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Juliet McGuire

First drive in the new Kia Sonet

I know when you read the name “Sonet,” you are going to want to say it So Nay or Sue Net, this is South Africa after all…and it only has one “n.” BUT, you would be wrong in your pronunciation. It is, in fact, pronounced the same way you would say “sonnet.” Ok, now that’s out of the way, let’s get to it.

WHAT IS A SONET?

You may have guessed it already, it is yet another compact SUV. All the rage these fellas are. And for good reason, customers are demanding them. You see, we can’t all afford the large SUVs or even the smaller SUVs, so these budget SUVs fill a much-needed gap in the market. If, for example, you were driving a Kia Rio (or even a Picanto), and you want to move up to something just a little bit bigger, your budget might not stretch to a Seltos, so the Sonet would be your guy (or girl). Kia has cleverly ensured that there is an SUV for just about your entire life: Sonet – Seltos – Sportage – Sorento. And then when your nest is empty, you can start at the beginning again. The Seltos payoff line is, “Begin your SUV life,” whenever that may be for you, I say.

LOOKING GOOD

Kia Sonet

It has to be one of the best looking contenders in the segment, this is my very professional opinion on the matter. You can have your own opinion on this, but you’d be wrong if you disagree. It’s just a bit more sporty and bulky looking than the Hyundai Venue. And the Ford EcoSport is now starting to look and feel a bit outdated, don’t ya think? It is one of the largest in its segment too, measuring 4.12m in length. That means it is rather spacious inside as well. I had two colleagues with me in the car, both of whom are over 6ft, and both were more than comfortable. The headroom is noticeably good, but even my giant friend sitting in the back had more than enough legroom if I just inched a bit forward in the passenger seat…thankfully I was also left comfortable with more than enough legroom as well, not as comfortable with his constant chitter-chatter.

FEATURE FORWARD

As you can expect from Kia, the standard features list is pretty extensive. With two derivatives available at launch, namely the LX and the EX, you can expect an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote central locking, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, all-round electric windows, electric mirrors, six speakers, automatic headlamp activation, a rear-view camera and combination artificial leather and cloth seat trim…although the leather is only on the sides and back of the seats, but I love this as I hate leather under my butt! Well this review just took a turn…

Let’s stay on track rather, shall we? The EX model adds 16-inch alloy wheels (the LX has 15-inch steel wheels), rear park distance control, a leather steering wheel and gear knob, silver skid plates, roof rails, side repeater lamps and front fog lights. Also standard across the range is electronic stability control, ABS with EBD, Hill-Start Assist, dual front airbags and Isofix anchorage points.

Sonet

GO SONET, GO!

The Sonet is powered by a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine that produces 85 kW and 144 Nm. You can choose between a manual gearbox or a CVT. Now let me tell you, before you go “eeeeuuuwww” to the CVT, it is actually pretty good. It mimics a conventional automatic transmission in that you don’t have that inaudible screech as you try and overtake someone. You know that embarrassing moment when it sounds as if you are aggressively and angrily over taking them? When in actual fact all you’re doing is trying not to die travelling toward oncoming traffic. The engine is punchy enough to overtake which is always a winner in my books. And we managed a fuel consumption of around 6.7l/100 km, which is also rather impressive.

MY FINAL SAY

This car is an absolute gem. I have even recommended one to my mom. To be fair, most of these budget compact SUVs I have tested of late have all been pretty great, especially the Toyota Urban Cruiser and Suzuki Vitara Brezza. But the Sonet seems to offer something a teeny bit more, if just in look and feel. I know you know I am a huge Kia fan, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be critical. I will be when it is required, but for now, I have nothing particularly negative to say about the Sonet. I’d be happy to drive one every day.

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