They say you can’t sit in two chairs at once. They’re clearly unaware of the Hyundai Motor Group. No, not the Hyundai Motor Company that has sold India some great cars through its wholly owned subsidiary Hyundai Motor India Ltd. since 1996, but the aforementioned parent organisation that also owns the newest Korean kid on the Indian automotive block, Kia Motors. Just a few hours ago, my inbox rattled with two new emails, one from Kia and one from Hyundai, both announcing the appointment of Euisun Chung as chairman of the Hyundai Motor Group. Makes me wonder why they were both skittish about this story.
Perhaps all this distance away from the Korean Peninsula, the unifying possibility of Kim Jong-un blowing them both up doesn’t quite register anymore. Or perhaps the Kia Sonet does have a chance of upsetting the order that Hyundai has established over two and a half decades, one that continues with the Venue. Nonetheless, an opinion will not unsettle confident manufacturers, as sure as marketing clichés that come as standard equipment in brochures. In fact, I think it’s quite a clever strategy, one that is quite plain to see, but I shall come to that later. The machines always come first.
To begin with, the name ‘Sonet’ isn’t inspired by a 13-line poem. Instead, it’s a portmanteau of ‘social network’; anyone who’s seen the documentary The Social Dilemma will likely flinch at this. The Venue, on the other hand, still lends itself to location-based humour. For this particular story, we had both the Sonet GTX+ and the new Venue Sport trim propelled by the lovely 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol, its progress monitored by the new 6-speed iMT, the gearbox that allows one to shift gears manually but which has no clutch pedal. In fact, this gearbox is just one of the ways in which the Korean expertise with technology comes through in both the cars.
Speaking of technology, the Kia out-Hyundais the Venue, probably because it is the newer car and had the benefit of sizing up its stepsibling before being launched. On its website, Kia claims that the Sonet is ‘wild and connected’, but that only serves to summon the image of a tiger mauling someone while glancing at Fitbits strapped to each of its legs. I thought that was funny until I went through the Sonet’s list of features and realised that it’s no joke. There’s way too much going on here for me to list out, but what I appreciated most were the voice-activated windows and the cooled front seats; the former are giggle-inducing the first few times, though slower than using the buttons, while the latter are most welcome in our conditions.
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