COMPACT KIA SONET NOW IN MZANSI

The market for entry-level SUVs/crossovers is currently booming. Practically every manufacturer has an offering in this segment, and Kia was not going to let it drive past them. The current segment sales leader is the Toyota Urban Cruiser with close to 1 000 monthly sales. And so the new Sonet is the brand’s response to this growing market. Kia South Africa sources the car from India where it is built.

Cousin brand Hyundai already plays here with their excellent Venue. The two cars are deeply related, meaning the base on which the Sonet is based is sound. As far as looks go, we are always subjective in our view as human beings. The brand’s famous “tiger nose” front grille is updated and prominent, flanked by integrated headlights and sitting just below a muscular bonnet. On the side we see the C-pillar highlighting an intersection between the rear roofline and main bodywork. At the rear end we see a feature that’s been reserved for bigger cars up to now; an end to end light bar.

Kia will sell the Sonet in seven single tone colours that include Intense Red and Steel Silver, as well as a choice of four bi-tone ones that feature either a black or a white roof with the combo. At 4.1 metres long. 1.79m wide, 1.6m tall and with a wheelbase of 2.5m, the car is not tiny, although boot space is questionable, even as the manufacture describes it as “cavernous”. In technical terms it is 392 litres.

The cabin is fitted with some of the latest infotainment packages, as well as other comfort items. The infotainment system itself is based on a 20.3cm touch screen that accesses features like Bluetooth connectivity, radio play, USB ports and apps for the wireless Android Auto and Apple Carplay. These are standard across the range of four – LX and higher grade EX, both with manual or auto transmissions. Other standard features include a rear parking camera, artificial leather and cloth seat combo, electric windows all-around, air conditioning, Electronic Stability Control, ABS with EBD and others.

For now only the naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine will be offered in the local market, although rumour has it that a 1.0-litre turbocharged GT model is also on the cards for us. So the 1.5-litre produces 85kW of power at 6 300rpm, and 144Nm of torque at 4 500rpm. It comes with either a 6-speed manual or a CVT automatic transmission. Living in Gauteng means I do prefer turbocharged engines to those that come naturally, simply because our high altitude makes those engines lose up to 17% of their power, whereas turbocharged ones don’t lose nearly as much.

In the Western Cape at sea level where I drove the car during its launch, it drove well and breathed easily. The CVT is smooth, but does give away its nature as you don’t feel the “gears” changing. However, it is not as droney as previous-generation CVTs we have seen before. I would choose it over Kia’s old 4-speed auto myself.

The Kia Sonet is a solid, stylish and alluring proposition in a segment that is not only busy, but is poised to get even busier as competitors keep launching their offerings. It is one of the offerings worthy of consideration.

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