Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Coasting Cape town

Kia has equipped its beloved compact crossover with turbocharged power at last. So, we commandeered the Glacier White pocket rocket and Calvin Fisher proceeded to steer it along one of the Cape’s most iconic beachside roads with delicious meats in mind.

Visiting the Cape and not filling your windscreen with the view of its beaches is a travesty. You simply must, especially if you’re the sort that loves a road trip. Even then you’re spoiled with too many options, too many coastlines, especially from our jump-off location, in Sea Point. Circumnavigate the Peninsula? Could do, as it’s full of culinary treats with views of the mountain and sea. But then we do enjoy the West Coast as well, full as it is with fish and chip shops so excellent they’ll make an Englishman salivate.

The new turbocharged three-cylinder engine of the Sonet, despite measuring a miniscule one-litre, is capable of churning out a respectable 88kW and 172Nm. In a lightweight four-metre-long crossover it promises an entertaining time at the wheel, so off we went in pursuit of the sinewy asphalt of Clarens Drive. Joining Gordons Bay and Pringle Bay and scything through Rooi Els over the Overberg, it is to the region what Chapmans Peak is to Hout Bay: an iconic stretch of tarmac flanked by cliff-face and ocean. Our ultimate destination would be the Hickville Smokehouse in Elgin, some 119km away where a smoky, steamy, meaty lunch awaited us. You couldn’t buy a Sonet just recently – such was the demand for it that Kia South Africa essentially had three potential buyers for every car. Thanks to the Indian factory where these sought-after models are built deploying a third shift, supply has been bumped up significantly and now the floodgates are open. Better still, the much-desired turbo powerplant has found its way into the consignment, filling out the line-up. Smaller than a Kia Seltos, it rivals its half-twin, the Hyundai Venue for around R50 000 less, further fortifying it as our favourite in a segment brimming with the likes of the Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Toyota Urban Cruiser and Nissan Magnite.

The 2022 model is freshly adorned with Kia’s new minimalistic logo, plus a freshly restyled Sonet badge on its rear hatch. The turbo 1-litre is only available in the EX and EX+ at R359 995 and R389 995 respectively. We wisely snatched the keys to a flagship model, the EX+ which sits above the entry-level LX and EX trim levels. It has been bolstered with a raft of fresh kit such as LED tail lamps, auto-folding side view mirrors, cruise control, an electrochromatic rearview mirror and six airbags. Also new in EX+ are driving modes such as ECO, Normal and Sport.

Flexing the turbo muscle

Life aboard the Sonet is generally pleasant; its large greenhouse complementing a dark leathery interior that would otherwise feel somber. Instead, it feels premium, and the toys inside – items such as the infotainment system that pairs to your smartphone via a host of connections, including Apple Carplay and Android Auto – reflect this. As a venue for some spirited motoring, I was satisfied – good because I’d just joined Clarens Drive and was eager to flex the Sonet’s tiny turbo muscle.

A sunny winter day in Cape Town is what Instagram was made for with rich greens in the trees, vivid blues in the sea and almost luminescent orange in the clay-formed cliff faces. Pretty as a picture, indeed – but, thankfully, without that oppressive heat that can make a day out unbearable. Coincidentally, these are also the conditions a typical test car enjoys. Whilst forcefully aspirated motors are far more forgiving of environmental conditions, naturally aspirated ones typically suffer, especially at altitude. The new Sonet turbo therefore will enjoy similar performance in Gauteng to what we experienced at the coast. To reiterate, that’s 88kW and 172Nm from its three-pot engine, which has been paired with a 7-speed dual clutch (DCT) automated manual transmission.

As such, I had no problem keeping it on the boil as I carved up a series of corners, leaving the gearbox to swap its own cogs while I pointed and squinted. Here, in these near perfect conditions, the performance of the turbo didn’t feel miles ahead of its 1.5-litre (non-turbo) siblings – but you can expect a chasm between them at altitude. What does come through, is a flavourful helm that keeps you informed by the front wheels, and a compliant ride that firms up when leaned on through the turns. These two factors conspire to reward its driver with a fun chassis for when the road is clear, and a comfortable driving experience for passengers.

With Betty’s Bay in my rear view, I was more than ready for lunch and had just about exhausted my playlist. By the time I rolled onto the gravel driveway of the Hickville Smokehouse, the contralto tones of Amy Whinehouse were fading, and summarily ended as I twisted the ignition key into its rest position. No sooner had I opened the driver’s door when my lungs were filled with the smoky flavours of melt-off-the-bone eisbein, ribs and shanks, lamb and beef and delicious things of that nature. What followed were platters of all the above with stretching views of the Elgin valley, oak trees and hills. Merriment and bliss.

Verdict

Turbocharged engines work, they just do. Down comes your fuel consumption, up goes performance, especially at the reef. Then there’s the fact that they’re generally more efficient – so we’re glad to see the inclusion of forced aspiration in the Sonet. With the updated model, Kia has nailed that R250 to R400k sweet spot once again, and there’s an abundance of stock to satisfy the huge demand.

Add to this the fact that the Sonet, similar to most Kia products, offers an unlimited kilometre, 5-year warranty and a prepaid 4-year/60 000km service plan and you’ll understand why we consider it as the best this segment has to offer. It’s not perfect, but let’s be honest – nothing in this budgetconscious segment is. Yet, the Sonet stands out proudly.

Model line-up and pricing

Pricing on the Sonet range starts from R296 995 for the 1.5 LX Manual to R337 995 ffor the 1.5 EX Manual. The newly added 1.0 T-GDI derivatives are prices as follows:

  • Sonet 1.0 1.0T EX 7DCT: R359 995
  • Sonet 1.0 1.0T EX+ 7DCT: R389 995

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