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2021 Kia Sonet debuts but its arrival in North America is uncertain

Up front, the Kia Sonet has Seltos-like looks.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The Kia Sonet is the company's answer to the Hyundai Venue. It's a subcompact crossover that would slot below the Kia Seltos in Kia's North American lineup. That is, if it ever makes it here.

The Sonet is made in India and will be sold globally - the same as the Ford EcoSport. It's a completely new model for Kia, having been jointly designed in partnership by Kia Motors India and Kia's global R&D headquarters in South Korea.

The urban crossover incorporates Kia's signature tiger nose grille along with design lines reminiscent of its Seltos stablemate. Its LED daytime running lights and taillights are shaped like the electric pulse of a heart. At the back, the Sonet is rounder than the Seltos and there's a diffuser and skid plate.

2021 Kia SonetThe back of the Sonet features wraparound rear glass.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Buyers can get the Sonet in their choice of up to eight monotone and three dual-tone exterior colors.

Like with other models in the company's lineup, Kia intends to offer the Sonet in a sportier GT-Line trim level. These models have red accents in the cabin and a D-shaped steering wheel.

Kia is selling the Sonet with they buyer's choice of three engines: a 1.2-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder, and a 1.5-liter. The first two are gasoline engines and the other is a diesel power plant. Five manual and automatic transmission options are available. Kia offers a variety of drive and traction modes in automatic versions of the model. Remote start/stop technology is available no matter the powertrain or transmission.

One of the first clues that this model might not be destined for America lies here. The strongest of the three engines appears to be the turbo 1.0-liter. That's a similar size to what is in the Ford EcoSport base model. There, it's generally derided as being extremely underwhelming. But, the EcoSport is a size bigger than the Sonet. In the U.S., the similarly-sized Venue has a competent 1.6-liter four-cylinder - the same engine that's in the subcompact Kia Rio car.

2021 Kia SonetThe model features an interior that that youthful design.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The cabin of the model features a 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen with navigation on the center of the dashboard. It has a smart air purifier that offers virus protection, a seven-speaker Bose premium audio system, ventilated driver and front-passenger seats, LED sound mood lighting (the Kia Soul also has this), remote start, voice commands, a 4.2-inch driver information screen, over-the-air updates, and a wireless charger with cooling functionality.

Automatic headlamps, fog lamps, and parking sensors are also available. There is no mention of a rearview camera. If the Sonet were to be sold in the U.S., a rearview camera would need to be installed as per a regulation that went into effect in 2018.

It also has "plenty" of leg-, head-, and shoulder room according to Kia, as well as a large trunk. Ventilated front seats are available - a first in the segment. There is no provision for heated seats - something that's generally a staple of North American model offerings.

Pricing for the model will vary by market. It is rolling out in India soon and will be available in global markets following that launch.

There is room below the Soul and Seltos at the bottom of the Kia lineup, but the competition is getting stiffer by the day as the market retracts. Even the Venue, which is heralded for its spaciousness, comfort, and grocery getting capability only moves around 1,600 models per month. That's about as many as the Hyundai Accent, more than the Kia Niro, but less than the Rio. Kia sold over 41,000 Soul and 18,000 Seltos models from January to July this year.

Will the Sonet come to the U.S.? Only Kia knows for sure and only time will tell.

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The Hyundai Palisade got a mild refresh for 2023.

Hyundai

Earlier this year, Hyundai announced changes to the Palisade for 2023. The list includes a new front fascia, an updated grille with new headlights and daytime running lights, a 12-inch touchscreen with navigation, and more. A new XRT trim joined the lineup as well, bringing brawny off-road styling and dar exterior trim. Today, Hyundai announced pricing for the SUV, which starts at a little more than $32,000.

2023 Hyundai PalisadeA new XRT trim adds rugged styling. Hyundai

The Palisade's powertrain carries over from 2022, which includes a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. Inside, the SUV got several new and updated technology features, including a more powerful wireless device charging pad, an updated digital key system, and a larger infotainment display.

As Hyundai's flagship SUV, the Palisade edges on luxury territory, with plush leather upholstery and a serene cabin that offers excellent noise cancellation and comfort. Captain's chairs and seven-passenger seating are available, but a second-row bench comes standard and brings eight-passenger capacity to the SUV.

Muscular SUVs are more popular than ever before, so Hyundai gave the posh Palisade an outdoorsy treatment with its XRT trim. The new Palisade XRT builds on the SEL trim with 20-inch wheels, a more rugged bumper and lower body cladding, a sunroof, and leatherette upholstery. To be clear, XRT is an appearance package that does not improve off-road capability to a large degree.

2023 Hyundai PalisadeTop trims border on the quality and design of some luxury brands. Hyundai

Standard safety equipment is generous, and includes forward collision warnings with avoidance, lane keep assist, lane following assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, driver attention warnings, high beam assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Pricing for the base Palisade SE starts at $36,245, which includes a $1,295 destination charge. The top Calligraphy AWD model starts at $52,095 after destination. All-wheel drive is available for all trims as an added-cost option.

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The N Line forms a midpoint between the standard Kona and the Kona N.

Hyundai

Hyundai has a lot going on, with new EVs hitting the market, but the brand has been on a surprising run with performance models lately. The Veloster N is an excellent, rowdy hot hatch, and the brand followed that act with the Kona N and Elantra N. Hyundai’s Kona N takes the hot hatch formula to the next level with an incredible powertrain and useful space, but it’s too much for many people. The mid-point is Hyundai’s N Line, which borrows styling cues from the hottest N variants but lacks the all-out grunt of those vehicles.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineThe N Line gets aggressive styling cues from its sportier N counterpart. Hyundai

The styling works for the Kona N Line, as it does with the Kona N, but the powertrains couldn’t be more different. Where the Kona N gets a 286-horsepower four-cylinder, the N Line comes with a milder turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 195 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which adds a layer of engagement not found in the continuously variable transmission that standard Kona models get.

That modest output lends the Kona N Line modest performance, with more noise generated than expected. In motion, the powertrain feels decently responsive, but it lacks the razor sharp nerves of steel that the Kona N brings. Shifting into sport mode changes the gauge cluster to a bright red and hastens the vehicle's responses, but again, it's important to temper expectations for a milder experience here.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineThe digital gauge cluster responds to drive mode changes. Hyundai

Styling is more aggressive than the standard SUV, with 18-inch wheels and mean-looking exhaust tips. The Kona’s front-end design is still busy and will still be polarizing, but the dark trim and sporty aero bodywork help the situation. The N Line’s all-black interior gets red stitching and accents that help break up the otherwise monotonous color scheme. The seats are supportive and comfortable, but could be deeper for better body-holding during spirited driving sessions. There’s plenty of room up front and a surprising amount of space in back, aided by the Kona’s large-ish rear door openings. Parents will find an easy time loading kids, and older children can ride in relative luxury with plenty of legroom.

A 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster is standard, which offers configurable colors and legible information. It’s paired with a standard 8-inch touchscreen, but a 102.5-inch screen with navigation is available. Hyundai’s excellent infotainment software runs flawlessly on both units, and offers an intuitive and straightforward way to interact with the vehicle. A Harman Kardon eight-speaker stereo also comes standard.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineRed accents liven what is otherwise a dark, monotone interior.Hyundai

The Kona N Line, while not as hot as the Kona N, offers a reasonable styling upgrade for people wanting a small SUV with sporty looks. Enthusiasts should look at the full-on N model for thrills, though, because the N Line should be viewed as more of an appearance package than a performance model.

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