Home / Reviews / First Drive / Kia Sonet Petrol iMT and Diesel Automatic First Drive Review


We spend some quality time driving the Kia Sonet 1.0 turbo-petrol iMT and the 1.5 diesel automatic before their official launch in India, and it was a day well spent.

Kia Sonet 1.0 turbo petrol drive review in India

The all-new Kia Sonet is being offered with two petrol and one diesel engine options, and five transmission to choose from. We got to sample just the Kia Sonet 1.5-litre diesel with six-speed automatic and and the interesting new 1.0-litre turbo-petrol iMT versions.

  • Kia Sonet exterior details SUV design in Car India

The top-end Kia Sonet comes with a twirled up skid-plate with silver accents distinguishing it from lower trims, which makes do with simpler brush metal highlights. It also gets an intricate looking grille with red inserts and GT Line badging. And yes, the familiar tiger nose grille with chrome highlights, crown-jewel LED headlamps, and stylish daytime running lights (DRL) with integrated indicators. The Kia Sonet has a distinct side profile with bold wheel arches and thick C-pillars. What doesn’t work for me are the glossy black plastic accent on these pillars but I do like the crystal-cut 16-inch alloy wheels. The LED tail lamps have a similar heartbeat lighting profile and there’s a small, roof mounted spoiler which also has brake lights for additional visibility. What I appreciate the most is that it has just a few badges which have been tastefully executed.

  • Kia Sonet rear seat adjustable head rest

Cabin and Interior
Get in and you’ll instantly notice the well put together cabin with a youthful layout and a  splash of colours. There are bits borrowed from the Seltos – like the door handle and even the 10.25-inch touchscreen… the latter being the best in the segment. The cabin of the GT Line screams ‘Premium’ with ample use of piano black accents in combination of good quality textured and soft plastic. There are about a dozen buttons to manage the climate control and drive modes which feel well built but they don’t look very pleasing to my eyes. The centre console gets a couple of cupholders and there’s even a small storage space under the centre arm rest. The multifunction, flat-bottom steering wheel looks similar to the one on Seltos, and is tilt adjustable only. The semi-digital instrument console makes getting all the info you need while driving so easy.
Kia Sonet rear seat adjustable head rest

There’s just about enough space at the back too as expected in the sub-four-metre SUV, plus the two head-rests are adjustable as well. It’s a tall car, so there’s ample headroom but on longer drives your car-pool friends will desire more under thigh support. And it’s alway good to have a large 392-litre luggage space to carry everything and more.
Kia Sonet multifunction steering wheel

Purely in terms of features, the Kia Sonet makes competition look like a generation old. This includes the UVO with 57 connect car features, it allows you to monitor your prized possession from your smartphones. And you can crank-up the engine using the car’s key. Ventilated seats and the incredible Bose music system are things this segment had never seen before. Plus there’s an air purifier, front and rear parking sensors and a camera which not just aid parking but offers rear view on the go. It gets roof rails and even a small sunroof like the one you get on the Seltos, with one touch operation. More importantly, higher variants get six-airbags, ABS with electronic brake force distribution, stability control, along with Vehicle Stability Management and even brake assist for added protection.

The attention to details is what impressed me the most. For instance, the wireless charger has slightly raised edges to keep your phone in place. The position of the USB ports make them easy to use. And the auto-dimming IRVM gets quick access SOS and UVO buttons. The incredibly long features list does miss out on auto wipers but you do get automatic headlamps.

