The only problem is that these vehicles are often quite a bit more expensive than the plain, vanilla models in the rest of the range and in their pursuit of speed can often be compromised in terms of comfort and everyday usability.
This is where the new Chevrolet Sonic RS comes in. It has no intention of being labelled a hot hatch, according to its makers. The RS nomenclature it wears is in many other brands a symbol of the epitome of high performance. However, in the case of Chevrolet, the RS badge equates to the same thing as the S in Audi’s range or the M-Sport in the BMW range. There are still the SS and Z model designations above that of the RS in Chevrolets range.
So a lukewarm hatch it is, the figures tell a similar story. A 1.4-litre turbocharged engine as seen in the Opel Astra and Chevrolet Cruze powers the RS. It produces 103kW and 200Nm. Of particular importance is the claimed fuel consumption figure of 6.6 litres/100km with carbon emissions of 155g/km.
The claimed 0-100km/h time of 9.5 seconds and the top speed of 197km/h sound relatively tame, but the car does have a very decent turn of speed. The engine pulls strong all the way to 6000rpm and there is hardly any sign of lag, meaning that the performance is accessible in both open-road overtaking as well as in urban situations.
Looks-wise, the RS certainly sets itself apart from the rest of the range with a more sporty front bumper and new fog light design. There is five-spoke 17-inch alloys finished in gunmetal, which are complimented by new side skirts and black-painted door mirrors with LED indicators. The rear lights have taken inspiration from the world of motorcycling. There is also a roof spoiler and at the bottom a diffuser that is offset by a large single exit exhaust.
The interior has received some treatment in the form of red accents on the leather-bound steering wheel. The steering wheel, seat piping, floor mats and rev counter all receive RS badging. The seats are half leather and half suede to exude a sporty look - there are even aluminium foot pedals to evoke the inner boy racer.
Perhaps the most important feature of the RS is the new MyLink infotainment system. The unit is basically a central information hub comprising of many infotainment functions. The touch screen also features buttons to return the user to the home screen or to power off the unit with the option of controlling everything without the need to take a hand off of the steering wheel.
The system feels like it belongs in a car costing far more, the smartphone integration is impressive with support for Bluetooth as well as USB. Users with an iPhone, for example, can even run apps on the seven-inch screen and stream podcasts, international radio stations or even give Siri a command. In terms of a USB, there is the option to watch videos or even scroll through pictures when the vehicle is stopped.
Pricing was always going to be the most important aspect of the RS and at R225 300 it competes directly with the nimble Suzuki Swift Sport without straying in to the Peugeot 208 GTi and Ford Fiesta ST territory. With a 3-year/60 000km service plan and 5-year/120 000km warranty, I believe that Chevrolet have a winner with the new Sonic RS.