Kia Stonic: What’s in a name?

Riley Riley

2023 Kia Stonic S 3

What is it?

Based on the same platform as the Rio hatch, Stonic is the smallest of Kia’s SUVs.

Designed by the maestro Peter Schreyer, the name is a combination of the words “stylish” and “iconic”.

In Australia Stonic is available with 1.4-litre four cylinder or turbocharged 1.0-litre three cylinder petrol engines, the latter confined to the top of the range GT-Line.

Top seller in this section of the market is the Mazda CX-3, followed by the Toyota Yaris Cross, with the Hyundai venue in third place. Nipping at their heels is the Kia Stonic.

2023 Kia Stonic S 4

What’s it cost?

Stonic is not just small, but categorised as a light SUV.

Nuggety, with a bulldog-like stance, it has seating for five at a pinch.

The car presents as more than the sum of its cheap and cheerful parts.

But it’s dragged down by the nasty, plastic hubcaps that need the old heave-ho. 

Enhancing the look are stylish roof rails, a spoiler over the rear window, front and rear bumper inserts along with protective cladding for the lower-body and wheel arches.

Bumpers, door handles and mirrors are all body coloured.

Inside, it’s all familiar and practical, with analogue instrument dials, small 4.2-inch driver information display and central 8.0-inch touchscreen.

There’s two cupholders in the centre console and bottle holders for each of the doors.

Our test vehicle, the entry S model, comes with cloth trim and manual air conditioning, priced from $22,990 driveaway for the S manual, and another $1000 for an auto.

Every colour except Clear White is a premium option and adds $520 to the price.

Standard kit includes cruise control, auto lights (not wipers), roof rails, power windows front and back, reverse parking sensors and 15-inch steel wheels with the aforementioned hubcaps (remember them).

The driver’s seat is height adjustable and the steering wheel has both reach and height adjustment.

Infotainment consists of an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth with audio streaming and support for two phones simultaneously, wireless Apple Carplay and wireless and wired Android Auto and six-speaker sound.

All models have USB ports for the connection of memory sticks and other USB storage devices for both front and rear passengers.

There’s also one USB port and one 12 volt outlet in the centre console.

S misses out on navigation as well as DAB+ digital radio.

Stonic scores a full five-star safety rating, with six airbags, a rear view camera with dynamic guidelines and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that includes car, pedestrian and cyclist detection. It is active from 5-180km/h for vehicles and 5-85km/h for pedestrians and cyclists.

Cornering brake control (CBC) assists with control and balance when braking on curves, while driver attention alert (DAA) recognises signs of fatigue before recommending the driver takes a break.

The safety package also includes lead vehicle departure alert with lane keeping assist (LKA) which alerts the driver and activates steering control if the vehicle drifts out of its lane without the use of an indicator.

Lane following assist (LFA) identifies current lane and lane boundaries and will automatically centre the car if unintentional lane departure is detected.

Rear occupant alert (ROA) is a class leading inclusion that monitors rear door opening and closing, alerting the driver when rear seat passengers exit the vehicle.

What you don’t get and what none of the grades get is blind spot alert.

Once offered, auto high-beam seems to have disappeared from the range.

There are three child restraint anchor points as well as two ISOFIX mounts.

2023 Kia Stonic S 7

What’s it go like?

Stonic sits 4140mm long, 1760mm wide and stands 1520mm high with roof rails.

It has a wheelbase of 2580mm and minimum ground clearance of 165mm in S form. 

Rear legroom is limited, with belts for three but room for only two adults realistically — and no air vents.

There’s 332 litres of boot space with the seats in place or 1155 litres with them folded. 

A space saver spare wheel is located under the boot floor.

The 1.4-litre four cylinder petrol engine in the S produces 74kW of power at 6000 rpm and 133Nm of torque at 4000 rpm.

Drive to the front wheels through either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.

In comparison, the 1.0-litre three cylinder turbo delivers 74kW at 4500 rpm and 172Nm from 1500 to 4000 rpm, and is paired with a 7-speed dual clutch style auto.

As mentioned Stonic shares a platform with the Rio hatch, making it the SUV version of the Rio.

Subtle differences include the gearbox which has been pushed forward 28mm, an increased caster angle from 4.1 degrees to 4.6 degrees and high performance RS-valve shock absorbers.

At the rear, the use of a more vertical setup for the shocks (8.4 degrees off vertical as opposed to Rio’s 25 degrees) and enhanced torsion beam construction has brought further improvement in ride quality and NVH.

To complete the engineering changes the number of teeth on the motor driven power steering has been increased, resulting in more refined and precise steering input and feel.

Suspension is Mac strut at front and torsion beam at the back and it rides on Kumho tyres with a 185/65 profile.

For 1.4 models Kia says the handling targets were neutral balance with good overall grip and stability.

The steering is designed for precise on-centre feel and accuracy with mid-corner settlement at high speed.

The six-speed auto in our test vehicle was a welcome surprise.

We were kind of expecting an old style four-speed at this price point.

The difference is chalk and cheese. 

The 1.4 doesn’t labour, doesn’t hunt for gears on hills and generally delivers pretty respectable if unexciting performance across the board.

Cruise control is another surprise at this price.

But a hard-on-the-hands polyurethane steering wheel never lets you forget where you are.

Using the transmission lever, you can change gears manually with the auto, but no drive modes are offered to lift performance. 

Punting hard in manual mode was something of a revelation.

Ride and handling are excellent, with a caveat that the ride is somewhat compromised by the Kumho Ecowing tyres fitted.

Anything with ‘eco’ in the name generally means a harder tyre compound to produce lower fuel consumption (at the expense of ride quality).

The steering is very good too, not too light and locks down on centre without constant need for adjustment.

Navigation and digital radio are missing in action, but you can connect your phone to navigate.

In fact, you can connect it wirelessly with both CarPlay and Android Auto, but wireless charging is really required or you’ll soon find your phone runs out of battery if it is a long trip.

Disconnection in the CBD is always a problem too, precisely at the wrong moment.

Fuel consumption for the 1.4 is 6.0L/100km (manual) and 6.7L/100km for the auto, with the turbo good for 5.4L/100km.

CO2 emissions range from 155g/km for the six-speed automatic down to 125g/km for the turbo.

With a 45-litre tank, it takes regular unleaded. 

We were getting 6.9L/100km after more than 400km – but for a car this size it could be better.

2023 Kia Stonic S 6

What we like?

  • Cheap
  • Cheerful
  • Easy to drive

2023 Kia Stonic S 5

What we don’t like?

  • Hubcaps
  • Key to start
  • Wireless CarPlay/Android Auto requires wireless charging

2023 Kia Stonic S 8

The bottom line?

With five star safety, the practicality of an SUV and low fuel consumption, the Kia Stonic is an ideal city car or perhaps starter car for a teenager.

It’s cheap and cheerful, cruise control at this level is a real bonus and you really can’t go past that 7-year warranty.

It’s cheaper than a CX-3 or Yaris Cross too.

2023 Kia Stonic S 9


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Kia Stonic S, priced from $24,990 driveaway
  • Looks - 7/10
  • Performance - 6.5/10
  • Safety - 7.5/10
  • Thirst - 7.5/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 7/10
  • Tech - 6/10
  • Value - 7.5/10

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