Kia Sonet first impressions review: Talking exteriors, interiors and features
One of the perks of my job is that I occasionally get to see new cars a long while before the rest of the world does. However, seeing those cars also generally involves signing scary sounding documents that make me swear confidentiality without any mention of the consequences should I break them. The Kia Sonet was the most recent one — I was allowed an hour with the car a whole week before the global unveil. It was significant not only because this was the first event I was attending in another city since the lockdown hit in March (and that experience makes for a whole other story), but also because it is one of the most awaited cars of 2020. Kia has promised one new car every six months and after the Seltos and the Carnival, the Sonet is what is headed our way. The Seltos allowed the brand to really hit the ground running, and since it sits in the lucrative sub-4m segment I expect the Sonet to accelerate that. We’ve already written about the specs and features of the new Sonet. In this story, I’m going to be telling you about my first impressions of the car — of how it looks in person and what the interiors look and feel like.
For starters, I think the way it looks really does justice to the concept. Both in terms of the way styling elements have been integrated and in the proportions. Kia really kills it on the styling front and the Sonet is no different. The tiger nose grille is blacked out with red accents and it gets a strong bonnet and bumper. The two vent-like elements in the bumper have been retained though they don’t really do anything and are just there to look pretty. The headlamps retain their shape for the most part the the DRL has a little kink in it, which looks quite good. From the side, the changes from the concept include more reasonably-sized wheels (16s on the production car) and larger mirrors — both of which were expected. The rear though, is the finest angle of the Sonet. The tail lamps are sleek and it has a light bar which end on either side in a kink similar to the DRLs. It gets fake exhaust tips as well, and though I’m not a fan of them on most cars, I must say they have been well executed on the Sonet.
Much after the launch when I got back home, Kia sent me a link with some B-roll footage that included the Tech Line variant I hadn’t seen. Strangely, I thought the Tech Line looked better than the GT Line. It does away with a lot of the red accents, those fake vents on the front bumper as well and the piano black finishes at the back while retaining the blacked out grille and roof. A lot more understated, and I think I like it because the overall design is inherently so shouty that I actually don’t mind doing away with the additional shoutiness of the GT Line. Is the Kia Sonet the best-looking car in the segment? I’m not sure. I would like to line it up in person alongside its rivals before I make a judgement there. I think the Hyundai Venue looks great even a year after its launch and honestly, my opinion on that shouldn’t matter because styling so subjective. What there is no taking away from is that it looks very distinct, and will draw eyeballs when rolling down the streets.
Then come the interiors. We had seen sketches before, but when it comes to interiors it is best experienced in person because so much of the experience is tactile. Let’s starts with the similarities I could draw with the Seltos first — the steering wheel was one, but so was the slab that rises out of the dashboard holding both the instrument cluster and the infotainment screen. That 10.25-inch screen is the same, with the same interface and features. What is new is the instrument cluster. I really liked the Seltos’ cluster for how clear and legible everything was. This swaps that out for a more funky design, but at the cost of some of that legibility. There’s a 4.2-inch MID, and a large digital speedo. Crammed on the right side is the tachometer and on the left is the fuel gauge and engine oil temperature. I guess the whole reason is that the car is a more ‘youthful’ design and this sits well in line with that. Also, ‘digital speedometer’ looks great on a features list but in the case the Sonet the speed readout is large and clear so there’s no criticising it there.
In this GT Line trim, it gets all black interiors with red stitching though the Tech Line trim gets beige and black interiors. The seats are plush and well contoured, the upholstery exactly like you get in the Seltos ie a soft faux leather that feels rather nice. The materials on the dash are all hard plastics and the only soft touch materials are on the door grabs. If there is something I’m not too big a fan of, it is the AC controls. They look a bit bland and there is a stark lack of any knobs — either for fan speed or temperature controls. Below that sit the buttons for the Drive and Traction modes — this again was a knob in the Seltos but has been replaced by buttons. Things like the Traction modes look great on paper to fatten up the features list though with the Sonet being FWD-only, it is unlikely to have any major bearing on what it does to the driving experience.
In the backseat, I found myself having adequate space in terms of knee room and headroom. There’s no panoramic sunroof here just a regular sized one, however that is on par with its rivals in the segment. The seats themselves are comfortable with a good amount of support, though I did find the headrests to be a tad bit too firm. Something rather timely is the addition of a virus protection to the air purifier — I’m no expert but I suspect there will be a star leading to a disclaimer about it dealing with 99.9 per cent of viruses or something like that. There’s nothing safer than wearing a mask — so do that — but yes, I think its a smart move on Kia’s part.
I like what Kia has done with the Sonet. I suspect it will be to the Hyundai Venue, what the Seltos is to the Creta with a very similar driving experience (which is not a bad thing considering the Venue is one of the best compact SUVs out there). Obviously it brings to the table its own styling and visual character, and having being showcased a whole year later, it does have more equipment as well. Expect Kia to price it aggressively — starting at Rs 7.5 lakh and going up to Rs 12 lakh. I haven’t driven the car yet, so all I can do for the time being is bring you up to speed with what my first impressions of the car were while it was stood on a literal pedestal. The fact that the Sonet breaks in to the sub-10 lakh rupee price bracket after establishing itself strongly with the Seltos opens it up to whole new audience, and this top-down strategy could pay big dividends. Exciting stuff, and I can’t wait to drive it on the road!