When we first tested the Kia Stonic a couple of months ago, the city SUV had only just arrived in dealerships – and only selected models were available.
The original launch review cars were the top-of-the-range Kia Stonic GT-Line powered by a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine (74kW/172Nm) matched to a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic.
The two most affordable models, the Stonic S and Stonic Sport, are powered by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine with 74kW and 133Nm matched to a six-speed manual or six-speed auto.
At the time of the launch we didn’t get a chance to sample either of those models with the basic engine. But now we have.
What you’re looking at here is the cheapest ticket into the Stonic range, the 2021 Kia Stonic S. However, the price has crept up by $500 since it went on sale because demand is outstripping supply. Kia dealers can’t source enough cars, and there is a long queue. So the price went up, and no-one blinked.
Pricing for the Kia Stonic initially started from $22,990 drive-away for the S manual, and $23,990 drive-away for the S auto. The mid-grade Sport was priced from $24,990 for a manual and $25,990 for an auto. And the flagship GT-Line was priced from $29,990 drive-away as an automatic only.
As this article was published in late April 2021, $500 had been added to all of the above prices: Kia Stonic S ($23,490 and $24,490 drive-away), Kia Stonic Sport ($25,490 and $26,490 drive-away), and the Kia Stonic GT-Line ($30,490 drive-away). Metallic paint adds $520.
The model tested here is the Kia Stonic S automatic with metallic paint priced from $25,010 drive-away as you see it in these photos.
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 midlife facelift. So it will likely carry this look for the next three to four years.
As with most city SUVs (or high-riding hatchbacks), the Kia Stonic is front-wheel drive – not all-wheel drive.
The good news for buyers on a budget: all versions of the Kia Stonic can run on regular unleaded petrol. Some rivals insist on dearer, premium unleaded.
Standard equipment includes autonomous emergency braking (city and inter-urban speeds), lane-keeping assistance, dusk-sensing headlights, rear camera and sensors, six airbags, and a five-star safety rating adopted from its twin under the skin, the Kia Rio hatch, based on 2017 protocols.
The five-star safety score from 2017 still stands; however, if the Kia Stonic were tested to today's more stringent criteria it would likely not receive top marks. Conspicuous by their absence: rear cross-traffic alert and blind-zone warning, neither of which are available on any Kia Stonic model grade as this article was published.
The Kia Stonic S has remote central locking with a flick key (rather than sensor key and push-button start on higher grades), and power windows for all four doors, though only the driver gains a one-touch auto-up and auto-down switch.
The Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring connections require some explaining.
Android Auto users have the choice of wireless or wired connectivity in the Kia Stonic S, so there is a backup if the wireless connection doesn’t work.Dearer Kia Stonic models only have wired smartphone connections, and that’s a blessing.
Apple CarPlay on this model grade of the Kia Stonic is wireless only, and that’s a problem because it doesn’t work all the time, disconnecting the phone every few seconds in extreme cases. Kia’s sister brand Hyundai is also having trouble getting wireless Apple CarPlay to work.
Both Kia and Hyundai are working overtime to try to fix the glitch. In the meantime, if you have an Apple phone, you may need to rely on old-school Bluetooth for connectivity.
As this article was published, the wireless Apple CarPlay set-ups on Kia and Hyundai cars were ineffective and ought not to be listed as a feature until the problems are fixed.
Under the boot floor is a space-saver spare tyre (not as ideal as a full-size spare, but not as bad as a can of goop or tyre inflator kit).
According to the brochure, the Kia Stonic has a cargo hold of 352L with all seats in position and 1155L when the rear seat is folded. By comparison, the Kia Rio's boot is 325L (seats up) and 980L (seats down).
|Dimensions||Kia Stonic||Kia Rio|
The warranty is seven years and unlimited kilometres, and service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km for the non-turbo Stonic S and Stonic Sport – compared to 12 months or 10,000km for the top-of-the-range turbo Stonic GT-Line.
The turbo Kia Stonic GT-Line's annual service costs add 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's annual service costs add up to $2103 over five years and $3038 over seven years (an average of $420 to $434 per service). Both are on the high side.
The capped-pricing servicing program runs out after 10 years or 100,000km, whichever comes first.
|2021 Kia Stonic S|
|Engine||1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||74kW at 6000rpm, 133Nm at 4000rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||6.7L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||7.5L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||S and Sport 5-star rating from 2017, GT-Line unrated|
|Warranty||7 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Toyota Yaris Cross, Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Venue|
|Price as tested (drive-away)||$25,010 (including $520 for metallic paint)|
On the road
The Kia Stonic S is a comfortable city runabout that also feels at home on the open road.
The large glass area and wide-view side mirrors provide a decent scope of what’s around you, whether it’s in traffic or when parking.
The tall-profile tyres on 15-inch wheels (versus low-profile tyres on 17-inch rims on higher grades) add extra cushioning when dealing with bumps and thumps, and in this case they also steer relatively precisely for this type of car.
No-one is buying a Kia Stonic to win a grand prix, but we were curious to see how the performance and fuel economy of the 1.4-litre non-turbo four-cylinder engine and six-speed torque converter automatic compared to the top-of-the-range 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo and seven-speed twin-clutch automatic tested at launch.
The turbo Kia Stonic GT-Line had a fuel-rating label average of 5.4 litres per 100km, and we returned between 7.0L and 7.5L/100km on test earlier this year.
The non-turbo Kia Stonic S got closer to its claimed number. The rating label says 6.7L/100km, but we saw an average of 7.5L/100km on the same 130km road loop as the GT-Line.
They also weren’t far apart when it came to acceleration. The turbo GT-Line did the 0–100km/h dash in a leisurely 12.2 seconds (about a second slower than a Toyota Yaris Cross and about two seconds slower than a Mazda CX-3).
The Kia Stonic S did the 0–100km/h dash in 12.8 seconds, so it’s not going to pin your ears back when you floor the throttle, but it does a fair job of keeping flow with the traffic.
The tyres make a difference to how the two types of Kia Stonic brake in an emergency stop from 100km/h.
The turbo GT-Line on low-profile 17-inch tyres pulled up in 39m, whereas the Stonic S on 15-inch tyres pulled up a touch longer in 40.6m on the exact-same stretch of tarmac (through on different days). This is par for the class, though not exceptional.
The cabin is roomy and comfortable, and all buttons and dials are well positioned and easy to reach. There are no map pockets behind the front seats and no USB or 12V power ports to the back row on this model grade.
The back seat has two ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and three top-tether points. When the seat-back is lowered, there is a step up from the boot floor, so it’s not a flat load space.
As with the GT-Line, during our test drive of the Stonic S we noticed a lot of sun flare off the dashboard into the windscreen. Also, the rear camera view is extremely grainy at night despite the high-resolution display screen. Furthermore, 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.
Overall, though, the Kia Stonic S is worth a look if you’re in the market for a city SUV – or a high-riding hatchback – for about $25,000.
Just be sure it meets your needs. And if you have an Apple iPhone, check to see if Kia has sorted the wireless connection before you take delivery of the car.