Kia Stonic Review: The perfect first SUV?

In Car Reviews, Kia by Kieran Bicknell

SUVs are the perfect everyday car for younger generations. No, I haven’t gone crazy… While I love a fast, hot hatch as much as the next 20- something-year-old, I believe that small SUVs are the ideal practical daily car for younger generations, something that may take convincing for some people.

This week I’ve been driving the new Kia Stonic – their first entry into the world of ‘B-Sector’ SUVs – which has been the ideal time to reflect on these thoughts that I’ve been having for a while now, and I believe that this may be the ideal entry point into the world of SUVs for style-conscious owners that perhaps have previously dismissed SUVs of any nature as ‘boring’ or ‘uncool’ – as I shall now explain…

Appearance is everything in this day and age, especially for younger generations, where life is often dominated by social media presence and showcasing your life for hundreds – if not thousands – of strangers to see and ‘like’ (I should know, I’m guilty of it myself!). The Stonic has this box firmly ticked. The range-topping ‘4’ model that I’ve had this week has a striking Blaze Red and Black contrasting two-tone paint and 17” alloys to make it stand out in crowded urban environments. There are a plethora of other colour combinations available when configuring your own Stonic. Models further down the range all benefit from 17” alloys as standard, meaning style is possible at any price point. One thing that really struck me was that the Stonic has a fantastic presence for such a small SUV, benefitting from design cues that deliberately emphasise the additional width over the 2017 Rio on which it is based. Horizontal lines have been incorporated into the styling to bring attention to the width of the vehicle, while the front foglights have been pushed outwards from the centre to accentuate the width of the car; This may be a small SUV, but it has road presence far beyond its physical size.

Inside the Stonic continues to prove itself as the ideal entry point into the SUV market for younger audiences. The faux-leather and black cloth seats found in higher-spec cars are easy on the eye and bolster the feeling of quality inside the cabin. The heated front seats and steering wheel on this trim level make even cold mornings a pleasure; Ideal for early rising gym-goers and morning dog-walkers alike – they can also double up as a fantastic method for keeping your take out warm on the way home! The seats may be heated and of fantastic quality, but the lack of lumbar support adjustment is a glaring oversight in a car that is likely to be used by all ages for varying journey lengths – a shame given the high quality of the rest of the interior.

All-important infotainment is up-to-date with the latest tech, provided courtesy of a centrally- mounted 7” touch screen in the dash, complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity via the centre console-mounted USB port. The system is quick to respond with an excellent microphone, ideal for dictating texts or voice inputs on the go – which I managed to do with resounding success. My one bugbear with such a system, however, is that no additional Bluetooth devices can be paired at the same time as the car is in motion. It may be a good idea to help avoid drivers using their phones while on the go, but a significant frustration when your passenger(s) are trying to pair their phones for their ‘super amazing playlist’, meaning the car needs to be pulled over and stationary to proceed with device pairing. The steering wheel also has a plethora of controls for the radio, phone system, cruise control and driver display for easy access, though they do feel cramped together and altogether more fiddly than they need to be.

Potential buyers can be put off of SUVs due to the size and the way they drive, but the Stonic seems to have this covered also. Body roll is almost unnoticeable unless driving through numerous twisting corners at a brisk pace. At the same time, the driving position makes the Stonic feel more like just a slightly large hatchback as opposed to an SUV, and that’s an excellent thing indeed. Ride quality is fantastic and all but the most appalling road surfaces are dealt with in a very pleasing manner indeed, with only really deep potholes or surface irregularities making themselves known.

When moving into my new apartment upon finishing university, I found myself longing for a car that would be able to carry a majority of my belongings (minus furniture of course) without having to move my seat so far forwards that my chest became one with the steering wheel. Had I had the Stonic at this point in my life, that wish would have been granted.

Practicality is a major plus point for the Kia Stonic, ideal for students ferrying equipment around, young professionals taking the next step in their lives, or for the odd trip to a well-known Swedish superstore. Boot space with the rear seats up is a respectable 352l, but fold down the rear 60:40 rear bench seat and you have a generous 1,155l to play with – impressive for a car that is only 35mm wider than Kias’ own Rio hatchback.

Parking sensors and a reversing camera on the model tested also helped alleviate any parking anxieties that may rear their head, with the feed from the camera on the centrally-mounted 7” screen being clear and crisp even in low light conditions. The camera itself, however, seemed susceptible to rain and spray due to its location on the boot, unfortunately, and I found myself wiping it off at the end of any journeys in poor weather.

The Kia three-cylinder 1.0 T-GDI engine in the car tested puts out a respectable 118bhp, more than enough to inspire confidence for drivers of all abilities when merging with fast-moving traffic or pulling out of junctions, while still being a low enough power output to keep insurance costs low which is always a winner with young drivers.

The 6-speed gearbox is precise and inspires confidence in shifting, returning a reassuring ‘clunk’ upon being slotted into gear although the ratios do seem shorter than expected. The Stonic feels more at home pottering around town or sitting on the motorway in 6th gear, whereas on winding minor roads with varying speed limits it can sometimes feel like you’re rowing up and down gears as if you are training for the Oxbridge boat race. There is also a seven -speed DCT auto transmission available, which I haven’t yet driven.

Running costs are very reasonable for the Stonic also. The OTR Price for the car tested was £20,775, inclusive of all options. For this, you get the range-topping ‘4’ model, Kias’ excellent seven-year / 100,000-mile warranty, a 5-year paint warranty and one years roadside assistance which represents fantastic value. Economy wise Kia claims the Stonic will return 46.3mpg, though I struggled to get above 40 in my experience – still a very frugal figure for a car of this size. Insurance costs should be acceptable too even for younger drivers, with the Stonic ranging from group 10 for the lowest powered ‘2’ spec car, up to group 14 for the higher-spec cars; Interestingly, however, the ‘4’ spec is a lower group (12) than the ‘2’ spec cars with the same engine/gearbox combination, so spending more for the higher-spec models initially may pay dividends with the insurance premiums later on.

So there we have it. Style, Practicality, Economy and surprisingly dynamic driving experience, all wrapped up in one package. Sure, there are a few niggles with frustrating infotainment systems and having to change gears more than you may be used to. Still, with so many young families forced to switch to one-car households due to shrinking parking availability – you need a car that’s is equally happy on tight city streets as it is on long motorway runs, look good and make financial sense. It would help if you had a real all-rounder of a car, and I believe the Stonic is precisely that.

Car reviewed: Kia Stonic ‘4’ 1.0 T-GDi, on the road price £20,775 estimated 0-62mph 9.9secs Top speed 114mph Engine 998cc 3 cylinder unleaded Euro 6.2 Fuel Economy Combined 51.4mpg CO2 emissions 130g/km Max Power 118hp@6000rpm Torque 171Nm@1500rpm Transmission 6-speed manual

Kieran Bicknell

Motoring writer

Kieran Bicknell offers his fresh take on car reviews by making the most of his dynamic, yet detailed approach to writing. Having graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in Photography and spending a number of years as a freelance automotive photographer. Kieran is now putting his knowledge and writing skills to use, with the ability to supply both written articles and imagery. Kieran feels at home in anything from small superminis to the latest SUVs, and relishes the opportunity to drive, photograph and write about anything with four wheels.

“I’m a crazy car guy. I’ve got an airplane hangar full of cars.” – Paul Walker