Stonic. It’s an interesting name. Kia states that it’s a mix of the words ‘speedy’ and ‘tonic’. Right…Ok. Let’s be honest, it won’t be exactly speedy, and the ‘Tonic’ part is associated with the first tone of a major or minor scale in music – not the liquid. Questionable name aside, the Stonic is an important car for Kia, as the Korean brand is looking a slice of the action in the small SUV scene.
The Stonic is based on the Rio, meaning it has a similar design, albeit made taller and longer. I still can’t decide whether I like it or not, but I will admit it’s an interesting design, although it’s not quite as striking as the Hyundai Kona – the sister car to the Stonic. The outside may be interesting, but I’m afraid the inside is all a bit ‘Plain Jane’. It’s logically well laid out and it feels well put together, but if you’re looking for an SUV with a characterful interior, this may not be for you.
As mentioned earlier, Kia deems this car to be ‘speedy’, so with that in mind, what engine choices do you have on offer?
There are three engines on offer – two petrol and one diesel. Representing the petrol corner are a 1.0 litre turbocharged three cylinder, or a 1.4 litre naturally aspirated four cylinder. If you long for a diesel however, you can have the 1.6 litre turbocharged four cylinder block. I’ve got the 1.0 litre engine on test here, but how does it perform?
This pint-sized engine offers 118bhp with 171Nm of torque, and is mated to a 6-speed manual delivering power to the front wheels. In case you’re wondering, all wheel drive is not available for the Stonic, although the Kona can offer such a feature. Kia states that all wheel drive models only make up 8% in this segment, which is why the decision has been made to omit it from the Stonic range.
This 1.0 litre may be small, but it feels rather sprightly. 60mph is completed in just under 10 seconds and the top speed is 114mph, not that you’re likely to ever hit it, of course. The engine makes decent progress and is well suited for various driving conditions, plus the 6-speed manual offers a decent, snappy change. In case you don’t quite fancy a manual, you can have an 7-speed automatic instead, but it’s not available on the base model, which is the model tested here.
This may be the entry level model, but you still get 17″ alloys, smartphone connectivity, rear parking sensors, and air conditioning as standard, but I’ll speak more about trim levels later. For now, let’s get back to how the Stonic drives. As you would expect, it offers a similar driving sensation to the Rio, meaning you get quite a firm ride.
The upshot of this is that the Stonic offers the sort of dynamic drive that other small SUVs could only dream of. It also feels a bit more dynamic from what I can remember from my time spent with the Rio, oddly. The Stonic somehow feels a bit tauter, although I would need to drive both cars back-to-back to draw a more a more confident conclusion.
In the corners it’s a genuinely entertaining car to drive as it feels direct and nimble. It offers a turn-in that you wouldn’t really expect from a car like this and there’s little in the way of body roll. The brakes are pretty strong too, although the initial dab doesn’t offer much feedback, and it’s not until you press a little harder that you start to feel the stopping power. In short, Kia seems to have done a better job converting a hatchback in to an SUV, than Ford managed by using a Fiesta base to build the EcoSport.
However, if comfort is what you crave, then you may want to look elsewhere as the Stonic’s ride is jittery, especially at lower speeds. You may also want to look elsewhere if you’re looking for a high, commanding driving position, as the seating setup in the Stonic is actually quite low for an SUV. This is great if you prefer such a driving position, but it does make you wonder why you pick this over a Rio.
Well, the Stonic has more space!
Yes, you’re right – it does, however it’s not that much more than you may be expecting. The rear seats offer a little more room compared to the Rio, but there’s not much in it. The same story can be told for the boot as it offers just 27 more litres. Granted, the difference becomes greater when you compare both cars with the seats folded down – 1,155 compared to 980 for the Rio – but I doubt you’ll really notice the difference in day-to-day use.
Mind you, the boot is still bigger than the likes of the Nissan Juke, although it’s simply no match for the Citroen C3 Aircross. The seats fold fairly flat though, which makes the load floor more practical, despite a quite pronounced lip on the boot entrance.
For those of you wondering about size, the Stonic is 75mm longer, 70mm taller, it’s ground clearance is 42mm higher than the Rio, but it doesn’t feel like it’s really made the most of its extra size. Hmm. It may not offer a huge amount of space, but there still a decent amount of cubbyoles to be found, so the Stonic should have you well covered for smaller items.
What about trims?
Whilst I’m number-crunching, now seems like a good time to talk about trim levels. Like the engines, there are three to choose from, 2, 3 and 4. If you’re wondering what happened to one, Kia made the decision not to offer the ‘1’ model in the UK to fit in with the demands of customers.
