The Kia Sonet has created much buzz ahead of its market arrival. It is undoubtedly one of 2020's hottest launches. And yes it is driving in to what is a crowded segment with 5 strong players. But Kia has the 'power to surprise', doesn't it? And in keeping with my Seltos review last year I have driven the new Kia Sonet in very rainy weather! So let us get into the drive right away. And I will begin with the one I have been dying to drive - the diesel automatic. Keep in mind that there are two iterations of the 1.5-litre CRDi (common rail diesel) engine viz. the WGT and VGT. The WGT is on the manual, it gives you 99 bhp of maximum power, and the VGT (the one I have been testing) gives you 113 bhp. So it's a little bit more powerful, and also gives you 10 Nm of extra peak torque. This is the same engine that goes into the diesel Seltos.
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Driving the Diesel Auto
The torque is immediately evident - a character it shares with the turbo petrol, but I will get to that one in a bit. The diesel engine is responsive, masks its lag well, and is well mated to the 6-Speed automatic gearbox. Having a torque converter auto on the diesel side is in itself a masterstroke. Many people love the torquey nature of a diesel and had to make do with an AMT or manual - or just switch to petrol to enjoy the convenience of an automatic.
Not anymore! I'd love for the Mahindra XUV300 and Hyundai Venue to adopt the same to be honest. And it's not some antiquated 4-Speed gearbox that's been plonked keeping pricing in mind! No it's a modern 6-Speed torque converter and so it's a lot more satisfying. It's quick shifting; it's smooth, and also downshifts quite quickly, to give you that quick response, when you need it. The diesel engine is powerful and will in my opinion command a large share of the buyer's attention. If priced well, so will the automatic.
Also Read: Kia Sonet Fuel Efficiency Figures Leaked
Ride and Handling
Now when you first begin driving the Kia Sonet, it will straight away give you an obvious SUV feel. Buyers are going to like that. It feels tall, gives you an almost exaggerated height, a commanding driver position and view of the road - all very obvious SUV attributes. The downside is that takes away from the car's handling somewhat. So on corners and turns you definitely feel a tiny bit of body roll. Now if you want a very sporty car is segment the aforementioned two rivals will do a better job.
But the Sonet has a good balance of SUV - like character and performance. Ride quality is also pretty good, and the suspension tuning is really well suited to India road conditions. The steering though should have also been adjustable for reach and not just height. Driver seat height and overall adjustment though is good. Okay diesel done; now time to check out the petrol. Kia did not give me the 1.2 petrol to test, and so it has to be the more progressive and more powerful 3-cylinder 1.0 Turbo GDI.
Also See: Kia Sonet Review Photo Gallery
Turbo Petrol IMT Road Test
Peppy, fun, energetic and torquey; the 1.0 turbo GDI does not disappoint. Like on the diesel the car, it does feel a tad bouncy over bad roads, but on the whole ride comfort and handling stay satisfactory even on this car. You have the same engine on the turbo variants of the Hyundai Venue, Grand i10 Nios, Aura and Verna. There too, the focus was on sporty performance. This engine definitely has a sportier feel over the diesel, and the 7-Speed DCT (dual-clutch auto) would be quicker on the shifts. But I am glad I got to test the much-touted new IMT or Intelligent Manual Transmission. It takes a few minutes to get used to changing gears and yet letting your left leg chill! But once you get the hang of it, the drive become fun and easy. Of course in that adjustment phase it helps that the car gives you a warning beep and text alert on the instruments to shift down. This way the car never stalls. That's something that I have shown you on my Hyundai Venue IMT review too. The system is identical and works similarly.
So if you want to know more about the IMT, I urge you to read the Venue IMT review. This whole idea of bringing in IMT could just prove to be a smart move for Kia and for Hyundai. If it catches on, other manufacturers would be compelled to offer something similar because it does take away the fatigue, and still lets you retain the control, the fun element of driving a manual. So, what's not to like? Once you start driving this, you may never want to go back to a regular manual. The IMT is quick to get used to, a lot more fun than a regular manual, and definitely a welcome addition to the lineup. It is bold that Kia is only going IMT on the 1.0 GDI, and so this engine has no manual option. The 1.2-litre petrol has only a 5-Speed manual as its sole gearbox offering.
The Sonet gets dual airbags, ABS (Anti-lock brakes), rear parking sensors as standard. There are some additional safety features like ESC (Electronic Stability Control) that are only on the top-end. And in fact some are only on the GTX+, like the 6 airbags and front parking sensor. The Sonet does add another segment first though with the emergency stop brake light. If you hit the brakes hard at high speeds, the brake lights flash rapidly to indicate an emergency stop to the driver behind you. The Sonet is well loaded overall but it is rather inexplicable why the 6 airbag option is only on one variant. That means if you want the Tech-Line trim with a lighter interior, and yet want the added security of the 6 airbags, well too bad! You cannot have that! The reverse camera option starts from the HTK+ (mid) trim.
