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Kia Motors — the South Korean car giant, has received an extremely positive response in the Indian market. Both its current offerings, the Seltos and Carnival have gone on to become popular offerings in their respective segments, with the Seltos even registering the top rankings on a couple of occasions.
Now, the South Korean carmaker is all set to replicate this success with another ‘all-new model' in the Indian market, in the form of the Sonet. The new Kia Sonet SUV will be the third model for India and the second ‘Made-in-India' product, from its facility in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.
Expected to go on sale in the coming weeks, the Kia Sonet will be the brand's latest entry-level offering, positioned in the sub-4-metre compact-SUV segment.
The Kia Sonet promises to offer some serious competition to its rivals in the segment. The compact-SUV comes with an extremely stylish design, offers a spacious cabin which comes packed with features and will also be available with a number of strong performing engine options with varying transmission choices as well, something which will help cater to every type of customer in the segment.
Now, just days ahead of its launch in the market, we have driven the Kia Sonet to answer a few simple questions on everyone's mind, how is it to drive? does the Kia Sonet live up to all the hype it has managed to create? And do the competitors need to worry? Let's find out.
Design & Styling
Kia Motors has managed to keep the design of Sonet very close to its concept-version showcased at the 2020 Auto Expo, and that is a good thing. The Sonet is an extremely stylish offering and definitely turns heads wherever it goes. The compact-SUV comes with a bold design, with aggressive and sporty characteristics all around, yet retaining the signature Kia styling philosophy.
Starting with the front, the Kia Sonet is characterised by the signature ‘tiger-nose' grille finished in gloss black. The front grille further comes with red accents, along with the ‘GT-Line' badging indicating the trim level. The grille is further surrounded by knurled chrome, similar to that seen on its larger SUV sibling.
Flanking either side of the grille are a pair of sharp-looking headlamps, which Kia calls ‘Crown-Jewel' LED headlamps, integrated with LED DRLs as well. Below the headlamp units are a pair of fog lamps on the front bumper. There is also a large central air intake, with silver elements, which leads to a faux skid plate on the bottom part of the air dam.
Moving to the side of the SUV, one can immediately notice the stylish 16-inch crystal-cut dual-tone alloy wheels, housed in large wheel arches. The SUV also features black cladding, adding to the SUV feel. The black cladding is available on both wheel arches and the lower part of the side door panels. Being the GT-line trim, the Sonet can be seen with red accents as well.
Apart from this, the side panel also features blacked-out pillars, large windows surrounded by a chrome strip and roof rails. The Kia Sonet comes with a very unique C-pillar, which gives a wrap-around appearance finished in body colour, along with gloss black accents. The ORVMs are body-coloured as well while featuring electrical fold and adjustability functions, along with integrated turn signals.
Finally coming to the rear of the Kia Sonet, the SUV features ‘Heartbeat' LED tail lights, connected together by a thin reflective strip between them on the boot. The boot-lid also features the ‘SONET' below the left tail lamp unit, while the trim badging is positioned on the right.
The rear profile of the Kia Sonet can also be seen with a small roof-mounted spoiler with an LED stoplight. There are also a pair of reflectors just above the rear bumper of the Sonet on either end. The rear bumper itself comes with black-cladding continued from the sides. The lower part of the bumper, however, features silver accents, along with faux diffuser fins, finished in gloss black.
Overall, the Kia Sonet is definitely a stylish and sporty offering, in line with the brand's design language. Being a compact-SUV offering, the Sonet still manages to turn heads on the road and offers good road presence as well.
Interiors & Practicality
Entering the Kia Sonet through the driver's seat, one can immediately notice the large rectangular housing for the infotainment unit and instrument cluster, making up half of the entire dashboard. The remaining part towards the front passengers features soft-touch materials, giving a premium feel inside.
Starting off from the front seats, the Kia Sonet offers a stylish three-spoke steering wheel with a flat-bottom. The steering wheel comes with silver accents along with the ‘GT-line' badging at the bottom. The two sticks behind the steering wheel also feel sturdy, controlling other features such as the rain-wipers, turn signal indicators and the headlamps.
