In recent years, Kia has introduced an SUV range positively bristling with talent. At the top of the pile sits the Sorento, a seven-seater that competes with vehicles like the Santa Fe and Fortuner. With an emphasis on luxury and comfort, it feels premium and posh - but without the price tag. Sitting just under the Sorento are the Sportage and Seltos, the mid-range models. The Sportage is due for replacement soon, but Kia has introduced a limited edition “GT-Line” to SA - a testament to its popularity. The handsome Seltos has cooked up a sales storm, proving immensely popular. Slotting just beneath the established trio is the newcomer Sonet. Small, affordable and stylish - it’s a sure winner. But let us tell you why. Here are five things we love about the Kia Sonet.
Simply put, cars are expensive. If you’re handing over your hard-earned cash, you need to know that you’re buying something that is substantial, well-built and, above all else, safe. The Sonet range kicks off at R275 995 for the base-model LX. It may sit at the bottom of the range, but it’s very well-equipped. All the essentials are there - two airbags, stability control and ISOFIX anchorages tick the safety boxes. Luxury wise, you’re treated to the basic (electric windows, central locking and air-conditioning) but if you want some plusher features, upgrade to the EX. For R20 000 more (R295 995), you get rear parking sensors, front fog lamps, alloy wheels and styling add-ons. We’d go for the EX manual, as it represents exceptional value for money. CVT-equipped models are available at R296 995 for the LX and R316 995 for the EX.
Despite the compact exterior dimensions (the Sonet measures just 4 120 mm from front to rear), it offers plenty of practicality and space. Occupants in the rear never feel short-changed, with plenty of head- and kneeroom up for grabs. The cloth/artificial leather trimmed seats are comfortable and offer plenty of support. They’re comfortable on the long road and feel suitably premium. If the 392 L boot isn’t big enough, the rear bench folds down to offer a truly cavernous load bay. Myriad storage areas abound, with a large glovebox and deep door bins. Two USB ports add to the convenience on board. EX models also gain an overhead console with a sunglasses holder.
As mentioned above, even the base-model LX is comprehensively equipped. Buyers are treated to an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), a reverse camera and electrically adjustable side mirrors. Aside from the EX specific equipment mentioned above, the plusher model also receives a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear lever, electric folding side mirrors and stylish roof rails. Hill-start assist is standard on all models.
While the interior of the Sonet is constructed using hard plastics, it feels well-constructed and put together with care. You’re not going to find soft-touch materials in any car that’s in the compact crossover segment, but none of them have the heft and solidity that the little Kia conveys. It’s evident when you shut the door, for example - it closes with a reassuring thud, much like an old Mercedes-Benz. The switchgear and buttons all click beautifully and work with a Germanic feel. The plastics also feel solid and are devoid of the wobbly, wavy panels that plague other cars in this class. Kia has proven itself as a maker of reliable cars, which is supported by the rather impressive five-year/unlimited warranty and four-year/60 000 km service plan.
Refinement and Driving Experience
While it may lack the dynamic excitement that the Urban Cruiser/Vitara Brezza can deliver, the Sonet counters with a driving experience which makes it feel like a car from a class above. Solid and stout, the Sonet dismisses potholes that would unsettle rivals. The steering is a delightful heft to it that feels decidedly premium. On the highway, it rides silently - keeping wind noise and tyre roar to a minimum. The CVT-equipped Sonet can drone as the revs rise, but it’s kept to a minimum.
In this highly competitive class the Kia Sonet remains, quite possibly, the finest SUV in its segment. In fact, it’s so excellent that it snaps at the tail of cars that are more expensive. The refinement and quality is also remarkable, making it feel like a truly plush motorcar. This would be our pick of the segment, with the manual EX model getting the nod from us.