Could Kia launch the Sonet – a sub-Seltos small SUV in South Africa in 2020 – one that would compete directly with the recently-released Hyundai Venue? Well, a pre-production car is expected to be exhibited at India's Auto Expo next month…
If local manufacturers and importers haven’t admitted as much already, they will certainly have noticed that the proliferation of small crossovers (or compact SUVs) has not only impacted sedan sales in South Africa, the flood of newcomers is encroaching on the traditional compact-hatchback market too.
Remember when Hyundai’s entry-level SUV was the iX35/Tucson? That now seems an eternity ago; the Korean brand recently launched the Venue in South Africa to bring its number of compact SUVs/small crossover offerings (below the Tucson in the product line-up to) 3, including the Creta and Kona. Toyota, meanwhile, has the C-HR, Rush, is keeping an eye on the Raize and there’s said to be an upcoming crossover based on the new Euro-spec Yaris as well.
Although the final version won't be a futuristic as the HabaNiro concept shown above, it should be less conservative than this rendering from GaadiWaadi.com.
Kia’s recently launched the Indian-made Seltos in South Africa to slot in below the Sportage and, according to our sources, the newcomer’s selling up a storm in the local market. Recent reports from India suggest Kia is readying a sub-4-meter compact SUV/small crossover (codenamed the QYi), which could be launched in the subcontinent in the latter half of 2020. Kia has apparently registered the name Sonet in several markets, including Australia.
Based on the platform of its cousin, the Hyundai Venue, the Kia “Sonet” will have similarly compact dimensions and, according to indiacarnews.com, youthful, eye-grabbing styling replete with signature tiger-nose grille, integrated ice-cube styled fog lamps and 16-inch alloys (LED lights could be reserved for top-spec derivatives) trim. The website also reports that spy pictures suggest the newcomer will feature a raked rear windshield and characteristic tail-lamp detailing.
The Hyundai Venue's interior and spec provides a clue to the level to which the "Sonet" will be specified.
Its interior architecture should be broadly based on that of the Venue, with features such as a touchscreen infotainment system with latest smartphone connectivity, climate control, front-, side- and curtain airbags, ABS with EBD. Reports suggest it will be a more upmarket offering, feature-wise, than its direct rivals, but given that it may need to come to market with a starting price of (well) under R300k, it’s unlikely that, should the “Sonet” be launched locally, its derivatives will be that liberally equipped.
To take the Venue’s local line-up as a starting point, the 88 kW/172 Nm 1.0-litre turbopetrol engine, mated with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, seems logical for a projected local “Sonet” line-up, but Kia may opt for a 1.2- or 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, which may drive down the landed costs of the new range's derivatives and, in turn, reduce the asking price of at least the entry-level versions. A 5-speed ‘box and CVT automatic are also possibilities.
Could it work in South Africa?
The question remains whether there would be a solid business case for a vehicle such as the “Sonet” in Mzansi… Kia Motors South Africa is preparing to roll out facelifts of the Picanto and Rio during 2020 as well as the new Sorento; if the brand’s sub-Seltos small SUV was viable for local introduction, could it perhaps cannibalise Rio sales? Perhaps.
But remember that Korean cousins Hyundai and Kia’s product line-ups have traditionally competed model for model (with a few exceptions) in South Africa… If the Venue could be successful for Hyundai SA, why couldn’t the “Sonet” be a success story for Kia? We'll be sure to keep you posted.