Never underestimate the power of a great title. When Kia New Zealand announced the arrival of its upcoming baby SUV, the Stonic, late last year it revealed a special launch price of $ 21,990. And it makes everyone hiss; especially those in the compact SUV market.
Small SUVs are very popular nowadays. They represent the fastest growing segment in the new vehicle market. Mid-sized SUVs have been New Zealand’s most popular passenger vehicle size for a while (including the tough year 2020), but by 2021 their 20 percent market share has been overtaken by the little things – 24 percent.
The Stonic has been cooked up to the familiar baby-SUV recipe: you’ve managed to make a successful little hatch, raise the vehicle’s height, and dress it up with a chunky body addition.
Work for Toyota (Yaris Cross), work for Volkswagen (T-Cross) and seems to have worked for Kia, since Rio-based Stonic does look like that. It’s 70mm taller and 35mm wider than the Rio, but with the same wheelbase.
Even at an adjusted post-launch price of $ 23,990, the cheapest Stonic LX is still a lot of baby SUV for the money. It is a price that creates an extreme value-for-money halo effect for the rest of the range.
But what everyone is talking about isn’t necessarily what everyone buys, right? There are actually five different models: LX, EX and Limited ($ 23,990- $ 29,990), limited by two versions of the GT Line: $ 31,990 or $ 33,990 for the “+”.
There are two levels to the Stonic as there are two engines. The LX / EX / Limited has a new 1.4 liter 74kW / 133kW engine that uses what Kia claims is the world’s first Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) system, which can adjust the amount of time the valve remains open for maximum efficiency. It is compatible with a 6 speed automatic.
But the technical accolades are still arguable for the amplifier of the GT Line model, which is powered by a 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbo that has the same power but more torque (171Nm) and is even more economical: 5.4 liters / 100 km compared to 6.7 kilometers . l / 100km for a 1.4l engine. The GT Line model is driven via a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.
The car you see here is Limited: the top of the 1.4l ($ 29,990) lineup, uses 17-inch alloys (the same size as the GT Line model) and composite leather trim inside. You can’t miss the Mighty Yellow finish of our test car (bright colors are a Stonic thing – there’s also Sporty Blue and Signal Red) and sport a black roof, a $ 500 option.
A $ 30k small SUV is a different proposition from a $ 24k SUV, as there is more competition as prices go up and the car has to meet higher expectations.
Stonic Limited has a lot to offer. There’s a lot of hard plastic in the cabin, but in terms of design it looks quite luxurious and well laid out (standard 8.0-inch touch screens on all models) in the familiar Kia style. That’s the advantage of being part of a much larger SUV family: the bit box to choose from is extensive and the baby range benefits from the quality switchgear that’s demanded from the much more expensive Kia model.
The seats are amazing at Limited and there’s actually room for the adult as a whole – although keep in mind this is a baby SUV that’s just 4.1m long. It is compact in the true meaning of the word.
Dynamically, the Stonic has a fizzy personality and a good chassis, thanks in part to a decent ContiSportContact rubber (not always given to babies at affordable prices); opportunity cost appears to be a very staggering ride on the larger Limited wheels and less road noise on the rugged chip seal.
It is not a powerhouse, but the engine is vibrant and the 6 speed automatic is smooth. But we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if you’re interested in a baby SUV with a bit more character, you should try the brighter, more torquey 1.0-liter GT-Line before you buy.
The Limited does go to great lengths to justify its price with a comprehensive suite of tech security features. It’s too long to list (at least not without taking up all our column inches), but includes everything from LED headlights to pedestrian / cyclist collision avoidance assistance to blind spot crash assistance and Rear Traffic Alerts for parking spots narrow city.
This is a well-executed package, albeit with an odd name. “Stonic”? This is a portmanteau of “speed” and “tonic” apparently.
KIA STONIC LIMITED
MACHINE: 1.4 liter gasoline four
POWER: 74kW / 133Nm
GEARBOX: 6-speed automatic, FWD
ECONOMIC: 6.7l / 100km, 155g / km
PRICE: $ 29,990