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Driven: Kia Stonic. Image by Kia.

Driven: Kia Stonic
The Kia Stonic is a competent, if not remarkable small crossover. But the looks should do enough to see it home.


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Kia Stonic

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: Great looks, bold and adventurous cabin finishing, reasonable value, ease-of-use

Not so good: Inert Rio-derived chassis, ride comfort occasionally crunchy, no 4WD or 120hp+ options

Key Facts

Model tested: Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition
Price: Stonic range starts from 16,295; 1.6 CRDi First Edition from 20,495, car as tested 21,040
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door crossover
CO2 emissions: 109g/km (VED 140 annually)
Combined economy: 67.3mpg
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Power: 110hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 260Nm at 1,500- to 2,750rpm

Our view:

There's been an explosion in small SUVs in recent years. But, strangely for the UK, two marques that are not among the front-runners are Ford and Vauxhall, traditionally strong sellers in the compact, affordable segment. That's because the EcoSport is a bit of a clunker, as Ford has had two goes at revitalising it in just four years on sale, while Vauxhall doesn't know if it wants to promote the Mokka X or the Crossland X as its strongest competitor - so both of them feel like compromised and rather mediocre products.

That leaves the way open for a slew of other brands, that are perhaps not as traditionally strong on sales as the Big Two here, to exploit the raging demand car buyers have for these vehicles, which - let's face it - are nothing more than superminis in slightly taller boots. We all know Nissan has been reaping the significant benefits with the idiosyncratic Juke since 2010, but there are so many excellent alternatives nowadays - the Honda HR-V, the Peugeot 2008, the new Citroen C3 Aircross and more... bedazzled buyers could be forgiven for not knowing which way to turn.

Into this melee wades Kia, which has decided that the boxy Soul was simply not cutting it in this lucrative market. Thus, here's the Stonic - and we'll simply gloss over the fact its name is a ridiculous portmanteau of 'speedy' and 'tonic'. It's based on the Rio supermini but it's (principally) 70mm taller, and the Stonic's compact range - there are three engines and two trim lines available at the time of writing - reduces the agony of choice for consumers. Although it does also mean there are no Stonics in the launch range with all-wheel drive, nor with anything more than 120hp. Curious, especially when sister brand Hyundai combines both in the top-dog Kona equivalent.

Nevertheless, despite the narrow selection of cars in the Kia's line-up, if we accept that half the battle in this cash-cow segment is attention-grabbing kerb appeal, then the Stonic should be a roaring success for the Korean company, in much the same way the larger Sportage has hit a nerve with the UK public. The Stonic is a lovely-looking thing; not particularly avantgarde or daring, like the aforementioned Juke or C3 Aircross, perhaps, but certainly handsome and solid enough to win plenty of showroom plaudits.

Our test car was a range-topping First Edition with the 1.6 CRDi engine, with the premium Urban Green paintwork that's teamed to orange and grey details - a colour scheme that carries over into the interior in places. So it had the 'wow' factor courtesy of its distinctive garb, but beyond a garish mix of hues, there are plenty of other neat details to drink in. Such as the tidy front-end design. Those wavy shut lines at the sides of the bonnet. Sculpted flanks that allow the Stonic to do something that seems all but impossible these days: make a set of 17-inch alloys look a reasonable size. The eye-catching C-pillar treatment, that cuts through the roofline. That neat rear, with its lower 'skid plate', smooth bootlid and sloping rear hatch. Yup, without being needlessly edgy and brash, the Kia has alluring good looks, and we'd go so far as to say that - alongside the current Picanto GT-Line S and the flagship Stinger - this is easily one of the company's most attractive designs yet.

It's excellent inside too, most of the plastics feeling up there with the best in class and the seven-inch infotainment screen providing a nice centre point to the fascia. That bold exterior treatment is reflected in the orange highlights around the gearlever area and the central air vents/screen, while a matte-effect dash pad and grey highlight panels on the doors ensure it's anything but boring. As with other First Edition models from Kia, there are naturally loads of toys, too - cruise and dual-zone climate controls, blind-spot and lane departure warning (plus, of course, AEB), heated seats and a heated steering wheel, auto lights and wipers... seriously, we could go on. And on and on and on. In brief, you won't want for any additional equipment and all the switchgear controlling these features operates in a pleasant, machined fashion.