I am glad that both my test cars are dressed in the two trims you can get on the Sonet. The diesel auto is a top-spec GT-line offering - the GTX+, while the GDI with me is the Tech-line in the highest HTX+ variant. The red car with me is the Tech-line, and has the optional two-tone roof. This two-tone is only possible on red, gold and white paintwork. The blue car is the GT-line, and straight away you can see how the face is very different. The shape of the bumper and some of its inserts are different to the Tech Line. There are red bits on the otherwise glossy black 'tiger-nose' grille, a red stripe on the base of the bumper, red brake callipers and red surround on the Kia logo on the wheel hub. Red elements continue along the side and rear. The GT-line does look more aggressive and sporty, that is for sure.
The modern elements like daytime running lights (DRLs) and taillights sport the Kia signature 'heartbeat' motif. The car looks sharp, stylish and will definitely turn heads. There's a nice amount of muscle in the hood, and the stance is very definitely chunky SUV! I am biased to the blue colour! But the new gold paint shade is the new colour added to the Sonet. The rest are carryovers from the Seltos. The car gets the segments largest boot at 392 litres.
On the inside the Sonet appears roomy and spacious. The GT-line will give you an all-black cabin with red elements like stitching and dash inserts. The Tech-line has the option of four upholstery types, including a lighter palette with a two-tone dash.
The rear seat sits tall - which is also nice for that SUV feel, and provides easy egress and ingress. But under-thigh support is not the best. Yet headroom is ample legroom satisfactory given this a subcompact. In fact Kia claims best legroom, and front head room in the segment. A rear USB charging point and AC vent are standard. The base two versions get a manual AC while the rest have climate control. There is an umbrella holder in the door, and plenty of storage options.
As I mentioned there are some features on this car that are segment-first, and some go beyond that. On higher variants, you get a massive 10.25" touchscreen that houses the connectivity, entertainment and navigation functions. The 10.25" touchscreen is only on the GTX+ and HTX+. The next two variants get an 8" screen and the base two variants get only a 2-DIN sound system. There are steering mounted controls and yes you can talk to the car's on board assistant as well. So just say "Hello Kia" and the car will tell you trip readings and options open or close the driver side window, set climate control temperature or fan, or navigate you to a destination you ask it search for. That screen also has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Kia's UVO connect telematics app-based solution.
Other segment firsts are the Bose premium surround sound system, a wireless car charger with phone cooling option, and the ventilated front seats. And while the Venue had a built-in air purifier too, Kia says the Sonet adds virus protection - and that it claims as a world-first in any car. Of course most of this is only at the top end. You can now connect 2 phones to the system using Bluetooth - so you can use one for say music and the other for connectivity. But we had trouble pairing both. The instruments get a smart 4.2" screen that shows you everything from tyre pressure to trip details. On the entry variant it's a monochromatic screen.
Kia's UVO connect lets you use a smartphone app to remotely activate certain functions in the car (locking/unlocking doors or boot, turning on the engine/AC, etc.), and also let's you get some on board information like remaining fuel or driving range, etc. Unlike the Seltos or Venue, the Sonet's remote start works on the manual too, not just the automatic. The Sonet's UVO connect app also let's you use telematics to geo-fence your car, check its status like remaining driving range, and a lot more. This is similar to what we have seen on the Seltos, and Hyundai's connected models. The car connects to the cloud or Internet using an in-built sim card, and like on the Seltos the data plan is free for the first 3 years of buying the car.
There is one more function the Sonet adds on - that has nothing to with the app or Internet connectivity. In case you don't want to use the UVO connect app on your phone to start the engine and switch on the air conditioning, you can always use the key fob. Long-press the central button and the engine + air conditioning turns on. This key-related function is available on the top 3 variants, and only works from 30 metres or closer. So if you are sitting at a cafe or are walking towards your car, the cabin can start cooling before you step in.
It has got IMT, DCT, auto and regular manual. It has two-tone or monotone paint jobs. Two trim lines and of course two petrol and one diesel engine to choose from. Throw in all that tech & gadgetry and that is quite the fully loaded car isn't it? You have to tell us what you think of it, unless you go crazy trying to figure out which of the many variants work for you! The Kia Sonet is priced competitively with prices for the petrol version starting at ₹ 6.71 lakh going all the way up to ₹ 11.99 lakh while the diesel starts from ₹ 8.05 lakh topping out at ₹ 11.99 lakh (all prices ex-showroom India) The company is yet to announce the price of the diesel automatic for the top end GTX+ variant.