The steering wheel itself is wrapped in a leatherette material and feels good to hold on to. It features buttons which are positioned well for easy reach and accessibility of the driver's thumbs. These buttons control various functions on the Sonet, including audio, calls and volume rockers. It also controls other driver-assist features such as cruise control and toggles to switch between various information on the instrument cluster.
Talking about the instrument cluster itself, the Kia Sonet features a 4.2-inch digital display at the centre, alongside a digital speedometer. At either end of the console there are dials for the tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge as well. The instrument cluster is well lit, allowing drivers to view information clearly under any conditions.
Moving towards the central console, the Kia Sonet as mentioned before comes equipped with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system. This system packs a host of features, including audio, navigation, smartphone connectivity via Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and the brand's UVO connected technology.
The UVO connected technology further adds another 57 smart features on the Sonet. The connected technology can be connected to the car via a dedicated app, available on both Android and iOS. Some of the smart features via the UVO technology includes voice commands, live vehicle tracking, geofencing, vehicle status, remote climate controls, remote ignition and many more. The technology comes with OTA (Over-The-Air) updates and smartwatch connectivity option as well; among many others.
Below the main instrument cluster is the climate controls, flanked by a pair of large oval-shaped AC vents. The Sonet does come with automatic climate controls as standard, which can be manually controlled via physical buttons.
The Kia Sonet also offers different drive and traction modes for the first time in the segment. This includes three traction modes (Snow, Mud and Sand) and three driving modes (Normal, Eco & Sport). There is also a wireless charging pad below smartphones, along with a USB port and a 12V socket as well.
The seats on the Kia Sonet are covered in premium black leatherette upholstery, although lower-spec trims come with fabric material in either beige or black. The top-spec ‘GT-line' trim also features contrast red stitching on the seats, which continues on to the steering wheel and the door panels as well.
The front seats themselves have enough cushioning to provide good levels of comfort. There is decent support for sides, lumbar and under-thigh as well.
However, what is surprising is that Kia Motors hasn't offered even the top-of-the-line variant of the Sonet with electrically-adjustable seats. Both the driver and front passenger seats need to be manually adjusted.
Moving to the rear seats, the Kia Sonet continues to offer similar levels of comfort as well. The back seats can comfortably sit two people, with the third person having to squeeze in a bit. However, there is a good amount of leg/knee room and headroom even for tall passengers. With just two passengers at the back, there is central armrest as well, with cupholders.
Rear passengers also get AC vents at the back, along with a USB port and a storage place to put a smartphone. The controls for the brand's Smart Air Purifier system is also at the back with its coloured display indicating the Air index inside the cabin. The passengers in the Kia Sonet also get an electric sunroof, the controls for which are near the sunglass holder at the front.
Finally moving to the boot, the Kia Sonet is said to offer a largest-in-segment luggage capacity of 392-litres. This is with the rear seats in their upright position. The seats need to be folded down fully to extend luggage space, as the Sonet doesn't offer a 60:40 split configuration.
|Boot Space (Litres)||392|
Variants, Key Features & Safety
The Kia Sonet, similar to its elder sibling the Seltos, will be offered in a wide range of variants and trim levels, each packed with features and equipment. The Kia Sonet will be offered in two broad trim levels: Tech-Line and GT-Line.
These two trim-levels are further split into six variants on the Kia Sonet: HTE, HTK, HTK+, HTX, HTX+ and GTX+. Each of these variants come packed with features and safety equipment. Here are some of the standard comfort and convenience features on the Kia Sonet.
