Why Kia Reintroduced A Manual With The Facelifted Sonet Diesel

Two vital reasons compelled Kia India to bring back a manual transmission option for the diesel-powered Sonet.

By Amaan Ahmed


3 mins read


Published on December 18, 2023

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  • Buyers of Kia Sonet in upcountry markets prefer a manual over an iMT.
  • Kia had replaced the MT option for the Sonet diesel with the iMT, earlier in 2023.
  • Facelifted Sonet prices likely to be revealed in January 2024.

After pulling it off the shelves earlier in 2023, Kia India announced the reintroduction of a diesel-manual powertrain option with the Sonet facelift. The subcompact SUV, which has found nearly 3.70 lakh buyers since its launch in 2020, was originally offered with a manual transmission paired with its 1.5-litre diesel engine, but the manual was replaced by the 6-speed intelligent manual transmission (iMT). However, as per a top Kia India official, the move didn't go down too well with prospective Sonet customers in smaller cities and rural markets, which has compelled the carmaker to bring back a traditional manual gearbox with the midlife update.

 Also read: Kia Sonet Facelift: Variants Explained

"In the Tier 3, Tier 4 and upcountry markets, we found a lot of entry-level customers who want the manual and they still want to have the feel of pressing the clutch pedal and shifting gears themselves”, Kia India sales head Hardeep Singh Brar told carandbike during a media interaction.

While admitting there was some degree of aversion to the iMT, Brar explained, “I think there are customers who want power on demand. They don’t want the shifting of gears to happen automatically. I think such customers have not really been able to shift [to iMTs].”

 Also Read: 2024 Kia Sonet Facelift: All You Need To Know

While an iMT retains a conventional gear shifter, it does away with the clutch pedal, which effectively makes it a semi-automatic car in practice. However, the relative novelty of the tech, along with the higher cost (compared to a regular manual transmission) and potentially high maintenance costs have of late put buyers off the Sonet diesel and made them evaluate other options, especially in rural markets, according to an industry source.

 Also Read: Kia Sonet Facelift vs Rivals: Specifications Comparison

In March, Kia ditched the Sonet diesel manual, so the only transmission options for the Sonet diesel were the iMT and the 6-speed automatic. The move to an iMT also pushed the Sonet diesel’s price up by a full Rs 50,000, widening the gap between the entry-level variants of the Sonet petrol and diesel to well over Rs 2 lakh. 

With the reintroduction of the manual, Kia is hopeful of once again making the Sonet diesel more accessible to customers, especially the cost-sensitive buyers in upcountry locations. To that end, the diesel-manual combo will only be offered in the entry HTE, HTK, HTK Plus, and mid-spec HTX and HTX Plus.

 Also read: Kia To Unveil Electric Vehicle Concepts At CES 2024 Based On PBV

“We are bringing the manual only in the entry and mid variants. In the metros, the iMT becomes a big benefit for users because of the lower price [compared to a conventional automatic] and it gives you the benefit of driving a ‘clutch-less’ car like an automatic. It's not shifting gears, but the clutch that really tires you out. Bringing the manual will help with the price as well, because technology comes at a price”, Brar explained.

The Sonet facelift also brings vital new features such as Level 1 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), 360-degree cameras and a 10.25-inch full digital instruments display. Bookings for the Sonet facelift will open on December 20, and prices are expected to be announced early in January 2024.

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