It's a shame there's not a huge amount of extra space in the Stonic when compared to a Rio, either in terms of rear passenger legroom or boot capacity. It also doesn't feel particularly crossover-y inside, especially as the seating position seems low. Personally we like it , but if you're buying one of these things instead of a supermini, presumably you want to be at a greater altitude relative to the tarmac when driving.

That brings us on to the dynamics, which are also not very crossover-like. In truth, the Stonic feels every bit the equal of the capable but reserved Rio, with a few important differences. In the corners, it's impressively assured without ever being thrilling. The nose turns in with a fair keenness and the steering is above average, maybe even bordering on 'good', while the six-speed manual throws about the gate in a clean and appealing fashion. The brakes do what they need to and there's excellent visibility out of the Kia, while the 1.6 CRDi is a fine small-capacity turbodiesel - your alternative for the First Edition is a 120hp iteration of the company's superb 1.0-litre T-GDi three-cylinder petrol, which is a little more charismatic but seriously down on torque. Without ever feeling rapid, there's more of a muscularity to the CRDi which makes it better - or, at the very least, easier to live with - on A-roads and motorways. It's good on fuel, too, with an overall average economy of 47.7mpg during our week and up to 55mpg if holding a steady 60mph on A-roads.

The two main problems, though, are these: first, Kia touts the Stonic as being something above the norm to drive in this segment, but while we think it is perfectly capable and likeable, it's by no means the sharpest tool in the box - and this is a part of the market where driving dynamics are no great shakes anyway. Second, the ride quality and rolling refinement are, to put it bluntly, just not good enough.

This is why we've docked the Stonic another half a star, because for its looks, smooth drivetrain, well-equipped and attractive interior and its generally decent manners on the roads, the fact Kia is charging 21 grand (neither cheap nor ridiculously expensive) for the range-topper is excellent work that should really be deserving of a four-star rating, minimum. But the Stonic is strangely crunchy over poorer road surfaces at lower speeds. Like a German sports vehicle from a decade ago, the Kia is magnificent at 70mph on the motorway, but all too often found wanting for compliant primary and secondary ride characteristics when travelling at town velocity. There's also too much tyre noise below 50mph, as well, which is very noticeable on the sort of rougher, 1960s surfaces we have in most urban areas. And given this is where these small crossovers are driven for the vast majority of the time, a knobbly and noisy town ride is a fairly sizeable negative on the Stonic's pros and cons sheet.

What's even odder about this failing is that the Rio has no such problems. Kia's regular supermini has a smoother ride and a seeming absence of tyre chatter, which means it possesses superior comfort and noise suppression than the more expensive crossover. We've no idea why the Stonic would be worse on either score, because it has taller suspension and should have more space in its body cavities for extra sound insulation. However, we can only report as we find and, while we did more than 400 miles in the Kia crossover and largely enjoyed most of them, there were occasions when we wished a car travelling on relatively modest (by today's standards) 17-inch rims would just calm down a bit on washboard tarmac; instead, there was too much fidgeting, nervousness and tyre roar.

Despite this, it's a car we'd put on a shortlist of the best crossovers in its segment, purely because of its appearance and its value-for-money proposition, both in terms of purchasing and ongoing ownership - a seven-year warranty is always going to be tempting to customers. We think softer suspension or smaller wheels might help the Kia's biggest failing, its mediocre low-speed ride and refinement, but by the same token we wish there was at least an AWD model in the line-up, as well as a version with more than 120hp. As it is, the Kia Stonic feels like a work in progress.


Fiat 500X: Like the Stonic, the 500X majors on style first and foremost, and it's a good-looking thing, but it's a pricey contender in this marketplace. A 120hp diesel likely to set you back 22,000.

Hyundai Kona: It would be impossible to mention the Stonic without recourse to the mechanically similar Kona - the main difference here being that Hyundai offers a 177hp AWD model if you want it.

SEAT Arona: Our preferred choice in this sector, because it has youthful looks and a classy, if sedate looking cabin, yet its main strengths are its engaging MQB A0 chassis and the best models cost less than sub-20k.

Matt Robinson - 22 Jan 2018    - Kia road tests
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Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition drive. Image by Kia.Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition drive. Image by Kia.Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition drive. Image by Kia.Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition drive. Image by Kia.Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition drive. Image by Kia.

Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition drive. Image by Kia.Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition drive. Image by Kia.Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition drive. Image by Kia.Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition drive. Image by Kia.Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi First Edition drive. Image by Kia.


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