It seems like a month doesn't go by without a new subcompact crossover entering the market. This new batch of hatchbacks on tall tires (HOTTs?) are competitively priced and luring more people away from subcompact sedans. It's also getting pretty crowded in that segment too.
This is why the Kia Stonic has a tough challenge ahead of it. Not only does it have to fend off dozens of competitors, but it also has to deal with its big brother, the Seltos. Granted, the latter is aimed at the premium part of the class, but it's still a subcompact crossover. With that, the Stonic needs to stand out and not become an also-ran in the packed segment.
The Stonic is off to a good start with its design. Penned by former Audi design chief, Peter Schreyer, we didn't expect anything less from him. The front end looks bulbous with a rounded design and creases all over the place. It's complemented by a lot of slashes and sharp angles, a common theme in Kias these days. The overall effect is a mix of cute and aggressive. Stare at it head-on, and it looks wider than it actually is.
Then there are the sides, and you'll see more curves. The dashing shade of yellow hides some of the subtle details, but you'll appreciate it when you get a closer look. It flows from the front end, sweeps down to the sills, then goes back up to the quarter panels. You don't see that very often, and it's plus points to Kia for being unique. That said, there is a quirk by the rear doors, particularly the kink by the wheels. Why didn't they make it straight? Anyway, on to the rear.
For all the flair and quirks of the front and side, the rear of the Stonic looks rather tame. Perhaps moving the license plate holder higher would add a little more character back here. Still, Kia nailed the design for the most part. It's sharp and funky.
If you've been in a new Kia lately, the design of the Stonic's interior looks and feels rather familiar. You have the analog gauges that appear lifted from other models, the three-spoke steering wheel, and the two-tier dashboard. That's because most of its components come from the car it's based on, the current-generation Rio.
Whether that's a good thing or not is up to you, but that means Kia owners looking to buy this model don't need to adjust that much. Yes, there are hard plastics all over the cabin, but this is a budget crossover we're talking about, not a Sorento.
So, what else is in here? There's a 3.5-inch multi-info display, one USB port (though it could really use another one), and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. This being the EX model, it has a push-to-start button and height-adjustable seats. That said, the latter should be standard on all variants, along with armrests.
A car's infotainment system can make or break its sale. Thankfully, the one in the Stonic is bang up to date. It has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, something that's becoming a must in more cars. It's also easy to use and the processing speeds are quick.
The space inside the Stonic is good considering its diminutive dimensions. Yes, it could use a little more headroom at the back, but the legroom is enough for taller folks to stretch out a bit. That legroom comes at a price though: Cargo space. It has 325 liters of volume, which is something you'd expect from a hatchback, not a crossover. Then again, it is based on the Rio which has fewer liters than this crossover. At least the floor is flat and square to maximize the limited space, and folding down those seats requires no effort. Thanks to the wide tailgate, the opening is wide, although a lower lift-over would have been better.
Powering the Stonic is a 1.4-liter engine with 100 PS and 134 Nm of torque. If those specs sound familiar, that's because it's the same one used in a variety of Kia and Hyundai subcompact models. We have varied experiences with this engine, ranging from slow and thirsty to peppy and efficient. As for the transmission, it's a six-speed automatic with manual modes.
Thankfully, its performance is decent. It may only have 100 PS, but it feels lively in the higher parts of the rev band. It's not a sports car by any means, but it's adequate for the daily commute. However, the six-speed automatic is geared towards efficiency rather than acceleration. Initial acceleration feels blunted, and it's eager to upshift and reluctant to downshift. But rev it a little higher and you'll get more pep out of it.
The benefit of the efficiency-biased transmission is fuel economy. The on-board computer displayed 18 km/l on the highway and 11 km/l around the city. In light traffic, it's knocking on the door of 14 km/l. That's close to diesel territory.
With performance and economy settled, how does it ride and drive? When it comes to comfort, the Stonic is a little bit on the firm side. Past Kia models we tested had pliant suspension, so it's a bit of a surprise in the Stonic. That said, it's not choppy or crashy. Impact harshness is decent, and it settles down on better-paved surfaces. However, the seats can use a little more padding on the backrests.
But the trade-off of that firm ride is handling. It may be a subcompact crossover, but it goes around corners with bags of confidence. That's complemented by the sharp and precise steering. The only thing missing here is more feedback from the wheel to make it a fun little crossover to drive.
When it comes to safety, Stonic EX comes with stability control. It's a good match to the secure handling of the crossover. Hopefully, they add that feature to the lower-spec variants.
So, how much do you have to shell out for the Stonic EX? The range-topper starts at PHP 925,000, which is about the same as lower-riding subcompact hatchbacks. With extra ground clearance, it's an inviting proposition to those who prefer a little more distance between the road and their seats. But that's not the only reason why the Stonic can succeed. For less than one million pesos, you get almost everything you need in a modern family car.
But if that's too much money for you, you can also opt for the mid-spec LX A/T. It has most of the features found in the EX for PHP 90,000 less. And if you want to save even more cash, the LX M/T starts at PHP 735,000. If you take a look at the entire Stonic range, it's strong on value, and you can't go wrong with any variant.
Because of that, Kia's newest crossover deserves to succeed in the country. Then again, they sold over 300 units already, so it's off to a good start.