India is one of the most dynamic auto markets in this world that has been home to more than 30 brands some of which have established their footprints since decades. Last year a Korean manufacturer made its debut here and since then it has taken the market by storm. We are talking about KIA motors which is now the 4th highest selling carmaker in India. The Seltos was a blockbuster success, the Carnival helped them to gain the premium tag and this new kid on the block will help them boost their volume by a significant margin. Thanks to the overall package on offer in what we expect to be competitively priced.
With the automotive market showing signs of improvement after a long time, KIA is here with its latest player which is the sub 4m compact SUV segment in the form of Sonet, which btw is an abbreviation for Social network.
One thing that instantly catches your attention is the large distinct Tiger Nose grille which has a 3D geometry kind of finish and is inspired by Indian step wells. The crown jewel LED headlamps and the heartbeat DRLs with integrated side turn indicators gives it a wild stance. The fog lamps are placed below and not to forget we get the front parking sensors too which are a first in the segment and are a boon in the Indian driving conditions. We really love the way the beautiful grille is integrated with the air dams that truly gel with the wild character of the Sonet. Although the side stance does look imposing for a car of this size, small bits like the piano black finish on the rear quarter glass gives it a premium touch. The side mirrors are electrically adjustable with neatly integrated turn indicators on them. Not to forget, the roof rails are inspired by much bigger SUVs and give a sense of tough look to the car, although the roof rails are just show and no go. Just like the one in Seltos, the beautifully crafted crystal cut alloys of the Sonet does not fail to impress us. At the rear, the tail lamps are connected with a unique reflector garnish, imparting a wider look and sports a very unique design of the tail lamps that goes very well with the overall design language. The thin red stripe running between the mufflers goes well with the wilder design philosophy of this sub-4-meter compact SUV.
When you decide to venture into the wild, you get three engine options to choose from, the naturally aspirated 1.2Lpetrol, 1.0 L, 3 cyl Turbo Gdi petrol which is our test car for the day paired to a 6-speed iMT gearbox that churns out 120 bhp of power and 172 nm of torque and 1.5L diesel
Once you step inside the car, you are spellbound by the supreme quality offered on a car of this competitive price bracket. Sensibly designed keeping the comfort of the driver and the passengers in mind, the Sonet’s interiors have been crafted to give a refreshing, unique and enjoyable ambience in the compact SUV segment. The GT Line trim comes equipped with red stitching on the steering wheel, seats and door armrest with controls for the infotainment system and cruise control. The steering too gets the GT line branding on it. The design is also complemented by many first in segment features including the driver and passenger ventilated seats, a feature that will be very useful in the hot and humid weather and will be loved by Indian consumers. The show-stopper on the dash is the largest-in-segment 10.25-inch Touchscreen with Infotainment and Navigation system. To bring alive a concert-like sound ambience, the Sonet offers premium audio experience from the house of BOSE via the 7-speaker system with Subwoofer. The small and stylish console with buttons running around has access to many first-in-segment features.
In case your smartphone’s battery is draining down after a long day of continuous usage of your flagship device, do not worry about fiddling with the cables as the smartly placed wireless charging pad will juice it up while you are going wild in the jungle.
While we really love the classic analogue instrument cluster of the Seltos, the one in the Sonet did not impress us a lot. While we could still live with the digital speedometer, the quirky tachometer seems short of an ergonomic design. But, we aren’t complaining much because designs are subjective.
The rear seats offer a centre armrest with cup holders for your piping hot cup of masala chai. The attention to detail on the red collar running across the cabin of Sonet is definitely something to appreciate. The rear AC vents will be a boon for the rear passengers in the scorching summers of our tropical country. In case the premium music system did not uplift your spirit, the mood lighting should do justice for you. If you feel claustrophobic with the limited space inside you could fulfil your daily dose of vitamin-D by pressing this button to open the sunroof. In the unprecedented times of Covid-19, an air purifier with virus protection is the need of the hour and looks like KIA has worked out to add this feature along with an in-built perfume dispenser. We believe this is something that should be adopted by other manufacturers too.
Once I moved here from the driver’s seat I was slightly disappointed due to the limited space on offer. Although the legroom is satisfactory, you would end up complaining if you are headed on a long road trip. Thankfully, the seats offer decent support in terms of under-thigh support and back support. The Sonet offers 392 L of boot space which should be enough for your airport runs or the weekend getaways.
Every car has distinct characteristics in terms of driving dynamics. While some are really good to drive some offer decent ride and handling characteristics. The Sonet is a blend of both the worlds in fair composition. It’s not the car that will drop your jaws when you push it around the corners but you won’t have much to complain about it either.
Once you tap the throttle, you do acceleration kicking back. The low-end grunt is fine but the mid-range is where you actually go wild with the Sonet but at the same time, you are restricted by the vocals coming from the hood, thanks to the 3 cylinders which are craving for better refinement levels. The steering feels light on the lower speeds but weighs fine and is fairly direct on speeds.
The most interesting bit in this particular variant of the Sonet is this, the iMT gearbox which is the intelligent manual transmission which is nothing but a blend of manual and automatic. The difference is that there is no physical clutch present here but there is one secretly placed inside this gearbox that is intelligent enough to sense that you are changing gears and it operates by itself. The best part is you really don’t have to take your foot off the clutch while changing gears and you can change the gears while the throttle is completely pressed. The turbo-lag is negligible if you are shifting the gears progressively. But you do get a noticeable lag when you shift from 2nd to 4th or 3rd to 5th.
Let’s get the fact straight that it is not even remotely responsive as a manual gearbox and it’s slightly slower too but it’s more about offering the convenience of an automatic at a premium of just 20,000 rupees. Having said that, it leaps and bounds ahead of the AMT counterparts.
The suspension is on a stiffer side. We drove the Sonet through some of the rough roads and it’s definitely not the most comforting ride we have had. You can actually feel the bumps at various speeds. Considering that this is going to be a mass-market car we would have certainly appreciated if the ride quality was less bumpy. Having said that, the Sonet does show any kinds of nervousness when pushing it hard around the corners are decent triple-digit speeds.
Sonnet’s body structure constitutes more than 2/3 high strength and advanced high strength steel – this translates to a lightweight but robust structure for the compact SUV.
The hosts of safety features giving a peaceful ownership
experience are as follows:
- Six Airbags
- ABS with EBD,
- ESC, HAC, VSM and Brake assist
- Front & Rear parking sensors
- Projector Fog lamps
- Highline tyre pressure monitor
- Auto headlamps
- Isofix child anchor
The Korean carmaker, Kia, is one of those brands that does their homework really well before launching a new product. Sonet is among them as it ticks most of the boxes right. It looks good, drives pretty decent, does justice to the ride & handling and comes loaded with all the bells & whistles one could expect at this segment. While we do not have any info on the pricing front, from the KIA’s pricing trends, we expect it to be priced very aggressively in the sub 4m compact SUV space. If that’s the case, We are confident that this will help them boost their overall sales by a significant margin and establish their strong footprints in the most dynamic automotive market in the world.
Once it’s launched, we expect the Sonet to lock horns with the likes of Hyundai Venue, Tata Nexon, Mahindra XUV 3OO and the segment leader Maruti Vitara Brezza.