Kia Stonic review
The Kia Stonic is a decent small crossover, but its rivals have it beaten for style, space and efficiency
Over the years, Kia has built a reputation for producing decent SUVs and crossovers, but the Kia Stonic is something different. While sister models like the Sorento and Sportage deliver practicality and some off-road ability, the Stonic taps into the small crossover market where style largely takes over from practicality.
As a result, the Stonic features a sportier look, although compared to some models in the class, it's still fairly restrained. It's based on the same platform as the Kia Rio supermini, so all models are front-wheel drive, but the raised ride height means there's a higher driving position. Engines, gearboxes and even the interior of the Stonic are also carried over from the Rio, but while the car's name is a portmanteau of 'speedy' and 'tonic', there isn't much of the former on show through the range.
The Stonic comes in a single five-door body style, while the engine range comprises two petrols and a diesel. The petrol range features a naturally aspirated 1.4 MPI 98hp four-cylinder at the entry point to the range, while the turbocharged three-cylinder 1.0 T-GDi 118hp is the better petrol optionboth in terms of performance and efficiency. The diesel is a 1.6 CRDi 108hp. All cars get stop-start and a six-speed manual gearbox, but there's no auto option.
Prices start from around £16,500 and top out at around £20,800, but there are just two trim levels on offer at the moment: 2 and First Edition launch model. It's likely that the First Edition will be replaced either by 3 trim or a GT-Line variant as seen elsewhere in the Kia model line-up, but this has yet to be confirmed. As it stands, 2 trim comes with 17-inch alloys, a seven-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air conditioning, parking sensors, LED running lights and roof rails. First Edition adds sat-nav, heated seats, a reversing camera, autonomous braking, blind spot detection and lane departure warning, plus two-tone paint and a posher interior.
Rivals for the Stonic kick off very close to home, because the Hyundai Kona shares a platform and running gear with the Stonic, but comes in a more adventurous shape, with a broader range of engines and the options of an auto box and four-wheel drive - there's also an EV model on offer.
Elsewhere, the Nissan Juke is the founder of the small crossover class, but is due to be replaced in the next few months, while other rivals for the Stonic include the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008, Citroen C3 Aircross, SEAT Arona and Ford EcoSport. For a leftfield choice, there's the Suzuki Ignis high-riding supermini, or you could go for the Dacia Duster, which offers rugged simplicity and more space for a lower price.
The Kia Stonic is looking to pinch customers from the likes of the Nissan Juke and Citroen C3 Aircross, but it has its work cut out if it’s going to make a real impact. It's based on a shared platform with the Kia Rio hatchback, but the oddly-named Stonic is only an average performer – so while it’s perfectly adequate in all areas, it’s truly compelling in none.
That’s potentially a problem when there are so many more characterful competitors on the market. All is not lost, however, as the Stonic is good to drive and that famous Kia seven-year warranty is hard to ignore.
Engines, performance and drive
Kia engineers have re-tuned the Kia Rio’s rather average MacPherson strut front and torsion-beam rear axle suspension set-up to handle the Stonic’s higher centre of gravity. In doing so, they’ve also created a car that feels more agile, is relatively roll-free and handles in a composed and tidy fashion. The steering is light, if lacking in feel, and the gearchange is light and slick.
While the Stonic has enough grip, it never quite feels settled on the move. The suspension fidgets around, and the damping over aggressive bumps is not as smooth as some rivals. The Kia isn’t as comfortable or as relaxing on the motorway as some of its competitors either. There’s not much roll, and you can carry a good amount of speed through corners, but the Stonic never feels fun in the way a SEAT Arona does. Neither does it inspire as much confidence, as this unsettled edge undermines much of the car’s other, acceptable dynamic qualities.
Performance won’t be startling whichever model you choose, although the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is by far and away the pick of the bunch. In spite of its small size, it is the perkiest in the line-up.
The downsized turbo unit makes 118bhp and delivers its power without too much noise and fuss. It's a little rattly at idle, but it pulls smoothly and revs well. Once you’re using more revs on the move it’s refined, too, and quiet at a cruise.
You’ll need to rev it quite aggressively to access the performance, but with maximum torque delivered from 1,500rpm, the engine responds well to everyday driving demands. The 0-60mph time of 9.9 seconds is not too shabby, and top speed is 115mph.
The 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is bigger but less powerful, as it's an older unit. With just 98bhp and only 133Nm of torque, it feels more sluggish too. The 0-60mph dash takes 12.2 seconds, and the top speed is capped at 107mph.
If you’re looking for diesel power, the 1.6 CRDi model offers 108bhp and 260Nm, which is enough for a 0-60mph in 10.9 seconds and 112mph, but we feel the 1.0 T-GDi petrol is better suited to most drivers’ needs.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
Whichever model you choose, there isn’t a Kia Stonic that’s going to cost a lot to run – and we think the 1.0-litre turbo petrol makes more sense than the diesel for most drivers. It will achieve a creditable 56.5mpg on official figures, which isn’t too far off the 67.3mpg that Kia claims for the 1.6 CRDi diesel.
It’s true that you might have a better chance of achieving high numbers in the diesel than you would in the petrol, however, which thrives on a bit more revs in real use. Still, we expect the differences will be relatively marginal for anyone not doing stellar mileages, especially when you consider the diesel engine costs £1,000 more to buy in the first place.
The entry-level 1.4-litre petrol comes in at 51.4mpg, and while all the Stonic’s efficiency figures are decent (stop-start is standard across the range), they are by no means the best in class. For example, you should be able to eke more miles out of equivalent versions of both the Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008.