- Crown-Jewel LED headlamps
- Heartbeat LED tail lights
- 16-inch ‘Crystal-cut' dual-tone alloy wheels
- LED DRLs & fog lamps
- 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- 4.2-inch colour instrument screen
- Ventilated seats
- 7-speaker Bose audio system
- Wireless charging
- Traction control modes
- Driving modes
- Electric Sunroof
- Rear AC vents
- Smart air purifier with virus protection
- Electrically foldable & adjustable ORVMs
- Leatherette seats
- D-cut steering wheel with mounted controls
Kia Motors have also packed the Sonet with a host of safety equipment as well. Some of these include:
- Six airbags
- ABS with EBD
- Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
- Brake Assist
- Emergency Stop Signal
- Impact-sensing auto door unlock
- Speed-sensing auto door lock
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Rearview parking camera with guidelines
- Cruise control
- Tyre pressure monitoring system
- ISOFIX child seat anchors
Driving Impressions & Performance
Coming to the heart of the matter, the Kia Sonet is offered with a choice of three engine options. This includes a 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated petrol producing 83bhp and 115Nm of torque, paired with a five-speed manual. There is also a 1.0-litre three-cylinder T-GDI petrol unit, which churns out 120bhp and 172Nm of peak torque. This turbo-petrol engine is mated to either a six-speed iMT (intelligent Manual Transmission) or a seven-speed DCT (Dual-Clutch Automatic).
The Kia Sonet is also offered with a 1.5-litre CRDi diesel engine, which is offered in two state-of-tunes. The lower tuned engine produces 110bhp and 240Nm of torque and is mated to a six-speed manual. The higher tuned unit churns out 115bhp and 250Nm of peak torque and is paired with a six-speed automatic.
We drove both the petrol and diesel-powered versions of the top-of-the-line ‘GTX+' variant of the Kia Sonet SUV. This includes the 115bhp producing 1.5-litre diesel engine mated to a 6AT and the 120bhp 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol paired with the iMT gearbox.
Kia Sonet 1.5-Litre CRDi diesel-automatic
Starting off with the Kia Sonet diesel-automatic version, the engine with the six-speed automatic is offered only with the HTK+ and the top-of-the-line ‘GTX+' trims. The automatic gearbox comes in the form of a torque-converter unit, offering seamless gear shifts at all times.
The engine itself is smooth, with little to no lag. There is a good surge in power, quite early in the rev range, starting from as low as 1250rpm. The power and torque build-up linearly, right up to the 3000rpm mark, translating to excellent mid-range, making the Sonet a breeze to drive both in the city and out on the highways.
The Kia Sonet always seemed to have enough power on-demand, allowing for those quick overtakes easily. The power and torque delivery are further supported by a smooth torque-converter automatic unit. The gear shifts are smooth, with little to no lag, giving the SUV an almost instant reaction when you put your foot down.
The BS6 diesel unit also feels extremely refined and smooth. There is also little to no noise of the diesel engine entering the cabin. Kia Motors seem to have done an amazing job in terms of the car's NVH levels. The cabin of the Sonet feels quiet, with almost no road noise from the tyres as well.
The SUV is offered with three driving modes (Eco, Normal & Sport) and three traction controls (Snow, Mud & Sand). The power delivery between the ‘Eco' and ‘Sport' mode is definitely noticeable, with the eco mode having a more muted response, while the sport making the SUV feel more lively and fun.
However, as the name suggests the eco mode is concentrated more towards saving fuel, which it manages to do very well. The ‘Normal' driving mode manages to offer the best-of-both-worlds and is perfectly suited for your daily city runabouts.
Talking about fuel efficiency, Kia Motors claims that the diesel-automatic variant of the Sonet returns an ARAI-certified figure of 19km/l. While we weren't able to complete a fuel test run in our limited time with the Sonet, we did notice that the SUV was offering an average of around 10.7km/l as per the ‘driving information' showcased on the car's instrument cluster.
Kia Sonet 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol iMT
Moving on to the 120bhp producing 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol powered Kia Sonet, the SUV feels instantly more powerful and more fun-to-drive than the diesel variant. The 120bhp power kicks in early, although there is a slight turbo-lag at the lower rpms.
However, once the SUV gets going, it feels absolutely amazing, offering a surge of power post the 1750rpm mark. This power continues into the mid-range and goes up all the way to almost 6000rpm point. Being a three-cylinder though, the engine does feel a bit out of breath closer to the rev-limiter.
The iMT (intelligent Manual Transmission) offered with the Kia Sonet initially takes some time getting used to. The transmission is essentially a manual gearbox, but without the presence of a clutch pedal. This adds to the ‘fun-to-drive' factor of the Sonet SUV, as it allows the driver to have complete control of the gear shifts, without the constant need of holding down the clutch.
