My Black Beast (or Beauty??) Kia Sonet HTX 1.5D 6 MT
This is my second car after the 2017 Etios Liva, which I sold last year, or in other words, my first C-SUV!
Since the time we started regular long trips in our Liva, the luggage space constraint and low ground clearance had been bothering me. I then started my research on the C-SUV segment's choices of diesel in 2016. The USPs for me in this segment are the high ground clearance, decent luggage space and the better road presence and all these came within the budget due to the sub-4 m tax regime.
These were the major reasons to strike out the players from my list - in the order. Ecosport
Lack of USP equipment like SYNC3, projector headlamps. Outdated design. WRV
I liked it only for its stable drive and comfortable suspension. Other than that, I don't like the 'Less Features High Price' attitude of Honda. Felt like sitting inside a 2015 model. Brezza / UrbanCruiser
These were not up to my liking due to the flimsy body and interior rattles I have experienced in other MSIL models. XUV300
Ruled out due to its hatchback-like boot space and higher price.
The last choice was Nexon and I had almost concluded my research on that after taking a couple of test drives (petrol), as I was happy with the performance and equipment list. But, the lame response from the dealer delayed everything for more than a month and by that time, Kia had announced the Sonet. I had decided to give it a try and VOILA! I found my choice.
I went ahead with pre-booking without selecting the variant. It took one more month to decide the variant when Kia announced the prices and there was no hesitation in selecting the HTX Diesel Manual. It was indeed the VFM variant.
I got the delivery in December 2020 after a wait of 4 months from the date of pre-booking. The sales experience with Kia Motors was the worst as they were never transparent about the delivery date. The dealership was clueless too even though they tried hard to get some updates. Plenty of emails sent to Kia sales and marketing went unanswered.
Team-BHP sticker was the first accessory to be fitted.
Soon after the 1st service we went for a Chennai-Ernakulam trip via the Valparai route.
A few pics from the foggy Valparai-Athirappally route.
This was the best shot in which we could see anything more than 100 m ahead!
This was a 15 day program and we covered 3,200 km which included the 4-lane highway from Chennai to Dindigul. The roads were full of potholes from Dindigul to Udumalpet and from there, we took the mighty ghat route filled with hairpin bends to Athirappally. We did drive in hot sun, fog and heavy rain and the Sonet never let us down. The sunroof was really complementing the experience when the shade was kept open during the foggy and rainy conditions.
The Sonet has completed 5,000 km now and the first two free services.
I will try to explain my overall experience with the Sonet below. Engine
The 1.5L diesel engine is a powerful unit which accelerates very quickly to 80 km/h in 8 seconds. It is very responsive and I feel the sweet spot is within the 1,700-2,000 rpm range. Power delivery is linear and never gives a turbo kick effect. Since I had been used to the low power (70 PS) engine of the Liva, I was a little skeptical about the NVH levels this higher powered unit could produce. But surprisingly, the noise levels are too low to be annoyed inside the cabin and keeping the hood open, it doesn't feel very noisy too due to the low idle rpm.
However, I feel there is a downside to the lower idle rpm. Those steep angle surfaces are a bit tricky to drive over when starting from a stop. I have to revv it to at least 1,100 rpm with the parking brake ON to get onto the parking ramp. Seeing the durability of the diesel motor in the Seltos, I hope the Sonet will also deliver the same in the long-term. Transmission
The 6-speed manual transmission has smooth shifts and short throws. The sixth gear is only suitable for use at speeds of 70 km/h and above, and if used below that, you will feel a judder and the MID will warn you to downshift. Shifting up/down between 5th and 6th is a bit tricky as the lever tends to move to 3rd by default. Need to keep the lever towards right while shifting, always (I didn't see this in the i20 6speed transmission). Drivability, Suspension and Braking
On highways, the composition of the Sonet was extremely good at 120 km/h. In fact, I didn't realize we were doing around 120 km/h until I heard the speed warning. The engine is designed to be kept around 1,500 rpm even at 90-100 km/h and so, there are absolutely no vibrations or sound. On bad roads we felt the potholes when driven extremely slow - at around 15-20 km/h, but the ride never was bone-jarring. When driven above that speed, potholes weren't that significant.
However, the suspension is not at all tolerant to the higher, unconventional speed breakers in the Chennai city. Even if driven at around 5-10 km/h, we can feel the shock absorbers reaching the extreme point and come back with loud thud, which directly comes inside the cabin. Initially, I have had many occurrences and now I always care to bring the car almost to a stop and shift to 1st and get it across. I don't know if it's a fault or designed that way!!
Ghat sections were handled easily in 3rd gear and we almost never felt any roll in the hair pins, which I felt really good about since it's a high GC vehicle.
The power steering is really responsive at both, slow and high speeds and will never give to a feeling of driving a 1.2 ton vehicle.
The braking is effective, but needs quite a lot experience to get used to. If you exert a little more pressure on the brake pedal, you will end up hitting the steering wheel as the car comes to a stop as if you have done sudden braking. This could be a brake MC property or the ABS sensors' over sensitiveness. Also, you have to get used to the ABS activation very often - whenever there is a slippery surface or uneven surface. I strongly believe that this needs to be fixed as it is not normal behaviour. Having said that, the braking distance and efficiency is perfect as long as the brakes are applied gradually.