That means the ‘2’ makes up the entry level trim, but don’t expect entry-level equipment. Priced from £16,540, this gives you 17″ alloys, 7″ touchscreen with Bluetooth, DAB radio and smartphone connectivity as well as cruise control with speed limiter, air con, automatic headlights and rear parking sensors.
The only downside is that it’s stingy on safety equipment as you’ll need to cough up £400 to get autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and high beam assist. It’s also worth noting that the price of this model, you could get a pretty well-specced Rio model, which could be a better choice.
The ‘3’ trim level, which costs from £18,600 does offer the aforementioned safety features, as well as navigation, reversing camera, LED rear lights, automatic wipers, plus cloth/faux leather interior. Last up, you have the ‘4’ trim level, which starts from £20,200 and is able to add heated steering wheel and front seats; keyless entry, blind spot detection and cross traffic alert; two-tone paint, and faux leather upholstery.
How safe is it?
As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to pay a premium to get the Advanced Driver’s Assistance Pack, which offers the AEB, lane departure warning and high beam assist. Without this pack the Stonic was only able to muster up 3 stars from Euro NCAP, which is quite disappointing by today’s standards.
Conversely, if you do have a Stonic with the ADAP, you’ll have a model which has been good enough to gain five stars, so it’s worth having if safety is a priority for you when buying a family car.
Is it frugal?
Any family car shouldn’t cost too much to run, but there is no reason why the Stonic will cause any concern in this area. As you would expect, the diesel is the engine of choice for those keeping costs down, as it offers 67.3mpg on a combined run and it emits 109g/km. Conversely, the 1.4 litre is the least efficient of the bunch, which should come as no surprise as it’s lacking a turbocharger.
Feeling a bit Soul-less
The Stonic is a decent car to drive, but a part of me thinks that the car is lacking soul somewhat – it’s not as characterful as I was hoping for. At this point, you may be questioning this statement as this is a family SUV – it’s not really designed to evoke powerful emotions. True, but I feel as if it’s lacking the character and standout-ness that the Kia Soul offers.
The Soul may be a similar size, but it offers more space in the back and the boot is actually a little bigger. It also has bags more character if you ask me, plus you can have an electric model if you so desire. It also offers a higher driving position, and it’s cheaper too, although the choice of engines is a bit more limited. The Rio is also a cheaper car as well, which makes the Stonic a bit of a difficult car to recommend.
In a world where every brand is desperate to pump out a small SUV, Kia’s effort is a valiant one, but not a perfect one. I’m still not 100% sold on its looks and in truth, you could be better served by a Kia Rio or indeed, a Kia Soul. The Stonic then, feels a bit like a missed opportunity; it could have made a real impact the largely crowded are of the market it’s entered, but it’s just not convincing enough if you ask me.
I feel as if Kia could have really made a real competitor here, and whilst it’s a decent car, it just doesn’t feel as good as it could and maybe should have been. However, if you must have a small SUV, and one that drives well, then the Stonic is definitely worth looking at. It also offers a decent amount of kit and let’s not forget, it offers a 7 year warranty.
Car Obsession Rating: (3.5 / 5)
- Dynamic to drive
- Good level of kit
- 7 year warranty
- Peppy performance
- Pretty frugal
- Pleasant gearchange
- Not that much more practical than a Rio
- Standard model lacks safety kit
- Boot not as large as rivals
- Rear space will be tight for taller passengers
- Firm ride may not be for everyone
The Arona is a strong model in the ever-growing SUV market; it’s attractive, it offers a good amount of space, it offers a good amount of technology, and it’s good to drive as well. The inside could be do with a bit more flair, plus the warranty won’t be as long, but despite this, the Arona is a very compelling choice.
The C3 Aircross may not be the most dynamic car to drive, but for a representative for the small SUV class, it makes sense. It offers a great level personalisation as well as plenty of kit, looks that will stand out in any supermarket car park, plus a good level of comfort to boot. Sure, it’s far from dynamic and the ride is a little choppy, but C3 Aircross should fit family life like a glove.
Quite possibly the biggest rival for the Stonic – the Hyundai Kona. It’s the sister car to the Stonic, but it’s been built using different methods. Instead of being built on an existing hatchback’s base, it’s built on its own platform, meaning it’s able to offer four wheel drive as well an electric powertrain. It’s also a more striking car in its design compared to the Stonic, although you’ll need to pay a little bit more to get a similar level of kit.