Stylish to look at and easy to live with
Kia sells more practical cars for less money
What is it?
Carmakers do love to make up a weird name, but what even is a Stonic? It sounds like something you’d drink on a long train journey, but Kia says the name is a cheesy mashup of speedy and tonic. We’re not really sure what it’s all supposed to mean, but then Volkswagen managed to splice tiger and iguana when it came to the Tiguan badge and no one’s too bothered about that.
OK, what is it really?
The car itself is something of a mashup too, a crossover that mixes elements of SUV and hatchback in a compact footprint. It’s a tough area of the market to compete in, simply because there’s so much to choose from. It’s also a tough class to assess, with cars costing more than the superminis they’re inevitably based on and not offering advances in practicality. You’d assume that something that looks taller and bigger would have a lot more space for passengers and a bigger boot, but it’s not always the case.
The Stonic’s arrival in 2017 meant that Kia now offers the full suite of SUVs, from the smaller Stonic through the medium-size Sportage and Niro EV efforts to the larger Sorento. And don't ask us how the XCeed fits into the bigger picture.
There’s even the jumbo-sized Telluride, but Kia doesn’t sell that in Europe because it wouldn’t really fit – that one is strictly for the likes of the US market. The expanded range and increasing spread of electrified options shows Kia’s intent to strengthen its foothold in the UK.
Of course, the first priority is to be profitable, so it wouldn’t be a criticism of the Stonic to say that it was a Rio on stilts. The Stonic gets its platform and engine options from the supermini, which is good, because the Rio is one of the better options in the Korean carmaker’s line-up. Sadly the Rio is often overlooked for being a bit dowdy, so the Stonic aims to counter that with an injection of style and appeal to a younger, more fashionable crowd. Hmm.
There’s plenty of choice to be found on the options list, but not when it comes to engines – there’s just the one turbocharged 1.0-litre 3cyl engine in this car, with 99bhp or 118bhp available. The latter adds a 48V mild hybrid boost, with some trick tech to cut fuel consumption. Gearbox choice in either power output comes down to a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
It certainly... stands out.
The Stonic’s hip design is a largely successful effort, albeit dependent on colour choice and spec. The entry-level car doesn’t get the black contrasting roof of more expensive models that disguises some of the SUV bulk, and as with most modern designs it looks progressively better the larger the wheel. That doesn’t necessarily tally with ride comfort of course.
It would be easy to get carried away with colour choices here, but for our money the yellow doesn’t work as well in the rainy real world as it does in the brochure. The metallic blue and red options stand out from the standard-fit black or grey all new cars seem to come in these days.
And the Stonic needs to stand out, because it’s theoretically up against the likes of the Ford Puma, Renault Captur, Nissan Juke, Toyota CH-R, Skoda Kamiq, Fiat 500X… the list goes on and on. What can the small Kia bring to the table that none of these others cars do? Well, there is always the company’s famous seven-year warranty to fall back on if all else fails.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Stonic is a reasonably likeable car, with solid, uncontroversial styling on the outside and a decent interior that’s been designed to a budget. Does it do enough to stand out in a packed segment? Probably not, but then again its rarity might stand in its favour, with rivals becoming slightly dull through their ubiquity on the road.
We’d happily recommend the Stonic as an inoffensive companion, but at the same time perhaps question some of the fundamentals. You’ve got a styling-led car that offers no real improvement on the hatchback it’s based on, while a little extra cash could get you something from elsewhere in the Kia range that would meet your needs marvellously well. It’s not that we’re against SUVs and crossovers per se, we understand the appeal, we just don’t know what this one is actually for.