Jul 20th, 2012 by Ross Edwards
The 2013 Chevy Spark will get 37 miles to the gallon. If that doesn’t sound impressive to you, it’s because it isn’t. The Spark is a tiny car, powered by a super tiny engine, so why doesn’t it match the larger Chevy Cruze and Sonic in mpgs?
The Sonic has received an official EPA rating of 28-mpg city and 37-mpg highway according to GM Inside News. If you’re wondering how the tiny Sonic, with a 1.2-liter engine and a 2,200 lb curb weight doesn’t meet the 40-mpg mark, you’re probably also wondering how a modern engine makes just 83-hp.
The simple answer, and the same one I gave to a friend lamenting the quality of their Nissan Versa, is that it’s a cheap car. You’re cautioned when writing, be it journalism or for ad copy, not to use the word cheap because of the negative connotations, but I’m using it correctly there. You don’t buy the Sonic (or the Versa, or the Hyundai Accent) because it’s a great car. You buy it because it doesn’t cost a lot. Could you get a better value out of a slightly more expensive car? Probably. Could you get a better value out of a used car? Absolutely. But buyers of new Sonics probably don’t care that much about cars, and I assume would rather not think about them at all, and that means not cross shopping more expensive cars and doing cost-benefit analyses and certainly not doing the research necessary to find a good used car. They just want a cheap car that will give them years of forgettable, uneventful ownership.
And that’s the crutch of the situation. The people who are disappointed in the fuel economy of the Sonic are probably not the same ones that would be buying it. The Versa only gets 30-mpg city and 38 highway, and the Accent gets 30-city and 40-highway. In the real world, the three of them are probably so close in economy that only the most anal owners would notice.