According to the numbers people, the B SUV segment is booming at the moment and is set to get even bigger. By 2020 it is expected to double in size to 2.2 million sales annually in Europe.
Kia Stonic ‘First Edition’ 1.0 T-GDi
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-
cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 115mph
0-60mph: 9.9 seconds
CO2 emissions: 115g/km
That’s a whole heap of punters desperate for a compact, SUV-styled vehicle so it’s no wonder manufacturers are rushing to grab some of the crossover action. As well as this week’s Kia Stonic test car Hyundai’s Kona and Citroen’s C3 Aircross are just entering the market, there’s the Seat Arona and a new Ford Ecosport coming and the likes of the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka X have already set out their stalls.
The appeal of the compact crossover is simple, buyers get the styling of an SUV without the excessive size. Chunky looks combine with hatchback-like packaging to offer the best of both worlds to family buyers who don’t need loads of space or four-wheel drive.
The Stonic slots neatly into this world, being based on Kia’s Rio hatchback. It shares the Rio’s wheelbase, gearbox and one of its engines but is slightly wider, taller and longer. Truth be told, it looks a lot like a steroidal Rio, with the trademark tiger nose front and chunky, sharply edged bodywork. It’s the cladding, roof rails and 17-inch alloys that add the crossover styling.
As well as looking a lot like the Rio, the Stonic feels a lot like its sibling. Despite being 7cm taller than the Rio the Stonic feels like a hatchback to drive. There’s none of the wallowing and leaning of “proper SUVs” and, if anything, the heavier, quicker steering makes for a more engaging drive that the hatchback. The ride is perhaps a little firmer than the Rio but for a car of its class it treads a reasonableline between sporty and comfortable.
From launch the Stonic is available with three engines, all of which come with a six-speed manual gearbox. A 1.4-litre 98bhp petrol sits at the bottom of the range beneath a turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol with 118bhp and a 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel.
Kia expect the petrols to account for 60 per cent of sales but I’d be surprised if it’s as low as that. The diesel is a worthy enough engine, its 192lb/ft of torque provides plenty of pull from low revs but it’s not the quietest of units and in the real world it returned economy disappointingly far from the claimed 67.3mpg.
The 1.0 T-GDi, on the other hand, is a star performer. It lacks the diesel’s low-down shove but with a little encouragement makes lively progress. It’s a second quicker to 60 than the diesel (two quicker than the 1.4), smoother and quieter. For me, unless you’re doing huge mileage that means the diesel’s extra 10mpg is a deal-breaker then the 1.0 is the engine to have.
The Stonic keeps it simple in terms of trim. There’s ‘2’ and First Edition specifications, each of which get the 1.0-litre petrol and the diesel engines. The 1.4 is reserved as the entry level ‘2’ model.
As with every Kia you won’t want for equipment, even on the lower-grade ‘2’ trim, which starts at £16,295. A seven-inch touchscreen with DAB, Bluetooth, Apple Car Play and Android Auto is standard fit, as are 17-inch alloys, air conditioning, auto lights, parking sensors, cruise control and LED running lights.
First Edition cars get sat nav and Kia Connected online services along with auto air con, heated front seats and steering wheel, keyless entry and start, blind spot, rear cross traffic, driver awareness and lane departure warning, auto high beam and autonomous emergency braking.
One of the most noticeable differences made by choosing the First Edition is to the car’s appearance. As standard First Edition cars get two-tone exterior paint and interior finish. Inside and out this helps lift the car’s appearance significantly. In the interior, particularly, the metallic-look inserts around the central stack and matched detailing on the seats add a welcome splash of colour to an otherwise well-made but drab finish.
Appearances aside, the cabin’s good for four average-sized adults but like most cars in its class having a tall driver will render one of the rear seats virtually useless. A split-level boot offers 352 litres, putting it on par with most rivals.
In a busy segment, the Stonic doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the party. It does, however, bring the usual Kia strengths of a quality feel, good value and a decent drive all backed by a seven-year warranty, which make it a force to be reckoned with.