Special feature: What makes the Kia Sonet's iMT a favourite among many?

Special Feature Published: February 08, 2021, 03:49 PM IST

"A car with a manual shifter but no clutch doesn't sound right for this territory", said Vishal Jadhav when he stepped inside our Kia Sonet equipped with an iMT. The ace wildlife filmmaker who has earned several accolades has travelled the length and breadth of the country. In doing that, he has often chosen a conventional manual transmission vehicle which even though has taken him places has also caused him severe discomfort due to the continuous clutch movement. However, inside the Sonet, Vishal was pleasantly surprised with the absence of the clutch. Like Vishal, even Utham Hulikere, the owner of Chikmagalur's second oldest coffee plantation, was impressed with the iMT version of the Sonet. Let us elaborate on what cheered up these two and our team members during our three expeditions with the Kia Sonet.

Among the different combinations that you can spec the Kia Sonet in, the turbo 1-litre petrol model can be availed with an iMT (intelligent manual transmission). Essentially, it is a clutchless system in which the driver can just slot the manual shift stick to the desired gear and the sensor will automatically engage-disengage clutch accordingly. The whole system operates in microseconds offering a seamless experience. The benefit of this was felt for the first time when we were trying to manoeuvre the Sonet through Mumbai's city traffic. Instead of taxing the left foot with frequent clutch shifts, which is normally the case when you are in bumper to bumper traffic, it was a more relaxing affair to just have to control the shifter alone.

When we told Vishal Jadhav about our plan of taking the Sonet to different places to capture images and footage of foxes, wolves, jackals, he didn't seem too convinced, at first. He expressed himself with the first line of this feature. "You think the Sonet will climb such hilly terrain with ease?", he asked. Instead of explaining the tech behind it, we left it to our SUV to demonstrate it. After gently engaging into the first gear, the Sonet began to climb the terrain as if it belonged here. Not just that, the Sonet completed the entire climb and descent successfully earning Vishal's trust and confidence.

Our next feature made us travel down south to Chikmagalur where we met the jovial Utham Hulikere, who invited us to his huge coffee plantation. While he had his 4x4 ready for this tour, we insisted on taking the Sonet and also requested him to join us. Here too the terrain and the tight space between the plantations seemed a challenge but the Sonet took it in stride. We could sense Utham's anxiety to find out if the Sonet can be as confidence-inspiring as a conventional manual transmission for this was his first time in an iMT. To his pleasant surprise, the Sonet performed quite well on this terrain by nicely moving through the tight spaces with minimum effort for the steering and also shifts. He was impressed by how quick the shifts felt even with the absence of a manual clutch.

And lastly, to celebrate the relaxation of the lockdown, our team took the Kia Sonet on a weekend getaway. Instead of me driving the car, we asked our photographer Sumit Gaikwad to take the wheel for he had never driven the iMT. With thousands of questions ranging from how it works to the possibility of him stalling it, we began our drive. The first thing that got him happy was that the SUV wouldn't stall in traffic. Also, if one missed shifting into the right gear, there was an audible reminder from the Sonet. And thirdly, how easy and effortless the shifts felt on the smooth tarmac helping the SUV climb higher speeds. All this happiness hit a low when I asked him to switch places with the other colleagues who wanted to drive the Sonet iMT

With the Sonet, Kia Motors has not only made intimidating design and creature comfort features more accessible, which was otherwise a signature trait of expensive cars belonging to the higher segment but also brought in smart technology adding to the convenience aspect. When you consider all of this together, the compact SUV has made quite a major impact on the Indian audiences. This can be seen by the ever-increasing demand of the SUV in the country.