What is it?
The Kia Stonic is a supermini-sized crossover here for the general delectation of a European car-buying public currently preoccupied with both compact SUVs and downsizing – and therefore arguably doubly ready to embrace it.
Perhaps we should call it another supermini-sized crossover. This segment is expected to double in size from its 2016 level by 2020, and that’s why we’re seeing all-new models from Hyundai, Citroën, Seat and MG pile into it all of a sudden in addition to Kia. All of them are offering cars alongside the likes of the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Vauxhall Crossland X and Fiat 500X that are already on sale. The water in the shallow end of the junior soft-roader market’s swimming pool is evidently rather lovely at present. You wonder, frankly, how many more paddlers it can take.
Sharing its platform with Kia’s Rio supermini, the Stonic has the same wheelbase as the Rio but it’s slightly wider and longer in the rear overhang, as well as having a slightly “jacked-up” ride height and an even higher-rising roofline. Still, the most meaningful differences between this car and a typical supermini are quite slight: 42mm on ground clearance and 70mm on overall height. A Dacia Sandero Stepway enjoys almost the same advantage over a regular Sandero in terms of ride height, while a bog-standard, dead-ordinary Nissan Pulsar family five-door is precisely as tall overall.
Since there’s no option of four-wheel drive in the Stonic either and no engine more powerful than the 118bhp 1.0-litre turbo three-pot of our test vehicle, this is a car that plainly wears its SUV garb quite loosely. But that’s increasingly common in cars of this class. Customers shopping for a ‘B-segment SUV’, we are told, aren’t necessarily after ruggedness or capability, but are looking instead for a ‘right-sized’ hatchback – having ruled out a Golf-sized conventional five-door as more car than they need. They want the convenience of a fairly high driver seat, and the improved visibility that grants, as well as a good-sized boot – in a package that’s still lighter and more economical than the average family hatchback. They also like the alternative design appeal of the modern crossover; or at least, they like the idea of not owning another ordinary five-door family hatchback exactly like their last car.