Every car brand has its superstar models. The ones that grab the headlines and awards and help propel its public image.
Recently for Kia, it’s been its electric models - the EV6 and e-Niro - as well as its larger SUVs - the award-winning Sorento and impressive fifth-gen Sportage.
But behind these A-listers every marque also has a supporting cast of less glitzy, showy models. In Kia’s case that’s models like the Rio, Picanto and this, the Stonic crossover.
Based on the Rio supermini, the Stonic is a B-segment SUV competing against a wealth of other supermini-based rivals. The Ford Puma, Vauxhall Mokka and Nissan Juke are among the best known but there’s also the likes of the Volkswagen T-Roc, Renault Captur and Citroen C3 Aircross to consider.
From the outside, it’s a smart if slightly understated looking thing. While rivals go all out on the wild and wacky styling, the Stonic is a simpler affair with more traditional SUV look that definitely benefits from the sporty embellishments of the GT-Line or the tested GT Line S. These include a more aggressive grille, reprofiled bumpers, spoiler and two-tone paint. While it has the same wheelbase as the Rio supermini, the Stonic is wider, taller and has a longer rear overhang to give it an SUV look.
That translates to a taller stance and bigger boot but doesn’t make for a much more spacious interior. Most compact crossovers struggle for rear passenger space and the Stonic is no different. Behind a 6-foot-plus driver rear legroom is non-existent and even with an average-sized human at the wheel it’s not great. The boot, at 352 litres is some way behind most of its rivals, too.
Like the exterior, the Stonic’s interior keeps things simple, with the range-topping GT-Line S adding a little sparkle. There are faux-leather/cloth seats, carbon-effect trim, a D-shaped steering wheel and aluminium pedals for a sporty feel but elsewhere, it’s a very straightforward affair with a simple unshowy layout and an eight-inch central touchscreen.
That screen, with smartphone mirroring, is standard across the Stonic range, which starts at £19,260. In GT-Line and GT-Line S models it adds connected services, sat nav and a reversing camera. Like most Kias the standard equipment on the Stonic is generous and top-spec cars like ours also feature LED headlights, heated seats and steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and a broad suite of driver assistance systems.
While there are four trim lines in the Stonic range there are only two engine options. Both use a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. A non-hybrid model offers 99bhp while the 48V mild hybrid tested here produces 118bhp and promises enhanced economy and reduced emissions. Like a lot of small three-cylinder engines it can be a little noisy under acceleration but quietens down well at cruise. Performance isn’t exactly stellar - 0-62mph takes 10.4 seconds - but it actually feels quicker than this when the mild hybrid setup does its torque-fill trick at low revs. Kia claims economy of 49.6mpg and I actually exceed that in a week of mixed driving. That might be in part down to the regenerative braking, which is far more aggressive than in most rivals and almost feels like a single-pedal EV at times.
Global supply issues mean many brands are struggling to build the cars they want and so while I tested the engine with a seven-speed DCT auto it’s currently only on sale with the six-speed manual. Unless you absolutely need an auto this shouldn’t be a deal breaker as the DCT is nothing remarkable.
Ride and handling are similarly unremarkable. The Stonic feels solid enough and rides as well as most rivals but cars like the Puma, Mokka and Juke are all more fun to drive, if such things matter to you.
To stand out in this sector you need something special. The Puma is great to drive, the Citroen exceptionally comfortable and the Juke “interesting” to look at. In this company the Stonic feels a little lost. There’s nothing wrong with it but, high equipment levels aside, there’s also nothing exceptional, leaving this little crossover very much playing a supporting role in Kia’s quest for world domination.
Kia Stonic GT-Line S
Price: £23,950; Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Power: 118bhp; Torque: 148lb ft; Transmission; Seven-speed DCT automatic; Top speed: 115mph; 0-62mph: 10.4 seconds; Economy: 49.6mpg; CO2 emissions: 129g/km