Stonic aiming high in small SUV market

by Michael Moroney
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There’s a rush in the car market to dominate the new growth segment called the B-SUV segment of small SUV’s. Kia is the latest entrant with the new Stonic, just launched in Ireland and it’s offer is impressive as Michael Moroney reports following his Dublin hillside test drive.

It’s just a week in the showrooms and already Dublin motorists are talking about the new Kia Stonic, the latest compact SUV from the Korean brand. Kia knows that the arrival of the Stonic is important and the Kia team in Ireland believes that the Stonic will be an important conquest model for Kia in one of the newest and fastest-growing vehicle segments.
Small SUVs such as the Stonic are called B-SUV models in car industry jargon, and this market segment is expected to grow by 100% in the next two years as demand for traditional B and C segment cars declines, according to Kia. And the new Stonic is smack in the middle of the segment.
The Stonic has some credentials behind it, not just its seven-year warranty. The car is a based on the well-regarded Kia Rio and has additional features and more options to give it more road presence and style.
I took the Stonic for a test drive over the hills of South Dublin and into the Wicklow mountains last week to get a feel for what this new compact SUV has to offer. The test car was a petrol powered version fitted with the 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine that delivers 100bhp.
Around the city environs this light engine delivers a nippy performance and brings enough pace to the car for sharp exists from the traffic lights. On the hillside runs, the obvious lack of torque meant that gear changing was inevitable as we climbed into the higher routes looking down over Dublin city. It wasn’t the lighter air, more the steep hill challenges that faced the Stonic that put its smooth engine under a little pressure.
This led me to consider the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel version of the Stonic or the new smaller 1.0- litre turbo-petrol engine, to be a more practical choice, if you want to emulate my hillside adventures. The diesel version comes with almost double the torque of the small entry-level petrol models and at lower engine revs, making it an obvious choice and its economy rating is impressive too.
The entry level petrol powered Stonic comes with a fuel economy rating of 19km/litre (5.2/100km or 45mpg). The diesel version almost improves on that performance by 40% and that’s a serious consideration. I not convinced about all of the negative diesel talk, as cars like the new Stonic are impressively clean in terms of CO2 and NOx ratings and equally importantly they use less litres of fuel and that has to be considered as well.
For me the fact that the Stonic is not available with a hybrid drive is a little disappointing as Kia has a hybrid system in its Niro model. Wouldn’t that have been an attractive option for the Stonic, giving Kia buyers some clear options?
Out on the mix of city and country roads the Stonic handles lightly while being precise and easy to drive. It has new front and rear suspension setups which are unique to the car, giving a pleasant driving experience.
There are four specification levels for the new Stonic, K1, K2, K3 and K4. The entry level models are well equipped with skid plate (front and rear), audio remote, Bluetooth, 3.5 cluster, seven-inch screen, 15- inch alloy wheels, leather gear knob and handle, front armrest, spare wheel, privacy glass, rear USB, speed limiter, cruise control, centre console and rear USB and charger, all as standard.
You need to go to the K3 level to get the seven-inch Sat-nav, DAB radio, rear view camera and ECM interior mirror that was fitted to the test car that I drove. It also came with bigger alloy wheels to give the car great road presence.
The Stonic’s cabin echoes the appearance of the exterior, combining straight lines and smooth surfaces.
The Stonic interior is simple and practical. For a compact SUV, the cabin has plenty of space for driver and passengers, with good front and rear legroom, and reasonable shoulder room. The modern looking D-cut steering wheel combined with the flat base of the dashboard creates enough knee room for front passengers.
The Stonic comes with a range of technologies which includes an infotainment system that blends smart phone functionality with the control of key vehicle functions. There is a large seven-inch touch screen at the centre of dashboard.
The new Stonic has yet to receive a Euro NCAP safety rating. It should fare well with six airbags as standard (driver, passenger, side and curtain), as well as ISOFIX child-seat anchor points in the rear.
Entry prices look competitive at €18,599 but you really have to go up the specification ladder to get the better options of bigger wheels and useful kit such as reversing camera and sat-nav. This is going to be the competitive space in the car market for 2018, Stonic has some style and some value, it’s good to drive and petrol or diesel power, the performance will be smooth and easy.

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