Ever since Kia showcased the Sonet concept at the 2020 Auto Expo, there has been a lot of excitement for this sub-compact SUV. This is the third launch from Kia in India and we drove it very recently but the road to success for the Sonet isn’t going to be easy because it will take on the likes of the Hyundai Venue, Ford EcoSport, Tata Nexon and Mahindra XUV 300. So has the Sonet got what it takes to be another success story for Kia? Let’s find out.
The Kia Sonet truly stands out from the competition in the sub-compact SUV segment and full credit goes to the designers for the fact that the Sonet looks very close to the concept that was shown earlier this year at the Auto Expo. The front face is energetic, muscular and of course, there’s the tiger-nose grill, which you would find on all Kia vehicles now. Beyond that, there are the sleek headlamps, neatly integrated LED DRLs and the aggressive bumper and of course, in the GT Line, you get sporty red inserts all around the body. Along with this, there are sporty roof rails and the rear is something that has been integrated very well with the rest of the design, especially the C-pillar. Hence, the Kia Sonet has got good proportions, a balanced road stance and overall, as far as I’m considered, this is the most energetic and the youthful-looking sub-compact SUV in the segment today.
Once you step inside the cabin of the Kia Sonet, it is truly a very welcoming place. Now, if you look at the design, it’s got a very unique overall dashboard layout and what stands out is the fact it’s got vertically integrated air conditioning vents and these are flanking the automatic climate control buttons. Then there’s a 10.25-inch infotainment screen. Now this is a touch screen and it’s got a simple interface. The touch response is fluid so no problems with that and it also has good visibility.
There’s also a 4.25-inch digital instrument cluster. The fuel gauge, temperature control and the tachometer are analogue but beyond that, everything is shown on a digital instrument cluster. If you look at the quality of the materials, the steering wheel, the dashboard, the finish of the material, the fitment quality, everything is spot on for the segment. In addition, there are a lot of bells and whistles including a wireless charging pad with a cooling system that proves beneficial when your phone heats up.
There’s an electric sunroof on offer and you get segment-first ventilated seats only for the front two passengers. There’s also the UVO app, which means the Kia Sonet is a connected car, comes with its own embedded SIM and that means you get access to a lot of features that you can do remotely with your smartphone, which adds to the convenience and safety of your vehicle. Moving to the rear seat the Sonet continues to offer a good experience. If you’re looking at the Sonet for a small family, or if you want to seat four adults in this vehicle, it shouldn’t be a problem because the space in the rear seat is decent if not the segment best.
With the driver’s seat adjusted to my preference, I had a decent amount of legroom to spare and the headroom is also not a problem. I am 5’8″ for reference so even those who are slightly more vertically blessed can still find a decent amount of space inside the cabin. The seat itself though is quite nice and the cushioning is impressive.
With the flat design of the seat having three people sitting at the rear shouldn’t be a problem for short durations. The backrest angle on the seat is again nice and there’s a cushioned armrest with cup holders. There’s an air purifier with a digital display behind the driver armrest that gives the cabin an air of premium quotient. There are vertically stacked air conditioning vents and there’s a USB charging socket too.
The door pockets are spacious enough to accommodate one litre water bottles and there’s also a Bose premium sound system, which delivers good sound quality and will keep audiophiles happy.
Now on to the driving performance of the Kia Sonet. The Sonet offers a wide variety of engine options. As far as engines are concerned, you get four of them. There is a 1.2-litre petrol engine. Then there’s a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, and there is a 1.5-litre diesel engine of which there are two variants. Now the ones that we have driven include the 1.5-litre diesel with an automatic transmission and the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a six-speed iMT.
Now coming to the engine, well, first of all, the petrol engine is plenty capable and for a vehicle of this size and weight, 120 PS is a good number and that means that you can enjoy your drive in the Sonet. It’s got a short wheelbase, which means it is a very lively vehicle to drive and as far as overall engine performance is concerned, well, it is quite nice. The acceleration is good and the turbo lag is not so much and it’s not that perceivable once you get past about 1,500 rpm and the engine gets going.
