• Kia has launched its brand new compact crossover, the Sonet, in SA this month.
• There are two trim levels, and a 1.5-litre NA engine across the range.
• Pricing is competitive and starts from R264 995.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.
The last few months have seen Suzuki launch its Vitara Brezza and its sibling, the Toyota Cruiser. In the meantime, Ford's EcoSport and Hyundai's Venue continue to be firm favourites in the B-segment. We'll talk about the VW T-Roc and the Hyundai Venue in a little bit, but they're in the mix too. So why is Kia adding another crossover to its portfolio in an already overpopulated market?
It all makes a lot of sense when you look at the entire Kia product line-up and realise the new Sonet fills a gap, and in doing so, it now makes a product available in every price range in the local Korean stable. It will also increase the brand's market share, especially in the crossover segment. There's literally something for everyone.
The Sonet is the second model launched by Kia, which is built in India.
Kia SA MD Gary Scott says India is solving the problem of affordability on a global scale. He says: "It's no secret that most imports come from there; India is the number one country in the world in terms of this. We will continue importing from India as they keep producing and solving a problem.
"For the consumer, the Sonet means good value for money, spaciousness, good safety features and tech, a five-year warranty and a four-year service plan."
Scott says the Sonet creates much enthusiasm in its dealer network because it creates a continuous price stream for consumers to buy up or down. It thus makes a powerful perspective for the dealer network, especially when it comes to new buyers to the brand.
"Our biggest problem we foresee with this car is if we will have enough units for demand."
There is hardly a brand left in South Africa that doesn't have a compact crossover offering; Haval has just launched the Jolion, Mitsubishi still sells its ASX; there's just too many to mention. But, when you line them up next to each other, the Sonet will be one of those standing out in the crowd.
It's a good looking little car, it certainly is spacious, and it comes loaded with tech and standard features. Currently, the Sonet range includes two trim levels: LX and EX, there's one 1.5-litre MPI engine in the range for now, and it's mated to either a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT. A 1.0-litre turbo engine will be introduced to the line-up towards the end of the year - and that's when the popular T-Roc and Venue will be more competitive against the Sonet.
The new Kia Sonet starts with competitive pricing. Would you consider it if you were looking for a new car? Please share your thoughts on this new model in the comments section below.
No, not at all. Driving the CVT version on the first day of the launch was quite surprising; that CVT box is not bad at all. Of course, if you're going to push a little 1.5-litre engine on the long road, it won't like you very much, and naturally, you'll hear those dreaded winding gears. Other than that, it's a solid engine and transmission which can hold its own on the twisty road that is Clarence Drive towards Hermanus, almost as well as the six-speed manual did on the way back the second day. The latter, of course, is my pick between the two. I was a bit annoyed having driven the auto version first, which meant I would probably be stuck in traffic in the manual. Yet, it's such a comfortable drive, with slick and smooth gear changes coming from the gearbox, that it was such a treat to drive all the way back to the CBD.
There are loads of niceties, like a USB port in the rear, aircon, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, to name a few. This is a car with pricing starting from R264 995, yet it has very good equipment and soft-touch finishes. And despite being built in India, there are no cheap plastics or wobbly, noisy panels. It's got a solid build and is very well put together. There's an attention to detail which is highly appreciated too, like the tiny design trims on the door panels and vent inserts, along with a leather steering wheel.
So why could this be a better deal than the rivals?
While Toyota's Urban Cruiser might be more affordable, it only has a three-year or 100 000km warranty compared to the five-year or unlimited warranty of the Sonet and a 328-litre boot (Sonet has a 392-litre boot). It also doesn't have an equivalent four-year service plan and electronic stability control - an important safety feature most new buyers look for in a car they're buying today.
However, Toyota has a loyal brand following like no other, and while some might say the Urban Cruiser's looks might seem a bit outdated, it does look like a mini Land Cruiser, and the fans are lapping it up and making them love it even more.
It will be fascinating to see if Toyota customers will start looking at the Korean brand and put it up for consideration - much like Suzuki is welcoming more new buyers to the brand.
The same applies to the new Honda WR-V and the Ford EcoSport - click on the arrows on the right of the image below to scroll and see the spec differences compared to the Sonet.
Kia's products come with genuine peace-of-mind quality, and they're pretty good to look at, and they've been around for twenty-two years. They come to the compact crossover party packing a punch. We'll see what the numbers say next month, but if Kia SA's confidence is anything to go on, I reckon they know what they're talking about.