First drive: KIA hoping buyers go 'super Stonic' for €18,599 small SUV
IN case you missed it with all the talk about electric cars and new eras and all that, there is a sort of revolution going on in the real world right now too.
It is stemming from what appears to be our insatiable demand for a particular type of compact, chunky urban car, only we don't call them cars now.
We call them, and dress them up to look like, small SUVs and crossovers.
Substantial numbers of new varieties are headed our way this autumn (See P2) to swell the ranks of the many already on the market, such as the Renault Capture, Nissan Juke etc.
It's going to be a January full of choice for many buyers, with price, trim and looks key to who buys what.
But it doesn't end there. We can expect more and more of these motors in the foreseeable future, with analysts forecasting a doubling of totals bought across Europe by 2020.
One of the latest bunch is KIA's Stonic SUV/crossover. It goes on sale in Ireland on October 27, which gives it a good early opportunity to attract buyers for the 181-reg sale in January.
It will cost from €18,599 for the 1.2 petrol entry-level model but I don't see too many buying that. Rather I'd expect the mid-level (K2, K3) trims, with the 1.4-litre petrol, to be in the greatest demand. They start from €21,099.
The entry-level (K1) will just have a 1.2-litre petrol while the K2 and K3 versions get a 1.6-litre diesel as well as the 1.4-litre petrol.
The range topping K4 will be the only one with the 3-cyl 120PS direct injection 1-litre petrol (998cc) TDGi. Now there's an engine to put life into proceedings. I enjoyed it a lot but as I say the 1.4-litre will be most people's choice.
I've just been driving the Stonic in various guises along the suburban fringes of sunny Berlin on, and in, the sort of roads, routes and traffic for which cars like this are made.
It was a good bit roomier than I thought, I must admit, despite its modest exterior dimensions.
It also had pep in its step from the petrol engines (1.4 and 1.0) but the boot area seemed small to me.
The cabin is typical, modern compact SUV. You get a good driving position with ease though, inexplicably, the cars we drove didn't have passenger-seat height adjustment.
Like so much of the genre, it just looks the part: chunky and rounded with a strong front and flared hips at the back.
You'll be able to choose from four trims levels (K1 to K4) and from three petrol engines and one diesel.
The 1.4-litre petrol was surprisingly better than I expected, with plenty of zip across most of the rev range. The diesel was exactly as you'd expect, full of low-end power and a little gruff when pressed. They didn't have a 1.2-litre for us but we more than compensated with that 1-litre 120PS. It costs, of course, but if you like more than a bit of sprightliness in your drive it would be a good choice.
Standard spec includes: cruise control/speed limiter, 3.5ins instrument cluster and 7ins display screen, 15ins alloys, spare wheel, Bluetooth, rear USB charger.
K2 adds air con, 17ins alloys, rear parking sensor, auto lights, DRL LEDs, front fogs, electric/folding mirrors and roof rack.
K3 adds 7ins nav and DAB, advanced drive assistant technology, two-tone faux leather, heated front seat and rear-view camera. K4 adds auto air con, rain sensor and blindspot detection.
The 4cyl 1.2 petrol engine develops 84PS, the 1.4-litre generates 100PS (125g/km, €270 road tax) and the 4cyl 1.6-litre diesel a respectable 110PS (109g/km, €190 road tax). The 1-litre 120PS 3cyl invokes €200 road tax on emissions of 115g/km.
Incidentally, you can also order two-tone exteriors on the middle two trims.
The petrol price/line-up is: 1.2 petrol K1, €18,599; K2 1.4 petrol, €21,099; K3 1.4 petrol, €22,599; K4 1.0 TDGi petrol, €24,599.
The diesel line-up is K2 1.6D, €23,099; K3 1.6D, €24,599.
After an extensive series of drives it's fair to say this did all we asked of it.
We drove it, with a few exceptions, as any normal family would on a quiet, sunny autumn morning.
I don't think the children will complain much about rear-seat room but I don't know if the golfers in your family will be extolling the boot space.
For all that, the Stonic is a car of the small SUV moment. It quietly ticks most of the boxes. For instance there's great head and elbow room and the cabin and layout work is simple and straightforward.
Maybe the dark plastic on the dash of a couple of cars betrayed a hint of budgeteering. But overall you would have to say the Stonic has a lot going for it.
A few years ago we'd have been raving about it. Now we've come to take the small SUV packaging for granted. That's small revolutions for you.