2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show

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  • Competes with: Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit
  • Looks like: A racier Sonic with a cooler interior
  • Drivetrain: 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder with six-speed manual or automatic; front-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Fall 2012

Chevrolet is introducing a Sonic RS for 2013, bringing show plus a little more go to its new subcompact. As we’ve come to expect from Chevrolet’s RS badge, the car gets cosmetic updates and handling improvements. It should be a little quicker than the regular Sonic, which has same engine, thanks to shorter gearing for its six-speed manual. The RS joins the rest of the Sonic lineup, which has been on sale since August. 

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Where the front-drive Sonic comes as a sedan or hatchback, the RS is hatch only. It drops the Sonic’s circular fog lights for shapelier ones, while the quad headlights and scowling expression remain. The RS adds ground effects around the bumpers and side sills, plus unique 17-inch wheels, a spoiler and darker, painted side mirrors.

The RS will be the only Sonic to have genuine leather versus the faux leather in the Sonic LZ, which feels cheaper than some cowhide in competitors. Larger side bolsters should hold you better around corners. Flat-bottomed steering wheels are becoming the rage among sporty cars, and the Sonic RS gets one that’s leather-wrapped with a thicker rim. Aluminum pedals, unique interior trim and an RS stick-shift knob round out the changes.

The RS is the first Sonic to get Chevrolet’s MyLink touch-screen stereo, which can project maps and directions via Bluetooth from a Chevrolet smartphone application. It’s an intriguing solution for drivers faced with navigating from a smartphone’s GPS or paying hundreds, at minimum, for a cheap in-dash unit. There’s no pricing for the navigation app yet, but Chevy officials expect it will be competitive, which would make the RS’ in-dash navigation among the cheapest options on the market — provided you have a smartphone.

Chevrolet’s turbo 1.4-liter four-cylinder makes 138 horsepower and 148 pounds-feet of torque. Four-wheel-disc brakes should improve braking performance versus the Sonic’s disc/drum setup, while a louder exhaust system will alert the neighbors you’re in the ‘hood. A stiffened suspension rides less than a half inch lower, but the RS offers neither a limited-slip differential nor a fully independent rear suspension.

When the RS hits dealerships, Chevy officials say it will be readily available — like the Cruze RS is today — so it shouldn’t be a special-order edition that you can’t find. GM will price the car closer to its late-2012 launch, so we’ll keep you posted.

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