Despite being at the forefront of the SUV revolution (think early Sportage), Kia has steadfastly been late to the city SUV party. That all changed earlier this year with the launch of the Kia Stonic – a high-riding hatchback designed to appeal to young urbanites everywhere.
While it’s based on Kia’s small city-sized Rio hatchback, every panel is different. Yes, it looks like a hatchback, but thanks to the now almost ubiquitous cladding around the wheel arches and a jacked-up road stance, the Kia Stonic looks every bit the urban SUV.
Even if it is only offered in front-wheel drive. No all-wheel drive here.
The Kia Stonic range is mercifully light, just three models comprising the line-up. The entry-level Stonic S is priced at $23,490 drive-away for the manual. It can be had with an automatic transmission for an extra $1000.
Similarly, the mid-range Stonic Sport with a manual transmission asks for $25,490 drive-away, and it too carries a $1000 premium for an automatic transmission.
And topping the range is the city-brawler we have here, the 2021 Kia Stonic GT-Line that wears a sticker price of $30,490 drive-away. It’s worth noting, there’s no manual transmission, nor a conventional automatic like its Stonic stablemates. Instead, the flagship is exclusively equipped with a dual-clutch (DCT) automatic.
It’s also the only Stonic in the range powered by a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol making 74kW and 172Nm, against the Stonic S and Sport’s 1.4-litre non-turbo four-cylinder mill (74kW and 133Nm).
|2021 Kia Stonic GT-Line|
|Engine||1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power and torque||74kW at 4500–6000rpm, 172Nm at 1500–4000rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||5.4L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||6.8L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||GT-Line unrated; S and Sport five-star rating (2017)|
|Warranty||Seven years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Toyota Yaris Cross, Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Venue|
|Price (MSRP)||$30,490 drive-away|
As befitting an urban-focussed SUV, one that Kia calls “Insta-worthy”, there’s a decent level of technology at play in the flagship Stonic GT-Line. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, and dusk-sensing headlights.
There’s also push-button start, LED headlights, inbuilt satellite navigation, electric folding mirrors, 17-inch alloys, privacy glass for the second row, and rain-sensing wipers.
Inside, the GT-Line-specific sports seats are trimmed in cloth with nicely contrasting white piping adding some visual flair. The seats are comfortable without being overly firm or soft, while the gear lever and sports steering wheel, both trimmed in leather, add a level of plushness to the front row.
Pleasingly, the infotainment system, anchored by an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen, can accept two phone connections simultaneously via Bluetooth. This means one occupant can play music while the other can still maintain normal telephony functions.
The six-speaker audio system features an ambient sound cloud, dubbed ‘Sounds of Nature’, which can pipe the sound of rainfall or even café chatter into the cabin, if that’s your thing.
Curiously, while the entry-level Stonic S features wireless smartphone mirroring, both the mid-spec Sport and flagship GT-Line require you to plug your smartphone in to access Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Kia says this is down to those models having inbuilt sat-nav.
The second row isn’t the last word in spaciousness, but it’s decent enough, certainly for two people. A third person in the second row might be a stretch. There’s a single USB point back there, too, and generously proportioned bottle holders in the doors, although no cupholders.
There are ISOFIX child seat mounts on the outboard seats along with three top-tether anchor points on the seatbacks. The second row folds in 60:40 fashion to liberate some cargo space.
With the second row in use by people, Kia claims a 352L boot capacity. That’s generously larger than the comparable Kia Rio’s 325L. With the second row folded away (not flat), the Stonic’s boot capacity increases to 1155L, again more generous than the Rio’s 980L. A space-saver spare lives under the boot floor.
The three-cylinder turbo petrol lurking under the bonnet is a charming and characterful engine. Its 74kW (at 4500-6000rpm) and 172Nm (between 1500–4000rpm) married to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto make for an engaging drivetrain.
The Stonic GT-Line is certainly perky enough around town, without being silly. There’s enough punch from standstill to integrate into traffic easily, while the seven-speed DCT is decently refined, with little jerkiness or shuddering, still a commonplace trait at this end of the price spectrum.
While the three-pot in the GT-Line shares the same 74kW power output as its four-cylinder brethren at the lower end of the range, its 172Nm easily eclipses the four-banger’s 133Nm. And that means it's not only punchier, but also more refined, the little 1.0-litre not working as hard despite giving away displacement.
That adds up to a city SUV that feels light on its wheels, agile without being manic or unruly. There’s some gruffness from the idle stop-start, but it’s a minor irritation at best. You can always switch it off, if you prefer.
On the road, the Stonic GT-Line benefits from the Korean manufacturer’s local suspension tweaks. And it shows, the Stonic, like much of the Kia stable, assured and composed on the road. There’s some wobbliness over larger hits, but the Stonic remains, for the most part, refined.
There are drive modes to toggle through, although Eco, which as the name suggests focuses on economy and thriftiness, feels a bit doughy and lacklustre. Normal is as normal does, neither flaccid nor perky, while Sport adds some throttle blips to downshifts and not much else. Normal is fine for most situations.
Kia reckons the Stonic GT-Line will use 5.4L/100km of regular 91RON unleaded on the combined cycle. Our week with the Stonic saw an indicated 6.8L/100km heavily skewed to urban.
The Kia Stonic GT-Line remains untested by ANCAP, although the lower-in-the-range S and Sport models share a five-star safety rating with the Kia Rio, awarded in 2017, thanks to sharing not only a platform with the hatchback, but also a 1.4-litre drivetrain. For now, the GT-Line is unrated by ANCAP.
Kia covers the Stonic range with its standard seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is certainly something that will appeal to potential buyers. Servicing is required every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first, and will cost $2128 for the first five years or 50,000km, or $3299 for seven years/70,000km of scheduled trips to the workshop.
That averages out to around $470 per annum over seven years, which is on the high side when Toyota Yaris Cross buyers in the same segment are only looking at $205 annual servicing costs for the first five years – though that figure starts to climb averaging out to $393 annually over the same seven year term – and with 15,000km intervals against the Kia’s 10,000km.
Still, the Stonic certainly fills a gap in Kia’s SUV line-up – a compact city-dwelling SUV with street style and enough tech smarts to keep those Instagrammers happy. No wonder it already enjoys over 11 per cent market share in the segment, despite being a newcomer to the ranks of the urban crossover.
In flagship GT-Line specification, the Stonic looks good from the outside, feels good from the inside, and with a charming drivetrain combination it behaves well on the road. Yes, there are brickbats amongst the spray of roses – those servicing costs are on the high side, while the absence of some safety tech like blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are blots on its copybook – but as a stylish city SUV, the Kia Stonic delivers.