After spending some time with the car and chatting to the people from Chev, I realised that while it wears an RS badge, this Sonic has no intention of taking the hot-hatch segment by storm. With this in mind, I went about driving the car as I would any other performance hatchback, testing things like throttle response, handling and composure, but in the end I found the standardised evaluation of little use.
The reason for this is that the Sonic RS is more like a comfortable ‘lukewarm’ hatch. The ride height is lower and the suspension stiffer and there are even performance-tuned dampers, meaning it provides enough feedback to the driver as a sporty derivative should. Dynamically it does fall short of the Suzuki Swift Sport but in terms of usability it has the small Jap beat. Don’t get me wrong, there is enough dynamic verve to have some fun with, but don’t expect it to tear your face off around corners or in a straight line.
Its 1.4-litre turbo-engine is used in a number of Chevrolet and Opel products, but is arguably the most alive in this relatively lightweight package. It will get from zero to 100km/h in less than 10 seconds and reach close to 200km/h. It does not exhibit much lag, which means the power delivery is linear. This does make it feel slightly slower than it actually is, but it also means more usable power more often. So on paper at least it should give the Swift Sport a good run for its money in a straight line.
The downsizing of engines has done wonders for efficiency and although I could not emulate the claimed consumption figure of 6.6 litres/100km, I rather proudly came out with a figure of 7.5 litres/100km, which is impressive for the daily commute to Johannesburg.
What sets the car apart inside is the MyLink infotainment system. The unit is basically a central information hub comprising of many infotainment functions. The smartphone integration is impressive with support for Bluetooth as well as a USB. In an era where we are so attached to our phones, the MyLink system fits in perfectly with the ability to show picture, videos and music from your phone.
I believe that the Sonic RS has carved out a section in the market for itself. Those who want an efficient, tech-friendly car with a bit of poke will find it appealing. I know I did.
At R225 300 the Chevrolet Sonic RS competes directly with the nimble Suzuki Swift Sport without straying into Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 208 GTi territory. The price includes a 5-year/120 000km warranty and 3-year/60 000km service plan.