Stonic is a car created to meet the changing demands of the European market, where conventional three-door hatchbacks and small MPVs are falling out of favour. The requirement now is for small cars with the looks and higher seating position of an SUV, but without the weight, cost and fuel consumption penalties of all-wheel drive.
Kia was quick to recognise the business case for a B-SUV, even though as originally planned it was to be sold only in Europe. That decision made Europe the logical place to design the car, but Korea the best place to build it, as it would share production facilities with the new Rio on which it is based.
While Kia's California design studios were busy creating the latest Rio in collaboration with the main design centre at Namyang in Korea, Stonic was entrusted to the European design team at Frankfurt, with help from Namyang.
Stonic adds a uniquely Kia twist to the newest and fastest-growing market sector in Europe, bringing what have become the brand's distinctive design features and hallmarks to the B-SUV class.
There is the familiar 'tiger-nose' grille, which in Stonic gets a wide but narrow interpretation. It is mounted beneath a beautifully sculpted stepped bonnet and above a wide lower air intake running almost the full width of the car. The main grille is in high-gloss black and satin chrome. Sharp, functional lines blend with softer, sculpted surfaces all over the car, and there is a stylised C-pillar – another key Kia identifier – but here it is narrower than in some other models and flows effortlessly from the roofline into the voluminous beltline running above the expansive rear wheel arches and around the tailgate.
A black garnish running around the wheel arches and along the sills and the lower portion of the doors and tailgate emphasises Stonic's SUV stance, proportions and strength, and is complemented by silver skid plates front and rear. The ‘First Edition’ also has chrome side window trim. There are bold bi-function static bending headlights with LED daytime running lights running around the front corners of the car, and the ‘First Edition’ also has LED rear combination light units. Projection front foglights, neatly integrated roof rails and a rear spoiler are standard, and the ‘First Edition’ also has privacy glass on the rear side windows and tailgate. All versions in the UK have 17-inch alloy wheels.
The overall effect is of sportiness and dynamism with practicality – exactly what a crossover should be.
The Stonic ‘First Edition’ offers a greater range of colour combinations that any previous Kia. The roof, rear spoiler and door mirror housings can be in black, red, lime green or orange, depending on main body colour; the interior trims feature colour accents in the black cloth with faux grey leather seats and around the lower centre console and display screen areas.
Stonic and Rio share an identical 2,580mm wheelbase, but Stonic is 70mm taller and 35mm wider. Meanwhile the rear overhang has been extended by 70mm to maximise passenger and luggage space and add to Stonic's appearance of SUV robustness. Stonic is not only one of the smartest-looking Kias to date, but also one of the smartest in terms of packaging.
The increase in overall height has been put to good use to raise ground clearance by 42mm compared with Rio, giving the command-post view out and the enhanced feeling of safety which buyers cite as two of the main reasons for choosing an SUV.
Stonic has the best shoulder room of any car in the B-SUV class, as well as generous head- and legroom front and rear, while the extended rear overhang allows for a boot of 352 litres with the 60:40 rear seats upright, and 1,155 litres with them folded. This is 27 litres more than in the Rio. Stonic ‘First Edition’ has a dual-height luggage floor to enhance versatility.
The dashboard has been designed around the displays for the car's connectivity technologies. There is a 7.0-inch display in all versions with a DAB radio and MP3 compatibility. In the ‘First Edition’ this is upgraded to a 7.0-inch touchscreen navigation system featuring Kia Connected Services with TomTom™ and a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines. Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™ smartphone connectivity are fitted to every model.
The horizontal theme evident in the exterior styling is repeated in the cabin, emphasising width and space while separating the upper information and lower control areas. The number of buttons and switches has been kept to a minimum to give a neater look and greater functionality. The ‘First Edition’ offers USB ports front and rear so that mobile devices can be charged from any seat.
The central display screen is at the same height as the main instrument cluster, making it easier for the driver to absorb information quickly with the minimum of distractions. A 3.5-inch supervision cluster within the main instruments is standard.
Grade ‘2’ models have black cloth upholstery with grey stitching, while for ‘First Edition’ there is a combination of black cloth, grey faux leather inserts and colour highlights.
Quality – perceived and actual – is evident in the fit and finish and the choice of materials. A leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter are standard, and there are silver or satin chrome interior door handles. ‘First Edition’ has a D-cut steering wheel with perforated leather trim, an engine start/stop button and stainless steel pedals.
The extensive interior storage areas include a centre console box and cupholders, bottle holders in every door, an illuminated glovebox, an overhead sunglasses case and a front passenger seat-back pocket.