We drive racy new Chev Sonic RS

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Copy of mo Sonic RS front

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The Chevrolet Sonic RS is powered by a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine producing 103kW and 200Nm.

Arniston, Western Cape - Chevrolet has launched a warmed-up derivative of its Sonic hatchback in South Africa.

Aimed at young buyers seeking a bit more than commuting performance, the Sonic RS is powered by a new 1.4-litre petrol turbo engine that delivers 103kW and 200Nm to the front wheels, offering a claimed 197km/h top speed and 0-100km/h sprint of 9.5 seconds.

While that doesn’t sound like the fire-spitting pace expected of an RS badge (a la Audi or Ford), in Chevrolet culture the RS moniker denotes a car at the entry-level of the performance league, with SS reserved for the true fire-spitting cars.

So try to forget about hot Audis and Fords, and even RS-badged Renault Clios, and think of the R225 300 Sonic RS as a rival to a Suzuki Swift Sport, which sells for nearly the same money (R223 900) but comes at a power disadvantage with its normally-aspirated 1.6 engine producing 100kW and 160Nm.

FREE-REVVING TURBO MOTOR

I drove the Sonic RS at its media launch in the Western Cape last week and it’s an impressive little package for buyers on a (relative) budget who are seeking something a little sportier than, say, a 1.6-litre Polo Vivo. Small turbo-petrol engines are becoming all the rage these days and for good reason: they offer good economy and zippy performance, and don’t become lethargic at high altitude.

Copy of mo Sonic RS rear

It is not going to give GTI owners sleepless nights but little RS is fun to drive.

The Chev’s little four-cylinder Ecotec turbo engine has a fairly punchy and free-revving nature, exhibiting brisk acceleration and easy cruisability – and all without feeling like it’s huffing and puffing itself into premature cardiac failure. In fact it’s a decidedly smooth performer and I accidentally hit the rev limiter a couple of times because the engine didn’t seem to be making anything like enough noise to be near the redline.

At a claimed 6.6 litres per 100km the five-door hatch throws good fuel economy into the bargain.

A slick-shifting six-speed manual with close ratios plays its part in making this souped-up Sonic an enjoyably low-effort drive, and the speed-sensitive power steering prevents tired arms without feeling artificially light.

FLEET-FOOTED AGILITY

A 10mm lower ride height and stiffer springs than the regular Sonic gives the RS improved corner-carving skills without feeling too firm, and the little Chev danced through the Western Cape’s curvy roads with fleet-footed agility. I particularly liked the way the chassis handled high-speed mid-corner bumps without getting unsettled. Electronic Stability Control and ABS brakes provide the potentially life-saving tech, along with front and side airbags.

As the sporty model in the Sonic range, the RS is visually revved-up with all the things that make wannabe boy-racers go weak at the knees, including a more aggressive front bumper, side skirts, and 17” gunmetal-painted mags, while the rear view is spiced up with a roof spoiler and a diffuser with a trapezoidal exhaust tip.

Sporty cabin treatment takes the form of piano black and matt-silver trim, red RS-specific detailing, sports leather and suede combination seats, sports pedals and RS floor mats.

The RS’s well-stocked spec sheet includes a MyLink infotainment system (standard in the RS and optional on other Sonics) which allows hands-free phone calls, audio streaming via Bluetooth or USB port, and also video playback and picture gallery viewing (only while the car is stationary) on a 7” touch screen.

The Sonic RS is sold with a five-year/ 120 000km warranty and a three-year/ 60 000km service plan with service intervals of 15 000km.

Star Motoring


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