It’s the fastest growing car segment in New Zealand – Small SUV. It seems every man and his dog wants a small (or compact) SUV, and the new-car market is full of them.

Not wanting to be left out, Kia have introduced the Stonic, giving them a range of five SUVs for buyers to choose from. This is their first foray into Small SUV segment, which Kia says, “brings fresh excitement and a free spirit to the crossover vehicle experience in New Zealand.”

Well, they certainly pumped up the advertising on the launch of this model, and lots of buyers were swayed by the sharp pricing, as the Stonic undercut many competitors.

Now the fanfare has died down, it’s time to get into the Stonic Limited for a week and see if it’s worth the halo it’s been wearing.

The Range

You get some good options in the Stonic range, with 5 models to choose from; there’s the LX, EX, Limited, GT Line and GT Line+. Today, we’re reviewing the Limited model.

The three lower models are fitted with Kia’s familiar 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine, that manages a modest 74kW of power and 133Nm of torque. These models have a 6-speed automatic gearbox, the manual gearbox option having disappeared.

The GT and GT Line+ both have a 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbo-petrol engine which puts out the same amount of power, but torque jumps to 171Nm. There’s a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox attached to this engine. We last tested that engine and transmission combo in the Kia Rio GT Line in 2019.

All models are front-wheel drive, with the base LX model fitted with 15” alloy wheels, while the EX and Limited have 16” alloys, and both GT Lines having 17” alloys. The 1.4-litre models should return 6.7L/100km of fuel, while the GT Line models are rated at 5.4.

All models are fitted with a range of safety features like Forward Collision Avoidance (with pedestrian/cyclist detection), Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Alert, Lane Follow Assist, and hill start assist. There’s also keyless entry, Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, LED daytime running lights, heated mirrors, and roof rails.

The EX adds Blind Spot Collision Avoidance (rear), rear cross traffic alert, front parking sensors, and privacy glass.

Moving up to the Limited (tested), for your $2K premium you get LED headlights, LED taillamps, keyless start, alloy pedals, SatNav, front and rear parking sensors, and a leather interior. That’s a lot of extra kit for just $2K.

The GT Line loses rear cross traffic alert as well as Blind Spot Collision Avoidance (rear). It does get LED front fog lights, but also loses LED tail lights. Gone too is SatNav. On the plus side, it gains Solar Glass, a drive mode selector, has some back exterior trim and a GT Line front bumper – along with that engine and transmission change, of course.

At the top end, the GT Line+ gets back the rear cross traffic alert, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance (rear), LED taillamps, and SatNav.

You can read more about the Stonic on Kia New Zealand’s website.

Prices

1.4 LX $23,990 + ORC

1.4 EX $27,990 + ORC

1.4 Limited $29,990 + ORC

1.0 TGi GT Line $31,990 + ORC

1.0 TGi GT Line+ $33,990 + ORC

There’s a two-tone black roof option, which adds $500 to the cost.

You can read more about the Stonic on Kia New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

According to Kia, the Stonic is “Stylish, fun and desirable”. Our test car was finished with the optional two-tone package, with a black roof and Mighty Yellow paint, adding $500 to the price. You can see from the photos that it looked stunning. As expected, the yellow was very much a Marmite colour, so while I loved it, others did not. They were in the minority however, and generally it’s a winning colour. Clear and obvious on the roads and highways, and it really punches out the lines of the car.

The whole design of the Stonic will likely win it sales before anyone gets behind the wheel. It looks sharp, modern, and funky. It’s bloody hard not to like the shape and design of this car, from any angle.

The Interior

Opening the door to the Stonic, there’s a nice, light and airy interior welcoming you. This is even though all the door cards and seats are black, while the headlining and pillars are beige, helping to break up the blackness.

But it all looks and feels a bit special and classy. The finish inside is excellent, and front seat passengers will be happy with the perceived quality – even though there are lashings of hard black plastics, especially on the doors. It feels like lately there’s always going to be some piano black somewhere, and the Stonic has this on both the centre console and around the vents. Does it show up fingerprints easily? So very easily.

