The lines have blurred between the traditional market segment slots that used to define new cars but, with the Sonet, Kia appears to have taken an eraser to those lines with something that can cross over from ‘A’ to ‘C’.
The Sonet – a new design not replacing any previous model in its range that stems from a collaboration between Kia Motors India and the company’s global R&D headquarters in Namyang, South Korea – technically slots into the B-SUV pool.
This sector is one of the most hotly contested requiring automakers to add more and more value in order to eke out a suitable share of the market, with the division of that pie reaching a loaves and fishes kind of equation.
At 4 120 mm long, sitting on a wheelbase measuring 2 500 mm, it is one of the largest and most spacious vehicles in the segment and is offered in seven one-tone exterior colours: Glacier White, Steel Silver, Gravity Grey, Aurora Black, Beige Gold, Intense Red and Intelligency Blue. Customers may opt for one of four two-tone exterior colour options: Glacier White or Intense Red with a black roof, or Gravity Grey or Intelligency Blue with a white roof.
Inside, intelligent packaging has liberated plenty of leg room, head room and shoulder room, and created a large luggage area measuring 392 litres.
Yet, with all of that it bears the tag of being an urban cruiser well – visibility from the driver’s seat is good all round so it is easy to wiggle into shopping centre parking bays but commands enough road presence not to be intimidated by taxis, trucks and other heavyweights.
The exterior sees a fresh interpretation of Kia’s signature ‘tiger-nose grille’, with a front skid plate underneath. Its silhouette is enhanced by the design and structure of its C-pillars, matched with a wrap-around rear windscreen.
On the inside, the dashboard is an 8,0-inch HD touchscreen infotainment system that incorporates a reverse camera with dynamic guidelines, a standard fitment throughout the range. The setup includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
The Sonet is offered with a new engine for the South African market. Kia’s 1.5 MPI petrol engine boasts outputs of 85 kW at 6 300 r/min and 144 Nm of torque at 4 500 r/min. Customers have a choice between a 6-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
My unit was the manual transmission version and it whisked through the standard test cycle, returning an overall average consumption of 7,3 l/100 km for a tank range around the 600 km mark (cruising). It lopes from zero to 100 km/h in 11,9 seconds and has a top speed of 165 km/h.
CO2 emissions are a little on the high side at 165 g/km compared to its major segment opposition in the form of the Mahindra XUV300 1.2, the Suzuki Vitara Brezza 1.5 GL and Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.5 XS, all three of which are lower priced than the Sonet by an average R21 096.
However, the Mahindra does not have brake assist as standard and none of the opposition has hill start assist, traction control or auto on/off lights in their armoury so car buyers need to carefully examine the standard fitment listings in order to make an informed choice.
Standard items include 8,0-inch infotainment with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote central locking, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, front and rear power windows, electrically operated mirrors, 6 speakers, 16-inch alloy wheels, height-adjustable driver’s seat, automatic headlamp activation, rear-view camera, combination artificial leather and cloth seat trim.
The mid-spec EX models add rear park distance control, leather steering wheel and gear knob, silver skid plates, roof rails, side repeater lamps and front fog lights.
All models have Electronic Stability Control (ESC), anti-lock braking with EBD, Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), dual front crash bags and ISOFIX child-seat anchoring points.
This serves to make it an attractive package, backed by a 5-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and 4-year/60 00 km service plan.
As mentioned, it serves its urban cruiser role well and even though the rear seat does not have a 60:40 split, there are enough combinations to make it useful as a load carrier rather than people mover.
While in no great hurry to get anywhere, it does the job comfortably and efficiently. The steering is light enough for the parking application but still with decent feedback when working corners or dodging potholes, remaining accurate and positive.
It sits solidly on the road and will respond to press on requests with some easily countered push from the front end when pointed sharply into a corner and braking on the test was fade free and stopping comfortingly rapid.
The lines that are not blurred are those visual ones this attractive cruiser cuts as it takes its place in the traffic.