What is it?
The Kia Stonic arrived in 2017 offering slightly sharper styling and handling than many machines in the compact crossover class, but the Kia really separate itself from the massed pack of ‘Nissan Juke rivals’.
While the Stonic has been a solid seller for Kia since its launch, a handful of new compact crossovers – particularly the Ford Puma and Volkswagen T-Cross – have raised the class average significantly.
In response to such cars and the ever-present need to lower emissions, Kia has turned to mild hybrid technology and an entirely new generation of engine for the Stonic’s mid-life facelift. Is that enough to turn the Kia from solid to super Stonic?
What's it like?
You might find it hard to spot the changes to the Stonic on first glance at both car and spec sheet might suggest. Exterior styling changes are limited to new LED headlights, a new GT-Line trim and extra colours, while inside the central touchscreen has grown, and the digital driver display is higher resolution. Welcome upgrades, but hardly substantial.
The big change is found with the powertrain, although they might seem similar: the entry level – and UK best-seller – remains a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-pot offering an unchanged 118bhp. Except it’s Kia’s new-generation Smartstream unit, which adds variable value technology for a claimed better efficiency and improved torque than the Kappa motor it replaces.
That motor is also available with, as fitted to our test car, Kia’s new mild hybrid 48V integrated starter generator (which Kia brands EcoDynamics+) and new intelligent manual transmission (iMT) gearbox. The six-speed box is actuated electrically rather than mechanically, which is designed to maintain the engagement of a manual while maximising the fuel economy and emissions benefits of the 48V ISG.
Despite that new tech, from behind the wheel the changes feel as subtle as the Stonic’s styling tweaks. The engine offers a classic three-pot feel, occasionally raspy but largely quiet, and with a touch of refinement offered by the engine-off coasting. The iMT gearbox feels much like a traditional manual: it pairs well with the engine and is responsive, although hardly thrilling.
Similarly, the Stonic retains sharper handling than many class rivals, tempered slightly by a slightly stiff ride that can make it a little on the fidgety side. Keep it relaxed, where both chassis and powertrain are more in their element, and it’s well suited for urban pottering.