Before I even begin the actual review, you must know that this Kia Sonet Diesel Automatic Review is a "first-drive review" (where you get to drive the vehicle for a few hours) which has been compiled after testing the car for approximately 200 km in five hours. Around 70 percent of those 200 kms was on the Delhi-Jaipur highway; 10 percent on the flawless, but confusing, roads around Cyberhub (which also houses the Kia Beat 360 Brand Experience Centre) in Gurgaon, while the rest was around the industrial sections of Manesar (read: "mostly broken surfaces") in my quest to find a suitable spot for taking pictures.
Therefore, while this by no means will be a comprehensive review, I shall certainly be able to provide my initial findings on everything—highway manners, behavior in the city, suspension on bad roads, top speed, acceleration, fuel efficiency (yes!), braking—about the Sonet, in addition to the regular stuff that's usually covered in first drive reviews. The only thing I won't be able to touch right now is the headlamps' performance. I shall do that as well, along with revisiting every parameter, as and when I get the vehicle for a longer-term. So let's begin this Kia Sonet review by talking about something that would be the first reason for most to contemplate one.
KIA Sonet Diesel Automatic Review: Exterior Design & Style
Regular readers would know that I am not a fan of highlighting individual design elements of an automobile, unless it's an abomination we're talking about—like the continually worsening hydronephrosis of the latest BMWs. Why? Well, ask yourself what pulls you visually towards a car? Is it the individual design elements or how the vehicle looks in its entirety? For example, you would never hear something on the lines of "I bought that car because I just love how its grille seamlessly merges into the headlights, just like my mustache into my sideburns" or "I am buying that car because its red inserts all around complement the shade of my blush." However, you would certainly hear many say, "I will buy it just for its looks!" And you'll say JUST THAT when you'll see it in person. It looks stunning from the front, and even the rear is quite palatable.
Also, aren't those alloy wheels absolutely gorgeous?
Overall, it's a handsome vehicle that elicits positive reactions from all onlookers. If you must know, our vehicle turned a lot of heads, and not all of them were due to my excessively good looks.
KIA Sonet Diesel Automatic Review: Interior, Space, and Ergonomics
I might be vain, but beauty certainly isn't skin deep as far as the Sonet is concerned. The interior too, like the exterior, is simply the best in the segment.
The layout, quality, fit-and-finish feels In fact, the moment Himanshu (my photographer) and I sat in the car, we both inadvertently blurted out "WOW!" in unison.
Our Sonet was the top-end GTX+ variant that had every feature you can think of in this segment and then some. You may read all about it here: KIA Sonet: Interiors & Features explained. I would rather explain to you how those features make YOU feel inside the Sonet.
Very comfortable. That's how they make you feel. The AC cools the cabin quickly; plus, the front seats are ventilated too. Also, I found the seat cushioning, contours, and squab size to be perfect. Our photographer is six-feet tall and I am around a foot shorter, which means that anyone and everyone between 5'0" to 6'0" would have zero issues with the seats. The driver's seat is adjustable for height.
The rear seats are comfortable too, and unless everyone in your family plays basketball, those sitting at the rear won't have any legroom issues.
And they won't ever have headroom issues anyway—Himanshu had around three to four inches of clearance between his head and the roof.
However, the most important highlight of the Sonet's cabin is its perfect ergonomics. All controls, switches, buttons, storage spaces, etc., are exactly where they should be; nothing plays hide and seek with you, and there's absolutely nothing that requires you to be adept at yoga to reach it without hurting yourself. For example, the bonnet release in some cars requires you to bend at some really undignified angles. Even that mile long touchscreen did not cause a dislocated shoulder and was within my short arm's reach.
That screen itself deserves a separate review. That will happen on some other day; right now it will suffice to say that not only it is the biggest in the segment, and beautifully integrated (unlike most that look like cheap tabs attached to the dashboard on aftermarket mounts), but also packs in more features and functionality than screens in more expensive cars do.
There's a lot of storage space all around, so even the clumsiest of owners won't have an excuse to litter. The claimed boot capacity is 392 liters but it appears bigger than that.
KIA Sonet Diesel Automatic Review: Engine & Gearbox Performance, Fuel Effieicncy, Ride & Handling
The 1.5-liter turbocharged motor under the Sonet's bonnet produces 115 PS at 4,000 rpm and 250 Nm at 1,500-2,750 rpm. Those numbers translate to a 0-100 km/h in around 11 seconds, and a top speed of over 170 km/h. Please note that the acceleration run was done in the manual mode of the six-speed automatic transmission that lets the revs go near the redline before shifting up.
In the normal auto mode (D of P-R-N-D) you have further three Drive Modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport. I chose Eco for a bit more than half of our drive to compensate for the repeated acceleration and top speed runs in the manual mode. I did it so that I could at least give you the "average" fuel efficiency figure calculated by the car's brain, after the trip, taking into account the real-time fuel efficiency during the entire trip.
As you can see below, I could extract almost 16 km to a liter despite all the aforementioned pedal-to-the-floor antics. I would stick my neck out and say that you may expect anywhere between 11-13 km/l in city traffic, and 15-18 on highways provided you keep it under 100 km/h. Cruise control helps.
The Sonet's high speed stability exceeded my expectations, and even sudden changes in direction don't bother it much. Bodyroll is well contained, and the ride quality, which is a wee bit on the firmer side, never gets jarring or uncomfortable. And that's just with two occupants; a full house will make it more pliant.
KIA Sonet Diesel Automatic Review: Verdict
The Kia Sonet is the best-looking vehicle in its segment, and it has the best interiors too. While at it, it boasts of many segment-first features, which will certainly add to the novelty factor and entice more buyers. Plus, it also excels in the core parameters (performance, ride & handling, etc.). Most importantly, this model, the diesel automatic, is Kia's trump card as no manufacturer has a diesel automatic in this segment at the moment. If Kia prices it well, which in all probability it will, the Sonet will be the buyers' first choice in its segment. And a cracking one at that!