Deep down, all of us carry the jungle within us. We are, in equal measure, both terrified and fascinated by the wild. That is why despite emerging out of it thousands of years ago, we still like to remind ourselves of it. Last month, we set out to reacquaint ourselves with the power, grace, and purpose that defines the beasts that have been part of Mumbai as it grew from a sleepy seaside village into one of the world’s most buzzing metropolises. The car that we took on the mission was the all new Kia Sonet 1.5 GTX Plus Diesel, an automobile that has been developed and engineered from scratch for Indian roads and aspirations. Beasts in stone, meet beast in metal.
It’s all in the details
Upright stance, reinterpreted ‘tiger-nose’ grille, delicious alloys — just some of the things that make the Kia Sonet such a stunner.
Thousands pass by the nearly 150-year-old Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, in South Mumbai, every day. They do so under the impassive gaze of two fierce cats: a lion representing Britain and a tiger representing India. Both these felines, cast in stone, are part of the immense edifice that is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture and of unity in design. Harmonious design is also the forte of the Kia Sonet, which is a collaborative effort between the Kia Design Centre, in Namyang, South Korea, and the manufacturer’s design team located in India. There are a lot of cues that please the eye, when it comes to the Sonet’s energetic design. The strong, sporty character of the profile, the sharply-raked A-pillar, and the round roofline are among them, and all of these come together to create an SUV that stands out from the crowd and makes heads turn. Kia’s trademark ‘tiger-nose’ grille is reinterpreted in the Sonet with some cool LED wizardry, and is flanked by jewel-like ‘heart-beat’ LED DRLs and stylish front skid plates. The grille mesh is a subtle nod to India’s iconic step wells, such as the iconic Chand Baori in Abhaneri in Rajasthan. The ‘heart beat’ LED design element is carried over to the rear as well, and, combined with a sporty dual-muffler design and diffuser fin rear skid plate, it creates a picture that is both dynamic and appealing. The icing on the cake? Those 16-inch crystal-cut alloys. Quite clearly, as far as good looks go, Kia’s Sonet is a clear winner and an SUV that both pushes the envelope and respects tradition.
L for lively
A total thoroughbred: The Sonet is designed around the driver, with an intuitive, best-in-class infotainment system, and interiors that boast impeccable quality.
Back in 1879, a sculpture of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) astride a horse was installed in a space, which, over a 100 years later, would become Mumbai’s foremost art district. Of course, we are talking about Kala Ghoda. The surprising thing is the statue itself was moved elsewhere in the 1960s, but the name remained. In 2017, another sculpture of a horse, this time without a colonial ruler, was installed a few metres away from where the original statue once stood. The new muscular sculpture of a black, 25 foot-tall horse is an arresting sight. It represents speed, and it has a lot in common with the Sonet, whose refreshing energy gets your attention even before you fire it up. Thanks to the comfortable and commanding driving position, which has you gripping the sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel, you can already sense what the Sonet has lined up. Its sporty visual nuances are complemented by its spirited 1.5-litre CRDI engine and 6-speed automatic transmission combination, which delivers seamless responses with an air of effortlessness about it. The 98hp, 1.5-litre diesel has more torque than you can wish for, spread evenly through the rev range, and the well-sprung accelerator pedal (bearing a cool metal finish) helps modulate inputs with precision. Whether you choose to play frugal in ‘Eco’ mode or put the pedal to the metal in ‘Sport’, or even just do the balancing act in ‘Normal’, the Sonet has an air of confidence to its stride that makes it seem like an SUV from a higher segment. The acceleration is addictively strong when you floor it, and comfortably progressive when you don’t. All the while, you are isolated from the elements and the Sonet’s own hard-at-work mechanicals, which keeps you upbeat, and fresh enough to make you want to do a few more hot laps of the city even after you’ve arrived at your destination. What is a blitzy urban performer turns into a sublime highway mile-muncher as you point its tiger-nose in the direction of the distant horizon, making the Sonet an almost shockingly good blend. That its steering is brilliantly light in cramped city spaces and magically well-weighted for serious cornering is only the icing on the cake. Like with every Kia offering, the Sonet offers a choice of engines and transmissions. Prospective customers can choose between two petrol engines, a versatile Smartstream 1.2-litre four-cylinder and powerful 1.0 T-GDi, besides the diesel our car was equipped with. And the transmission options include 5- and 6-speed manuals, a quick-shifting 7-speed DCT, a 6-speed automatic, and a state of the art 6-speed Smartstream intelligent manual transmission.
Alpha predator: The Sonet’s distinctive face is complemented by powerful engines, the latest tech, and several segment-leading features.
Power to pleasantly surprise
The Sonet’s intelligently packaged and trendy, attractive interiors take their cue from the exterior design, and the cabin has room for five great friends if not more. As we have seen in the case of the Seltos, the use of high-quality materials is a Kia signature move and that is the case with the Sonet as well, with several best-in-class features, including ventilated driver and front passenger seats and a premium Bose system on offer.
There is room all around, and the rear seats are plush and comfortable.
Another segment-leading feature – the Sonet boasts 30+ class-leading attributes – is the 10.25-inch HD touchscreen with infotainment and navigation that takes pride of place on the dash and offers further proof of Kia’s ability to shatter the status quo. The system, which offers Kia’s advanced and intuitive UVO ‘connected car’ technology, is ably complemented by the 4.2-inch instrument cluster that throws up vital information, navigation instructions, drive mode and traction mode selection, among others, in great detail and clarity. The Sonet offers other feel-goodies such as LED Sound Mood Lighting and a wireless smartphone charger with a cooling function. Plus, in tune with the times we live in, it is also equipped with Kia’s Smart Pure Air Purifier that comes with a two-level purification system that not only hoovers up and ejects pollutants out of the cabin but also kills bacteria and viruses as it cleans the air. Long story short? The Kia Sonet offers an experience that is unmatched in its segment and belongs actually to a class above it.
Kia’s signature UVO Connect suite of technologies offers over 57 features, including remote control and security.
Space, convenience, safety
Despite being a teeming megapolis, there are islands of dense greenery in Mumbai where the rules of the jungle are still paramount. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is one of them, and to a lesser extent, the Aarey Colony. These are spaces where Mumbaikars often head to spend time with themselves and with nature. Space and its intelligent packaging is also, along with comfort, a Kia forte. The accent on customer centricity means that Sonet drivers get large, well-bolstered and, of course, ventilated front seats. Comfort at the rear, too, is top-notch, with plush seating, and lots of all round room. Elevating the interior experience is Kia’s UVO connect that offers over 57 features covering a range of functions, including remote control, navigation, security and vehicle management. The UVO’s AI-enabled Voice Assist feature, activated by ‘Hello Kia’, can actualise several features, and these include making phone calls, obtaining weather information, time and date, Indian holiday information, media control, navigation control, climate control, and even finding out the latest cricket scores. True to form, there is also an industry-first here, window up-down command activated by your voice. The Sonet completes the picture by providing a range of active and passive safety features, including six airbags, ABS and ESC, Hill Start Assist Control, front and rear parking sensors and emergency braking warning.
An unparalleled experience
With the Sonet, Kia first provided a hint of things to come at the Auto Expo in February this year. And expectations from the Sonet have been extremely high since then. Most cars, especially the ones driven by hype, would have fallen short. But when you have a car such as the Kia Sonet, that is a complete amalgam of design, quality, technology, features, and driveability, you know you can’t go wrong.