Driven: Kia Sonet EX

The small crossover segment has blown up like cryptocurrency. Is the new KIA Sonet the next Bitcoin or Doge?

I’ve only just spent a week in the KIA Picanto X-Line and now find myself in its larger sibling, the new Sonet? How is this relevant? Simple, there are now just the barest of overlaps in price between the Korean firm’s extensive range of gravel travelers. Starting here at the wee end, advancing beyond the Sonet to the Sportage and Sorento. All of them great, but this latest entry operates in the most hotly contested segment of them all.

The KIA Sonet is a small crossover similar to its Hyundai Venue sibling. And therefore is a challenger to the stalwart Ford Ecosport plus a rival to the recently launched Suzuki Vitara Brezza and its hardware twin, the Toyota Urban Cruiser. It even competes with the new Honda WR-V, but that’s a story for another day. Indeed, this segment has exploded further featuring the about-to-be-launched Nissan Magnite Crossover. The whole lot can be had in a R265k – R306k ballpark with similar warranties and service plans, so the Sonet really needs to stand out to make an impact.

A new compact crossover needs to do three things, aside from measure circa four metres long and come in under R300k. It needs to drive good, look good and have all the toys. Well, it ticks three boxes with much gusto thanks to firstly its revvy 1.5mpi engine. Secondly, it is a card-carrying head turner, or so it was on our trip around the Cape. The Sonet’s bodywork is all flexing muscle and stance, chrome and dark plastic accents with meaty alloy hoops in each gaping wheel arch. KIA’s styling has been on point for over a decade, defining itself as the sportier iteration of a similar Hyundai product, I’m sure you’ll agree. Oh, yes and thirdly – the toys. Clamber aboard and you’ll encounter an 8-inch infotainment screen with wireless connectivity via Apple Carplay and Android Auto. You’ve got USB ports at the back and front, voice control and Bluetooth connections. There’s also central locking, air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, a rear-view camera and leather/seat trim. Choose an EX and you can further add rear park distance control plus a leather steering wheel and gear knob. Luggage room is a capacious 392-litres and I’m told there’s plenty of space in the second row. Safety is also sorted thanks to electronic stability control, ABS with EBD, hill start assist, dual front airbags and Isofix anchorage points.

Yes. I recommend it wholeheartedly – in fact it shares the top spot for me with the Suzuki Vitara Brezza and that says a lot. It is 4.12m long, has a gravel-friendly ground clearance of 190mm and then there’s the new engine (for the South African market) to talk about. It’s a fuel-efficient 1.5 MPI petrol engine with 85kW and 144Nm – mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It’s here that the KIA has the advantage with great acceleration and a final ratio that favours urban and highway cruising which is where, if we’re honest, these cars will live their best lives.

Sonet 1.5 LX Manual   R264,995
Sonet 1.5 LX CVT         R285,995
Sonet 1.5 EX Manual  R284,995
Sonet 1.5 EX CVT        R305,995
*Includes KIA’s 5 year/ unlimited km warranty and 4 year/60,000km service plan

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