Kia Stonic first drive: one of NZ's cheapest SUVs is also pretty cheerful
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Kia Stonic Limited
- Sharp pricing for entry version
- Looks the part
- Good to drive
- Modest performance from 1.4
- Hard plastics in cabin
- Strange name
Small SUVs are so hot right now. They represent the fastest growing segment in the new-vehicle market, and will almost certainly become more popular than their medium-sized counterparts (currently around 20 per cent of the new-vehicle market) next year.
Seems like a good time to introduce the Kia Stonic. The Korean maker already has two wildly popular popular SUVs in the form of the Sportage and Seltos. Not to mention the electrified Niro and Sorento 7-seater. Or the SUVish Picanto X Line (we can argue about that one later). Point is, it’s an SUV world at Kia.
Stonic fits underneath Seltos and has been cooked up using a familiar recipe: you take a successful small hatch, raise the ride height and dress it up in chunky body addenda.
Works for Toyota (Yaris Cross), works for Volkswagen (T-Cross) and it seems to have done the trick for Kia, because the Stonic does look the part without looking like anything else in the range. It’s 70mm taller and 35mm wider than the Rio on which it's based, but on the same wheelbase.
It’s also priced right. There’s a special launch price of $21,990 for the entry LX, making it one of the cheapest new SUVs on the market. That’s a 2020 price only; Kia says it’ll likely be revised for 2021.
There are five different models in the lineup: the LX, EX and Limited (running up to $29,990), capped by two versions of the GT Line: $31,990 or $33,990 for the flagship “+”.
There are two tiers of Stonic because there are two engines. LX/EX/Limited have a 74kW/133kW 1.4-litre four that uses what Kia claims is a world-first Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) system, which adjusts the amount of time the valves stay open for maximum efficiency. It’s matched to a 6-speed automatic.
But tech honours still arguably go to the brace of GT Line models, which are powered by a 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder that has more torque (171Nm but the same 74kW) and is even more economical: 5.4l/100km compared with 6.7l/100km for the 1.4l engine. The GT Line models drive through a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
We’ve had an early first drive of the Stonic Limited – that’s the top of the 1.4l lineup ($29,990), riding on 17-inch alloys (same size as the GT Line models) and snazzier composite leather trim inside. You can’t miss the Mighty Yellow finish of our test car (bright colours are a Stonic thing – there’s also Sporty Blue and Signal Red) and it wears the black roof, a $500 option.
We’ve only spent an hour or so behind the wheel, so don’t expect the definitive word on how the Stonic drives.
But first impressions are of a fizzy personality and a good chassis – albeit with a relatively firm ride on the Limited’s larger wheels. It’s no powerhouse, but the engine is eager and the 6-speed automatic nice and smooth.
There’s plenty of hard plastic in the cabin, but design-wise it looks quite posh and it’s nicely laid-out (8.0in touch screen standard on all models) in familiar Kia fashion. The seats were excellent in our Limited and even the rear bench is nicely shaped.
There is even room for adults all-round at pinch – although bear in mind this is a baby SUV that’s just 4.1m long. It’s compact in the true sense of the word.
This little Kia is a nicely executed package, albeit one with a weird name. “Stonic”? It’s a portmanteau of “speed” and “tonic”, apparently.
ENGINES: 1.4-litre four or 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder
POWER: 74kW/133Nm or 74kW/171Nm
GEARBOX: 6-speed automatic or 7-speed automated dual-clutch, FWD