Kia Sonet V Renault Kiger V Maruti Suzuki Fronx: Affordable Turbo Fun

Do small turbo engines make sense? What are the good, the bad and the exciting bits about owning a subcompact SUV with a turbo mill. We try to find out.

By Shams Raza Naqvi


9 mins read


Published on September 26, 2023

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  • We tested the manual transmission models of all three SUVs
  • All the SUVs also come with naturally aspirated Petrol engines
  • Base model of Fronx & top trim of Kiger are most affordable

The Subcompact SUV segment in India is loaded with some great options. Apart from cars that look good and are full of features there are also a few which promise pure driving fun, owing to the small yet powerful turbo petrol engines they run on. This time around we have three such SUVs to help you decide which one will satiate the needs of the enthusiast within you the most. Representing the Hyundai Kia family is the Sonet, belonging to the Renault Nissan alliance is the Kiger and finally from the house of country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki is the Fronx. 



Kia Sonet 

The Kia Sonet as it gets maximum power and torque in this group. 


The interesting part is that all these cars come with naturally aspirated engines as well, but that is for another day. Today it is all about performance, enthusiasm, and adrenaline without spending a lot of money. All three cars we have with us are top trims with manual transmission and we begin with the Kia Sonet as it gets maximum power and torque in this group. 


Also read: 2024 Kia Sonet Facelift Spied: New Pics Reveal Interior Details

Sonet is the only car in the segment with an iMT option. 


The 998 cc 3-cylinder mill makes 118 bhp @ 6,000 rpm which is roughly 20 bhp more when compared to the Fronx or the Kiger. You get 172 Nm @ 1,500 - 4,000 rpm and that is quite significant looking at the segment. Another interesting thing is that this one is not a pure manual, but an iMT or Intelligent manual transmission, now seen on many cars from Hyundai and Kia. Yes, you do need to change gears but there is no clutch here, so it adds to the convenience and now if you want iMT it is not available in the Venue, so Sonet is your only option in the segment. 

Sonet is the only one here that comes with a DCT option. 


What this iMT gearbox also does is that it takes a little bit of control away from driver and as a performance enthusiast it is not something you may entirely like. But on the upside the Sonet is the only one here that comes with a DCT option when it comes to Automatics because the Fronx gets a torque convertor, and the Kiger gets a CVT. So that is surely a better bet if you love your time behind the wheel.


Also read: Maruti Suzuki To Send ‘At Least 3 Models’ For Initial Bharat NCAP Tests

NVH levels are quite decent in the Sonet. 


In terms of ride quality, the Kia Sonet is right up there and there’s little doubt in saying that amongst all the three cars, it gives the most comfortable drive experience. High speed stability is also quite impressive and NVH levels are decent too. This cabin is not the quietest, but it is not very loud as well, so you can live with that.


Maruti Suzuki Fronx 

Fronx is light and agile, and you love throwing it around corners. 


At 99 bhp the 1.0 Boosterjet may not be very high on power, but it really surprises you with its performance and pickup. Peak torque of 147 Nm stays with you from 2,000 - 4,500 rpm and that is a good range. It just comes across as an easy car to drive, but one that is not relaxed, the engine and the gearbox are both very eager to perform and as a driver you like that. It is light and agile, and you love throwing this car around corners. 

Engine and gearbox are very eager to perform on the Fronx.


The cabin is insulated well so there’s not a lot go engine noise that comes inside, you may or may not like that specially while driving a turbo engine, but overall the stability is really impressive. At high speeds the car gives you a lot of confidence and that really works to your advantage.


Also read: Renault Kiger, Triber, And Kwid Urban Night Editions Launched In India

Maruti Suzuki claims 20 kmpl on both the manual and Auto versions.


I would like a bit more feedback from the steering wheel because that is the only missing link in an otherwise impressive setup. Talking about impressive another bit that is good is the fuel efficiency on this Turbo Fronx. Maruti Suzuki claims 20 kmpl on both the manual and Auto versions and who would mind that? The idle start stop system helps here, something that comes as standard even on the Sonet.


Renault Kiger

Kiger gives the most SUV like driving position in three cars. 


The Kiger gives the most SUV like driving position amongst all these three cars, you get a clear view of the road all around and as a driver you prefer that. 99 bhp that comes out of this 1.0 turbo engine is the same as the Fronx, and no way it feels like you are short on power when the car moves. Peak torque figure of 160 Nm is decent too but hits a tad bit late at 2,800 rpm. The engine can carry the weight of the car well, so it does not really matter how many occupants are seated inside the car, it will not give you a sluggish feeling.


