In recent years, Kia have been hard to look past for many reasons – mostly affordability, reliability and the fact they offer a huge warranty – however, what many people don’t realise, is that Kia offer cars that drive incredibly well.
I mean, let’s go back ten years say, I’d not have thanked you for a Kia sitting on the drive, as despite offering great reliability and value for money, they were incredibly slow and bland to drive, with interior trim akin to Bakelite.
Okay, the interior still uses materials more affordable than some rivals offer, and it shows, but it is far removed from what once was for the Korean maker and the cabin is most certainly not a bad place to spend a few hours a day.
I’d gladly own any of the current Kia range, in fact I was close to doing a deal on a Sportage at the start of the year, it just wasn’t to be however, but now that the interior of the Kia range is a pleasant place sit, what about the rest?
Well, they are still very affordable; this Stonic under review here starts from £16,540 and they are still reliable; I can’t remember the last time I saw a Kia on the ramp of my trusted mechanic needing anything more than a general service.
Kia still offer a huge warranty; 7-years and 100,000 miles to be precise, and for those doing big business miles, the 3-year and unlimited mileage part of the contract may appeal much more – either way, you will not be left out of pocket for anything outside of general wear-and-tear for quite some time.
Something that Kia now offers though, is a range that drive incredibly well; no longer as dull as dishwater, but for most, not exactly sporting either – just good, honest and effortless as well as safe feeling and grounded for the daily commute.
Stonic from Kia fills the void in the Korean manufacturer’s line-up of the ever popular crossover vehicle, despite looking much more hardcore than it actually is, you need to think Peugeot 2008, SEAT Arona or Volkswagen T-Roc to name but a few, it’s clear that the Stonic sits in an overcrowded segment.
Offering different styling than the rest, the Stonic looks great, especially when chosen with a bright paint scheme, something its rivals struggle with in my view and with black plastic arches and lower trim sections all-round, as well as a silver rear bumper skid-plate you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a tough off-roader.
Storage space in the boot is generous and with enough room inside for four adults with reasonable comfort, the Stonic offers a little more practicality than it looks like it should. Seating is comfortable and supportive whilst a central armrest is welcomed and white stitching on the model tested around the seats, steering wheel and gear stick/handbrake offers nice detail.
The model range starts from £16,540 with a ‘2’ trim level, as tested here, which packs plenty including 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights and roof rails along with cruise control, air conditioning and electric windows all-round. DAB/AM/FM radio features with MP3 playback, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto usable via the 7-inch touch-screen infotainment hub.
Next in the model range, the ‘3’ which starts from £18,600 and adds LED rear lighting, automatic wipers, autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist system and driver attention warning with high beam assist. A flat-bottom leather steering wheels features inside with sat-nav and a reversing camera.
Finally, the ‘4’ model adds a two-tone paint scheme, heated-half-leather (faux) interior trim with heated steering wheel, key-less entry with start button and blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, it can be bought from £20,200.
Three engines are available in the Kia Stonic – a pair of petrol units and a single diesel offering – starting with the 1.4L petrol which produces a meagre 98bhp with similar torque and 6-speed manual ‘box, its capable of 0-60mph in just over 10 seconds and will continue on to a top speed of 107mph.
Next up, a smaller but much more potent 1.0L turbocharged petrol engine which can be chosen with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic ‘box, you get 118bhp with 125lb/ft seeing 0-60mph in around 10 seconds with a top speed of 114mph and a claimed combined economy in the low 50’s mpg.
Finally for those doing monster miles, the 1.6 turbocharged diesel unit paired to a 6-speed manual ‘box may well appeal to you with 114bhp and an amazing 206lb/ft of torque, you will yet again see 0-60mph in just over 10 seconds with a top speed of 112mph and 70mpg combined being claimed.
The model tested and pictured, equipped with the 1.0 T-GDi with 6-speed manual ‘box was potent enough in most cases over my week-long review and despite claiming over 55mpg, my real-world economy was more in the region of 40mpg.
Not bad at all to be fair, as you tend to find yourself driving these little 3-cylinder engines a little harder than that of a more traditional power-train and as such, you will never get close to the dreamt up claims of the manufacturer.
Handling wise, and despite the previously mentioned rugged looks of the Kia Stonic, it drives just as well as any warm-hatch I have driven, a pleasant surprise to say the least after a spirited run along the Irish Sea.
With this agility, comes a slightly firm ride compared to others in the segment, but it is a compromise that I would be more than happy with as it will out-handle the 2008 and when it comes to the likes of the T-Roc, the so-called premium car within the segment, I’d say the Stonic is better finished inside.
On this basis, if you are in the market for a car that isn’t quite a car, but not quite an off-roader either, then keep the Stonic on your radar.
Words & Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY
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