SMALLER than Kia’s best-selling Sportage model, the Stonic is an out-and-out B-Segment SUV which means it’s entering the fastest growing market out there. Sales of these compact SUVs is expected to exceed 2 million in Europe by 2020.  

It had better be good then, with the likes of the Renault Captur, Ford EcoSport, SEAT Arona and Citroen C3 Aircross breathing down its neck. 

The Stonic is based on Kia’s Rio supermini and built on the same production line too. However, it’s longer by 40cm, 3.5cm wider and 7cm taller to give it that upright, SUV stance. It also has 4.2cm more ground-clearance than the Rio and comes with a baffling name. 

Kia tell us that “Stonic” is a blend of the words “speedy” and “tonic”. Okay, I can see where they were going with that but to me it sounds like a word the Gallagher brothers may use. A positive one, though . . . 

The Stonic’s appearance is positive too – youthful and fresh – although you’ll need to choose the range-topping “First Edition” if you want to mix-and-match some truly vibrant colours. The only other trim level – “2” – is, perhaps, for the more conservative driver who prefers a single colour scheme; and while Blaze Red look terrific, Clear White is little ho-hum. 

All models, however get that rakish tiger-grille front end with swept-back headlights. The fog-lights are placed out wide to give the front a wider, beefier look. It works too, as do the standard 17in alloy wheels and roof rails. 

Overall, the Kia Stonic is one of the better looking compact SUVs, it’s less fussy than most and the clean lines – especially along the flanks – give it a less gimmicky look than say, the Nissan Juke. 

Engine choices are fairly simple with 2 petrol and 1 diesel. The 4-cylinder 1.4 petrol unit is best avoided as it feels decidedly underwhelming with just 98bhp. Best to go for the excellent 3-cylinder, 1-litre T-GDI unit which has 118bhp, is quicker to 60mph (9.9 secs) and has better fuel-economy at 56.5mpg on the combined cycle. 

The 108bhp 1.6 CRDi diesel unit manages 67.3mpg and 0-60mph in 10.9 seconds. It’s CO2 figure of 109g/km means at £140 for road-tax, it’s £20 cheaper than the petrol units. However, unless you are doing mega-mileage then the 1.0-litre petrol unit remains favourite as it feels much more refined around town, gives a better driving experience and, overall, suits the Stonic perfectly. 

Prices start at just £16,295 OTR for the 1.4 Stonic ‘2’ but spend an extra £700 and you’ll get the better 3-cylinder engine. The diesel model will cost you £17,795 OTR. 

All ‘2’ models come well-equipped with 17in alloys, roof rails, tinted glass, rear spoiler, automatic headlights, Hill-Start Assist, rear parking sensors and air conditioning. 

The infotainment system is impressive with a 6-speaker system, steering wheel mounted controls, USB and Aux ports, Bluetooth with music streaming, 7in display with DAB radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (with voice control) fitted as standard. 

The range-topping ‘First Edition’ consists of the 1.0 T-GDI for £19,695 OTR or the 1.6 CRDI for £20,495 OTR. This trim level gets you a Sienna Brown car with Black sunroof but chances are you’ll spend an extra £545 on mixing things up a little with the Design range – I particularly like the Graphite with Lime Green roof and wingmirrors. Clear White with a black roof will only set you back an extra £250. 

Additional equipment for the ‘First Edition’ includes Sat Nav with Kia Connected Services and TomTom Live, Reversing Camera, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection, Privacy Glass for rear windows and tailgate, LED rear lights, Automatic Wipers, Engine Start/Stop button with a Smart Entry system, Heated front seats and steering wheel and Automatic Air Conditioning. However, there is no option for all-wheel-drive or auto gearbox on any Stonic. 

I’ve been driving a Kia Stonic 1.0 T-GDI ‘2’ model and I must say that it’s very difficult to fault on looks, equipment and driving enjoyment. 

Inside, there is everything you really need – Air Con, electric windows, cruise control and speed limiter. There’s even a leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a significant bonus in this price bracket and the ability to run a Sat Nav app through your compatible smart phone is a huge plus for the Stonic. Well done Kia. 

The driving position is surprisingly on the sporty side – you sit quite low in the seat and even at its highest setting you don’t get that “sat-up-high” feeling that you get in other SUVs. Visibility is still excellent though and even the relatively narrow rear window doesn’t cause any problems. 

If you’re familiar with the Kia Rio then you’ll feel at home in the Stonic as both interiors are very similar with a pleasant, open feel up front with everything falling to hand easily. Material quality is good too and on-par with rivals from Renault and Ford but don’t expect lashings of soft-touch material around the cabin. 

The leather-clad steering wheel feels great, the main instruments are clear and uncluttered and the switchgear all feels that it will survive family-life for years to come – something you can’t say about the likes of the Dacia Sandero Stepway. 

The 7-litre glovebox is generous, as is the storage bin between the seats – where you’ll also find the cup-holders – while the door bins are of a good size too. 

The 7in infotainment screen is clear and responsive with logical menus that shouldn’t have you scratching your head. 

In the rear, you’ll find no more leg room than in the Kia Rio, but it’s okay for a couple of adults or three kids and, of course, with the higher roof you’ll find taller passengers have no problems getting comfortable. 

Boot space is just adequate at 352 litres but the good news is that the boot opening is nice and wide and with the 60:40 split rear seats folded flat you get 1,155 litres of space. 

The Stonic didn’t prove too much of a tonic in the snow we had recently but that is no surprise as, like every other FWD car on summer tyres, it struggled to find grip. However, where the roads were clear of the white stuff the Stonic proved to be a capable and enjoyable drive. 

The 3-cylinder engine is a little corker and the Stonic felt brisk around town, having plenty of get up and go. The gearshift is very good too with the 6-speed manual feeling slick and accurate. Keep the revs above 3,000rpm and you can really trap along on the more open roads. 

On the motorway the Stonic easily keeps up with fast-moving traffic and I didn’t notice it struggling on the hills either.  

Longer journeys won’t be a problem for you in the Stonic as the seats are supportive without being too firm. The clutch action is nice and light, as you would expect, and the brakes feel spot-on.  

Steering is a little light for my taste but is in keeping with all main rivals. It isn’t totally without feel but you do find yourself making slight adjustments when travelling at speed on the motorway. Around town and on A-roads it feels just about right. 

I was impressed by the way the Kia Stonic gets around quicker corners too – I was expecting much more body-lean from the little SUV but it remained relatively flat when compared to some of its competitors. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Nurburging pace-setter but it definitely feels more sporty than most. 

However, the trade-off is that it can be a little skittish when the road-surface is broken and you’ll need to slow down for speed-humps as the Stonic can be a little crashy over these. Remember, the Stonic is no off-roader and neither was it designed to be. 

Overall, I was mightily impressed by the Kia Stonic. It definitely has a fresh, youthful feel to it and it certainly feels sprightly enough out on the road. The tech is impressive at this price-point too, with plenty of safety-features and driver aids coming as standard. 

And if that isn’t enough to convince you to join the growing army of compact SUV drivers, then Kia’s impressive 7-year/100,000 mile warranty may just seal the deal for you. 

RATING: **** 

Kia Stonic 1.0 T-GDI ‘2’ 

OTR Price: £16,995 

Engine: 1.0 litre, 3-cylinder petrol  

Power: 118 bhp 

Transmission: 6-speed manual 

0-62mph: 9.9 secs 

Top Speed: 115 mph 

Combined Economy: 56.5 mpg

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