REVIEW | 2022 Kia Sonet 1.5 LX offers great value for money

12 January 2022 - 08:48
The Sonet is plucky and assertive.
The Sonet is plucky and assertive.
Image: Supplied

There is no mystery why B-segment crossovers and sport-utility vehicles are supplanting their hatchback counterparts in popularity.    

From the consumer standpoint, the perception is that you are getting a whole lot more for your money, even if the basic floorplan dimensions of both are often largely similar.    

If most were faced with a choice between a conventional five-door or a slightly pumped-up, elevated compact with extroverted styling characteristics, the latter undoubtedly seems far more enticing.    

Certainly, when you are navigating Johannesburg roads through the rainy season, dodging potholes and wayward drivers, that extra dollop of urban toughness imbues one with a bit more confidence.    

We found ourselves custodians of the Kia Sonet 1.5 LX over the December period for the purposes of an extended test. It was a relationship that started on a good foot, since we had already tested the model earlier in 2021, coming away with sentiments that were largely positive.    

Regular readers may recall the Sonet in 1.5 EX automatic guise took the top spot in our September 2021 comparison test, beating the Volkswagen T-Cross and Suzuki Vitara Brezza. 

Yes, this is a model we can recommend. Despite being of basic LX specification, it was quite impressive to note how much the model offers for the required outlay — a reasonable R285,995. It was listed at R10,000 cheaper when we published our introductory story in December last year.  

Rear styling takes cues from the Sportage.
Rear styling takes cues from the Sportage.
Image: Supplied

From the outside you can tell it is the plain Jane version since it does without the garnishes boasted by its grander siblings. That means no alloy wheels or shiny embellishments that glisten in sunlight. But even without the frills, the inherent styling of the Kia leaves a good impression, with its assertive nose, stocky proportions and Sportage-mimicking rear.    

The interior experience of any vehicle is arguably more significant than outer aesthetics, since this is where time is mostly spent. To that end, the Kia disguises its entry-level position a little better.    

The first thing buyers will notice is the presence of an eight-inch digital interface with a decent screen resolution, complemented by features such as wireless charging  and wireless smartphone connectivity. Bluetooth with voice recognition, electrically-adjusted mirrors, front and rear electric windows and two USB ports are further points on the credit sheet. Add to that a reverse camera.    

While the steering lacks leatherette trim, it offers satellite controls for the audio and instrument cluster functions. The air-conditioning system is manual, with rotary controls for temperature and flow direction, while fan speed is adjusted by buttons.    

Fabric upholstery is the standard fare in the LX, but it is of a durable textile, with dark grey reserved for the bolsters and a pretty nondescript pattern for the centre sections. It looks tidy overall. Other conveniences to be appreciated is the fitment of ventilation slots for rear passengers. They also benefit from a centre foldable arm-rest.

What primed the Sonet as a cut above in our minds, during previous evaluations, was the fit, finish and high-quality textures of the interior. At the price point — and compared to certain rivals in the segment which err on the cheap, not cheerful side of things — the model appears to punch above its weight in terms of tactility and solidity.    

Even the hooter tone has an assertive note to it, suiting that of a larger car, unlike the pipsqueak yelps often expected from vehicles in the compact category. To drive, the Sonet relays a planted sense in real-world conditions, including on waterlogged roads. The ride is more than acceptable, with behaviour far more accomplished than what the rudimentary torsion beam rear suspension might lead one to think.  

An interior that puts rivals at this price in the shade.
An interior that puts rivals at this price in the shade.
Image: Supplied

The role of the plump 65mm-profile tyres on our tester cannot be ignored for its contribution to a pleasant ride. The diameter of the wheel is 15 inches with a track of 195mm. Tread sensibly on dirt and gravel (especially if there is mud about) because it is a front-wheel drive vehicle, after all. A ground clearance of 190mm is certainly sufficient for light jaunts off tarmac. Disc brakes are on duty up front, with drums at the rear.    

It is assuring that the Sonet is equipped with electronic stability control, in addition to the obligatory anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution. Two airbags are fitted, although four would have been better. While we are talking omissions, the lack of a rear windscreen wiper was a notable impediment, given the frequency of downpours over the season. There is also no NCAP crash test rating yet available for the vehicle.    

All models in the Sonet range are powered by a normally-aspirated  1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol motor delivering 84.7kW and 143.8Nm. Its modesty was only accentuated when setting off uphill, where the tachometer is wound up, as the driver maximises the torque on offer.    

Around town commutes are an easy affair, with a light clutch action and a wonderfully precise manual gearbox, which snicks into each gate with more directness than one would initially imagine.    

Best to keep in the middle lane on the freeway, capitalising on momentum and aiming for a consistent speed — you will find yourself downshifting frequently if you are playing the overtaking game in the Sonet. A turbocharged derivative could be on the cards this year, but expect that to carry a greater premium. Our average fuel consumption by the end of our test was 6.3l/100km over 750km of driving.    

Viewed in entirety, the Sonet 1.5 LX offers exceptional value for money. It is competitively priced and offers a layer of refinement that is superior to of its any rivals under R300,000.  

A possible match would be its cousin from Hyundai, the Venue, recently launched in more affordable 1.2 Motion trim (R262,500), although this omits a number of features the Kia boasts, such as electronic stability control.


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