2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS road test: A little hatchback for the fun-loving driver

2013 Sonic RS

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

Hoping to enhance the growing popularity of its subcompact Sonic sedans and hatchbacks, Chevrolet has introduced the 2013 Sonic RS, a slightly more zesty addition to the lineup.

A close relative to the most luxurious Sonic LTZ, the front-wheel-drive Sonic RS hatchback takes its place atop the lineup with all of the same comfort and convenience features and the same turbocharged 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, which produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque.

To that, it adds a more taut suspension, a 10-millimeter-lower ride height, four-wheel disc brakes and 17-inch wheels. In addition, the six-speed manual transmission (a six-speed automatic is available) has more performance-oriented gear ratios.

On the outside,  the revised grille is unique to the RS, and front and rear fasicas are redesigned. The hatchback configuration gives it a European look, somewhat like the Volkswagen Golf.

Sonic RS instrument cluster

Sonic RS instrument cluster

Inside, the unique, motorcycle-like instrument cluster houses a large tachometer on the left, a digital speedometer aside it and trip information to the right. The front bucket seats combine leather with suede microfiber inserts, the leather-covered steering wheel has a flat bottom and the pedals are aluminum.

For those who think of driving as more of a pleasure than a pain, the relatively minor changes add up to a slightly more exhilarating driving experience than the rest of the Sonic line-up offers.

The car is most enjoyable when squirting through urban traffic or pounding along the two-lane back roads. And, drivers will particularly like the way they can zip into tight parking-garage spaces. Manual-transmission users will appreciate the hill-start assist, which keeps the brakes engaged for several seconds while the driver moves his left foot from the brake to the clutch.

Sonic RS front bucket seats

Sonic RS front bucket seats

The little car is also comfortable on medium-length jaunts for up to four passengers of average height. The strut front suspension and rear torsion beam keep the Sonic quiet and composed at more than the legal speed limit.

There are 19 cubic feet of easily accessible cargo space behind the second-row seats. Fold the rear setbacks forward and the cargo area expands to 47.7 cubic feet.

The Sonic RS is not fast by any modern-day standards, requiring a little more than 8 seconds to run from a stop to 60 mph. But, the  change in suspension and ride height gives the Sonic RS a more controllable driving dynamic and an enthusiast in a Sonic RS with 6-speed manual transmission can use the gears to extract enough performance for a pleasurable outing.