It was my first flight in seven months, and hence my first trip to the airport in as many months. It was also my first trip in our long-term Sonet and the first time I experienced one of our long termers, first from the back seat. Now, that’s a lot of firsts! But if you’ve read our reviews of the Sonet, you’ll know it’s a compact SUV with a lot of firsts, so my first experience kind of goes with the theme. So, let’s kick this report off from the back seat (another first!).
In COVID-19 times, social distancing has become a way of life, so to put as much distance between myself and Ganesh, our driver, I sat diagonally behind him. I don’t know about you, but this detestable virus has made me acutely aware of the distance between myself and my co-passengers, and in the Sonet, it isn’t much. Legroom is quite okay for my 5 feet 6 inch frame, and for the 30min ride to the airport, I can’t say I felt a lack of space, which is perhaps also due to the fact that I had the rear glass powered down, literally making the cabin more airy. It’s better to breathe Mumbai’s polluted air than expose yourself to someone else’s breath sitting in a sealed air con car! Am I being paranoid? You wouldn’t think so if I’m prepared to jump on a flight with a 100 strangers, but minimising risk whenever possible isn’t a bad thing.
Space Crunch: Rear seat not good for social distancing.
Driving with the window down made it impossible to tell that there was a diesel under the Sonet’s shapely hood. The buffeting wind and external noise simply drowned out any mechanical sound, which is probably the case with many cars, but there’s no doubt that the Sonet diesel is fundamentally a very refined car. And it’s this very impressive refinement that I first noticed when I finally slipped behind the wheel after returning back home and slipping back into the home-office-home routine (enough of WFH!). In fact, the 115hp 1.5 diesel plucked straight out of the Seltos is possibly the Sonet’s biggest asset, as is the equally smooth 6-speed torque converter, also from the Seltos, but with a taller final drive ratio. The taller overall gearing also plays a role in the overall refinement, as it keeps engine revs low for a given road speed.
Smooth Going: Diesel-auto feels utterly relaxed.
The Sonet also reaffirmed my faith in the good, old-fashioned torque converter, which unsurprisingly is still the world’s favourite auto transmission, despite the best efforts of DCTs and CVTs trying to knock it down. In fact, the diesel-auto is a better city car than the petrol-DCT, thanks to the smooth and jerk-free way it moves off the line and with a satisfying surge too. You always have a surplus of power and you don’t feel like you have to wring this motor to get the most out of it. There’s a special effortlessness with driving the diesel-auto, and for normal, mundane driving, I rarely found myself using the last bit of accelerator pedal travel. I haven’t taken the Sonet out of town yet to stretch those tall gears and I don’t doubt that it will be equally adept on the highway as in the city. But for now, after the Kona EV, the Sonet diesel-auto is the easiest car to drive in our fleet. In fact, its user-friendliness is quite addictive and when you get a car like this, it’s hard to hand over the keys to one of the other testers.
Feeling Good: Cabin quality is a class apart.
The superbly crafted cabin is another reason I don’t want to part with the Sonet because nothing, absolutely nothing comes close in terms of interior quality. The novelty of the plush cabin is yet to wear off and until then I find myself punching the superbly tactile buttons, prodding the crisp and sharp touchscreen and tapping the richly finished dashboard. Even the air-con vents have a heft that belongs in more expensive cars. It’s hard to find fault with the cabin and if I had to nit-pick, I’d say the central storage between the front seats is too small and not very useful.
Boxed In: Central storage box can’t hold much.
The thing is, you feel so good in the Sonet’s cabin that the steep price of Rs 12.89 lakh (ex-showroom) for this variant we are running actually seems like good value. This is one of those cars that gives you ‘more for more’ once you start living with it. You know your money has gone a long way, with the intangible and inexplicable sense of wellbeing it oozes, like no other compact SUV.
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