2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

SAN FRANCISCO — If ever I’ve driven a vehicle that was the poster child for shedding a few “grams” and getting back into shape it’s the all-new 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS. The EPA lists this as a subcompact and it is on the small side. However small though it is the Sonic RS casts a large footprint of excitement — particularly for those behind the wheel.

Driving it is a hoot. Although a 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbo engine with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque doesn’t sound thunderous, couple those attributes with a specially tuned and lowered suspension, performance-oriented exterior and unique large 17-inch wheels and this little five-door issues its own statement.

It can be ordered with either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic.

It features some dramatic Sonic RS cues in the front fascia with its deep air dam design that enhances the car’s road-hugging stance. Vertical intakes at the edges of the fascia reinforce the wide, low proportion and house the fog lamps. Other styling features include new RS-specific grille, new rear fascia and spoiler, new rocker moldings, bright exhaust outlet and an available power tilt-sliding sunroof with express-open and wind deflector feature. 

Plus, it has an interesting array of exterior colors including Victory Red, Summit White, Cyber Gray Metallic and Black Granite Metallic (a new, premium exterior color for 2013).

The interior is pure raucous with its red-accented leather-appointed front bucket seats with sueded microfiber inserts; new sport three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel with contrasting stitching and racing-inspired flat bottom design; new, leather-wrapped shifter knob with red stitching (on the manual transmission); aluminum sport pedals; and specific instrument panel cluster graphics in a really-cool housing.

Seating capacity is listed as 2/3; just make sure you’re not part of the three. The rear seat should be treated as a large storage bin. It’s not the vehicle’s fault; there’s only so many great tomatoes you can squeeze into THIS tiny little can.

Suffice it to say the front-seaters have more than sufficient room (as well it should be). However, as compact (actually, SUB-compact) as the Sonic RS is there’s still 47.7 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats folded.

Standard on Sonic RS is Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system with a seven-inch color touch screen.

The 2013 Sonic RS is safety-laden with such features as 10 standard air bags, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, four-channel antilock braking, standard OnStar, et al. Other features include standard electric power steering and standard hill start assist. The latter has single-handedly put firms like “Clutches Are Us” out of business.

Estimated fuel economy has yet to be determined but an educated guess would be it will be very favorable. And with a 12.2-gallon fuel tank the range would be awesome.

MSRP is still being determined but the 2013 Sonic RS will come in at about $20,000. Considering its content and fun-to-drive personality the price almost amounts to sanctioned car theft.

— Al Vinikour