Choose your SUV – child-sickening turbo 2.0-litre Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S; or the late-arriving, somewhat more sensible compact Kia Stonic
DON’T BE TRICKED by the ‘all-new’ tag given to Kia’s latest addition to its Australian range. The Stonic has actually been available overseas since 2017. However, the high-riding hatchback – aka, compact SUV – recently underwent a significant mid-life facelift before being dispatched DownUnder.
Priced from $21,490, the Stonic range matches that of the Kia Rio on which it’s based, with entry-level S, mid-grade Sport and top GT-Line versions. The Sport and GT-Line receive driveaway pricing, with the Sport manual and auto costing $24,990 and $25,990 respectively and the GTLine (tested) $29,990.
It also shares the Rio’s engines, with the S and Sport powered by the 74kW/133Nm 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol powertrain, with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed auto. The sportier GT-Line, meanwhile, is equipped with a punchy little 1.0-litre three-pot turbo that’s coupled with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It also produces 74kW but dishes out 172Nm of torque from 1500rpm. On-road the GT-Line’s lively powertrain offers up a bit of fun. It’s not incredibly quick – 0-100km/h is just shy of 11 seconds – but it does have meaty midrange torque, which is easily accessible.
The Stonic steers nicely, helped by Kia’s engineers doubling the number of teeth on the serrated steering column shaft, resulting in the tiller feeling more responsive and direct without being too light.
The suspension has been tuned to Australian conditions, and the torsion beam rear setup is more upright than the Rio’s – fitted 8.4 degrees off vertical as opposed to the hatch’s 25 degrees, which allows the rear end to compress and extend more freely. This has made for a very good balance between dynamic handling and ride comfort on the 17-inch alloys that are fitted with 205/55 R17 Continental ContiPremium rubber. It doesn’t exactly glide over road imperfections,
but it feels controlled and composed.
Inside, the Stonic’s cabin is the same size and virtually identical to that of the donor Rio, though the dashboard has been raised a little for more knee room and the centre console doesn’t protrude as far back to make it easier to slide across the rear bench. It’s all well put together, but there are the usual hard plastics.
The front seats are comfortable, particularly the GT-Line’s which have a soft but supportive backrest and good hip bolstering. The rear seats offer reasonable legroom for a car this size. It feels a little airier than the rivalling Mazda CX-3, with the raised bench providing good forward and side vision.
There’s a 353-litre boot, which is 28 litres bigger than the Rio’s, 91 litres bigger than the CX-3’s and just two litres shy of the Hyundai Venue. Laying both 60:40 split-fold seats down means you can fit up to 1155 litres of stuff. The boot space itself has a deep floor due to only having to fit a spacesaver spare wheel underneath.
Safety-wise, all versions come with a driver-assistance suite that includes AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist; lane following assist; driver attention alert, and leading vehicle departure alert. Interestingly, it has a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2017 that was achieved by technically being a variant of the Kia Rio. This only applies to the 1.4-litre S and Sport variants as it predated the introduction of the threecylinder turbo to the range.
So is all that enough to knock the CX-3 off its perch? Probably not, although a comparison test with all its rivals will tell all. But unlike the Rio, whose current model never quite lived up to expectations, expect the Stonic to make its presence felt.
Stonic has depth and maturity, but really needs the extra torque of the turbo triple – which is only offered in top-spec GT-Line – to show its best