If you want a small car with a raised driving position and SUV-like stying there is no shortage of options. Kia alone has four to choose from; the Stonic reviewed here, the Soul, hybrid Niro and people carrier-style Venga.
Of that quartet it is the Stonic that Kia is pinning its hopes on to steal sales from the likes of the the Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008. It is based on the same platform as the Rio supermini but with a ride height increased by 42mm and a moderately more dynamic look, particularly if you opt for a top-spec First Edition model with its contrasting roof and mirrors.
The engine range consists of 1.4- and 1.0-litre petrol units and a 1.6-litre diesel.Space 7/10
Far from the biggest in its class
There are a few reasons for buying a compact crossover instead of the cheaper hatchbacks on which they are based, not least of which is the promise of more space. Sure enough, the Stonic has a good amount of headroom for all occupants. There’s also just enough legroom to fit one six-footer behind another, but a Citroen C3 Aircross with its sliding rear seats is roomier still, and will more easily accommodate a third person in the back.
In the front of the Stonic there’s enough elbow room for two adults to feel comfortable and storage is good. The door pockets are large enough for a bottle of water, there are a pair of cupholders behind the gear lever, further space beneath the armrest and under the heater controls, and a large glovebox, although admittedly it is taken up almost entirely by the handbook.
The boot is large enough to take a folded baby buggy plus a couple of bags on top. The false boot floor that comes on top spec models can be set in a lower position to create the maximum amount of space, or raised to reduce the load lip. As you’d expect, if set in its higher position you also get a flat floor when the rear seats are folded.Comfort 6/10
Noisy diesel best avoided
It’s easy to find a good driving position in the Stonic because both the steering wheel and driver’s seat have plenty of adjustment.
Kia’s 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine is momentarily vocal when started from cold but once warmed through becomes a distant thrum. Kia’s 1.4-litre diesel is less impressive, with its raucous rattle a constant companion.
On 17-inch wheels (the only size available) the Stonic is never less than firm, and borders on being a fraction too hard at town speeds. It’s still better than the Rio hatchback on which it is based, but a world away from the more cushioned ride you get in a Citroen C3 Aircross or Renault Captur. There’s a bit of wind noise in the Stonic at motorway speeds, although it’s largely drowned out by the roar from the tyres.
Dashboard layout 7/10
Logical to use and well made too
Kia’s control interface is extremely logical, with a clear row of heater controls, easily accessible USB and auxiliary inputs and a 7-inch touchscreen. This features clear graphics and useful shortcut buttons to take you to the main features. It also responds quickly, has a clear menu layout and includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay so that you can connect your smartphone.
The plastics are of the hard but textured variety, meaning they look OK but aren’t that pleasant to touch. That said, a contrasting panel across the dashboard adds a bit of interest and the whole thing feels built to last.Easy to drive 8/10
Fine, as long as you don’t need four-wheel drive
Another reason you buy a small crossover instead of a hatchback is for its elevated driving position. That’s something you notice the moment you climb into the Kia, with the raised seat height giving easy access and a reasonable view out over traffic.
The upward sweeping rear windows and chunky pillars make the view over your shoulder rather restricted, but the rear windscreen itself is a decent size.
The Stonic’s controls are also uniformly weighted, so it’s an intuitive car to drive. The 1.0-litre petrol engine responds well, and the six-speed gearbox has a nicely positive action. Fans of the manual handbrake rather than its electronic equivalent will also be pleased to see it lives on in the Stonic.
If you’re buying a compact SUV thinking it’ll be brilliant when the winter comes it’s worth noting that Kia isn’t offering a version of the Stonic with four-wheel drive, because it says demand is simply too low. Try a Suzuki Vitara instead.Fun to drive 7/10
One of the more satisfying small SUVs
The Stonic feels like a slightly more fun car to drive than the Rio, largely because its steering is significantly more direct and has some decent weight to it. Combined with the perky 1.0-litre petrol engine it gives the sense that the Rio is really quite a responsive car, as well as one that resists body lean fairly well.
It’s still not in the Mazda CX-3’s league for driving enjoyment, but compared with other cars in this compact crossover class it’s definitely near the top of the pile.Reliability 10/10
Kia’s record is among the best
The Stonic comes from a brand with an increasingly impressive reputation when it comes to reliability. As evidence of as much Kia finished joint first in the 2017 JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability Study.
Better still, you also get the reassurance of a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty. That beats any other manufacturer, although Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty on its Kona is far from shabby either, nor the four years Renault provides on the Captur.
Fuel economy 8/10
Not the best, but still very frugal
We managed an easy 45mpg from a barely run-in 1.0-litre petrol Stonic, suggesting that 50mpg should be on the cards once it has a few more miles under its belt. Our 1.4-litre diesel test car meanwhile managed 48mpg over the same mixed test route. This compares with official figures of 56.5mpg and 67.3mpg respectively. That’s not quite as good as a Peugeot 2008 or Vauxhall Crossland X, but nor is it anything to be sniffed at.
If fuel economy is your priority it is also worth noting that a Kia Rio fitted with the same 1.0-litre petrol engine returned almost 4mpg more than the Stonic in official fuel tests on account of being lighter and more aerodynamic.Affordability 6/10
Lack of entry-level model makes it look a little pricey
With no entry-level ‘1’ versions of the Stonic being offered from the car’s launch it looks rather expensive compared with some of its rival. It’s also about £1,800 more expensive than the equivalent Rio, although the way Kia has structured the engine and spec line-up makes it difficult to draw direct comparisons across more than a couple of versions.
It’s not quite as cheap to lease as a Nissan Juke, but there are still some tempting deals around that’ll get you into a well equipped Stonic for comfortably less than £200 per month.
If you’re a company car driver the fact other compact SUVs are available cheaper and with lower CO2 emissions will likely make the Stonic quite hard to justify.Safety 7/10
Excellent - but only if you have the optional ADAP pack
Although Kia only equips top-specification models with autonomous emergency braking (with pedestrian detection) as standard, it is an inexpensive option to add to other models at £350. This also comes with lane departure warning, a driver attention warning device that can suggest when the driver might need a break based on his inputs, and headlights that automatically switch between dipped and main beam.
All models come with an electronic stability control system that will help you regain control of the car if it starts to skid, and a function that stops you rolling backwards when performing a hill start.
We need to wait until Euro NCAP has released results of its crash tests on the Stonic for a full verdict, but as a guide the Rio on which it is based scored a full five stars with all of the active safety systems fitted, but only three stars without them.Standard spec 9/10
Only two models, and both are well equipped
The Stonic range kicks off with 2 specification and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning and rear parking sensors. While the 7-inch touchscreen doesn’t have satnav you can access your smartphone’s functions using the built-in Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, plus there’s DAB radio and Bluetooth.
First Edition models are very well equipped, with rain-sensing windscreen wipers, climate control, a reversing camera, part-leather (well, faux leather) heated seats, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry and satnav all coming as standard. Opt for a First Edition and you can only have it with the two more expensive engine options, rather than the entry level 1.4-litre petrol.Our favourite version
‘2’ 1.0 GDI manual, list price £16,995
Options you should add: Advanced Driving Assistance Package consisting of autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and automatic high-beam assist (£350), metallic paint (£545)
The Kia Stonic enters a crowded marketplace as one of the better handling compact SUVs, plus of course the firm’s excellent seven-year warranty. However, its pricing is pretty punchy, it has a firmer ride than many rivals and isn’t quite as spacious as the best in class.
Unusually for a Kia, then, this is a car you need to buy with your heart more than your head.
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