What is it?
The gently amped up version of the Sonic (America’s take on the Aveo) a car which customers apparently told Chevrolet they would build themselves if the manufacturer opted not to develop it. Such is the potential power of aftermarket personalisation in the States that the threat was taken seriously, and the RS is the result.
Why do we care? Well, aside from the warmth and fuzziness we derive from any warmed up hatchback, the model is currently under review for launch in Europe. If the new Aveo proves popular enough, and Chevrolet thinks there’s room at the top for an athletic halo model (there is) then we could potentially see the RS in the UK next year.
Were that to happen we wouldn’t expect it to change much, which would see the range gain the same 138bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine already set to appear in the Trax. It is transplanted unchanged, accept for a more aggressive spread of gear ratios through its six-speed manual ‘box.
Outside, the RS gets a feistier look thanks to a fairly conventional re-imagining of the standard Sonic blueprint. The new grille, deeper air dam, rear spoiler and chubby five-spoke 17-inch wheels all collude to keep aesthetic expectations about where they should be. Inside, sports seats, aluminum pedals and a fattened steering wheel compete the visual overhaul.
Beneath all the confetti Chevrolet has lowered the stiffened suspension setup (still a MacPherson strut up front and a torsion beam out back) by 10mm, and retuned the dampers. Unlike the rest of the Sonic lineup, it also gets disc brakes all round, but still has to make do with all-season tyres.
What's it like?
Like an Aveo but with a pinch more seasoning. Faint hopes of the kind of dramatic makeover that Renaultsport performs on its standard fare are immediately dashed. This is a classic warm hatchback: progressively more proficient, but hardly potent.
At the heart of its limitations is the engine. Its 148lb ft of torque at 2500rpm serves the Trax well enough, but punchy supermini’s aren’t really served particularly well by mid-range tractability - it is the screaming interaction at high revs which make them feel fast, so its no good waving the white flag at 4900rpm.
Even more disappointing is the droning four-pot, which more often than not, fails to lure your right foot to the floor. It is simply not free-revving or insistent enough - rarely providing an excuse to break its adept pedestrian stride and gun it for fun.
Such a shortage is unfortunate because the RS has tidied the Aveo’s comfort-focused chassis into a duly more agile prospect (ride comfort is penalised, but not completely sabotaged). There’s still not much appreciable feel through the steering but credible weight keeps proceedings persuasively accurate.
Body movement, already well-controlled as standard, has been flattened further, meaning the RS exhibits the kind of enhanced grip and attitude mid-bend that you might expect. The result is not nearly as light or as lithe as the wild-child Suzuki Swift Sport, but there is at least the impression that the premium contained within the price tag has paid for something.
Should I buy one?
In its current guise you obviously can’t, and, realistically, probably shouldn’t. The defining feature of a bargain basement roller skate should be a vice-like grip on your funny bone, and while the Aveo’s basic ability may have bumped up a notch, its entertainment value hasn’t made a similar leap.
Nevertheless, Chevrolet deserves some accolade for showing an interest in this end of the market. In the States, the brand has the Camaro to keep its corporate bow tie gold and shiny, but in the UK it is in danger of slipping into the soulless, stodgy sales ground that the Korean’s dominate.
Even if the RS isn’t quite the pistol-in-your-waistband it should be, simply by having it on European forecourts the manufacturer would be acquiescing to the notion that cars can (and should) be more than just an affordable way to get around. And there’s always room for that kind of attitude in our affections.
Chevrolet Sonic RS
Price £12,955 ($20,995); 0-62mph tba; Top speed tba; Economy tba; CO2 tba; Kerbweight 1275kg; Engine type Four-cylinder, 1364cc, petrol; Installation Front, transverse; Power 138bhp at 4900; Torque 148lb ft at 2500; Gearbox Six-speed manual