The Kia Stonic (a mixture of ‘speedy’ and ‘tonic’, apparently) is a small SUV fighting to stand out in a rather crowded market. It manages to do so with cute looks, impressive performance and agility you mightn’t expect from such a car. It may not wow too many folks inside, or exude much in the way of character, but for the money, this is a decent crossover.
The Stonic is based on another Kia – the Rio supermini. Compared to some rivals, the Stonic sits lower and has something of a muscular look. The ‘tiger nose’ grille fronts up what could be considered a slightly stout and squat overall shape. This Kia looks like it’s been hitting the gym.
There are ever-so-slightly prettier alternatives in its class. Find a Stonic with a two-tone paint job and you might be more inclined to consider it a good-looking little car. It certainly plays it safe, unlike something like the Nissan Juke. Avoiding the Marmite approach means no one will hate the look of this inoffensive South Korean motor.
What's it like to drive?
SUV crossovers, B-SUVs, fat hatchbacks. Call them what you will, one thing’s for sure – no one expects a superior drive in one. True to type, the Kia Stonic isn’t exactly a mind-blowing ride. For its class however, it’s no slouch. The steering can sometimes be a little on the light side, but the handling is as nimble as you’d like.
The Stonic is built for urban areas, so don’t be too surprised to find it a tiny bit jittery and stiff on longer drives. This isn’t the weakest of its kind. Nor does it have quite the punch and reassurance of, say, a Volkswagen T-Roc.
One noticeably odd thing is the lower driving position. Taller hatch/SUV hybrids like this usually elevate the seats for a better view of the road. Not so with the Stonic. We’re not complaining though, as it lends the car a slightly sportier feel.
Before you sit inside a Stonic, prepare to be whelmed. Not overwhelmed or underwhelmed, just whelmed. Everything you need is here, there’s just very little panache to any of it. The interior is based heavily on the Kia Rio’s, which isn’t the most decorative or showy of cars.
That said, there’s a splash of colour on the dashboard in the Stonic that the Rio can’t boast. The fit and feel of all the panels, buttons and instruments is perfectly acceptable. You may well notice a slight lack of a quality touch. Especially if you’re familiar with some of the Stonic’s rivals, like the Nissan Juke.
It’s all stuck together well and fully functional. There’s just a tangible lack of quality in the feel of the materials used throughout the cabin. It’s all a bit basic, although we must say there’s a considerable amount of logic to where everything is situated.
Space is fairly generous in the front of the car, with enough head and legroom for the driver and passenger. In the back, there’s an adequate amount of space. No more than you’d get in the Rio hatchback. It’s fair to say that this model isn’t a class leader in rear room as it’s almost cramped compared to some of its competitors. So, if space in the back is a priority, perhaps the Stonic’s not for you.
Situated practically and pleasingly high on the dashboard – and well within reach – is the Stonic’s infotainment system. The integrated seven-inch screen gives you access to DAB radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The sat-nav is user-friendly and clear, and the parking sensors are a great little touch.
Boot space is adequate. That’s not much of a commendation, is it? You get more room than in the Rio hatchback, not as much as in many of the Stonic’s rivals. The Peugeot 2008, Skoda Kamiq, Renault Captur and Juke all out-boot the Kia.
There’s room for shopping or a family’s weekend bags. Fold the back seats and you really open up the space. That’s not a unique feature, and even then you get less space than in other cars in the class.
The Stonic makes up for a slight lack of room with loads of really useful and some even quite inspired little storage touches throughout. Door bins are specially made to hold large drinks bottles, which is handy.
There are a couple of well-placed cupholders in the front, a giant glovebox and a big container within the central armrest. Underneath that armrest is a special tray designed for smartphones and tablets. Which we’re big fans of. We like the handy shopping hooks in the boot too.
Reliability and running costs
You’d expect the newer 1-litre engine to give owners plenty of bang for their petrol buck and you’d be right. Fuel economy should be decent with the Stonic, especially later models. The older ones, available with a 1.4-litre, obviously offer slightly weaker miles per gallon rates. This little South Korean run-around gives a fairly average mpg across the board and some rivals like the Peugeot 2008 can better it. That said, it’s all fairly marginal stuff.
There are no known or reported issues with the Kia Stonic, with the model rating pretty well in consumer surveys. Some parts of the engine are new. With it mostly based on the tried and tested Rio, reliability isn’t likely to be an issue for most owners here. You might want to consider cinchCare for added peace of mind.
What we love
A significant number of cars like the Stonic are just plain ugly, with the kind of chassis that only a mother could love. If you want a little more in the way of practicality from your hatchback, but find most crossover SUVs are just too unwieldy and unsightly, the Kia Stonic may just be for you. They’re well equipped inside and drive with a little more urgency and responsiveness than some of the alternatives. Altogether, this is a solid family car.
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With its slightly jarring name, the Stonic was never likely to go down as a classic car. Crossover SUVs like this tend not to. It has plenty of rivals and fails to truly separate itself from the pack. Yet this Kia is no slouch to drive and is pretty handsome. The Stonic might not be top of its crowded class, but it’s a bright student you can rely on nonetheless.
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