This is Kia’s sub-4m SUV. A few years ago the Indian government floated a favourable tax structure for smaller cars (up to 4m in length) in a bid to ease congestion on roads and lower emissions with smaller engines. While whether the move has been a successful one was yet to be decided at the time of writing this, what I can confirm is that the rule has resulted in a flurry of new cars, in this bracket. While hatchbacks in India were more-or-less in that range, initially sedans and now SUVs have joined the bandwagon, in a big way. The Sonet is the latest in a long list of contenders.
Design & Chassis
Sonet uses similar underpinnings as the Hyundai Venue, which was launched last year. However, if you park them next to each other, it will be impossible to make the connection. There is nothing similar between the two designs. Kia has chosen to do away with the Venue’s boxier looks for a more rounded appearance. In doing so it has added some muscular lines and panels, especially around the fenders and sides. While it doesn’t look lean, it has a bulkier stance with these design elements and the slightly high-set bonnet. The face has an even more gaping shark nose grille than a Seltos with the oval Kia logo sitting nicely above it. Despite similar dimensions, it looks taller in profile. The rear is more subtle with a horizontally-pronounced look.
Kia offers three engine options for the Sonet – two petrol and one diesel. The diesel is unique as it is the first in the segment to come with an automatic gearbox. Tata Nexon also offers one but with AMT. In the Sonet, the gearbox is a 6-speed torque converter type. The engine is a 1.5-litre common rail diesel unit. With the automatic box, it makes 114bhp and 250Nm while with the optional six-speed manual around 99bhp and 240Nm. Both engines have slightly different turbo systems. This is a robust and torquey unit. Hyundai (Kia is part of the same group) has done an exceptional job with this unit right from the beginning. In the Sonet too it comes across as very refined. Vibrations are down to a minimum and the only time you’d probably know the difference is when you rev it hard. This is great for long journeys as the midrange is generous with oodles of grunt. Easy to build speed while overtaking. There is a manual shift available in the AT too which is handy at times. While the claimed fuel efficiency figure is around 19kpl, expect it to be between around 14kpl under normal driving conditions. The onboard display also showed a more realistic 14.25kpl during our test cycle.
This is a sub-5m SUV, so the cabin is compact. We drove the top GT Line trim and it was reasonably specced too in terms of chrome, leather and other visual and tactile elements. In terms of space, it doesn’t feel cramped. There’s enough legroom at the rear. The Kia engineers have been very clever with the seat design keeping it at an optimum level. Interestingly, the bigger Seltos also offers a lot of legroom in the rear. The Sonet is also quite nice; you sit high so expect good all-round visibility except at the rear, of course. But there’s a reverse-parking camera to take care of that. The steering feels chunky to hold and comes with the usual array of steering controls. The dashboard is hogged by a 10in-plus touchscreen infotainment system which is pretty classy. The cabin insulation is pretty good and manages to keep wind noise at bay. The air conditioner though powerful felt a bit inadequate at the rear. There are lots of cubby holes and storage space around the cabin, especially for your smartphone. There is a wireless charger, handy if you have a compatible phone. Also, we loved that notch in the central tunnel where you can stash your phone upright. Quite neat!
This is a clear highlight of this car. You will love the big car feel the Sonet offers. There is a commanding view and it feels sturdy and poised on the move. The power steering is electrically assisted. It weighs well and gives a sense of confidence while steering. The suspension set-up is a good balance between being firm and yet soak up road irregularities. Sonet comes with 16 or 17-in wheels. The test vehicle had the latter and shod with MRF tyres. Sonet comes with disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear. Stopping power is adequate and weight shifting doesn’t feel disconcerting like it does with many SUVs. In this top AT spec, Sonet also gets two additional features: First is ‘Grip Control’ where there are pre-programmed modes to tackle different terrains (Sand, Mud, Wet). Secondly, it comes with three driving modes – Normal, Eco and Sports. The latter allows you to hold the revs a bit longer on every gear and extract a bit more punch before upshifting.
Variants and Price
Just like the bigger Seltos, the Sonet also comes with near two handfuls of variants. 19 in all. The diesel version is available across trims. However this diesel/automatic variant is only available in two – either the mid-HTK+ (Rs 10.39 lakh) or this top GTX+ (Rs 12.99 lakh). The latter gets expensive as it is packed with a long list of driver-assist systems such as the drive modes and terrain programs mentioned earlier. Plus it also gets Hill-start assist, a vehicle stability management program, front parking sensors and four more airbags. Being GT Line you also get visual delights such as red accents, leatherette upholstery and exteriors body kit add-ons. Definitely, it looks classy. However, if you are looking for a more value proposition with a clear aim on convenience and better fuel efficiency, even the lower HTK+ is a good enough option minus all those high-tech features. Sonet comes with a 3-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with the option of extending it.
Sonet is an exciting addition to the crowded sub-4m SUV market. It looks good, has a spacious enough cabin and is packed with next-level features in the higher spec. Mechanically it is quite sorted in terms of stability and comes with an array of interesting powertrain options including the diesel/automatic. It’s a tad expensive given the amount of hardware/software on offer but feels like that one long-term investment a small family or a young couple wouldn’t regret making.