We saw it first as a concept two years ago. And what we have here is the final product – the Kia Sonet – in all its glory. The newest sub-four metre SUV in the market to take on the fight against the likes of Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Hyundai Venue, Tata Nexon, Ford EcoSport, Mahindra XUV300 and upcoming Toyota Urban Cruiser and Nissan Magnite. That’s a long list of rivals, so the Sonet needs to offer something more, something extra to stand out amongst the well-established competition. Does it manage it do that? Let’s find out.
The Kia Sonet sets a new benchmark with its design. It’s flamboyant, striking, and does grab attention. What we have here is Aurora Black paint scheme - it looks aggressive and stylish and has a subtle predatory stance to it. Upfront, the busy grille has some interesting elements, while the sharp LED headlamps look quite upmarket. Adding to it is the Kia Stinger like tail lamps.
In profile, the floating roof effect is joined by the interesting black element wrapped around the C-pillar, making the rear-windscreen appear quirky. That said, we liked the right amount of chrome garnish used all around. And the red accents on this GT line add to the sporty appeal. It rides on the 16-inch alloy wheels and we think they could have been more stylish to complement the otherwise flashy exterior. Lastly, we can look past the faux exhaust design, because of the diffuser fins present lower down the bumper. In terms of dimensions, the new Kia measures almost the same as the rivals.
On the inside, the Seltos-like console integrating the infotainment system and the driver’s display looks expensive. And the quality of material used all around the cabin feels premium too. Even the mixture of piano-black, brushed silver, and red accent inserts make the cabin appear busy and engaging. We liked the tactile feel of all the buttons used. The flat-bottom steering seen here isn’t meaty but feels nice to hold. On the flip side, the needles on the digital-analogue driver’s display are extremely small and are difficult to see. Also, the digital meter in the middle could have utilised the space better. Meanwhile, the touchscreen is intuitive and easy to navigate.
The driver’s seat offers good support and the steering only adjust for rake and not reach. But finding a suitable driving position isn’t difficult. With sorted ergonomics and thin A-pillars, the visibility outside is fairly good too. In terms of practicality, you get two cup holders and a couple of bottle holders on the doors. But the armrest storage holds nothing more than a few cards or a wallet. Moving to the rear seats, the bench has good back support on offer but could have done better with some under-thigh support to feel more comfortable. While the scooped roof helps with ample headroom, legroom is just about adequate. Accommodating three here won’t be a comfortable affair either, thanks to the tight shoulder room. There’s no split-fold for the rear seats. Meanwhile, the boot space of around 392 litres is one of the best in class.
Not only is the Kia Sonet’s cabin a nice place to be in, but it is also one of the most feature-loaded one in the segment. Few standout features include – six airbags, ventilated seats, UVO connected car tech with voice commands, integrated air purifier, seven-speaker Bose music system, mood lighting, TPMS, and drive/traction modes.
With the Sonet, Kia is offering a choice of three engines and five gearbox options. We have driven the diesel-automatic with a 1.5-litre diesel and six-speed torque converted and the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol mated to the new iMT gearbox.
First, let’s talk about diesel. Since it’s mated to an automatic, the oil burner has a power output of 115bhp at 4000rpm, and 250Nm is available between 1500-2750rpm. Crank up the motor and the diesel impresses with its refined and vibration-free nature. There’s no clatter heard inside the cabin at all. Off the line, it is progressive with the gearshifts being seamless and jerk-free. There’s enough low-end grunt to drive around the city limits without any hassle but for quick overtakes there’s a slight lag that disappears only if the engine is in the sweet mid-range. The motor performs best between 2200-3500rpm where it’s linear, albeit with slight engine noise filtering inside the cabin. On full bore acceleration, triple-digit speeds arrive quickly with the gearbox hitting the rev-limit at 4000rpm before upshifting. Even when hurried, the torque converter goes about doing its job without even letting you feel the upshifts. Maintaining triple-digit speeds on highways doesn’t strain the motor either. Now Kia is offering three driving modes – Eco, Normal, and Sport – with the Sonet. Although the difference felt while driving between the three modes is fairly minuscule, it does add to the drama.
Now, the 1.0-litre T-GDi motor makes close to 120bhp of power accessible at 6,000rpm while torque is listed at 172Nm between 1500-4000rpm. It’s mated to the new ‘intelligent manual transmission’ or iMT transmission with an automatic clutch. This three-cylinder motor is vibe free on idle and has good refinement levels too. Slot the gearlever into first – sans the clutch action – press on the gas and there’s ample amount of low-end grunt to get around the city traffic with ease. But go past 2,500rpm mark and the turbo spool provides a sudden burst of acceleration. The motor feels peppy and fun without being stressed even when revved hard. As a result, the motor’s dynamics is well suited for both city commutes and highway usage. Meanwhile, iMT is smooth shifting with the manual lever without any delay in the automatic clutch action whatsoever. And surprisingly, it is easy to get used to as well. As for the steering, we found it to be well weighted, going two and a half turns lock-to-lock. Although it isn’t very engaging, and sometimes feels overly assisted, it is fairly direct and does inspire confidence if you want to drive around enthusiastically. Even with a slightly stiffer setup, the Sonet does manage to absorb bad roads and irregularities without discomforting the occupants. Over the sharp-edged potholes and on-road joints, the Sonet holds its composure well. At low speeds, you’d feel the irregularities inside but never does it get uncomfortable at any point. Out on the highway, the ride remains pliant too. Overall, Kia has managed to strike a good balance in the way the Sonet rides.
The Kia Sonet wants to take on some well-established sub-four-metre SUVs in their own game. And to do so, it comes laden with a stylish and handsome exterior, feature-loaded and well-built cabin, and a host of trim levels to choose from. It also has well-sorted driving dynamics. Sure it could do with more rear-seat comfort. But apart from that, the Kia Sonet is difficult to find fault. With competitive pricing, Kia seems to have a winner in its hands. Should the competition be worried? We certainly think so.