  • Kia Sonet robust side profile design

Kia Sonet 1.0 Turbo-Petrol iMT
The 998-cc unit is smooth and peppy, and produces 120 hp at 6,000 rpm and 172 Nm between 1,500-4,000 rpm. The turbo-petrol can be had with either the iMT (that we drove) or a dual-clutch transmission, but surprisingly isn’t offered with the usual manual gearbox. It’s the same engine seen on cars like the Hyundai Venue and Verna, so we have a fair idea of how it performs. Driving the iMT and takes a bit of time to get used to, because it’s neither an AMT (Automated Manual Transmission) nor a manual car, but somewhere in between. So initially you’re looking for a clutch pedal while shifting gears and often forget to shift up or down at the right time. But worry not, as the MID sends out a beep prompting you to shift. Once you get used to it, the whole thing becomes second nature and you control the gears manually while the in-built sensors and actuators operate the clutch for you. The best part is that it revs all the way to redline and stays there till you shift up.

It’s actually very easy to drive, especially in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Just slot it in first and it crawls ahead, press the break to halt and release it to get going again. No clutch pedal and, in such situations, there’s no need to shift gears either. The system lets you down in situations when you want to slip the clutch and control the revs. You simply can’t launch an iMT like a manual car and won’t be able to match its 0-100 km/h time, making the intelligent gearbox less involving to drive. There’s a slight pause at every gear change, which in turn would ensure longer clutch life. Having said that, iMT eradicates the head nods that AMTs are infamous for, offering smooth gear transition and a comfortable drive. This unique powertrain is at its best when driven leisurely. On the other hand, it can’t match the convenience of a conventional automatic, where there’s no shifting of gears at all. But remember, iMT is a lot less expensive and claims to return 18.2 km/l making it pretty efficient. This makes the iMT a pocket friendly option for those who hate dealing with the clutch. (Also Read: Hyundai Venue iMT Review)
Kia Sonet diesel review by Car India

Kia Sonet 1.5 Turbo-Diesel AT
We also got our hands on the diesel automatic version which comes with the segment-first 1.5-litre unit mated to a six-speed torque-converter. This 1,493-cc engine makes an impressive 115 hp at 4,000 rpm and 250 Nm between 1,500-2,750 rpm which is 15 hp and 10 Nm more than its manual sibling. This diesel engine with a variable geometry turbocharger also powers larger cars like the Seltos and Creta, making the small Kia a hoot to drive. And it is frugal too, promising to stretch a litre of diesel for 19 km. The diesel auto is so convenient and easy to drive with just about enough power, propelled by that creamy torque. Unlike usual diesels, this one is pretty refined offering smooth lag-free acceleration thanks to the intuitive to the automatic gearbox. For more aggression, you can change gears manually through the gear lever too. Either ways, the performance is strong and more usable, making overtaking manoeuvres easy and cruising on empty roads effortless. You also get drive modes – Normal, Eco, Sport (no puns intended) which mildly alter the performance and steering feedback. Interestingly, the automatic also brings traction control to the segment, promising to get you out of tricky surfaces like sand, snow and mud. For something with a small price tag like this, the Sonet is pretty loaded. And among the two versions we got to drive, this clearly is our pick.

Ride and Handling
The suspension of both the engine options are similar, consisting of the usual MacPherson Struts up front and torsion beam with coil spring on the rear. With the whole sporty theme of the Sonet, we were glad that it’s not too stiffly setup. Though on the firmer side, it does soak in most of the potholes and undulations without losing poise. The plus side of this is that in spite of being 1,642 mm tall, there’s no evident body roll and the SUV remains fairly planted even during quick lane-change manoeuvres. With drum brakes at the back and disc in front, it does shed speed rapidly without going haywire.
Kia Sonet India review by Car India magazine

The Kia Sonet is available in six variants, but you can’t get a 120 hp, 1.0-litre turbo-petrol with a manual transmission. So, you’ll have to settle for the less spirited 1.2-litre petrol that makes 83 hp with a five-speed manual ’box. But with an expected starting price of Rs 7 lakh, this really is a tempting deal. The advantage the Kia Sonet has is the diesel automatic version, which is an absolute gem. The top-end models are expected to hover around the Rs 11.50 lakh price bracket, which still is quite aggressive considering the kit it brings along. This one has all the makings of a blockbuster.


About the author: Sarmad Kadiri



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