Kia Sonet officially unveiled

Kia took the wraps off the Sonet - it's all-new compact crossover - last Friday. When it goes on sale in September, the Sonet would join the Seltos and Carnival as the brand's third model for India. 

Is Kia on for a hat-trick here? To find out, let's look at all the things that are good in the Sonet and some that are not.

Good: Kia is on a roll

Right from the get-go, Kia has been aggressive and bullish about India. From flooding the 2016 Auto Expo with its entire global line-up to setting up a manufacturing facility at Anantapur in record time, the South Korean brand announced its intentions loud and clear. Further reiterating that were the cars Kia chose to begin it's stint in the country.

Instead of the quicker and easier route of bringing in one of its existing global models, Kia put in the time and efforts to launch the Seltos. With a plethora of variants and a multitude of power-train choices priced from ₹ 10 Lakhs to as much as ₹ 21 Lakhs, the Seltos straddled three segments and raced to the top of the sales charts. In what was a smart move, Kia brought in the Carnival premium MPV next, a niche no other car-maker had the courage or enthusiasm to enter. The result? Kia now holds the distinction of selling 100,000 cars on Indian soil faster than any other brand.

With the Sonet, Kia is clearly repeating the Seltos success formula in a smaller and more affordable package. Looks like a home run then, uh!

Good: High on style

Kia's design team has been in top form of late. If you're in doubt, google Telluride and K5! The Sonet, though not in the same league, is stylish enough to attract eyeballs.

Up front, the wide 'Tiger Nose' grille and the large air dam with brushed metal inserts make the Sonet look as imposing as it could be for its diminutive size. In profile, the Sonet sports mildly-flared wheel arches with plastic cladding and thick C-pillars with sharply-rising sheet metal. There is quite a lot happening at the rear with those snazzy taillights, the trim piece connecting them, multiple creases on the tailgate and the two-tone bumper with metallic inserts vying for attention. What steals the show though is the 'Heartbeat' LED lighting signature at the front and the rear.

The interiors are just what you would expect from a Korean car - over-styled and feature-loaded. Standout elements include the in-vogue 10.25-inch floating touchscreen, the sporty 3-spoke flat-bottom seering wheel, the funky instrument cluster and large, vertical air vents. 

Not good: Sibling rivalry on the cards

Hyundai might own one-third of Kia but there is no love lost between the two brands when it comes to sales and market share. The Seltos, when launched a year ago, was aimed straight at the Creta and ended up eating into the latter's sales. That's no mean feat, given the Creta had fended off every single rival there was from 2015 before losing out to its sibling. With the all-new Creta launched this March, Hyundai managed to wrestle back to the lead. 

With the Sonet, the scenario is all set for a repeat albeit one segment below. Yes, Hyundai's Venue is one of the many rivals the Sonet has in its sights. And the Kia is entering the game with quite a few factors in its favour. The Sonet arguably looks better, has a longer feature list and gets the crucial diesel-automatic combination. Do the folks at Hyundai have an answer this time? Let's wait and watch. This sibling rivalry is fascinating to watch!

Let's not forget the in-house fight brewing either! The Sonet has the potential to greatly cannibalize Seltos' sales. 

Good: A Sonet for everyone

When Kia launched the Seltos, it took a while for even the hardcore enthusiasts to figure out the many variants, engines, transmissions and trim levels on offer. Imagine how prospective customers would have felt trying to pick a Seltos variant for them. The Sonet, it appears, is heading down the same path. 

First up, there are two distinct appearance packages - Tech Line and GT Line. The latter, with it's bright red accents and all-black interiors, is aimed at those with sporting pretensions. Both these packages will have a range of trim levels to choose from. Then comes the powertrain choices. A trio of engines are on offer - a 1.2-liter petrol, a 1.0-liter turbocharged petrol and a 1.5-liter turbocharged diesel. Depending on the engine chosen, transmission options include a 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, 6-speed clutchless Intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT), 6-speed torque converter automatic and a 7-speed Dual Clutch automatic transmission (DCT). Phew!

Petrol or diesel? Manual or Automatic? Power or fuel efficiency? Beige or black interiors? Whatever your pick is, there's going to be a Sonet for you. 

Good: Fully loaded.. and some more!

Most new cars are equipped with features and technology far beyond what we used to have just two years back. Just when we reconciled to the fact there would be no big surprises on that front, Kia has pulled a  While that isn't surprising these days, Kia has taken it a notch or two higher. 

Who would have thought a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with over 50 connected car features, ventilated front seats, cabin air purifier with virus protection, perfume dispenser, mood lighting and a wireless smartphone charger with cooling vents would be available on a compact SUV? Sonet's top-spec trim level gets all of these in addition to the regular list of features you would expect from a car of this size and price range. 

Sonet scores in terms of safety too with six airbags, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Hill Assist Control (HAC), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), ISOFIX child seat anchors and front and rear parking sensors.

Not good: Late in a crowded space

It is clear the Sonet has a lot going for it. But there is one risk element that could work against it big time. Unlike the Seltos that had only the Creta to contend with and the Carnival which had no direct rivals to speak of, the Sonet is a late entrant to a crowded party. 

Though Premier tried its luck with a rebadged Chinese car, it was Ford that truly kick-started this segment with the EcoSport, catching rivals off-guard. That was way back in 2013! Now, this is one of the hotly-contested segments in the Indian automotive industry with Maruti-Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Hyundai Venue, Tata Nexon, Mahindra XUV3OO, Honda WR-V and Mahindra TUV3OO fighting it out with the Ford. 

With Toyota's Vitara Brezza-based Urban Cruiser, Renault's Kiger and Nissan's Magnite slated to join the party soon, Kia is having its hands full.

To sum up, the Sonet is not going to have it easy out there. But, the folks in Kia seem to have done their homework well and equipped the Sonet with all that's needed to fight and win over customers. It's fair to conclude Kia is staring at its third consecutive success story in India.

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