Kia’s long-awaited new SUV has arrived
Kia's been a shining sales star in recent years, but a city SUV has been a glaring omission from its line-up. The new Stonic plugs the hole.
Available from $22,990 drive-away, our family of testers sampled the range-topping GT-Line version at $29,990 on the road.
Iain: Teens and retirees don't want cars these days. They demand SUVs. Cheap, little ones mainly.
Jules: Of course. City SUVs are far more appealing than city hatchbacks or sedans. Keep up, Granddad.
Iain: Hey, it's their money. The Kia Stonic's a great example. It's based on the Rio hatchback and shares its engine, gearbox and much of its equipment. But costs thousands more.
Jules: Yes, but it looks cooler than a daggy hatch. And it's easier to climb in and out from.
I ain: But a Stonic costs $3500 more than the equivalent entry-level Rio, and our GT-Line is $5000 more than the hatch alternative.
Jules: I'd pay the extra. The Stonic looks beautifully sporty. What are its rivals?
Iain: A Kia Rio for a lot less? Okay, sorry. The Hyundai Venue (from $20,690), Toyota Yaris Cross (from $26,990) and runaway segment leader Mazda CX-3 (from $22,890).
THE LIVING SPACE
Jules: The Stonic is sporty inside too, but feels cheaper than I was expecting. I like the flat-bottom steering wheel, metal pedals, fake leather seat bolsters and carbon-style dash trim.
I ain: There's the usual very smart Kia layout, good build quality, climate control and sizeable 8-inch infotainment screen, though the doors are mighty slabs of hard plastic.
Jules: It needs more comfort. The dash and door plastics are too scratchy.
Jules: It feels sturdy on the highway, but there's a bit of road noise to tolerate.
Iain: While the doors have a solid clunk to them, the Stonic doesn't suppress the sounds as well as pricier, larger Kias.
Jules: It's not a quick car, but perky. It scoots around town nicely.
Iain: Like many rivals it uses a turbocharged three-cylinder. Just 74kW on offer, but its 172Nm of torque loads quickly to offer some fun.
Jules: If I'm grumbling, it can be a bit jerky when parking and at slow speeds.
Iain: It has a sporty twin-clutch auto gearbox. Brilliant when up to speed, but a bit hesitant when meandering urban areas.
Jules: It cleverly keeps itself between the road's white lines, steering itself if you stray, with some beepy telling off.
Iain: And call me spoiled, but I've grown to love radar cruise control. Not available on the little Stonic.
Jules: Bowls club or university sports fields I'd imagine?
Iain: Hopefully a few will enjoy some corners. Kia Australia sets up its cars' steering and handling for our roads and preferences. This GT-Line gets a sportier tune than other Stonics, and it's a decent balance of comfort and good cornering skills.
Jules: The turbo engine likes to rev too.
Iain: I love its fun, quite raspy noise. The dual-clutch gearbox is sharp when driving enthusiastically too. It really needs steering wheel paddles to add more involvement.
Jules: Despite being a city SUV, rear doors are large so the kids can get in easily. No rear air vents though.
Iain: Rear seats are firm but give reasonable head and leg room, though you wouldn't want three adults across the back for long.
Jules: The safety kit and 5 Star ANCAP rating are good, but I don't like missing out on rear cross traffic alert and a blind spot monitor.
Iain: Hold on. Our GT-Line Stonic doesn't have a 5 Star rating. Kia cheekily used the Rio's 2017 safety rating for the 1.4-litre Stonic - deeming the cars so closely related - but it didn't apply to our 1.0-litre turbo model. I'd suggest no Stonic would get 5 Stars if crashed in 2021, due to stricter rules on active and passive safety gear.
Jules: Very cheeky. Positively, I love the rear occupant alert. It monitors rear doors opening and alerts to ensure no kids are left behind.
Iain: Kudos for Kia's seven-year warranty and fuel economy of 5.4L/100km, which we almost achieved. Services aren't cheap, and are every 10,000km rather than the 15,000km of many rivals.
Jules: I like the Stonic's style, good looks and easy-to-drive nature, but I want it to feel more special. It's probably a better proposition at $22,990 for the entry-level 'S', as the $30,000 GT-Line has to compete with the Skoda Kamiq - a larger and classier feeling city SUV.
Iain: I see the appeal, but personally I'd hop in a Kia Rio GT-Line for $5000 less. Or get an entry-level Kia Seltos with its larger dimensions and smarter cabin. That said, the Stonic's a welcome addition to the city SUV segment, and Kia will sell plenty.
KIA STONIC GT-LINE VITALS
Price: $29,990 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: 7 years/u'ltd km warranty $2128 for 5 years/50,000km
Engine: 1.0-litre 3-cyl turbo-petrol, 74kW/172Nm
Safety: Not tested, six airbags, auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane following assist, lane keep assist, rear camera with parking guidelines, rear sensors, rear occupant alert
Spare: Space saver
Originally published as Kia's long-awaited new SUV has arrived