THE focus for car sales is now firmly set on the burgeoning smaller SUV market, which is set to double in Europe within a couple of years.

And to meet the demand there are plenty of manufacturers now raising the height of regular hatchbacks in this fastest-growing sector.

Kia is one of those manufacturers, choosing to adopt the platform of its Rio hatchback to create the Stonic, the company’s first entry into what is termed the B-segment SUV market.

This is now a fiercely competitive sector, inhabited by the likes of the Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Vauxhall Mokka X and Ford Fiesta Active.

Kia came late to the party as it sought to establish a business case for the car and find somewhere to build it.

What Kia has done to get a foothold is target younger buyers by making personalisation a priority and delivering a suite of connectivity and electronic driver assistance systems.

Styling packs and contrasting roof colours are available, while the dashboard has been designed around the displays for the car’s connectivity technologies. There is a seven-inch display in all versions with a DAB radio and MP3 compatibility, plus smartphone connectivity. Oh, and some splashes of colour to pretty things up.

Surprisingly, Kia has opted for only two trim levels – First Edition and Grade 2 – across the five-model range, but even Grade 2 gets air-conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels and rear parking sensors.

There’s a 98bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine, 118bhp turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol and 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel to choose from. I opted for the smaller petrol unit for a test drive for its combination of economy and refinement.

You will have spotted that the smaller engine is the more powerful of the two petrol offerings, and with a sprint time of 9.9 seconds from 0 to 60mph it is certainly no slouch.

There are no surprises with the performance. The Stonic has an identical wheelbase to the Rio, but has been tuned to take into account the 42mm of extra ground clearance, higher centre of gravity and increased weight.

Riding on independent MacPherson struts, you certainly get a smooth if firm ride, with sharp steering responses and minimal noise intrusion.

What most buyers will have at the top of their priorities list is style, comfort, safety and practicality.

Kia aimed to achieve sportiness and dynamism in the design, and to a great extent this has been achieved.

Standing 70mm taller than the Rio, it is also wider with a longer rear overhang to maximise passenger and luggage space.

The Stonic First Edition offers a greater range of colour combinations than any previous Kia model. For instance, the roof, rear spoiler and door mirror housings can be in black, red, lime green or orange, depending on the main body colour.

With the best shoulder room of any car in its class, stacks of interior storage areas, a 350-litre boot rising to 1,155 litres with the back 60/40 seats folded down and dual height luggage floor, it will cope with most load-carrying duties.

Autonomous emergency braking, high beam assist, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert now come as standard or as an option, while hill start assist comes as standard.

Kia will no doubt be hoping to emulate the success of the Stonic’s big brother, the Sportage, but with such a crowded market place it may find sales harder to find.

But it is a welcome addition to the SUV party guest list and should not be overlooked.


Kia Stonic 1.0 T-GDI 2

Price: £17,200 (Stonic range from £16,295)

Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol, producing 118bhp

Transmission: Six-speed manual driving the front wheels

Performance: 0 to 60mph in 9.9 seconds; top speed 114mph

Economy: 51.4 combined

CO2 emissions: 130g/km


Performance: ***

Economy: ***

Ride/Handling: ***

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: ****

Security/Safety: ***

Value For Money: ***