It's good to see Chevrolet and Ford with some good-looking products for the Thai B-segment hatchback class, mostly dominated by their blander counterparts the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris.
While the American nameplates may have a strong presence in some other markets around the world, both are still second-tier brands in the Thai passenger car market when it comes to sales volume.
Because of this, the Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta could be considered two new alternatives for buyers wanting something a little exciting if they aren't too concerned about the strong after-sales benefits of Honda or Toyota.
In fact, the Sonic and Fiesta compared here are new editions for 2012 that qualify for the Thai government's first-car tax rebate.
The Chevy is a brand new model for Thailand and the Ford has just gotten a more suitable 1.5-litre engine.
To get into the gist of things, which of the two cars look better on the catwalk? That's going to depend on the eyes, because what we have here are two differently styled hatchbacks.
The Fiesta, for one, emphasises a sleek profile that extends to a cabin playing a similar role. The Sonic, on the other hand, is boxier in appearance and resorts to flashy details on both the exterior and interior. However, it appears that the Fiesta has a better chance of attracting a wider buyer audience with a more unisex appeal, while the Sonic feels more one-dimensional with its boyish details.
Ford’s 1.5-litre engine goes better and is more frugal than Chevy’s Ecotec unit.
However, the Sonic is a more practical hatch than the Fiesta, not just for the fact that it is bigger in all dimensions to immediately benefit with more rear occupant space and boot capacity.
If you crave more luggage space, the Sonic's rear seats can fold and create a nearly flat floor. Better too is the extra compartment below the boot floor, whose removable flap has helped with that flat floor design. The Fiesta omits this feature.
But this doesn't mean that the Sonic is the more expensive car of the two. Equipped with the same level of safety features, the Sonic in LTZ form costs 687,000 baht _ 12,000 baht less than the Fiesta in Sport form (Ford is shouting about its voice control for various interior functions).
Having said this, you might consider the Sonic better value than the Fiesta. However, the story has only been half told because as soon as you get the two cars moving on the road, the Chevy is practically trumped by the Ford in all aspects.
Glance at the spec sheet and you'll note that the Fiesta has a slightly more powerful engine and lighter body to deal with. You easily feel these advantages on the move.
While the both cars perform adequately at urban speeds, say anywhere below 90kph, the Sonic clearly has to throw in the towel above that level where it becomes hopelessly breathless.
Of course, the Fiesta doesn't have a brilliant top-end performance, but it feels markedly superior when you need extra punch during overtaking.
You realise why Ford has hastily brought this 1.5-litre engine to Thai showrooms this year when you consider it doesn't want to promote the lethargic 94hp 1.4-litre version.
And even though both have six forward gears for their auto 'boxes, the Fiesta achieves 15kpl of fuel economy easier than the Sonic on open roads.
The only let-down of the Fiesta's dual-clutch automatic is some jerkiness at low speeds if you're impatient with the throttle. The Sonic's normal torque converter auto is smoother in traffic.
Even so, the Fiesta continues to do other things better than Sonic. Although their taut chassis settings yield a similarly flat and controlled ride, it's the handling factor that separates the two.
The Fiesta has a more intuitive steering at low speeds, a more compact body for extra agility in tight road spaces and a more neutral handling balance when going fast around corners.
That simply is the reason why the Fiesta is a better car than the Sonic on the move.
It feels faster, is a tad more economical and has a nimbler chassis.
You might argue that the Sonic is a better car to live with. But if that's really the case, then you shouldn't deflect to it from the vastly more practical Jazz.
And since we're talking about new alternatives from the mainstream players of the Thai B-segment, the Fiesta's superior driving experience (and, we think, its consistently good design) gives better reason to divert from the big-time players.
Fiesta stands out with a jazzy console, whereas Sonic is playful with the instrument panel.
Chevy, on top, has slightly more rear legroom than in the rather cramped Fiesta.
‘The Fiesta has a better chance of attracting a wider buyer audience with a more unisex appeal’
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor