Kia Stonic 1.6 CRDi – the versatile companion

I’m testing another crossover. I don’t have excessive expectations before taking delivery of the car, rather I am skeptical, because crossovers of this class bring more negatives than positives in practice.

I was expecting a subtly lifted chassis, modern unpainted plastic trim, imitation underbody protection, and overall more aggressive body shapes. Upon taking delivery of the car, however, I was surprised at how sensitively the SUV elements I expected had been incorporated into the exterior design. It is definitely one of the most beautiful cars in this category.

Creating a crossover out of pretty much any model lineup is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to increase a brand’s model count. Kia doesn’t want to be left behind in this trend. It has taken the Rio as a base and created the Stonic.

Since I haven’t had a chance to test drive the Rio yet, I won’t go into a comparison of its driving characteristics with the test model. I will focus on the Stonic as a standalone model.

A strawberry in a black pot

I won’t, however, avoid a cursory comparison of the exterior design and dimensions of these “siblings”. I’m not saying the Rio isn’t a nice car, but it looks bland and gets lost on the road amongst similar cars of other makes. The Stonic looks exactly the opposite, especially if its owner dresses it up with the accessories on offer or chooses a different roof colour than the body itself. It looks like a car a class bigger, yet its exterior dimensions are only slightly different from the Rio’s.

Despite its bulk, the car looks compact thanks to its short overhangs. The front bonnet is unusual with its full plastic overlay. Engine cooling is unobtrusively provided by a section of the bumper below the number plate. As is customary not only with Kia, the signature LED front lights extend into the sides of the body.

The sweepingly curved front bonnet sweeps across the heavily raked windscreen, over a roof with interestingly shaped skids, topped by a subtle spoiler above the rear window. The simple doors, with their chunky handles and prominent mouldings at their base, give prominence to the protruding fenders, which are perfectly filled with 17″ wheels. The rear of the car is excellently handled and despite the distinctive plastic imitation chassis protection, it doesn’t look kitsch. I also like the admitted exhaust tailpipe. About the only thing that bothers me about the exterior design is the glossy black plastic with embedded fog lights.

The striking red colour contrasted with the black parts of the bumpers and fenders looks fresh. Probably best summed up by my wife’s comment, “what a cute little strawberry in a black pot”. I almost regretted testing the Stonic in this colour.

Airy interior

At first glance, the interior looks pleasant and practical, apart from the details, with all the controls within easy reach and in the right place. I have no complaints about the workmanship of the individual, albeit hard plastic parts, nothing creaked or rattled during the drive. However, the use of soft plastics in this class is rather exceptional.

The sporty three-spoke steering wheel with multi-function buttons feels great to hold and doesn’t obscure the view of the instruments. The ‘alarms’ are a joy to look at, simple and clear, complete with a small TFT display. The latter provides information on consumption, range and driving time, and offers the option of adjusting safety and other systems when the vehicle is stopped. As with the recently tested Hyundai Kona, I appreciate the use of the good old coolant thermometer.

In the center, between the air conditioning vents, is the multimedia system’s easy-to-read tablet, even in the sun. The climate control is handled by classic rotary controls, the problem is with its display, which is illegible in the sun. Storage compartments are ample, but lack fabric or at least rubber lining. Every item left in them either flies from side to side or, at the very least, rattles unpleasantly.

Any item left in them either flies from side to side or, at the very least, rattles unpleasantly.

I’m basically happy with the interior. The only thing that gave me a bit of pause is the workmanship of the doors, whose pure plastic finish looks a bit cheap. Replacing the large solid plastic surface with, for example, fabric upholstery would not cost much, but the interior would benefit greatly. It would also solve the hard armrest in the door.

I have to compare my experience behind the wheel with the recently tested Hyundai Kona, where it was a typical “SUV – chair”. Tall, with its legs lowered almost perpendicularly. The Stonic is a “different coffee”. The driving position is just great. The steering wheel is adjustable over a significantly large range. The Stonic is one of the few cars where, at my height of 185 cm, I don’t have to have the steering wheel set in the “nearest and highest” position, and in both positions the steering wheel adjustment still had margin. I sit in the lowest possible position, with my legs stretched forward and the steering wheel pulled close to my body. I’m sure a driver of any build can find the ideal position. The interior space is generously designed, I would compare it to the average lower-middle class. Legroom is ample, at shoulder level too. I could fit one more over my head.

You can already feel the space constraints in the back. However, children and people of shorter stature will not feel cramped. Fitting the child seat is easy thanks to the well-placed IsoFix anchors. Families with young children would certainly welcome the rear of the front seats being reupholstered.

I have a good feeling about the front seats. They are comfortable to get into given the 183mm ground clearance of the car. They are quite wide and reasonably firm for the class with a long seat and backrest, but I miss the adjustable lumbar support. The armrest between the seats is soft and sliding.

The view out of the car is ample and aided by the oversized rear-view mirrors. The 332-litre/1135-litre boot was not a priority when designing the interior. However, part of the space is taken up by a commuter spare wheel. Hyundai-Kia has not abandoned this solution for the time being.

Stonic on the Road

The Kia was powered by the company’s 1.6 CRDi diesel engine, with a peak output of 81 kW at 4,000 rpm and 260 Nm of torque between 1,500 and 2,750 rpm. Personally, I don’t think a diesel belongs in a car designed for city traffic. However, after driving about 700 km I changed my mind. Not on the engine as such, but on the Kia Stonic as a city car, which is naturally related to the engine used.

