or 120 000km and comes with roadside assistance.

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