Kia is on a roll in India. With the launch of the all-new Seltos, Kia started very well in India and soon after the Carnival also joined the bandwagon. With two successful vehicles, it seems like Kia, which is still very young in the Indian market understands the customers very well. The brand will launch its third car – the Sonet on 18th of August but before the price announcement happens, Kia has announced that they received more than 6,500 bookings on the first day for the Sonet. With such a response to the car much before its launch, we spent time with the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol -powered variants of the Sonet. This engine is available only with an IMT or Intelligent Manual Transmission and 7-Speed DCT automatic and we drove both of them. Before anything else, let’s talk about how they drive.
Kia Sonet: 1.0 Turbo IMT and DCT
Kia Sonet HTX+ IMT
After the Venue, the Sonet will be the second car in the market to be available with the latest IMT transmission. It is a 6-speed transmission, which is just like a manual transmission but without a clutch pedal. Using the IMT is pretty simple and to start the car, you need to keep the brake pedal engaged. After shifting to the first gear, slowly releasing the brake will make the car roll ahead. Now to upshift or downshift through the drive, simply use the transmission lever and slot it into the gear. It is quite difficult to stall the IMT Sonet too. If you’re in a higher gear and the speed drops suddenly, the car will give you alert you and will ask you to shift down to a lower gear. Also, you cannot start rolling the car if higher than 2nd gear is engaged.
We drove around the city traffic during the peak hours and the IMT works flawlessly. Yes, the shifts are very smooth but you will need to lift your foot from the accelerator pedal to experience smooth shifting experience. When you do not lift the foot off the accelerator, the gear lever will feel hard. In slow-moving bumper-to-bumper traffic, you just have to put in the first gear and the crawl mode pushes it ahead. However, depending on the gradient of the road, you may feel small jerks is very low speed. We faced the same while crawling at a red light on an uphill. However, no such problem while moving on a flat surface. Kia offers a hill-hold feature that ensures you do not roll back on an uphill. On the highway, the IMT feels much better than the AMT again. You have more control over the gear shifts so you know exactly what is happening. Unlike the AMT, the IMT will not surprise you with an upshift just when you’re getting ready to overtake the other vehicles. You can even redline the engine and drive it around enthusiastically.
Even though the IMT is a new technology in cars in India, we feel that many will adopt it as it is extremely familiar to the manual transmission and is much easier to use.
Kia Sonet GTX+ DCT automatic
The GTX+ variant will be the top-end and most expensive version of the Sonet. The 7-speed DCT is only available with the GTX trim, which comes with a longer list of features. The GTX also looks sportier than the HTX+ and the driver experience is also much sportier in comparison. There are no negatives on the DCT that we would like to highlight in this review. Inside the city traffic, the DCT automatic works extremely well and anticipates gear changes smartly so you do not feel any downshift or upshift. Even in crawling traffic, the DCT works without any shudder and jerks and moves very smoothly.
The 7-Speed DCT comes with three drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport. In the Eco mode, the gear changes happen at very low RPM and the transmission constantly tries to shift to the higher gear to ensure better fuel efficiency. The Normal mode provides a balance between power and fuel efficiency. The Sport mode will change the character of the engine completely and will keep the gear engaged till high rpm and if you keep the accelerator against the floor, you will definitely see the rpm hitting the redline. However, driving enthusiastically will make the fuel efficiency drop by a huge margin. We got about 17 km/l inside the city limits on Eco mode while on the highway, the fuel efficiency dropped below 10 km/l. Drive sedately and the DCT will ensure good fuel efficiency. However, the 120 PS and 172 Nm generating rev-friendly turbocharged engine is extremely fun and demands to be revved aggressively. If you want good fuel efficiency, you will have to learn to control the right foot!
Kia Sonet HTX+, GTX+: Features
Kia has been generous when it comes to offering features with the models in India and the Sonet is no different. Even the Sonet is divided into two groups – Tech Line and GT Line. We drove the top-end variants of respective groups – the HTX+ and the GTX+. Since most you have seen how the car looks from outside, let’s discuss the cabin and features first.
Kia Sonet HTX+ features
The Sonet HTX+ gets a dual-tone beige and black cabin. You will see dual-tone dashboard, door trims and even the seats. It adds a premium look to the car. The cabin feels well decorated with features. You get futuristic-looking instrument cluster with large digital speedometer and analogue tachometer, fuel gauge and engine temperature gauge. The driver information display shows a lot of information too. Even the HTX+ variant gets a long list of features including the first-in-segment ventilated seats, massive 10.25-inch infotainment system with 7-speakers from Bose and an integrated air filter with virus protection. Other features in the list include an electrically powered sunroof, ambient lighting, rear AC vents and many more such features. Unless you experience the GTX+ variant, you will not even feel that any feature is missing from the HTX+. However, you only get two airbags and no traction control with the HTX+.