Sitting in the driver’s seat, in front of the centre console is a double-layer shelf, the top one especially handy for sticking your cellphone on, out of arm’s reach and away from temptation. It’s not a Qi wireless charging pad, but the shelf is handy regardless. Below the lower shelf is a standard USB port and a single 12-volt socket. It was interesting to count 7 switch blanks in this Limited model; I thought being near the top of the model tree, there’d only be a few.

At the rear of the centre console is a small cubby, one that can just fit an SLR camera, so it’s reasonable inside for the size of the car.

Back seat passengers fare reasonably well in the Stonic. Legroom back there is average for the class, there’s a single USB port, but weirdly no fold-down armrest. It can feel a little claustrophobic in the back – it may not be the place to stick a child who is prone to car sickness, for a long journey.

Space in the boot is good at 332 litres, and there’s a space-saver spare under the floor.

The Drive

On picking up the Stonic, I had not-so-good memories of the 2017 Kia Rio Limited that I reviewed, with the same motor (yes, no changes to the motor in 4 years). In 2017, the Rio had a 4-speed automatic transmission. Since the Stonic is based on the Rio but with new clothes and a 6-speed automatic, it’d be a lot better, right?

Around town, the Stonic does okay, keeping up with traffic and not feeling like it’s always at the back of the pack. Up hills, it’s a different story with the engine struggling up some of Wellington’s steeper hills – especially with more than one person in the car – and making a whole lot of noise to go with it.

Motorway driving at a steady throttle is fine – keep the revs down and the car is almost silent. But go to change lanes and accelerate, and two things happen; the gearbox changes down at least one and sometimes two gears, and engine noise assaults your ears. Best to just tootle along then, and at cruising speeds or around town without much acceleration over say 3,000rpm, and the Stonic is fine. On the open road, 100km/h is around 2,000 rpm, so noise is nicely subdued. There is some tyre noise on coarse chip seal, the Continental tyres really turning the volume up on those sorts of roads.

We took the opportunity to take the car to Masterton, meaning a trip 3-up over the Remutaka Hill. As you can imagine, this wasn’t an ideal situation for the Stonic, with many gear changes and lacklustre performance.

Still, the car has a lot going for it, and what I’ve just mentioned is pretty much all the bad stuff out of the way. Aside from performance, it drives very well – as does the Rio – and is comfortable to boot. A trip to Masterton and back in a day was stress free, the seats very comfortable and generally the car is very smooth, once you take into account the engine noise when passing etc.

To keep things nice and simple, there’s no drive modes in the Stonic, not even an Eco button. This was fine with me – who really needs to change anything when driving a small SUV? So the Stonic just gets on with it, and the six-speed automatic is generally very smooth, although it can spend some time briefly hunting for a gear.

As mentioned, the Stonic is built on the Rio chassis, and that’s not a bad thing. The ride on this car is a highlight, as has been on many compact and small SUVs of late. It’s interesting that a compliant ride on a small or compact SUV is now becoming the norm, where just a few years ago it was a rarity. Everyone is lifting their game here, and the Stonic rides as well as the best of them.

Not that you’d start chucking the Stonic around at all, but it handles just fine, and is very similar to other small SUVs in the handling department. It’s a safe handler, and shouldn’t get you into any trouble.

Since we’re in the Limited model, adaptive cruise control is fitted. It works just fine, being very smooth as it approaches other traffic, but such a shame it doesn’t bring the car to a stop. If traffic is slowing down below 20km/h, the car will beep at you a couple of times, then cruise control will turn off. The Limited is also fitted with steering assist, so will help guide you in your lane as best it can. It does well at this, and as a bonus you can still use steering assist when adaptive cruise is off. In most cars, you have to be using adaptive cruise control to be able to use steering assist, so it was nice to know that feature was there at all times.

The SatNav on this Kia is pretty standard amongst all Kia models that have it; it works well on the whole, and nice to see this fitted at this price point. Using it to navigate will see the directions appear on the central screen, as you’d expect, but I was surprised there aren’t any turn-by-turn directions in the driver’s information display. When using SatNav, I was a little annoyed when coming to a motorway junction that had two left lanes going up the Ngauranga Gorge, and two right lanes going to the Hutt Valley, that Satnav told me to stay right. No wonder all those idiots are sitting in the right hand lane, failing to keep left. Well, they could blame Kia if they were all Kias.