This allows the car to be driven that much sportier as well. However, the main advantage of the missing clutch pedal is in city traffic conditions, where it eliminates the constant need to de-clutch before every gear shift which can get tiring after a while.
Overtaking is also easy, as all the driver needs to do is simply shift down a gear and the car immediately responds. Highway and ghats sections are also fun as the driver can constantly maintain the car between the 2000rpm to 5500rpm mark, as this is where the main chunk of the power is available.
Overall Handling (Steering, Suspension & Brakes)
The Kia Sonet feels like an extremely well-balanced car. The steering on the compact-SUV is light, allowing for easy manoeuvrability within city limits. Push the car on the highway and the steering does manage to weigh up nicely, offering good feedback and confidence to push even harder.
The car even manages to take corners with ease, with very little amount of body roll on the SUV. This allows the Kia Sonet to make quick changes in directions and lane changes with relative ease. The car feels extremely stable at all times, with little to no hesitancy even when pushed a bit hard. The tyres themselves offer good levels of grip, both in wet and dry conditions.
Suspension on the Kia Sonet, seems to be a bit on the firmer side. The car does manage to easily glide over slightly uneven tarmac with ease, however, the same can't be said when driving over larger potholes or speed breakers.
Braking on the Kia Sonet is made through a set of discs at the front and drums at the rear. However, the SUV offers excellent performance from them, with a good amount of bite, allowing it to come to a stop relatively easily.
|Specs||1.2-Litre Petrol||1.0-Litre T-GDI Petrol||1.5-Litre CRDi Diesel|
Price, Colours & Availability
The Kia Sonet SUV is yet to go on sale in the Indian markets, which is expected to take place by the end of this month. Prices for the Sonet hence have not yet been revealed, although considering its competitors, we expect its prices to be in the range of Rs 8 - 12 lakh, ex-showroom.
Kia Motors recently started accepting pre-launch bookings for the all-new compact-SUV for an amount of Rs 25,000. Customers can make bookings either online or through any of the brand's dealerships across the country. Deliveries for the Kia Sonet is expected to start sometime soon after the SUV goes on sale.
Once launched in India, customers will get the chance to purchase the SUV, in a wide range of colour options; 11 to be exact. This includes eight mono-tone paint schemes: Intense Red, Beige Gold, Aurora Black Pearl, Gravity Grey, Steel Silver, Intelligency Blue, Glacier White Pearl and Clear White.
There are also three dual-tone colour options: Intense Red/Aurora Black Pearl, Beige Gold/Aurora Black Pearl and Glacier White Pearl/Aurora Black Pearl.
Competition & Fact Check
The Kia Sonet once introduced in the Indian market will be positioned in the country's competitive sub-4-metre compact-SUV segment. The Kia Sonet will take on rivals such as the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Hyundai Venue, Ford EcoSport, Tata Nexon and the Mahindra XUV300 in the segment.
Here is a quick fact-check between the Kia Sonet and two of its main rivals in the segment:
Fact Check Table:
|Model/Specs||Kia Sonet||Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza||Hyundai Venue|
|Engine||1.5-litre Diesel||1.5-litre Petrol||1.5-litre Diesel|
Overall, the Kia Sonet does manage to create an excellent first impression. The car is extremely stylish, feels premium, is practical and offers a confident drive as well. The Kia Sonet perfectly suits a young family or a tech-savvy individual looking towards purchasing a ‘fun-to-drive' sporty SUV, packed with features, technology and offering a comfortable drive as well.
The Kia Sonet will be entering one of the most competitive segments in the Indian market, which is extremely price-sensitive as well. If this is done correctly, then the Kia Sonet could go on to give its competition such as the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Hyundai Venue, Ford EcoSport, Tata Nexon and the Mahindra XUV300 a run for their money!
Rahul Nagaraj Thinks!
The Kia Sonet has definitely managed to create the right first impression. The SUV has all the ingredients to challenge the segment-leader for the title of 'the best compact-SUV' in the Indian market.
What We Liked
- Premium interiors
- Powerful engine options
What We Didn't Like
- Suspension is a bit firm
- Manual front seat adjustment