The Stonic is Kia's rival to the Renault Captur et al, and while it's compromised in terms of quality and practicality, it is almost as good looking as its French opposition, which counts for a lot in the B-SUV segment.
In the Metal:
Kia's design department has, of late, rather been knocking its shots out of the park and the new Stonic is no exception. Look past the slightly silly name (supposed to be a mash-up of 'speedy' and 'tonic' and no, we're not sure why either) and the Stonic has a pleasingly four-square shape, with some rather nice detailing. There's a lot of body moulding and extra lines running through the doors, which help to disguise the slab sides and overall height, while the front end looks very tidy, with Kia's now-traditional 'Tiger' grille and lights. We especially like the way the C-pillar visually wraps over and across the back of the roof (an effect accentuated if you go for an optional contrast roof colour), while the standard-fit 17-inch alloy wheels look expensive.
Sadly, it's rather less successful inside. The Stonic shares a platform and engines with the Kia Rio supermini (but not, rather counter-intuitively, with the equally new Hyundai Kona small SUV...) and much of the cabin is shared too. That's good news in some areas - there's a standard seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, clear and easy-to-use satnav, nice main dials and comfortable front seats, for a start. The problem is that, while everything looks nicely laid-out, and we don't have any qualms about the actual quality of construction, some of the cabin plastics on show are below par, especially on the door cards. You can liven up the cabin with some contrast-colour trim, including some eye-watering orange and citrus yellow bits, but we're not sure we'd actually recommend doing that...
Space is also a bit of an issue. The front seats are fine (although shoulders do tend to meet a bit during the two-chunky-blokes test), while the back seats are, just about, acceptable. Kids and teens will be OK, but bigger adults will find that legroom is a touch tight. The biggest (so to speak) issue, though, is the boot. At 352 litres, it's bang-on the class average, but the bald fact is that the average is just not good enough. It will just prove too tight for a family of four trying to go away for a weekend. You're going to end up with Trunkis stashed under people's feet. In fairness, it's a criticism we'd level at most of the Stonic's rivals.
When it comes to dynamic performance, the standards of the small crossover class are staggeringly low. That the Stonic easily vaults over these standards is to its credit, but it's no great performance in the grand scheme of things.
Clearly, sports-car-like steering feel and response are absent from the shopping lists of most B-SUV buyers, so the Stonic doesn't have them. Instead, it has the light, feel-free steering of the Rio to which it's related. It's fine, as far as these things go, and in fairness the Stonic feels nimble in urban situations, which is mostly where it's going to be driven. The combo of that light steering and good forward visibility means that it's pretty painless in tight city centre spaces and traffic, but the chunky C-pillar means that you're going to want to dip into the options list for the reversing camera, just to be sure. The ride quality is a touch on the firm side, which doesn't bode well for rural Irish roads, but the Stonic feels well-suited and well-set-up for its primary urban mission.
On longer runs, there is more than a fair share of tyre and wind noise, but overall refinement actually isn't bad, and the Stonic doesn't feel out of its depth on motorways.
The 100hp 1.4 MPI petrol will be the best-selling model in Ireland, apparently, and like the rest of the Stonic, it's an inoffensive choice. Neither over-burdened with power, nor especially gutless, it rows along well enough, sounding a touch too harsh if you rev it hard, and with a massive dead-spot at middling revs in third or fourth. Again, it's fine if you keep it around town, and it has reasonable CO2 emissions, so motor tax isn't going to be a major issue. Far, far better (but only available in the top-tier spec in Ireland) is the turbocharged three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine. We know, and love, this T-GDI engine in the cee'd hatch, and it makes the Stonic feel much more appealing than the more basic 1.4, with peppy performance and a raspy soundtrack. There is an even more basic 1.2-litre petrol option, but given that Kia didn't even bring one along to the launch event in Berlin, we suspect that rice pudding skins will remain safely un-pulled in its presence. The 1.6 CRDi diesel is effective, refined when cruising and impressively economical, but it'll be pricey to buy and small-to-medium car buyers are already deserting diesel.
What you get for your Money:
With an entry price of €18,599 the Stonic does undercut some of its major rivals, and with that seven-inch screen standard across the range, it looks like decent value for money. There are some caveats though. To get safety items such as autonomous emergency braking, driver drowsiness alert, lane keeping assist and blind spot monitor, you have to upgrade, and the Stonic starts to look pretty pricey pretty quickly. Air conditioning is also not standard on the most basic K1 model. K2 spec, which is expected to be the best-seller, does get air conditioning, as well as LED daytime running lights, 17-inch alloys, roof rails and rear parking sensors. The 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol turbo engine is only available on range-topping K4 spec and, unusually, Kia expects to sell around 76 per cent of all Stonics with a petrol engine.
We have yet to drive a compact crossover that's actually, truly, deeply impressed us. These are superminis-on-stilts, designed to be fashionable and appeal to people who generally only drive in town, but want to feel as if they're lumberjack-rugged under the skin. If you want a family car, then a similarly priced Kia cee'd is in another universe when it comes to both practicality and driver appeal, and the Stonic's cabin does feel awfully cheap in places. Nonetheless within the confines of the class, the Stonic is impressive. It looks good (close to great, from some angles), is well-priced and equipped, has that long warranty and is painless to drive.