We came to the above conclusion when we first drove the Sonic RS across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County back in early October. As a follow-up, we borrowed an RS for an extended week to see if our feelings would change with more exposure. They didn’t.
The little Sonic is a delightfully tossable car on its own, and the RS package ups the ante, albeit incrementally. Handling feels composed and balanced, with controlled, progressive body roll when pushed hard. The steering is less communicative than we remembered, but is still fast enough to add to the Sonic’s feelings of agility.
The powertrain was less inspiring on our second take, as the 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque from the turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-pot just doesn’t feel like quite enough outside of a tight, urban setting. After getting the RS into some wide-open spaces, we were aching for a bit more grunt. We’re still not overly fond of the transmission, either. This is a car that could really benefit from a snappy short-shift kit, as the length of the throws just feels out of character for what is supposed to be a spry, peppy, little car.
The RS-specific steering wheel and seats really grew on us during our time with the car. The seats strike a fine balance between being supportive without being some absurdly bolstered monstrosities that numbed parts of our body after an hour on the road. The padded, flat-bottom steering wheel is excellent, although we wouldn’t mind if it got the same Alcantara treatment as the similarly sized and shaped wheel found on the Chevy Camaro SS 1LE and ZL1.
Overall, the Sonic RS is an endearing vehicle and our number one choice in the hotly contested subcompact market (at least until we drive the upcoming Ford Fiesta ST).