Kia has thrown its hat into the B-crossover segment ring with the introduction of the Sonet crossover, which we recently drove in the Western Cape. Built at the Korean marque’s Anantapur, India plant, the Sonet takes the fight directly to the Ford Ecosport, Hyundai Venue and the recently launched Nissan Magnite.
Filling a rather popular niche that continues to see an unprecedented growth spurt, Kia’s Sonet seems poised to put its best foot forward. Unlike some of the players who seem derived from a hatchback and had their ride height increased, the Sonet feels like a crossover from the onset.
It’s demeanour points squarely at its big brother, the Sportage, as its design inspiration - replete with roof-rails and squared-off elements - in the instance of our EX range test car. Those plastic embellished wheel arches are home to 16-inch alloy wheels, while the satin silver scuff plates add a cool colour contrast to the package. Overall, the design is contemporary at worst and should curry favour with those shopping in this segment.
Step aboard and there are few things that will strike you. For starters, the cabin is fairly cavernous, thanks to the 2.5 m wheelbase and overall length of just over 4.1 m. The other standout appointment is the overall cabin architecture. A great deal of thought has been given to the design, with elements on the fascia airvents that wouldn’t be out of place in a more upmarket Sorento. The 8-inch screen sitting atop the dash also adds a layer of sophistication and the system itself, replete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is a cinch to operate. There’s also a wireless mobile phone charger for added convenience. Rear seat accommodation is generous, while the boot at 392-litres is one of the largest in the segment with decent depth to the boot floor to cater for more cumbersome items.
Motivation comes in the form of a 1.5-litre normally aspirated engine with 85 kW and 144 Nm paired to either a six-speed manual transmission or, in the instance of our tester, a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). Those outputs might not be class-leading, but the engine will more than likely outlive the rest of the car. And while I like the convenience of the CVT transmission, it does tend to be dronesome on the open road, particularly in instances where you need to either overtake or just maintain momentum going uphill. It is here that the engine also comes slightly undone. No matter how much you push down on the throttle, there doesn’t seem to be enough torque to push the car forward. All is not lost, however, as KIA will later in the year bring the GT Line specified model to our shores, which will utilise a 1.0-litre, three cylinder turbo engine, which will make all the world of a difference in drivability.
So, then, should one wait for the more powerful GT Line instead? Well, at this juncture, we are unaware where it will be priced, so we will reserve our opinion until then. However, in isolation, the KIA Sonet 1.5 EX CVT variant at R305 995 offers good value for money and comes with a hilt of standard equipment to boot. It also comes standard with a 5-year/Unlimited km warranty and a 4-year/60 000 km service plan.
In a sea of B-segment based, jacked-up hatches, the Sonet makes the best impression of a miniature SUV, with the space and features to back it all up. In that vein, I reckon that it cuts right through the clutter of some also-rans, which are now very long in the tooth. Yes, I am referring to you, Ford Ecosport. Lacklustre performance aside, the KIA Sonet brings a strong contender to the segment that deserves a second look.