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Car reviews - Kia - Stonic - S

Our Opinion

We like
Value for money, build quality, capable driveline, reasonably practical cabin, fuel efficiency, included tech and safety equipment
Room for improvement
Hard monotone interior plastics, over-assisted steering, rearward three-quarter visibility, headlight performance

The Rio-based Stonic is Kia’s smallest and most affordable SUV, but is it any good?

23 Mar 2022

AFTER initially rejecting the pint-sized Stonic SUV for Australia, Kia introduced the model in January 2021 as a competitor to the likes of the Hyundai Venue, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota Yaris Cross.


The Rio-based Stonic range is priced from $21,490 (plus on-road costs) and, in entry-level S format, is powered by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired to a six-speed manual transmission that drives the front wheels.


The S is one of three trim grades offered in the Stonic line-up, which is available with three different powertrains. The entry model’s engine offers a flexible 74kW/133Nm and combined cycle fuel economy of 6.0 litres per 100km with CO2 emissions of 155 grams per kilometre.


Fuel savings are metered by an idle-stop system and diligent gearshift indicator and assisted by the Stonic’s diminutive dimensions and low tare weight (1157kg).


Despite its compact size and low asking price, the Stonic S offers plenty of standard equipment. Fifteen-inch steel wheels, halogen daytime running lights, dusk-sensing headlights, an 8.0-inch central infotainment array with multi-device Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a six-speaker audio system, 4.2-inch TFT driver’s display, cruise control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors and cloth upholstery are all included.


There’s ample seating for four adults, a good assortment of open and lidded storage compartments, split-fold rear seating and a claimed 352 litres of luggage space (or 1155 litres with the rear seats stowed). The front seats and steering wheel offer mechanical adjustment through the usual ranges.


Safety equipment is comprehensive – considering the price of the Stonic S – and extends to six airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian- and cyclist detection, forward-collision warning, driver-attention alert, as well as lane-following assist. Importantly, the Kia’s suspension and chassis tune has been optimised for Australian conditions, and we have to say, it shows.


Like all Kia passenger models, the Stonic is covered by a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty program with included roadside assistance and capped-price servicing. Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first).


Service pricing for the Stonic S manual (as tested) totals $2866 for the first seven years or 105,000km of ownership. Clear White (pictured) is the only exterior finish to not attract a $520 premium.


Driving Impressions


We’re told Stonic is a portmanteau of speed and tonic, but, given that it’s neither fast nor, um, curative, the name hardly befits Kia’s pocket-sized “SUV”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any good.


More high-riding hatch than a true SUV, the Rio-based model is a handsome, if somewhat understated model that has obviously been cast to a budget. In our eyes, that’s a good thing – especially when you consider the dearth of options available in the low-$20,000 price bracket.


Taller (+70mm) and heavier (+45kg) than the Rio light hatchback on which it is based, the Stonic also offers more ground clearance (+25mm) than its stablemate, which means it’s slightly better at contending with speedhumps, steep driveways and pockmarked backroads. The locally tuned handling gives the Stonic an agile attitude through corners, although the steering setup is altogether too light, and regrettably takes some of the confidence out of the driving experience.


In that sense, the Stonic feels best suited to city driving, where an easy-to-twirl steering wheel and compact footprint present obvious benefits. The tight turning circle (of 10.2 metres) makes the vehicle easy to manoeuvre… The Stonic is quite easy to park, thanks to its combination of rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, but both features are arguably necessary given the somewhat constrained rearward three-quarter vision from a driver’s perspective.


Still, it isn’t an issue once you’re out and about. The Stonic offers excellent forward and lateral visibility and the side-mirror setup is particularly obliging. We found the Stonic very easy to place on the road and quite difficult to upset – the wake of passing large vehicles or uneven ground did little to upset the car’s roadholding.


The all-aluminium Kappa II (G4LC) engine under the Stonic’s bonnet displaces 1368cc and, with an oversquare design makes a useful amount of torque low in the rev range. Coupled to sensibly stacked ratios it provides the Stonic with acceptable low-end pulling power, which facilitates  earlier upshifts that, of course, benefit fuel economy.


But it’s also an engine that’s not afraid to show a clean pair of heels. While it isn’t likely to set any speed records, the dual variable valve timing and variabl- length intake manifold give this multi-point injected mill more flexible power delivery than its peak outputs suggest. We found overtaking manoeuvres and hill-climbing were easily managed, even with a couple of passengers and their luggage on board.


Running on 91 RON regular unleaded, the Stonic S managed an average consumption figure of 5.9 litres per 100km while on test, a good effort considering the vehicle was essentially brand new (with just 1500km on the odometer), and the engine still quite tight.


If we any qualms about the Stonic S – and remembering this is a $21,490 car – it’s that the cabin décor is a little harsh and monotone, and the halogen headlight performance acceptable, rather than brilliant. We also reckon the AM radio reception was disappointing, even when driving in built-up areas where it normally isn’t an issue.


Still, for buyers on a budget, first-car owners, or downsizers, we reckon the Stonic is difficult to ignore; and in answer to the question posed at the top of this page, the answer is: yes. In fact, the Kia Stonic S is more than good. It’s terrific.

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