Returning Chevrolet Sonic Ditches an Unloved Engine

Chevrolet’s little Sonic hatchback and sedan, built alongside the electric Bolt at General Motors’ Orion Assembly Plant, will return for the 2019 model year with a notable powertrain change. We already knew a 2019 version of the Sonic — rumored to be on the chopping block — was a go (thanks to California Air Resources Board certification docs), but the contents of an order guide now show greater standard torque than the 2018 model.

Notice we said torque, not horsepower.

That’s because for 2019, the Sonic ditches its never-talked-about base 1.8-liter four-cylinder in favor of a turbocharged unit. An order guide seen by GMAuthority shows the entry-level engine, once offered in the first-generation Cruze, disappears, and along with it its 138 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque.

In its place is the engine available as an upgrade since the Sonic’s 2012 debut: a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four generating 138 hp but a much healthier 148 lb-ft of torque. This engine also sets up shop in the Trax crossover, though it disappeared from the Cruze for that model’s second generation. A choice of six-speed manual or automatic remain round out the returning transmission choices.

Other changes to the 2019 Sonic are minor. Two paint colors bit the dust — Ivy Metallic and Arctic Blue Metallic — but in their place a new color (“Shock”) enters the palette. Don’t expect a subdued hue. Buyers will no longer have a Fun and Sun Package on their options list, so say goodbye to that turbo/sunroof/painted wheel combo.

In even more minor news, the Sonic LT sedan, when equipped with automatic transmission, loses its standard remote start. Buyers can add that feature back via the LT trim’s Convenience Package.

Greater standard twist is a good thing, but it’s debatable whether the 2019 upgrades will persuade many buyers to take a second look at Sonic. The model’s sales have slipped continuously for years. Sonic’s 2017’s tally was less than one-third of 2014’s volume, and this year hasn’t brought any improvements. Year-to-date, Sonic sales fell 41.2 percent compared to the same period last year.

While the Sonic stages a return for 2019, it’s hard to see the model surviving much longer without a rebound in sales.

a version of this article first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com

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