What is it like to drive?
Any SUV, no matter how small, starts at a disadvantage when you get behind the wheel – by virtue of their genetic makeup none of them are going to be the last word in driving dynamics, with all that extra ride height and added weight. But then you’ve got behind this particular wheel because you want the extra ride height and the perceived security and whatnot that comes with that.
Indeed, the small SUV segment is expressly image-oriented, with cars in the class putting emphasis on eye-catching styling and lifestyle nods. That’s not to say that carmakers aren’t putting the effort in – these days the Stonic is up against the likes of the Ford Puma, Peugeot 2008 and Nissan Juke, which all ride and steer with relative aplomb.
So how does the Stonic drive?
The Stonic is agile enough, the front end is keen going into corners and feels true to its hatchback roots. Kia’s fitted it with quick steering that gives the car a darty feel, and this works well in town. Not that you can feel what’s going on, that light steering wheel is very heavily assisted and doesn’t communicate much. There’s no real pleasure to be had from pushing the Stonic, but it gets on with the job in a businesslike fashion.
It exploits its SUV stance well up front – the squat front end is useful for parking, you can see where the front bumper ends – but the rear is overcome by style over substance, you can’t see much out of the back. You’ll appreciate the standard rear parking sensors and a rear camera is also thrown in from GT-Line spec upwards.
Is it comfortable?
The ride is a touch firm for our liking, you can feel where Kia has had to tighten things up to keep body roll in check. The entry-level ‘2’ spec car gets 16in alloys, but the 17in wheels of GT-Line and above have a notably negative effect on the ride. We also found that the suspension gets occasionally flummoxed over speed bumps, heaving over the inconvenient obstacle and bouncing you off the other side. As with many SUVs and crossovers, it’s a classic style versus comfort trade-off.
There’s barely anything to call between the 99bhp and 118bhp versions of the Stonic’s 1.0-litre engine. All versions of the car manage the 0–62mph run in around 10 seconds or so, offer a top speed of about 115mph and are officially rated at 50mpg, so you can except low- to mid-40s in real world driving.
The reason the more powerful engine isn’t quicker is that Kia has introduced a range of its so-called ‘EcoDynamics’ measures to minimise fuel consumption. That powertrain comes with a 48V mild-hybrid set-up that in manual guise now means a ‘by wire’ gearchange. You still work away at the clutch, but it’s an electronic rather than a mechanical linkage. It’s supposed to mean the engine can be turned off earlier. It takes a little getting used to, lifting your foot off an inert pedal until the car starts to crawl forward.