After starting the car shakes weakly, the engine has a rougher cold running which only softens slightly after warming up. The engine sound penetrates the cabin at low speeds, but it’s nothing tragic. With a relatively light car (1349 kg) it doesn’t have much to work with. Response to the accelerator pedal is almost instantaneous, with the car only responding more sharply when it’s depressed more vigorously. The engine responds best between about 2300 and 3500 revs, and doesn’t choke even below 1500 revs. Beyond 4000, however, it’s pointless to bother it. The car surprisingly “pulls” decently even when acceleration is needed at highway speeds. If one doesn’t expect sporty performance from the car, the power of the engine is sufficient in all circumstances.

The clutch has a smooth and light action and its frequent use in the city will not cause muscle fever in the left leg.

The manual transmission lever is positioned further back than I would have liked. It has a fairly precise and light action, but longer travel. The individual gears are graduated appropriately for both city and highway driving.

The steering is precise and you can even feel hints of feedback. It doesn’t feel artificial and the power steering provides adequate resistance. The braking action was smooth to dose and did not diminish even with repeated highway braking.

During normal driving on a good surface, the chassis appears ideal. When trying for a sportier ride, the car does lean heavily in corners, but this doesn’t hinder track-holding. However, any hint of understeer is nipped in the bud by the stabilisation system. Despite its simple design, the rear axle doesn’t bounce when cornering on bumps. However, it does give the crew a bit of a feel for the poor road quality. It might be worth trying a different combination of shock absorbers and springs in the next facelift. The Hyundai Kona’s factory relative filtered bumps better and leaned less.

But given the Stonic’s price range and focus, I rate the handling as adequate.

In terms of looks and dimensions, the test car ranks among the “shopping bags”. That’s how I initially approached it, and I wasn’t thrilled with the diesel on offer under the bonnet. However, while cruising on the highway, I changed my mind. The car is stable at higher speeds, I have nothing to fault the steering. Aerodynamic noise is only noticeable at speeds above 140 km/h, and even then only from the front window. The chassis is relatively quiet even on rougher surfaces. The engine only starts to echo more noticeably beyond the motorway speed limit.

Longer and more time-consuming drives are pleasant and, given the quiet and spacious interior, comfortable. A bonus of the engine used for motorway driving is its fuel economy.

In the city, the car is easy to manoeuvre thanks to its compact dimensions and small turning circle, and parks well with the assistance of the rear camera. The raised chassis helps the view from the car and prevents damage to the chassis when having to drive over a kerb. However, for the majority of the car’s use in these conditions, I would opt for one of the petrol engines on offer.

Due to the front-wheel drive, I did not test the car in more difficult terrain, but it did negotiate a short dirt road full of potholes without any problems thanks to the taller chassis.

I traditionally tested the car in Bratislava and on the road from Bratislava to Vienna, using both county roads and motorways in normal weekday traffic. I am quoting consumption according to the on-board computer.

Driving on county roads will logically reduce fuel consumption to a minimum. I achieved 4.2 litres without trying to set a record. Driving on a rutted highway with frequent speed bumps and heavy traffic at 100-110 km/h increased consumption to 5.1. The on-board computer showed 5.7 litres at 130 km/h and 6 litres at 140 km/h in smooth motorway driving without the need for frequent braking and acceleration. Consumption in Bratislava traffic jams brake-stop-gas-brake style climbed to 8 litres. I couldn’t beat this figure even when trying to make the most of the engine’s power. Combined, I was driving at 5.4 l/100 km with the majority of motorway transfers.

I rate consumption as excellent in any driving mode, although it differs from the claimed average consumption of 4.2l. The range on a full 45-litre tank is over 800km, which I consider satisfactory.

Tablet

The multimedia system settings are intuitive and are manageable without having to study the instruction manual. I was surprised by the excellent reception of Slovak FM and DAB stations even at a great distance from the border, on the contrary, a little disappointed by the tinny sound of a phone call using the bluetooth module. I did not use the built-in navigation, Android Auto support allowed me to use Waze, which is hard to beat, especially in the area of providing traffic information.

Platinuim

The price of the car tested was €19,790 + €1,290 for the Platinium Pack + €490 for the Metallic, with the Platinium Pack including a number of safety systems. In my opinion, they could have already been included in the basic equipment. Compared to similar models, I consider the price to be reasonable. Personally, I would have paid an extra €450 for the Green or Orange Pack, which would have enhanced the interior with a nicer steering wheel, seat upholstery and coloured accessories. I missed the now common LED front lights and front parking sensors in the price list. The manufacturer does not offer 4×4 drive in this model in combination with any trim or engine.Kia offers a 7-year or 150,000-mile warranty on most of its models, including the Stonic, with no mileage limit for the first three years. The service interval is 20,000 km or one year.

Verdict

I was pleasantly surprised by the diesel-powered Stonic. Considering the motorisation used, I can see it as a car for longer motorway journeys. It will also fill the role of a family car with smaller children, but a smaller boot space is to be expected. However, this model is especially for those who appreciate fresh design and the possibility of colour combinations. For the adventurous, the Stonic in bold yellow with a black roof will be most suitable.