General Motors has announced that the 1.4-liter turbo edition of its forthcoming Chevy Sonic subcompact will achieve fuel economy of 29 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, for an expected combined EPA rating of 32 mpg. Automatic and manual transmission 1.8-liter, non-turbocharged versions of the Sonic will also be available when it goes on sale this fall, with efficiency for those models expected at 25/ 35/ 28 and 26 /25 /29, respectively.
The Sonic replaces the poorly-received Aveo in the Chevrolet lineup, and is expected to be a considerable improvement within the subcompact segment, both in terms of fuel economy and overall quality. But as Green Car Reports pointed out earlier this week, it actually achieves inferior fuel economy to Chevy’s larger Cruze Eco compact, which gets 42 mpg on the highway and a 33 mpg overall rating.
Pricing for the Cruze Eco and the Sonic turbo model is also similar, with the Sonic hatchback starting at $18,130, just a few hundred dollars less than the $18,425 Cruze Eco. (The non-hatchback Sonic sedan is somewhat cheaper, coming in at $17,235.)
For Chevy shoppers considering their small, fuel efficient gas car options, the choice between the Sonic and Cruze won’t be all that stark. Both cars are similarly priced and offer similar fuel economy, with the main arguments for the Sonic being that it comes in a hatchback variant, or, that for drivers not worried about losing a little space, the sedan comes in at a discount of about $1,200 compared to the Cruze.
Subcompacts from other carmakers like the Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta also follow the same pattern in terms of their efficiency: city fuel economy in the high-20′s, highway fuel economy in the high-30′s or low-40s. One small car that does differentiate itself from the field is the new Scion iQ—not because its overall fuel economy is dramatically higher than that of competitors, but because of how those numbers are balanced between city and highway mileage.
The Scion iQ is a small, “3+1”-seat minicar with fuel economy balanced more toward urban driving. At 36 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, the iQ stands out from pack of sub-$20,000 efficient gas cars. (Only the Smart ForTwo comes close on city fuel economy, at 33 mpg.) The trade-off with the iQ is that it’s a two-door and only seats three adults and one child.
For drivers who spend a lot of time on the open road, there are plenty of inexpensive fuel-efficient new car options like the Chevy Sonic and Cruze Eco. Urban commuters looking to maximize their MPGs have significantly fewer choices though, and may want to consider either downsizing to a minicar or paying a little bit more for a hybrid.