Motoring | Road Tests
Andre De Kock
Nothing in life, this writer has painfully learnt over the last 67 years, can be flawless.
About 50 years ago, I thought everything would become perfect if I could just pass matric. I did, but there was a compromise – the South African Defence Force insisted on hosting me for the next year, even though I had no interest whatsoever in soldiering.
When that was done, I figured on becoming a professional race car driver, but found I lacked two things – rich parents and appropriately phenomenal driving skills. Then I became a journalist and fell in love with it, only to find out that all professional writers will die poor.
Along the way, I had various girlfriends and married three of them. This taught me that marriage causes reborn virginity and, eventually, expensive divorce proceedings. I then looked forward to the dignity of advanced years, only to become old, fat, ugly, full of crap and still materially bereft.
Women used to be nice to me because, deep inside, they were scared of me. Now they are nice to me because, deep inside, they are sorry for me. It is not the same thing. See, nothing is perfect.
Which brings us to the Kia Sonet 1.5 EX that we had as a house guest for a week recently. This small SUV sells like hot cakes overseas, and has landed on our shores to tremendous applause from the motoring media.
ALSO READ: Kia Sonet writes a winning small SUV piece
Selling for R305 995, experts say this Kia is remarkably affordable. Now where I work, nobody knows what R305 995 looks like. I never knew anybody outside of government was allowed to have so much money. But, the experts say the Sonet presents good value, and that its price will be one of its main selling points. Having driven it, we can add some others.
For a start, we think it is pretty. It has a chunky body, an aggressive grill and front air scoop, stylish headlights and rear light clusters, front foglamps, a roof rail and a rear spoiler, all resting on 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels in 215/60R16 rubber. Also, to our delight, it boasts a full-size spare wheel.
Inside, cloth covered seats will accommodate four adults in comfort and five in a squeeze, The driver is faced with a multi-function leather covered steering wheel, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system and an LED instrument cluster.
There are also electrically adjustable windows and side mirrors with integrated turn signals, air conditioning, wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto, USB ports front and rear, plus a radio with six speakers. Safety items include dual front airbags, hill-start assist and a rear parking camera.
The Kia Sonet is powered by a normally aspirated four-cylinder, 16-valve, 1 497 cc petrol engine that delivers 85 kW of power at 6 300 rpm and 144 Nm of torque at 4 500 rpm. This goes to the front wheels via a CVT.
None of which makes this Kia a racer – they say it will accelerate from standstill to 100 km/h in 11.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 190 km/h. But, it is nippy enough to be agile in city traffic, and will cruise at 130 km/h. It also has a 5.3-metre turning radius which, alongside the rear camera, made parking a cinch.
We did not attempt to drive the Sonet economically, and an average fuel consumption of 8.3 l/100 km during the week of the test seemed impressive. The steering is direct and I felt connected with the vehicle while on the move – a rare pleasure these days, when car makers go to great lengths to insulate drivers from their vehicles’ actual workings.
Which, sadly, brings us to the above-mentioned lesson that nothing can be flawless. The Sonet’s CVT sucks. It will cruise at 130 km/h but, any kind of upwards road incline will send the system into a gear-hunting frenzy.
Likewise, getting it from 80 km/h to around 110 km/h – like in an overtaking manoeuvre – would result in what felt like clutch slip, and it would make whining noises that do not promise longevity. I am sure the six-speed manual model would be worlds better – nearly flawless at the price, in fact.
The Kia Sonet is a good-looking, solid feeling, fun to drive vehicle at what experts call a reasonable price – but we would go for the manual gearbox version.
For more information on the Sonet, click here.