First Impressions of the Chevrolet Cruze Eco and the Chevrolet Sonic

by on March 2nd, 2014
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Test Drive background: We prefer the performance and road feel of a smaller vehicle with the added benefit of better fuel economy, so initially picked the Cruze Eco as a car of interest. Our local Chevrolet dealer kindly allowed us to test drive both the Cruze Eco and the smaller Sonic. I was pleased that the Eco was equipped with the 1.4 liter turbo engine and 6 speed Manual transmission, while the Sonic had the base 1.8 liter and the 5 speed MT.

Cruze Eco Impressions: The manually adjustable seat and steering wheel allowed for an excellent range of adjustment and I had no difficulty in finding a comfortable driving position. Likewise the mirrors were easy to adjust. The interior has good eye appeal, with a nice two tone black and grey color scheme with flat non glare surfaces. The steering wheel has a pleasant tactile quality. The instrument cluster is handsome, having pleasant lighting and intuitive controls making for an easy transition for a driver new to this vehicle.

The vehicles were driven on both city streets and the highway. Acceleration was brisk, with the instrument screen flashing a warning when to shift. The clutch is smooth and the transmission shifts easily. The “sweet spot” with this small turbo is around 2000 rpm. While the gear ratios tend to favor economy, you can get all the acceleration you need by operating at a little higher rpm. Visibility is quite good for a sedan. This sedan sports a large trunk with rear seats that fold down for additional storage. The dash display also shows your instantaneous mpg which ranged from “0” when stopped to 99 mpg going downhill. My overall impression of this car was very positive. The vehicle handles well both in town and on the highway with no evidence of torque steer and a good feel of the road while still giving a pleasant ride. The only negative was the need to shift back and forth from 4th to 5th in driving around town, but this really is not an issue for anyone who enjoys the driving experience which this car provides.

Chevy Sonic Impressions: The test Sonic provided was a base model with the 1.8 liter engine and the 5 speed manual transmission, so in a sense we were comparing apples and oranges. After pulling out of the parking lot I realized that the passenger side mirror was pointing at the ground, so I had to pull over to the side so I could slide over to manually adjust the mirror. I would like to see a remote controller for the mirrors, as this feature contributes to safety. The interior is roomy for a small car and the manually adjustable seats are comfortable. The instrument cluster and dashboard layout did not personally appeal to me, but are still functional. The handling and road feel was not quite as refined as the Cruze Eco, although still quite capable. At highway speed there is more engine noise than with the Eco, as this drive train combination requires close to 3000 rpm at highway speed versus closer to 2000 rpm with the Eco. The exterior styling is quite attractive. If this vehicle were equipped with the drive train combination of the Eco then performance would be quite similar.

Conclusion: While the Sonic is a very solid, economical small car, I would pay the extra money for the Cruze Eco as the Eco had better fuel economy numbers than the Sonic in this configuration. If a person were to keep their car for the typical USDOT 13 year life span of a vehicle, then the savings in gas at today’s prices would pay for the difference in initial cost. In the meantime, the owner would be enjoying a larger, and in many respects, a nicer car.

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