As far the diesel motor is concerned, it gets ample power of 115 PS and again, the Sonet moves pretty briskly with this engine. It is a refined motor as well so no complaints on that front. It is a bit snappy, however, so getting it off the line or pushing it in traffic can get a bit jerky at times but the automatic transmission does a good job so you get good performance on that aspect.
The one difference between the iMT and the automatic transmission is that while the automatic gets traction control, driving modes and traction modes as well, in the iMT, you do not get any of those. As far as the modes are concerned, Sport is the one that is the most lively one. You can also switch between Eco or Normal.
Now, in terms of ride and handling, you can chuck the vehicle around corners so having a short wheelbase helps. The Kia Sonet drives pretty much like a nice hatchback and that’s a good thing. The Sonet gets good driving dynamics and the straight stability is quite nice. Around corners, you can push the Sonet hard and only when you’re going in really hard, there is a hint of understeer, but that’s a thing with front-wheel drive vehicles mostly. That said, the Kia Sonet strikes all the right boxes that you would expect from a sub-compact SUV in the segment. It’s good fun to drive, refined, smooth and offers an enjoyable experience for all occupants. So with those details out of the way, now let’s get on to the iMT, which is a new technology.
A lot of you are interested in knowing how this works when it was first introduced Hyundai Venue and now it is there in the Sonet. So basically you just have two pedals and you do not have a clutch pedal. That means the inconvenience of using your left foot is done away with, however, it’s not an automatic transmission, which means you have a conventional gear shifter and it’s the traditional H-pattern so you have to shift gears by just backing off the throttle like you would in any manual vehicle.
Watch our Kia Sonet video review:
As far as gearbox performance is concerned, no hassles, once you get used to it but that can take a bit of time because it takes some bit of conditioning as many people have never driven anything like this. Once you get used to it, it’s a fairly easy gearbox to use. You can move through the gearbox at a pretty rapid pace.
The gear ratios are matched well to the engine and help you extract a good amount of performance from the engine. The drivability is good so even when you’re in dense traffic, there’s not much of downshifting required. Additionally, if you don’t downshift and come to a halt the engine will not stall but it will give you a visual and an audio beep reminding you to get into the right gear.
So can the Kia Sonet establish itself as a leading player in the sub-compact SUV segment? Well, I believe it can because if you look at the design, it truly has an attractive design. If you look at the features, it’s got some of the best in segment features. And of course, it also offers a very good and enjoyable driving experience. Now, the only thing that remains to be revealed is the price. The Kia Sonet will be launched on 18th September and looking at Kia’s history with pricing, there is a lot of expectation that the Sonet will be priced very aggressively. If that happens, it shouldn’t be surprising at all to see the Sonet right rocketing to the top of the segment because it truly is that good!
|Length – 3995 mm|
|Width – 1790 mm|
|Height – 1610 mm|
|Wheelbase – 2500 mm|
|Boot space – 392-litre|
|10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system|
|Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, UVO Connect|
|4.2-inch digital instrument cluster|
|Wireless charging pad with cooling function|
|Ventilated front seats|
|ABS with EBD|
|ESC, HAC, VSM, Brake Assist|
|Front, rear parking sensors|
|Tyre Pressure Monitor|
|Engine, Gearbox Options|
|1.5-litre, turbocharged diesel|
|Power – 113 hp|
|Torque – 250 Nm|
|Gearbox – 6-speed automatic|
|1.0-litre turbocharged petrol|
|Power – 118 hp|
|Torque – 172 Nm|
|Gearbox – 6-speed iMT, 7-speed DCT|
|Power – 97 hp|
|Torque – 240 Nm|
|Gearbox – 6-speed manual|
|Power – 82 hp|
|Torque – 115 Nm|
|Gearbox – 5-speed manual|
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