Although it may not be far off, we have not yet reached the point where manufacturers routinely develop compact SUVs from scratch rather than basing them on existing hatchbacks. Kia’s Stonic is an example of the latter procedure. It’s a very close relative of the current Rio, which arrived on the UK market about a year ago.
A great deal of what can be said about the Rio can therefore also be said of the Stonic. Both are smart-looking cars, but both also suffer from very low-rent interiors made of what must be just about the cheapest plastic Kia felt it could get away with.
The Stonic is, however, slightly classier in one respect. Shut the doors of a Rio, or even move one of the front seats forward or back, and the sound will echo round the cabin for several tenths of a second. This does not happen in the Stonic, which occupies a position several steps up the perceived quality scale as a result.
Another reason some people might prefer the Stonic to the Rio is that it’s 70mm taller. This is great for forward visibility, but the view out the back is badly hampered by enormous rear side pillars, described as “distinctive” by Kia and as “unforgivable” by me.
There is also 42mm extra ground clearance which gives the Stonic a better chance of coping with off-road conditions. This is unlikely to be tested by many owners, though, since Kia doesn’t offer four-wheel drive. There’s just not enough interest in that among UK buyers of this sort of car.
The test car’s one-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine is the smallest but, at 118bhp, the most powerful of the three available, 10bhp up on the 1.6 turbo diesel and a further 10bhp ahead of the 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated petrol. It’s quite pleasant, as engines of this type generally are, though not particularly quiet. I haven’t driven a diesel Stonic yet, but experience with the Rio suggests that it won’t be much louder.
The most awkward thing about driving the Stonic is that it’s difficult to get away from rest smoothly, thanks to a combination of a throttle that’s quite sensitive at the top of the pedal travel and a firm clutch biting point. I wondered for a while if this was specific to the test car, but other writers have reported a similar problem in different ones.
Other than that, the Stonic is friendly enough in town, as long as you’re not trying to reverse it. On the open road it’s good in some ways, not so good in others.
The suspension is, on the whole, soft and well-damped, though on sharply undulating tarmac it sometimes feels as if it’s hitting the bump stops. Far too much information about the road surface is transferred into the cabin – it’s as if the 17″ wheels and the tyres fitted to them are not the ones the chassis engineers were inspecting, though in fact they’re the only ones available for Stonics sold in the UK.
The range is divided into two trim levels, and I’m going to need you to concentrate here because the first one is called 2 and the second is called First Edition. There will be a short quiz about that next period.
First Editions don’t get the 1.4 petrol engine, but they do have two-tone paintwork which sets them off quite nicely. Other equipment not available on the 2 includes heated seats and steering wheel, touchscreen satellite navigation, automatic rather than manual air-conditioning, a rear USB port, a luggage net, a false boot floor and a much-needed reversing camera.
The First Edition also has autonomous emergency braking as standard. This is largely why it gets five stars from Euro NCAP (which hasn’t actually tested the Stonic but based its rating on assessment of the Rio). The 2 doesn’t have AEB and has therefore been given three stars.
Engine size 998cc
Top speed 115mph
0-62mph 9.9 seconds
Fuel economy 56.5mpg combined
CO2 emissions 115g/km
Towing capacity 1110kg (braked)
Euro NCAP (2017) Overall 5 stars Adult occupant 93% Child occupant 84% Pedestrian 71% Safety assist 59%
Information correct at publication date