There’s no traffic sign recognition either, so at times the speed limit shown on the map is incorrect. The speed on our test car was reading 5-7km/h fast all the time, making me wonder why people were following too close behind me in a 50km/h zone.  On the plus side of things, there is an audible alert as you approach a speed camera.

There’s also a swathe of other safety features in the Stonic, and it’s great to see so many filtering down to cars like small SUVs. Lane Keep Assist (LKA) is available on the Stonic; it’s not the same as steering assist – LKA gives the steering a nudge back into the lane if you get too close to the fog line on your left side. However, I did find this quite aggressive, and turned it off. ANCAP requirements say this has to be on every time the car is started, so you need to do this every time if you want it off. You can hold down the Lane Keep Assist button for three seconds to turn it off, easier than going through the menus.

The central display is nicely clear, with good resolution and menus that aren’t too laggy. The display even has an adjustable blue-light filter to make it easier to read. Also, like the Hyundai Santa Fe we tested recently, the Stonic has ‘Sounds of Nature’ available from the central screen. You can pick from a variety of ‘scenes’ like an open air cafe, or a fireplace, or ocean waves, and have those sounds coming through the speakers to relax you. It feels a little bit gimmicky, like Kia/Hyundai are trying to do a Tesla, but I expect your kids would drive you mad screaming out for their favourite on every drive.

As a huge bonus to a car in this price bracket, you can use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto with no USB cable – it’s all wireless. This is an impressive addition, as there are few cars even doing this, so to have it as standard across the range is awesome. Well done, Kia, and let’s hope other brands start offering this also.

The Limited model is fitted with LED headlights, and I’ve got to say they really impressed me. Driving at night on high beam on a country road will see a wall of light in front of you, illuminating your way easily. They’re great headlights, and especially handy at this time of year.

With the engine working hard at times to move the car along up Wellington’s so many hills, I would have thought fuel economy would suffer. Weirdly, it was exactly what Kia suggested it should be. Over 600km of driving, I managed to get 6.7L/100Kms out of the Stonic 1.4.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/Torque
kW/Nm
Number of seatsCargo capacity,
litres (third row down)
Fuel
L/100km
Base Price – High to Low
Toyota Yaris ZR Cross Hybrid1.5-litre, 3-cylinder petrol-hybrid68/12053905.4$38,990
Mitsubishi ASX VRX2.4-litre, 4-cylinder petrol125/22653967.9$35,990
Ford Puma1.0-litre, 3-cylinder, petrol-turbo92/17054105.3$34,990
Honda HR-V S1.8-litre, 4-cylinder petrol105/17254376.9$31,990
Suzuki S-Cross Ltd1.4-litre, 4-cylinder, turbo-petrol103/23054405.9$29,990
Ssangyong Korando2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbo-petrol120/2805NA7.7$29,990
Renault Duster1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol84/15654456.9$29,990
Kia Stonic Limited1.4-litre, 4-cylinder petrol74/13353326.7$29,990
Haval H6 Premium2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbo-petrol145/3455NANA$29,990

The Pros and Cons

Pros
Styling
Interior design, quality
Pricing
Ride 
Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
Cons
Engine noise
Lack of performance
Vehicle TypeFive-door, front-wheel drive, small SUV
Starting Price$29,990
Price as Tested$30,490
Engine1.4L DOHC MPI D-CVVT Petrol Engine
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
74/133
Transmission6-speed automatic
Spare WheelSpace-saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,157
Length x Width x Height, mm4140x1760x1520
Cargo Capacity, litres
Seats up/seats down
332/1135
Fuel capacity, litres45
Fuel Efficiency, L/100KmAdvertised Spec – combined – 6.7
Real World Test – combined – 6.7
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked450/800
Turning circle, metres10.4
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty5 years or 100,000Km
5 years Roadside Assist
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star

Thanks to Carlucci Land for letting us use their location for photos.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
8
Interior
8
Performance
5
Safety
7
Styling
8
Value
8
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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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