Kia Sonet GTX+ features
The first thing that you notice after entering the GTX+ cabin is the sporty theme. It gets an all-black cabin with red double stitching all around. You will see the red stitches on the seats, steering wheel, gear shifter and everywhere else. Even the seats and the steering get GT Line logos. It definitely feels much sportier than the HTX+. It also gets all the features of the HTX+ including the ventilated seats, 10.25-inch infotainment screen, air purifier. The extra feature list of GTX+ trim includes dancing ambient lights which changes according to the songs, a wireless phone charger. The GTX+ variant will also come with 6 airbags and traction control system. Based on the traction control system, there are three modes that you can select – Sand, Mud and Snow.
While we could not test the vehicle in Sand, Mud or Snow, we did get a chance to take it on a rough patch in the sand mode and we did feel a difference in the throttle response. Also, the crawling speed changes in different modes. We could not make out the change in the traction control setting while through this terrain though. Similar features are also available with the Tata Nexon.
Kia Sonet 10.25-inch with UVO
The 10.25-inch infotainment system is like a big mobile phone and you can literally control the car from this screen alone. Before we talk about the infotainment system, you should know that the Kia allows you to start the engine and start the climate control system directly from the key of the Sonet. It was available with both HTX+ and GTX+ variants that we drove. Now you can do that same with a mobile application after connecting it with the car. Apart from starting the engine and setting the temperature on the climate control, the UVO offers more than 50 features like live tracking your car, geo-fencing the vehicle, send map route to the car, call for roadside assistance and many more such features.
Kia Sonet HTX+, GTX+: Space
The Kia Sonet is a sub-4m car and the manufacturer had limited space to work with. Kia has worked on it very smartly to provide the biggest boot space in the segment. It offers massive 392-litres of space, which is enough to fit your weekend luggage and go for a long drive. Now the rear seats have limited space because of that. However, being 5 feet 10 inches and setting the front seat according to my height, I can definitely say that there is ample space in the seats. There is enough knee room and the seat also feels very comfortable. With the large rear windows, the rear space feels airy and people who feel claustrophobic will not get feel the same in the rear seats of the vehicle. However, a third person can be a difficult fit. The transmission hump is not very big but shoulder space feels a bit narrow. You do get charging points and things to keep in the rear. Also, there is ample space on the door pads, and Kia offers unique two-pocket seat covers to hold all your things.
At the front, the door pads have space to fit 1.0-litre water bottles and there is more space to keep an umbrella and other things in the door pads. It also gets a dedicated phone stand, cup holders and space under the armrest. However, the armrest cannot be moved around since the air purifier is installed in it.
Kia Sonet HTX+, GTX+: Looks
The Sonet looks fresh on the road and we managed to get a few stares on the roads. The Sonet HTX+ looks like that it has been designed for everyone. The vehicle gets Tiger Nose grille at the front with chrome border but somehow Kia has managed to make it look different from the Seltos. So the Sonet looks different from Seltos but from the same family. The HTX+ variant gets LED headlamps with dual-purpose DRLs that also work as turn indicators. Down below, halogen projector lamps are positioned. Halogen lamps are much better than LED in fog and rain. On the side, the Sonet gets some good looking 16-inch alloy wheels and chrome door handles. You will also spot roof rails but they are not functional. At the rear, the tail lamps look extremely good and similar to the shape of the DRLs. There is a reflector that has been carefully aligned to the tail lamp and will give you a feeling that it glows but it is just a reflector.
Now GTX+ variant offers all the features that HTX+ offers on the outside. However, the shape of the front and rear bumpers are different and much sportier than the HTX+. Also, you will notice red accents on the front, side and rear. The red accents are even on the alloy wheels and the front brake callipers.
Kia Sonet: Worth the wait?
The only missing piece of information is the price here. Kia is known for pricing the products aggressively and the Sonet gets a competitive price tag, it has all the chances to become the segment leader. Kia did not challenge many cars with the Seltos. It was only the Creta that was the main rival to the vehicle. With the Sonet, Kia will fight it out with the likes of Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Tata Nexon, Ford EcoSport, Mahindra XUV300 and of course, the Hyundai Venue. The Sonet has all the ingredients to become a successful car and it will surely add to the sales number of Kia to take it to a higher position.