First Drive: Kia Stonic

You’re nobody if you don’t have a small SUV to attract buyers away from their hatchbacks and into something more substantial…

The benefits may just be perceived rather than real – go-anywhere ability, a sensation of extra safety – but there’s no arguing with sales figures. People want these crossover vehicles, and they want them to look big and tough.

Kia already had a small crossover called the Soul, but it was a boxy, slightly odd-looking machine that was, despite its appearances, a more sensible mini people carrier than a stylish SUV-alike. That’s been consigned to the past, replaced by the Stonic, a mini-SUV that borrows an awful lot of its mechanical bits from the respected Rio.

It’s almost exactly the same size as Kia’s sensible hatchback, with the same wheelbase and a slightly longer rear end. It’s also quite a bit higher, with 42mm added to the suspension and a taller body combining to make it tower 70mm over the Rio. However, despite the SUV styling and jacked up ride height, not to mention the acres of black plastic bolted on to make it look tough, there’s no chance of going rock-hopping in the Stonic as it remains firmly front-wheel drive only.

A tiny 1.0-litre petrol engine sits under the bonnet of this test car. The little three-cylinder unit is a cracker, developing 118bhp, which is more than enough to pull the Stonic along. Happily, unlike some other downsized engines, there’s enough torque at low revs to make urban driving easy. It’s not particularly economical though – a common problem with these small engines – and you’ll be lucky to see an average of 40mpg. The diesel option is just £800 more, and may prove a more frugal option for those covering even average miles.

Firm suspension helps provide some rather more engaging handling than other softer SUVs, with a rather sharp turn-in and a lively sensation as you traverse country roads. However, the grip levels aren’t particularly high, and the sacrifice for the fun comes in the form of a poor ride quality. In the city it’s quite rough, with every bump being felt in the cabin, while higher speed rides are disrupted by constant fidgeting from the suspension. There’s plenty of soundproofing though, making it a reasonably refined interior.

That interior has enough rear space for kids and booster seats, with a decent size boot behind. A false floor in the boot allows for either extending storage a little, or creating a secret compartment. There are splashes of colour on the interior of this First Edition model, but it’s still a rather sombre affair with a hard black plastic around. With black fabric seats and black roof lining, it’s all rather dark and depressing, and something a bit brighter would go down well. As ever with Kia, standard equipment levels are high, with even the basic ‘2’ model coming with Bluetooth, voice recognition, automatic lights, air conditioning and smartphone connectivity, as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to turn the basic system into a full infotainment centre with satellite navigation.

First Edition cars add heated seats and steering wheel, keyless entry, satellite navigation, climate control, and a host of safety equipment such as autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot detection.

For now, there’s nothing between the entry-level ‘2’ spec of the First Edition, but in time there’ll undoubtedly be a ‘3’ and ‘4’ added to the range, allowing customers to choose exactly the right model for them.

They’ll all come with Kia’s seven year warranty, providing peace of mind to buyers,. Fixed price service plans are also available to keep owners happy, with no surprise bills for the first few years of ownership. That it’s cheaper than many of its rivals adds to the appeal, while reasonable depreciation predictions mean PCP costs should be good value.

There are competitors that beat the Stonic is many areas but, ride quality apart, few can beat the combination of value, safety and equipment levels. The heart may look towards the Hyundai Kona or Volkswagen T-Roc, but your head will be in the right place in the Stonic.

Model Tested: Kia Stonic 1.0 T-GDi First Edition
Price: £19,900
Range: £16,540 – £21,200
Top speed: 115 mph
0-62 mph: 9.9 seconds
Power: 120 PS (118 bhp)
Torque: 171 Nm (126 lb ft)
Monthly PCP*: £272
Official fuel economy: 56.5 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 115 g/km
Car Tax: £140
Insurance group: 12E
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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