For company car drivers, the Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rates are similar for all versions of the Stonic, thanks to reasonably low CO2 emissions. The 1.4 petrol attracts a 24 per cent BiK, while the 1.0 petrol and 1.6 diesel are 22 and 23 per cent respectively. All models attract the same VED road tax charge of £140 per year.
The relatively pedestrian performance of the Kia Stonic means it doesn’t get whacked with outrageous insurance premiums. Group ratings are 10 to 14 across the range, which is similar to the Renault Captur.
The old days of disastrous depreciation seem to be behind Kia. While the residual values of your Stonic won’t match the best in class (the SEAT Arona, for example), it should perform in the same ballpark as the Nissan Juke/Renault Captur pairing – possibly even a little better, according to some used car value pundit.
Interior, design and technology
The Kia Stonic is unashamedly setting its sights on buyers who want a small SUV with a bit of style and panache, but it’s not as characterful as some in the sector, especially the closely related Hyundai Kona. If you don’t want a car that’s too ostentatious, you might think that’s a good thing.
The Stonic isn’t frumpy or dowdy though, especially in brighter colours and with the two-tone roof treatment that comes as standard on the First Edition model. The crossover shares it’s ‘Tiger nose’ grille design and swept-back headlamps with its Rio stablemate, but in-keeping with its SUV pretensions the bodywork is more muscular and beefy. Black plastic sill guards and wheelarch trims, along with standard-fit roof rails, all help create a slightly more adventurous look when contrasted with bright paint.
Inside, the Stonic benefits from a functional and attractive design, as well as impressive fit and finish for this class. However, although the fascia appears extremely well manufactured and impeccably screwed together, Kia has gone heavy with hard and brittle-looking black and grey plastics, and we’d like a bit more attention paid to lavishing the interior with more soft-touch materials. That said, you can upgrade with colour-coded interior packs that add your choice of grey, bronze, orange or green trim highlights, and definitely give the cabin ambience a bit of a lift.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Kia’s seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system is one of the best on the market at this price, and it rivals the SEAT Arona’s set-up for usability and clarity. The graphics are a similar resolution (although they could be sharper still), and with app icons that mean the layout works like a smartphone, it’s easy to use.
When it comes to smartphone connectivity the Kia offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and so gives an alternative option for nav if you’re not keen on the default nav set-up. On top of this, connected services with TomTom live traffic for the built-in nav, a reversing camera, Bluetooth and a six-speaker stereo are all included in the price. Given how much the Kia costs, you’d expect nothing less.
The unit is positioned higher up on the dash than the SEAT Arona or Citroen C3 Aircross’s, so it’s easier to glance across at guidance instruction, while the layout of the menus means it’s easy to use on the move.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
We’ve already discussed the shortcomings in the Stonic’s ride quality, which will particularly affect drivers using urban and minor roads. Another area where the Stonic may fail to meet the desires of its potential owners is the seat height. Lots of buyers look to SUV-type vehicles for the reassuring and commanding driving position, yet the seats in the Stonic are set relatively low compared to most of its rivals. That said, if you after a sportier driving position, this car could fit the bill.
There are lots of practical touches when it comes to cabin storage though. You get big door pockets up front, a pair of cup-holders and a seven-litre glovebox, as well as useful storage built into the central armrest and console. There are cup-holders for the kids’ water bottles in the back, a rear USB charging point and shopping hooks in the boot, too.
Although it shares the Kia Rio’s platform, the Stonic is a little bigger all round thanks to bigger overhangs and wider track. The wheelbase is standard Rio though, and there’s only the one five-door body-style.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
There’s enough extra space in the Stonic for it to feel noticeably bigger than the Rio, and the taller body style means headroom for rear seat passengers is improved too. However, the wheelbase constraints mean there’s no more rear seat legroom than in the Rio hatch, which means it’s adequate but not luxurious: compared to some small crossover rivals it feels more cramped – and the dark cabin doesn’t help.
You get 352 litres of boot space in the Stonic, which is a little more than the Kia Rio hatchback, but significantly less than some of the Stonic’s larger rivals. The Peugeot 2008 has 410 litres, and you can have up to 455 litres in the Renault Captur with the rear seats pushed forward.
With the seats folded, you can get a maximum of 1,155 litres and a flat load floor, but again the rivals do better. At least the Stonic has a wide-opening tailgate so access is easy, but there’s a pronounced loading lip, although it's no worse than you'll find in a SEAT Arona.
Reliability and Safety
Independent crash tester Euro NCAP hasn't actually tested the Stonic, but it's given it a score based on the mechanically identical Rio supermini. And it has awarded the Stonic two different star ratings, because not all of Kia's safety kit is fitted as standard.
The basic model has a three-star score, but adding the Safety Pack boosts this to five stars. Essentially, the Stonic 2 has a three-star rating because Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning and auto high beam are offered optionally as part of the Safety Pack, while the First Edition has this as standard. However, we think you can be pretty confident the Stonic will perform in similarly impressive fashion from a passive safety/structural perspective. Six airbags, ISOFIX rear seat mountings, stability control and hill-start assistance are fitted as standard.
The Stonic obviously hasn’t featured in our Driver Power survey yet, but the fact that is shares all its tech with models that have performed reliably bodes well and should provide reassurance to potential buyers.
The Kia seven-year warranty is unbeatable, providing 100,000 miles of cover on all the manufacturer’s new cars. It’s undoubtedly part of the Kia brand appeal, and has also helped boost second-hand values.
Servicing your Kia Stonic won’t break the bank, and you can spend £299 when you buy the car to cover three years of servicing under the Care-3 plan. If you’re planning to keep the car longer, a £599 plan will cover you for five years of servicing assuming you cover only average mileage. Higher mileage drivers will need to service their Stonic at 10,000-mile and 20,000-mile intervals for petrol and diesel models respectively.