Kia’s Sonet wades into a viciously competitive niche. We test it on the long road

Developed and engineered from the ground-up and built in India, Kia calls its Sonet a smart urban compact sport utility vehicle. It plays in the burgeoning B-SUV segment in South Africa, even though the term SUV may be a bit of an overkill. We still think of them as all-wheel drive unitary chassis cars. Sonet has a unitary chassis. Not AWD. But I digress.


They promise a sporty, eye-catching and fun-to-drive package that will attract trendy customers to that typical Kia value design, comfort and quality. We took ours on a 1500km round trip on top of our usual test procedure to see how the new Sonet delivered.

Sonet benefits Kia’s latest emotive styling DNA. There’s a fresh interpretation of its signature tiger-nose grille between smart auto headlamps atop a stylish front skid plate and front fog lamps. A slanted windscreen, rounded roofline and ‘wrap-around’ rear windscreen set it apart in profile. Our tester had smart 16-inch alloys and roof rails to further set it apart. We quite like it. Sonet is a handsome looking car and has presence on the road.

4,120 mm long and sitting on a 2,500 mm wheelbase, Sonet is on the large and more roomy side in its class. Kia boasts about its liberal leg, head and shoulder space, and a large 392 litre boot. It certainly is a practical car and proved more than adequate for four adults, especially at the back on our 15 hour round trip. And all our luggage in the boot, which also lived up to expectation. Our only criticism was that cabin odour we have noted before in Indian Kias.


The remote central lock accessed air-conditioned cabin has power windows all round and repeater power wing mirrors. The faux leather and cloth trimmed driver’s seat is height-adjustable and theres leather on the multifunction steering wheel and gear knob too.

Sonet packs voice-control 8-inch HD touchscreen infotainment with wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto Bluetooth, USB, Aux and the rest, as well as 6 speaker audio. And a handy guide-lined reverse camera with rear park distance control, which we counted among its unexpected luxuries. We did find that the Aux and regular Bluetooth seemed to be on their own mission when pairing certain devices. The Carplay somehow worked well enough though.

Sonet is powered by the latest rendition of Kia’s bombproof and fuel-efficient 85 kW 144 Nm normally aspirated petrol 1.5 MPI turning a 6-speed manual gearbox in this case. You can also have it with a continuously variable transmission. Quiet, comfortable and easy to drive, power delivery is good and while Sonet may not be the quickest tool in the box, its six-speed manual made life easy. It cruises well.


Brakes and clutch are predictable. In other words, the brakes are not jerky, too sensitive to the pedal or too sharp. And the clutch bites in the correct position and releases gradually instead of suddenly. The same cannot be said of too many other smaller ‘SUVs’

Best of all however, fuel economy is fantastic. We averaged a low 7 litres per 100 on the long road and far better than that on shorter hauls at less than freeway speeds. Economy was also impressive in and around town.

Adequate active safety includes ABS brakes with EBD, Electronic Stability Control and Hill-start Assist, but passive safety is limited to dual front airbags and ISOFIX child-seat anchors. Kia’s impressive 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assistance and a prepaid 4-year or 60,000 km service plan are a definite Sonet advantage.


We enjoyed a great trip away with a bunch of guys who will soon be plum in the market for the Kia Sonet EX Manual. All of us enjoyed our time with it and were quite sad to bid it farewell after a pleasant and comfortable journey. Sonet lives up to Kia’s promises. That said it plays in a viciously competitive niche that did not exist five years ago.

Clearly this kind of car is playing an ever more crucial role in the market. And Kia’s option ticks all those price versus space versus practicality, comfort and efficiency boxes well. And it does a proper job at an impressive price point too. Yip, the Kia Sonet certainly sings along. — Giordano Lupini

Images: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Kia Sonet 1.5 EX Manual
Engine: 85 kW 144 Nm 1.5-litre petrol I4
Drive: 6-speed manual FWD
0-60 km/h:        4.73 sec
0-100 km/h:       10.25 sec
0-120 km/h:       14.25 sec
400m:             17.3 sec @ 130 km/h
80-120 km/h:      7.08 sec
VMax:             170 km/h
Fuel:             7.0 l/100 km
CO2:              160 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y unl/4y 60K km
LIST PRICE:       R288K
RATED:            7
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