Will Stonic be a tonic or is it just too bland?
In a competitive market, does Kia's crossover Stonic have the power to surprise, wonders Geraldine Herbert
Car makers are getting serious about small SUVs and a host of new models are set to join the burgeoning market over the next few months. Hyundai has just announced pricing for its new Kona, while its sister brand Kia launched its Rio-based Stonic this week.
Building on the success of its large seven-seat Sorento model and Sportage, Kia has added the Stonic to its line-up, a lifestyle crossover targeted mainly at young buyers and downsizing baby boomers in need of style and practicality.
Essentially it's a Rio with planning permission; the styling is sleek and there are some nice details including black body cladding around the base of the car and skid plates at the front and rear give it a robust and chunky appearance.
The Stonic is bigger than the Rio hatchback and benefits from a spacious cabin and some smart storage options. An 7-in infotainment screen is standard on all versions, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Space is fine for up to four adults, although taller ones may find the legroom in the back a little tight and the boot isn't large at 352 litres.
The engine range kicks off with a choice of three petrol engines and one diesel. At the launch we drove the 1.4 100 ps petrol, the one likely to be the best seller. It promises a healthy average of 5.5 litres per 100km on a mix of urban and motorway driving.
Other petrol options include a 1-litre 120 ps and a 1.25 84 ps and a 1.6 110 ps CRDi diesel with a choice of five or six-speed manual.
On the road it is smooth and easy to drive and while you are not likely to marvel at its acceleration, it won't disappoint compared to rivals. The ride quality is good and it doesn't roll too much in corners but it gets a little bumpy on poor roads.
Prices are a little higher than for similarly sized hatchbacks and start at €18,599 for the 1.2 petrol K1 Stonic model while prices for the Hyundai Kona start from €20,995. Four trim levels K1, K2, K3 and K4 are offered and all are well equipped.
The small SUV market in Europe is expected to double to more than two million vehicles a year by 2020 as buyers continue to desert superminis, small MPVs and hatchbacks. In response, car markers are launching a slew of new models over the next few months to meet demand.
Price and styling are key in this highly competitive market and the Stonic offers a lot in a diminutive package with keen pricing and good equipment levels, but with bland styling it maybe in danger of being overlooked amid the influx of rivals.