Also read: Kia Seltos Facelift Gains Two New Variants; Waiting Period To Drop To 2 Months

The engine can carry the weight of the car well.


The 5-speed gearshift is enjoyable to use, the gear shifts are quite notch and the throws are short which suits the character of the car a lot. If you are considering buying the Kiger with this 1.0 turbo engine, then go in for the manual instead of CVT because this one will give you a little more fun while on the move. What also enhances the drive experience is that the Kiger comes with three drive modes, something you see on the Sonet as well.

Kiger comes with three drive modes.


However, there are two specific areas where there is some room for improvement inside the Renault Kiger; first is the NVH levels, there is fair bit of noise that comes inside the cabin, and it includes engine sound as well. The ride quality can get better too, as on some of the bigger bumps and potholes you pass through the effects are felt inside the cabin and that is not the most ideal way for a car to behave.



Kiger comes with a 4-star Global NCAP crash test rating.


The Kiger is the only car here that can boast of a 4-star Global NCAP crash test rating when it comes to adult occupant protection. The other two cars have still not been crash tested by Global NCAP. When it comes to airbags, the Sonet and Fronx take the lead with six each in top trims while the Kiger gets four. The Tyre pressure monitoring system on the Sonet gives you accurate readings while on the Kiger it just warns about low pressure. In the Fronx this important feature is missing.



Sonet gets the best profile along with a couple of alloy designs.


All three contenders get many SUV cues like cladding on wheel arches, roof rails and skid plates but it is the Kiger that has the most attractive face with its tri-LED headlamps, a pattern that is seen on the Fronx as well. From the rear though the Sonet steals the show. You get 16-inch wheels on all cars, and Sonet also gets the best profile along with a couple of alloy designs. And if you are looking for exclusivity the Sonet X-Line and the recently launched Kiger Urban night edition are right up there. 


Also read: Toyota Rumion vs Maruti Suzuki Ertiga: What Are The Differences?

Fronx gets the longest wheelbase in all three SUVs.



Tech & Interior 

Sonet is a good combination of high-quality materials and features. 


In cabin experience of all these cars is good, while one scores well on features, another is high on practicality. The Sonet is quite impressive and here you get a good combination of high-quality materials as well as features. A highlight is the big 10.25-inch touchscreen, bigger than the other two cars. It is nice to use as well, however Android Auto and Apple Carplay is wired here while it is wireless in the other two cars, the Fronx and the Kiger. However, the Sonet also stands out for some of its exclusive features, including a Bose surround sound system, leatherette seats, ventilated seats and yes and air purifier.


Also read: Renault Unveils Scenic Vision Concept at ChangeNOW Summit

360-view camera and a head up display are exculsive to the Fronx.


It is difficult to beat the Hyundai-Kia family when it comes to in cabin experience and Sonet proves it. It is also the only option here that gets a sunroof and rear curtains. Although we have to say features like a 360-view camera and a head up display do give the Fronx some brownie points. The Kiger also competes well in this aspect specially with its full digital cluster, smart access card and Arkamys sound system, but lacks in quality and looks like it is built to a cost.

The Kiger gets the biggest boot at 405 litres. 


On the second row of the Fronx it is a bit of a compromise owing to its coupe styled roofline. It is also the shortest in terms of height amongst all three options, but what is good is the fact that all three passengers here get adjustable headrests and 3-point seatbelts just like the Sonet. You also get audio reminders with all seatbelts. When it comes to connectivity options Kia and Maruti Suzuki race ahead and Renault has some catching to do. Although the Kiger gets the biggest boot at 405 litres. 


Prices (ex-showroom)Base modelTop Trim
Kia SonetRs. 10.49 lakhRs. 13.89 lakh
Maruti Suzuki FronxRs. 9.73 lakhRs. 13.14 lakh
Renault KigerRs. 10.00 lakhRs. 11.13 lakh

Prices of Turbo Variants



These cars prove the small turbos make a lot of sense. 


Talking purely about performance it is the Kia Sonet that races ahead owing to its higher power and torque figures. The cabin also is quite well loaded when it comes to features so you will like that but make no mistake the Fronx also does not lag behind too much, the Boosterjet engine does well when it comes to performance and the SUV also gets decent number of features. But it comes at a price and if you are looking for affordable fun you probably can look at the Kiger. It is the least pricey amongst all the three top trims and if you want to have some fun on the drivers’ seat in the subcompact SUV space, this could too be your choice. 


Last Updated on September 26, 2023

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