Love is strange
Why so many people are seduced by the compact SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) makes sense. A compact SUV is as dynamic as the average car and costs about the same. However, an SUV offers more cabin space and more exciting looks.
Which SUV seduces whom, is purely personal. Kia goes for a tall shoulder line and little glass, which gives the car a certain modesty that the competitors often lack. While the competition aims to make their cars look butch, Kia opted for an athletic look.
How much the Stonic actually seduces, depends on the chosen version. One of the key features of the Stonic is the wide pallet of colours (nine) in combination with themes. For example, the wing mirrors and roof can be executed in contrasting colours (five).
How the Stonic is "dressed up" largely decides the character of the vehicle. A Stonic in grey with grey mirrors and a grey roof is hardly more exciting than the Kia Rio which it is based upon. The test car in bright yellow with a black roof and shiny alloys does seduce very well indeed.
The strongest point of the Stonic is also its weakest point. Underneath the tempting skin, the Stonic is as square and rational as any other Kia. For some this may be disappointing. Others will appreciate the combination of cool looks and a functional inside.
Because of the taller build, the Stonic is a bit more spacious than the Rio and not unsurprisingly the Stonic offers a higher seating position. This makes it easier to get in and out of the car, but doesn't give the driver the feeling of operating a mighty vehicle. Inside, everything is aimed at creature comfort, not on excitement. While cabin space is good, it is no bigger than that of other cars in this segment.
The Stonic doesn't offer state-of-the-art technology and isn't innovative in any way. That's a let down for a car that is made to seduce and excite, but again a logical choice for Kia. Just like any other Kia, the Stonic does offer an excellent balance between luxury, safety and affordability.
For example, the Stonic offers all common safety systems that assist the driver and even intervene (brake, not steer) if necessary. The Stonic is the first Kia that is fitted with the latest infotainment system of the brand. The 7-inch display that comes with it, stands prominently on top of the dashboard and supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This makes the Stonic is ready for the future.
When it comes to driving, the Stonic isn't nearly as exciting as it looks. Because of the taller body and increased ground clearance (+4.3 cm) the centre of gravity is higher as well. Kia had to compensate for this with firmer suspension and that means less comfort on bad roads. According to Kia the steering has been altered for more dynamic handling, but in real life circumstances the Stonic isn't any sharper than the average Kia.
Thanks to the short, compact bodywork the Stonic is easy to manoeuvre. The car feels right at home in city traffic. On the motorway one notices how well the Stonic is balanced; even at very high speeds the Stonic is stable and well planted on the road.
Because the Stonic is relatively spacious for a compact car, Kia managed to mount a large 1.6 litre four-cylinder diesel engine under the bonnet. This gives the Stonic plenty of power (110 PS / 260 Nm). The power builds up very gradually, which makes the power train smooth and comfortable. On the other hand, this can also be interpreted as a lack of character, because an engine that builds up power to a clear peak feels more lively.
Most distance was covered with an engine that is expected to sell in the highest numbers: the 1.0 T-GDI petrol engine. For now, it is only available in combination by a six-speed gearbox. As of 2018 a seven-speed automatic with double clutch will be available as well.
Thanks to a turbo the three-cylinder engine delivers 120 PS / 172 Nm and the eagerness that is lacking with the other engines. From low speeds the Stonic is spritely to accelerate. In fact it's so eager that it's necessary to handle to clutch with extra care to prevent the car from making a jumping start. Do beware that the engine produces a typical three-cylinder noise, which may come as a surprise for some.
On the motorway the three-cylinder is at its best. During a high speed test on the German Autobahn 180 km/h (!) appeared on the clock in the blink of an eye (well, for a car like this anyway). The little engine doesn't just pack a lot of punch, it also performs quietly. Even at such speeds the noise levels are modest. And that's what characterises the Stonic: a spectacular, shouty car may be fun in the short term, but in the long run the comfort of the Stonic is the kind of love that will last.
Does Kia seduce with the Stonic? That's a personal matter. The bad news is: while the Stonic is basically a Kia Rio in a more exciting outfit, this outfit does affect handling. Because of its increased height the fuel economy has been affected and the underpinning had to be firmer to ensure safety.
On the other hand, the Stonic does have a unique character and thus the car certainly does differ from other compact SUVs. The Stonic seduces with a modern and athletic appearance, which can be even stronger when the car is executed in flashy colours. The Stonic isn't as exciting to drive as its looks lead one to believe; instead it is as rational and predictable as any other Kia. For one that's a pro, for others a con. Love is strange.