FIRST DRIVE | Revamped Kia Sonet arrives in Mzansi

The compact crossover arrives with a stylish makeover and an added model with hi-tech safety

14 June 2024 - 12:21
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The updated Sonet has a more striking and futuristic design.
The updated Sonet has a more striking and futuristic design.
Image: Supplied

Kia has launched a facelifted and upgraded Sonet, the brand’s most popular seller in South Africa.

It has also realigned the model range and added a new high-spec SX variant featuring advanced driver assistance systems.

Built in India, the Sonet compact crossover was introduced in South Africa in May 2021 into the competitive A-SUV category which accounts for one-third of the passenger car market and is contested by rivals such as the Nissan Magnite, Hyundai Venue, Volkswagen T-Cross and Chery Tiggo 4. It was first launched in 1.5l normally aspirated derivatives, followed by 1.0l turbo models the next year.

These engines remain, but the little SUV has been given a bold new design with reshaped bumpers, updated “tiger nose” grille and headlights that give it a more dynamic presence. At the rear, a redesigned, boxier bumper emphasises the width created by new tail lamps. As part of the refresh, the car gains a new colour option in Pewter Olive metallic.

There are minor interior updates on lower specification models while more expensive variants have a large 10.25" infotainment screen and a Supervision cluster digital instrument panel.

Prices have stayed the same or increased slightly depending on model, with the new flagship SX variant introduced at R484,995. The SX is the only model in the range with lane keep assist, lane follow assist and forward collision avoidance assist as active safety features. It also comes standard with LED headlamps and fog lamps, drive mode select, smart entry with push button start.

All variants, including in entry-level LX guise, come standard with a reasonably high level of features including ABS brakes, dual front airbags, electronic stability control, air conditioning, automatic headlights, daytime running lights, front and rear USB charging ports, a reverse camera, cloth and artificial leather upholstery and central locking. LX versions have a smaller 8" infotainment touchscreen but, like the higher-end versions, are equipped with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. LX models roll on 16" steel wheels with styled covers.

Lower-specced versions have an 8" colour touchscreen and cloth/artificial leather seats.
Lower-specced versions have an 8" colour touchscreen and cloth/artificial leather seats.
Image: Supplied

One step up, the EX brings additional features such as rear parking sensor, LED daytime running lights, rear fog lamps, a centre console armrest with storage box, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter, cruise control and auto folding electric side mirrors.

EX Plus guise further adds four additional airbags for a total of six, automatic climate control, 16" alloy wheels, artificial leather upholstery, a full-sized 10.25" touchscreen, a wireless smartphone charger and an electrochromatic rear view mirror.

I drove the 1.5 LX CVT and 1.0 EX DCT versions at the launch in KwaZulu-Natal and at sea level there wasn’t much to choose between the normally-aspirated 1.5 four-cylinder and turbocharged 1.0 three-cylinder models in performance. They both felt reasonably peppy on urban roads and easily cruised at the speed limit on the freeway.

In Gauteng’s thinner air the turbo version, which makes outputs of 88kW and 172Nm, should feel livelier than the 1.5 (85kW and 144Nm) as the turbo won’t lose as much power compared to sea level.

The Sonet feels reasonably refined, with the 1.0 turbo making a distinctive but not unpleasant three-cylinder sound.

The 1.5 CVT has one of the better continuously variable transmissions I’ve experienced. It has simulated gear changes and does not drone unpleasantly on the open road. The 1.0 version is paired with a dual-clutch transmission and also shifts smoothly.

The 385 litre boot is one of the biggest in the segment.
The 385 litre boot is one of the biggest in the segment.
Image: Denis Droppa

The ride quality was a little on the firm side and felt as if the tyres had been over-inflated; we didn’t get a chance to check the pressures in our short driving stints. Overall the cars had a solid, well-built feel.

The cabin has a modern and pleasant vibe, though the armrests in the baseline LX aren’t padded as in the higher-specced versions and will feel less comfortable on longer journeys.

The updates do not affect the Sonet’s dimensions and it retains a length of 4,110mm and wheelbase of 2,500mm, giving it one of the roomiest cabins in its class. Four adults will fit inside without being cramped and the Sonet has one of the segment’s largest boots at 385l.

The new Kia Sonet LX and EX range goes on sale on June 18, with EX Plus and SX derivatives available from late July 2024.


Sonet 1.5 LX manual — R366,995

Sonet 1.5 LX CVT — R391,995

Sonet 1.5 EX CVT — R411,995

Sonet 1.0T EX DCT — R436,995

Sonet 1.5 EX Plus CVT — R454,995

Sonet 1.5 SX CVT — R484,995

Includes five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assistance, and a four-year/60,000km service plan


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