Stonic, a play on “speedy” and “tonic” is the SUV equivalent of Kia’s terrific Rio hatch.
Like the Rio it’s available with a choice of 1.4-litre four cylinder or 1.0-litre turbocharged three cylinder petrol engines.
They both produce the same 74kW of power, but surprisingly the turbo develops more torque and earlier in the rev range, making it the preferred choice.
And that’s the one we’re about to take a look at.
What’s it cost?
There’s three grades — S, Sport and GT-Line — priced from $22,990 driveaway for the S with a 6-speed manual.
A 6-speed auto adds $1000 to the price, while premium paint is another $520 (be warned that’s any colour but white).
There’s also four two-tone paint combos: Clear white with Aurora Black Pearl roof, Mighty Yellow and Aurora Black Pearl roof, Sporty Blue with Aura Black Pearl Roof and Signal Red with Aurora Black Pearl Roof.
Moving up, the Sport is priced from $24,990 or $25,990 driveaway with an auto.
Our test vehicle, the top of the range GT-LIne, is $29,990 driveaway which includes a 7-speed twin-clutch style auto.
Stonic comes standard with six airbags, a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, rear parking sensors, driver attention alert, cruise control, wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto (the S only), multi-connection Bluetooth, 8.0-inch touchscreen, 6-speaker audio, auto headlights and 15-inch steel wheels.
Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with car/pedestrian/cyclist detection and Lane Following Assist are also standard.
Sport adds 17-inch alloys, smart key with push button start, navigation with 10-year Mapcare updates and SUNA Traffic, electric folding mirrors plus premium steering wheel and shifter.
Along with a sportier suspension tune, GT-Line gains bespoke 17-inch alloys, auto engine stop-start (manual S and Sport too), sporty body kit, LED headlights, two-tone colour or sunroof, cloth and artificial leather seats, climate control air conditioning, privacy glass and an auto dimming rear view mirror.
What’s it go like?
Hmmm . . .
Peak power is 74kW at 4000 rpm, while maximum torque is 172Nm between 1500 and 4000 rpm.
The 1.0-litre turbo is a little harsh and thrashy, maybe even unconvincing — but it does get up hills with little effort.
What we don’t like is the way it lugs in top gear most of the time, chugging around, just off boost with around 1750 revs on the dial.
Sure, it saves fuel, as does auto engine stop-start, but at the same time it ruins the drive experience and renders the car slow to get going.
GT-Line rides on cool 17-inch alloys fitted with 205/55 series rubber, with ride and handling that is commensurate with a small car.
That is it is a little bouncy and the ride quality is not as soft as prefered, as it skitters across irregularities in the road surface — but it’s tolerable nevertheless.
There’s no gear change paddles, but you do get three drive modes — Normal, Eco and Sport.
You can also change gears manually using the transmission lever which adds some excitement.
It also keeps the turbo on boost.
Not feeling the love?
Well, taking a step back for a moment, Stonic is designed primarily as a city car and targeted at undemanding drivers, those more concerned about getting from A to B and finding a parking space — than anything else.
In this context, it works just fine.
Dare we suggest, however, that Kia may have erred in their selection of engine and transmission when designing this car.
Something a little larger and with a bit more power would really bring the car to life.
Stonic is 4140mm long, 17600mm wide and sits 1520mm high, with a 2580mm wheelbase.
In the case of the GT-Line it weighs in at 1227kg.
Getting in and out of the car is easy, with good all round vision and seats that are reasonably comfortable, but it feels like your sitting on rather than in them.
GT-Line is trimmed in a combination of cloth and artificial leather seats, with single zone climate control air conditioning, but lacks rear air vents.
The dash features a standard pair of analogue dials separated by a small info screen, with an 8.0-inch tablet style touchscreen in the centre that will pair with two phones at once.
Bizarrely, although the base model offers wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, the two higher grades still have to be plugged in.
On the flip side, Sport and GT-Line gets digital radio and satellite navigation.
We were concerned to read the car scored only three stars for safety when tested by Euro NCAP on its release in 2017.
Australian NCAP (ANCAP) has however awarded the car a full five stars.
Safety in this model extends to six airbags, a rear view camera and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) which is standard across the range.
AEB incorporates car, pedestrian and cyclist recognition from 5km/h to 180km/h for vehicles and 5km/h to 85km/h for pedestrian and cyclists.
The system works off a combination of camera and radar.
The car also features Driver Attention Alert (DAA), Leading Vehicle Departure Alert, Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), Parking Distance Warning (PDW) uses rear sensors to monitor and alert for objects around the vehicle when reversing.
Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) is a class leading inclusion that monitors rear door opening and closing to assist the driver when exiting the vehicle.
No mention of Blind Spot Alert.
With a 45-litre fuel tank and rated at 5.4L/100km, we clocked up 430km at a rate of 6.4L/100km.
What we like?
Light on fuel
Ease of entry and exit
What we don’t like?
Twin clutch transmission
Lugs most of the time
Limited rear legroom
Not suited to country driving
Missing blind spot alert and adaptive cruise control
The bottom line?
Stonic will appeal to young and old alike based on its price and size and low running costs.
It’s a good looking little car as are most of Kia’s vehicles these days, but with a small boot and not much legroom in the back it has its limitations.
Personally we find the Rio GT-Line more appealing, at $5000 less, or the larger Cerato Sport+ — a better larger package for around the same price.