Kia Sonet: Made in India compact SUV with big export potential

by Mayank Dhingra 07 Aug 2020

The dynamic compact SUV segment in India just turned even more exciting. Kia Motors India, the Korean carmaker and Hyundai Motor sibling which gatecrashed the Indian automobile market with the game-changing Seltos SUV, then rolled out the luxurious Carnival MPV, today revealed its third product – the Sonet compact SUV.

The world premiere of the production-ready model follows the global unveiling of the Sonet concept at the Delhi Auto Expo in February 2020. Sales of the new car will commence soon in India, with sales in many of Kia’s global markets due to follow.

That Kia Motors is betting big on the Sonet is amply clear from the opening statement from Ho Sung Song, president and CEO, Kia Motors Corporation. He said: “With the Sonet, we want to become the brand of choice in India.”  

He added, “Everything about the all-new Sonet is uniquely Kia and is sure to delight both drivers and passengers. With its aggressive and modern design language, fun-to-drive dynamics, and Kia’s latest high-tech features, the Sonet puts an exclamation point on our ambition to make Kia the brand of choice, especially among millennial and Gen Z consumers. The Sonet fills a need in the growing SUV market, in India and further afield, and will attract a wider number of consumers to the Kia brand.”

“We are extremely excited to introduce the Sonet, which is made in India for the world. After the success of the Seltos and Carnival, we are confident that Kia will revolutionise yet another market segment in India with the Sonet by addressing the unmet needs and aspirations of customers,” said Kookhyun Shim, MD and CEO, Kia Motors India.

“The Kia Sonet is designed and developed to deliver a best-in-class experience in quality, design, technology, features and drivability to attract a wide spectrum of customers across segments. The Sonet will be produced at our state-of-the-art Anantapur plant to Kia’s exacting global standards, and we are sure it will be received with enthusiasm by new customers and existing fans of the brand alike," added the Kia Motors India boss. 

Styling and interior
In line with Kia’s distinctive design DNA, the Sonet’s emotive and bold design combines the brand’s signature design traits, including the iconic ‘tiger nose’ grille, with a three-dimensional ‘stepwell’ geometric grille mesh, making a strong visual impression inspired by Indian architecture. The front boasts a distinctive pair of LED headlamps with Kia’s signature heart beat DRL theme, giving the Sonet a powerful and appealing face.

The upright bonnet and the rising window line on the side also add to the character of the crossover. The side body cladding around the car and 215-section tyres on 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels add to the aggressive stance with a rugged appeal. At the rear, Kia designers have played heavily with lights, plastic and glass and concealed the C-pillar in a black plastic cladding to give a wraparound treatment to the rear windshield. The LED tail lamps also get the signature heart beat treatment and there’s a thin stripe of LED joining the lamps on the either side.

According to Karim Habib, Head of Kia Global Design, “The exterior design of the Sonet was inspired by the baby elephant and it truly emulates the strength and the attractiveness of the animal. The tiger nose grille was inspired by the stepwell – a traditional Indian architectural methodology.”

On the inside, the Sonet offers a sophisticated and lively cabin experience with an amalgamation of various textures and shapes. The sweeping dashboard and a stylish yet minimalist centre console call for a pleasing visual experience inside the car that also feels hugely modern. The layered vertical AC vents, flat-bottom steering wheel, fully-digital instrument cluster, aluminium-finished pedals, sunroof and an all-black theme would together help make the Sonet instantly appeal to the youngsters.

Kia has also offered a few segment-first features including a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system that offers 57 of its connected features under the UVO connected car platform. It also comes paired with a 7-speaker sound system from Bose. Moreover, the company has introduced ventilated front seats, a cooled wireless mobile phone charger, driving modes for the automatic variants as well as front parking sensors which are so far unheard of in the mass-market compact crossover segment.

Multiple powertrains
In line with the company’s strategy that it adopted while entering the Indian market with the Seltos in August last year, the Sonet too will be offered with multiple powertrain options to suit virtually all requirements in compact crossover segment. It will be offered with a choice of two petrol engines – a 1.2-litre four-cylinder and a relatively powerful 1.0-litre three-cylinder T-GDI (turbocharged gasoline direct injection) – along with a 1.5-litre diesel engine, all conforming to the BS VI norms.

The engines will be available with a choice of five transmissions that would include five- and six-speed manuals, an intuitive seven-speed DCT, six-speed torque convertor automatic, and Kia’s innovative new six-speed clutch-less manual transmission (iMT) that has also been recently introduced in the Hyundai Venue. The latter offers fatigue-free driving thanks to the absence of a clutch pedal, yet the driver is able to control the car like a conventional manual transmission.

Kia is also betting big on the demand for diesel automatics and for the first time in this segment, the Sonet will also offer its 1.5-litre diesel engine with the six-speed automatic transmission option.

In terms of safety features as well, Kia has gone all out and equipped the Sonet with active and passive features such as dual airbags and ABS and EBD as standard. The higher variants will see the list getting bigger with six airbags, ESC, hill-hold assist, vehicle stability management, brake assist and tyre pressure monitoring system making their way into the crossover.

Glo-cal development
Kia says the Sonet has been developed and engineered from the ground-up jointly between Kia Motors India and Kia’s global R&D headquarters in South Korea. The production Sonet has been built following extensive market inputs from India, especially relating to its design, engine and transmission tuning and characteristics, suspension attributes, and the high-tech features it offers. The compact SUV has also been through extensive road tests in India, where Indian and South Korean engineers in Sonet prototypes covered over 100,000 kilometres across diverse terrain, driving situations, and climatic conditions.

Made in India, for the world
Along with strategic plan to make the most of the compact SUV market in India, Kia Motors is also banking on sizeable exports of the Sonet. With India and Kia Motors India's plant in Andhra Pradesh being the sole production base in the world for the Sonet, there is huge export potential for the snazzy compact SUV.

Speaking at the reveal of the production-ready Sonet, Kook-Hyun Shim, Managing Director and CEO, Kia Motors India, said: “Our Anantapur plant is the best among the Kia plants in the world. We are sure the made-in-India Sonet will wow India and the world.”

As per Kia Motor Corporation’s Q2 CY2020 results presentation released on July 23, and the sales plan reviewed by Autocar Professional, the company has chalked out an ambitious sales target of 100,000 units in India and another 50,000 units to be exported. The plan also reveals September 2020 to be the launch month for the snazzy Sonet. These figures are an upward revision of the Sonet sales target announced in April 2020, which called for 70,000 units in year one.

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