Monday 23 September 2019

Kia's big baby is up to chunky challenge

Stonic joins the fight for the hearts and wallets of drivers looking to ditch their estates

Super Stonic: The 1.4-litre petrol unit returns a sprightly performance from the Korean baby SUV
Super Stonic: The 1.4-litre petrol unit returns a sprightly performance from the Korean baby SUV

Martin Brennan

Kia is having great success with its big SUV, the Sportage, so it is not surprising that a 'baby' Sportage, so to speak, is on the way to join the increasingly crowded compact SUV B-segment.

Enter the Stonic to fill Kia's gap in the market as saloons, estates and hatchbacks are now losing favour to buyers lured by the chunky crossover look with the high driving position and built-in versatility.

The funky interior
The funky interior

The new winning combination is expected to capture more than 15pc of all passenger car sales.

This figure is predicted to continue growing as the Stonic, which goes on sale on October 28, will be joined for 2018 sales by models from other newcomers. The Hyundai Kona, Citroen Aircross, Seat Arona, T-Roc from VW and Skoda's Karoq will all be taking on the current top sellers - Renault Captur, Opel Mokka, Peugeot 2008 and Nissan Juke.

The Captur is the clear leader with 36pc share for the year to date and 1,792 sales.

So the fight is on for the hearts and wallets of mainly urban motorists, and the big money is on petrol-powered models to win.

Extra storage in the boot
Extra storage in the boot

James Brooks, managing director of Kia Motors Ireland, has a target of at least 1,000 sales - mostly conquests - although he admits that some existing Kia owners may be tempted to move to the new SUV model. "This is an important conquest model in one of the fastest growing segments, which is expected to grow by 100pc in the next two years," he says. "The Stonic will become an important part of the Kia mix."

The Stonic offers a roomy cabin, good driving position, and - even with a tall driver - there is still a good amount of rear legroom. Built on the new Rio platform, the good interior space is created despite the compact exterior dimensions, thanks to the very small front and rear overhangs. The boot, which for the Irish market contains a spare wheel - top marks here - is disappointingly on the small side - 352 litres, but it can expand to 1,155 litres.

The steering is precise and the drive is smooth even at high speeds. New front and rear suspensions have been developed especially for the Stonic to cut body roll. This will be appreciated by the downsizers as well as the young, trendy set who like the high driving position and strong stance and the chance to customise with matching body and dash colour insets.

Two-tone exteriors are available on some of the four trim levels which now run from K1 to K4. There are three petrol and one diesel engines in the line-up.

The best seller is expected to be the 1.4-litre petrol unit with 100bhp, which has a sprightly performance. The 1.2-litre petrol with 84bhp on-tap was unavailable to drive on launch date, but the 1.6-litre diesel with 110bhp will still be a favourite with rural and long-distance drivers because of the frugal use of fuel.

The top engine in the Stonic is the lightweight one-litre, three-cylinder turbo direct injection which, with 120bhp on tap, combines speedy acceleration with economical driving. A 100bhp version of this engine is planned for next year. The engines are paired with a six-speed transmission.

Standard specification includes 3.5-inch instrument cluster, cruise control and speed limiter, a seven-inch display screen and 15-inch alloy wheels. The K2 trim gets 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, roof rack, advanced driving assist technology and DAB radio. K4 adds automatic air conditioning and rain sensing wipers.

Petrol engine prices - 1.2-litre K1, €18,599; 1.4 K2, €21,099; K3, €22,599; K4 one-litre TDGi, €24,599. Diesel - K2, €23,099; K3, €24,599.

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