So far there is no tyre noise (the stock tyres are MRF and I don't know about their durability) and the tyres provide good grip on wet roads as well. Fuel Efficiency
On highways we got around 24.5 km/l as per the MID and overall, we got 20.2 km/l following the tank to tank method that includes some city drives and bad roads. During the drive in Kerala, the Sonet returned a decent FE of 16-18 km/l on the congested roads. Keeping the speed around 60-75 km/h with steady acceleration and the car delivers even 19 km/l in the city in my experience. Infotainment
Infotainment was one of the key points during the research (for me that was the USP in the Nexon). The Arkamys system is fantastic and provides crisp and clear sound with strong bass without distortion. The touch screen is really responsive and I have never found any bugs, delays or any unresponsiveness. Wireless Android Auto is a cool feature as it reduces the number of wires and helps to keep the center console clean. There is one issue I have reported to Kia vis the ASS regarding the audio unit. When connected via wireless Android Auto I am not able to attend phone calls via the head unit. I see similar issues are being reported in many user forums. I am waiting for a reply from Kia. Videos cannot be played on this unit, which is a let down in my opinion as it would be helpful in long drives (with restriction during driving anyway). Others
AC is super cool and does its job very quickly and efficiently so that we don't need to keep the blower at higher speeds; we can enjoy the music without the blower sound interruption. The rear vents also do their job as intended. Another good thing I found is that the tinted windows help in reducing the heat by at least 25%. It helps to contain the cool air on hot days and double up the cooling in cool climate!
The remote start is really useful in Chennai as it cools the interior when parked under the hot sun.
The beige color of the interior keeps it very pleasant and gives a roomy feel than the actual. Needless to say that this doubles up the cleaning job. I always prefer the fabric seats compared to faux leather. But the fabric used is highly prone to stain and I found it very difficult to clean. I assume this is the fabric's property and it could have been better. I had a similar interior in my Liva and it was an easy task to clean it. The seats are plush enough for a comfortable sleep on long journeys. At the same time, they are comfortable for continuous driving. The side bolsters provide good grip and hold you firmly. Service Experience
Since it was during the lockdown, the appointment and service processes were a bit cumbersome, but the service center experience was good. I am looking forward to checking out the experience during the 10k service for the workmanship quality. The picture of the customer lounge says a lot about the situation. I was the only customer to be waiting there. I did a small experiment with the key, by keeping the key outside after starting the vehicle and trying to lock it. The car didn't lock when the key was outside. Then, I manually locked it from inside (from the driver's door) through the window and then I found that it could not be opened from outside with the key or the door handle sensor. The only option available is to enter through luggage compartment.
So if you leave anyone with the engine idling and take the key with you, if they lock it from inside, you have to enter through the luggage compartment. Pros
- Very Smooth engine, without any diesel clatter
- Smooth gear shifting with a light clutch (not very light though)
- Very good ground clearance that helps to tackle unexpected bumps on village roads or the unorthodox city speed bumps
- Ample space for luggage - if we remove the luggage tray we can accommodate more
- More than sufficient interior lighting
- Nearly perfect NVH levels
- Very nice audio system with wireless Android Auto
- Decent equipment list for the price band - eg. Cruise control, Sunroof, LED auto headlamps, remote start etc
- Powerful LED headlamps and projector fog lamps that light up the road clearly
- Very unexpected, hard braking is really annoying
- The horn pad is really tough to press. I really liked the design in the Liva which enables us to use the thumbs to operate the horn quite easily
- Missing equipment like rear wiper
- Missing a functional roof rack
- Telescopic steering adjustment is really missed
- Headlamp level adjustment is not so satisfactory as it changes drastically with the load in the vehicle. Maybe I will need to get used to it
And one thing I am disappointed about is that Kia has now introduced ESC, alloy wheels and rear window curtains in the HTX (for a decent margin). For me, its a big big miss!! I am sure many HTX owners would feel so.
There are some accessories which I thought would be helpful. 5D Mats from Autofurnish, rubber trunk mat, rain guards, screen guard for the touchscreen and seat back organizer for the driver's seat since there are no pockets. All of these are DIY items.
I have done a few DIY updates during the lockdown. Bought these chromium plated rolls from Amazon.
A red accent on the front grill and fog lamp bezel.
Added a silver shoulder line.
Last week I did another lockdown project with the wheel caps. The alloy lookalike wheel caps are a clever thought from Kia. For safety, Kia has designed the wheel cap in such a way that it gets locked with the wheel nut. Therefore, we need to remove all the wheel nuts to remove the wheel cap. I was very skeptical about the wheel studs getting damaged if doing it without jacking up the vehicle. So, it took a little more effort than usual to do this DIY. But as you know, it's the lockdown, no I have no other job to do during weekends!! Hope it looks good!
With my previous vehicle, I was a big fan of 3M products and I used to buy the 3M kit for cleaning and polishing. Even then, I had the problem of water spots remaining on the body. I then tried Amway car shampoo and it was better in my experience. Recently, I found that Meguiar products are available through Amazon and I thought of trying one. The result was really amazing as this one doesn't leave water spots at all!
This Turtlewax hybrid detailer also gives a pretty nice finish. I uses it for cleaning in between body washes, mostly once in two weeks.
This windscreen washer is really a wonder product. I have used 3M, Jopasu cleaner from Toyota dealer etc, but none of those have given a finish like this product gives.