We can debate whether the 2021 Kia Stonic is a high-riding hatchback or a city SUV, but what we do know is that buyers can’t get enough of this type of car.
As is the case with most city SUVs, the Kia Stonic is based on a city hatch, in this case the Kia Rio. However, every body panel is new, and the interior is also unique.
A bit of extra body cladding, slightly taller suspension (it’s amazing what a set of heels, or in this case, extra ground clearance of 4.5cm will do), and some off-road touches have effectively transformed this hatch into an SUV.
That said, as is the case with most rivals, the Kia Stonic is only front-wheel-drive – not all-wheel-drive.
There are three models in the 2021 Kia Stonic range. The base model S priced from $22,990 drive-away for a manual, and $23,990 for an auto.
The mid-grade Sport priced from $24,990 for a manual and $25,990 for an auto.
And the flagship GT-Line tested here, from $29,990 drive-away as an automatic only.
Initially, Kia Australia will only have two models available: the Sport and GT-Line. The S will be added in the coming months.
While the Stonic is new to Kia Australia, this model has been on sale overseas since 2017.
It arrives here just as it has received a mid-life facelift. So it will likely carry this look for the next three to four years.
The two most affordable models, the Stonic S and Stonic Sport, are powered by a 1.4 litre four-cylinder engine (74kW/133Nm) matched to six-speed manual, or six-speed auto.
The Kia Stonic GT-Line tested here is powered by a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine (74kW/172Nm), matched to a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic.
All versions of the Kia Stonic can run on regular unleaded petrol. Some rivals insist on dearer, premium unleaded.
All Kia Stonic models come with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, a digital speed display, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, a rear view camera and sensors, and dusk-sensing headlights.
The Sport model gains a sensor key with push button start, embedded navigation, 17-inch alloy wheels, and electric folding mirrors.
The flagship GT-Line tested in our preview drive gains a unique 17-inch alloy wheel design, LED headlights, sports seats, rear privacy glass, an auto dimming mirror, and the option of two tone paint or a sunroof.
Premium paint – which is every colour except solid white – is an extra $520.
Handy touches include a reminder to check you’ve not forgotten the kids in the back seat on exit, a visual warning in the dash when the car ahead of you in traffic drives off, and a driver attention alert.
There’s also an ambient audio setting, including sounds of nature, the sound of rain, and the sound of cafe chatter.
A voice memo button in the infotainment screen means you don’t need to scramble for your phone to dictate a reminder.
You can also pair two phones at once, so a passenger can play DJ and control the music playlist, while the driver’s phone stays connected to the car for calls.
The interior of the GT-Line gains a leather steering wheel and gear selector, sports seats, and there are charging ports front and rear.
The front seats are roomy, though it is a touch cosy with two people on board, even though the Stonic is a touch wider than the Rio.
For the technically minded, here’s how the Kia Stonic’s dimensions compare to the Kia Rio on which it’s based:
|Dimensions||Kia Stonic||Kia Rio|
Back seat space is a bit tight when the front seats are extended rearwards, and it’s better as a four-seater rather than a five-seater.
The back seats split fold 60:40, have two ISOFIX child seat mounting points – and three top tethers, so you can position an old-school kid seat by itself in the middle of the back row.
The rear bumper and tailgate enable a low load height. The cargo area is good for this size car, slightly bigger than the Kia Rio. However, when the back seat is stowed the extended floorspace is not flat.
According to the numbers, the Kia Stonic has a cargo hold of 352 litres with all seats in position and 1155 litres when the rear seat is folded. By comparison the Kia Rio boot is 325 litres (seats up) and 980 litres (seats down). However there’s a space saver tyre under the boot floor, rather than a full size spare.
Warranty is seven years and unlimited kilometres and service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km for non-turbo versions and 12 months or 10,000km for turbo versions.
The turbo has slightly dearer capped price servicing costs than the non-turbo.
As this article was published, the turbo Kia Stonic GT-Line annual service costs added up to $2126 over five years and $3297 over seven years (an average of $425 to $471 per service).
The non-turbo Kia Stonic S and Sport annual service costs added up to $2103 over five years and $3038 over seven years (an average of $420 to $434 per service).
Kia wasn’t able to provide individual service costs as this article was published, but these estimates are on the high side versus most rivals.
The 1.4-litre versions of the Kia Stonic will receive a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating based on the 2017 test and protocols used for the Kia Rio – given the two cars are twins under the skin – however the 1.0-litre is currently unrated.
There is no question about the five-star safety score from 2017, however if the Kia Stonic were tested to today's more stringent criteria it would likely not receive a five star score.
The capped-pricing servicing program runs out after 10 years or 100,000km, whichever comes first.
|2021 Kia Stonic GT-Line|
|Engine||1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||74kW at 4500–6000rpm, 172Nm at 1500–4000rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed twin-clutch automatic|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||5.4L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||7.0–7.5L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||GT-Line unrated. S and Sport 5-star rating from 2017|
|Warranty||7 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Toyota Yaris Cross, Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Venue|
|Price as tested (drive-away)||From $30,510|
On the road
On our preview test drive, the Kia Stonic was light on its feet and relatively economical, returning an average of 7.0 to 7.5 litres per 100km in mostly suburban and inter-urban driving.
This compares to the fuel rating label average of 5.4L/100km, which you might get closer to on a freeway.
The 1.4-litre automatic versions of the Kia Stonic have a fuel rating label average of 6.7L/100km, though we are yet to test that model.
Our comments in this preview are related only to the top-of-the-range Stonic GT-Line.
The turbo 1.0-litre three-cylinder is a relatively smooth and refined operator, there’s only a subtle hum and very little vibration.
The seven-speed twin clutch auto is also relatively refined and doesn’t jerk and shudder at low speeds when parking, as much as the Nissan Juke.
Interestingly the small turbo engine has the same 74kW power output as the larger, non-turbo 1.4-litre – but the turbo has 33 per cent more torque, or pulling power.
It feels energetic from low revs and with only a light press of the throttle.
The Stonic is not going to win a Grand Prix but it feels perky in traffic even though, using our timing equipment, it did the 0 to 100km/h dash in 12.2 seconds. That’s about a second slower than a Toyota Yaris Cross and about two seconds slower than a Mazda CX-3.
However it pulled up in a slightly shorter stopping distance than the Toyota Yaris Cross (39 metres versus 41 metres) in an emergency braking test from 100km/h.
These stopping distances are average to below average and you might expect more from such small and light cars. Most two-tonne double-cab utes pull up in about 40 to 42 metres, in our testing.
The Kia Stonic’s steering is light and easy. The suspension is generally comfortable in most road conditions, though it can get caught out on sharp or big bumps.
Visibility is good all around thanks to the large glass area. And all buttons and dials are within reach and easy to use.
Overall impressions are good but, as with most cars, there’s always room for improvement.
During our test drive we noticed a lot of sun flare off the dashboard into the windscreen.
The rear camera view is extremely grainy at night despite the high resolution display screen.
There are no front parking sensors, which is odd for a city car trying to squeeze into tight spaces.
This might seem picky, but the interior central locking switch is hard to find in darkness. The switch isn’t illuminated until the headlights are turned on.
And there’s no radar cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, or blind zone warning, handy features that are common on a lot of new cars we test these days.
Overall, the Kia Stonic is a worthy rival to the current crop of city SUVs. The servicing costs are a touch on the high side, however the car looks the part, drives well, and the seven-year warranty adds to the appeal.