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Kia Stonic 2021 review

The Stonic is the newest and smallest SUV in Kia's line-up.
EXPERT RATING
7.9
The Stonic is the little SUV Kia has been waiting for and if you need a small car with big value then it could be the one for you.

Have you even tested a car if you haven’t driven it to your son’s sixth birthday party while your wife balanced the ball-shaped cake you finished making at 2am on a piece of cardboard on her lap? 

I did, along with a whole lot of other real-world testing, when Kia lent me its latest and smallest SUVthe Stonic – for a week.

Yup, the Stonic has only been in Australia five minutes, but I feel like I know this little SUV as well as my own car, because, well, I used it like you would for everything. I’ve also driven its rivals, such as the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR, so I can tell you how it compares to these, too. 

Kia Stonic 2021: GT Line (two-Tone)
Safety rating
Engine Type1.0L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$29,990

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The entry point into the Stonic range is the S and with the manual gearbox you can have it for $22,990 driveaway, while the auto is $23,990. Above this is the Sport which also comes with a manual at $24,990 driveaway and costs $1000 more for the auto. At the top of the range is the GT-Line, which can be had for $29,990 driveaway. Kia says the driveaway prices will remain in place permanently.

Standard features on the S include 15-inch steel wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six-speaker stereo, cloth seats, reversing camera, auto headlights, cruise control, rear parking sensors, heated side mirrors and roof racks.

  • The Sport scores a premium steering wheel. (Sport variant pictured) The Sport scores a premium steering wheel. (Sport variant pictured)
  • All Stonics come with an 8.0-inch touchscreen. (Sport variant pictured) All Stonics come with an 8.0-inch touchscreen. (Sport variant pictured)
  • Both the Sport and GT-Line push-button start. (Sport variant pictured) Both the Sport and GT-Line push-button start. (Sport variant pictured)
  • The Stonic has auto headlights. (Sport variant pictured) The Stonic has auto headlights. (Sport variant pictured)
  • The GT-Line wears 17-inch alloy wheels. (GT-Line variant pictured) The GT-Line wears 17-inch alloy wheels. (GT-Line variant pictured)
  • All Stonics have roof racks. (GT-Line variant pictured) All Stonics have roof racks. (GT-Line variant pictured)

The Sport adds 17-inch alloys wheels, electric folding mirrors with indicators, sat nav, premium steering wheel and shifter, push-button start and a proximity key.

The GT-Line brings a tough-looking body kit, idle stop-and-go fuel-saving tech, LED headlights and DRLs, the choice of two-tone roof or sunroof, cloth and artificial leather seats, rain-sensing wipers, climate control and rear privacy glass.

The media system also allows two phones to connect via Bluetooth at the same time. So, one person can be playing their music, while a call can come through on the other phone.  

What’s the best grade? Well the entry grade comes with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but for the other you’ll need to plug your phone into the USB port. 

The Stonic features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (GT-Line variant pictured) The Stonic features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (GT-Line variant pictured)

Then again, the Sport has a proximity key. Do you know why that’s good? Well, during my son’s birthday party, I made 38 trips to and from the Stonic, loading balloons, the piñata, the pass the parcel ‘parcel’ and so on – anyway, not once did I have to take the key out of my pocket to unlock the car. 

The car I tested was the GT-Line, but the Sport is the sweet spot in the range.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The Kia Stonic is based on the Rio hatch and while visually there are many similarities the little SUV has its own look with its sculptured bonnet, taller stance, the rising window line, roof racks, moulded plastic wheel arches, and a chunky rear bumper and among other rugged features.

The GT-Line comes standard with an angry-looking body kit, which includes a skid plate and fog lights, a chrome-look grille insert, striking LED headlights and a rear bumper with what look to be integrated exhaust tips, but actually aren’t. The S and Sport grades have a more domesticated and tame appearance.

  • The S and Sport grades have a domesticated and tame appearance. (Sport variant pictured) The S and Sport grades have a domesticated and tame appearance. (Sport variant pictured)
  • The Stonic is less ‘wacky’ looking than its closely related Hyundai Kona cousin. (Sport variant pictured) The Stonic is less ‘wacky’ looking than its closely related Hyundai Kona cousin. (Sport variant pictured)
  • The GT-Line comes standard with an angry-looking body kit. (GT-Line variant pictured) The GT-Line comes standard with an angry-looking body kit. (GT-Line variant pictured)
  • The GT-Line is available in four two-tone colours. (GT-Line variant pictured) The GT-Line is available in four two-tone colours. (GT-Line variant pictured)

How big, or small is the Stonic? End to end the Stonic is 4140mm long, 1760mm wide and 1520mm tall with the roof racks. Those dimensions show the Stonic to be 230mm shorter in length than the Seltos, which sits above it in Kia’s SUV range.

The Stonic’s cabin is identical to that of the Rio’s. It’s a simple and stylish place and while, for the most part, materials feel refined there are some overly plain plastic elements used even on the GT-Line, such as on the door trims and dashboard.  

The Stonic’s cabin is identical to that of the Rio’s. (GT-Line variant pictured) The Stonic’s cabin is identical to that of the Rio’s. (GT-Line variant pictured)

There are seven colours on offer with Clear White as standard, and the premium hues being Silky Silver, Perennial Grey, Aurora Black, Signal Red, Mighty Yellow, Sporty Blue.

The GT-Line is available in four two-tone colours, but if you go for this you’ll have to go without the sunroof, too.

Compared to its rivals the Stonic is less ‘wacky’ looking than its closely related Hyundai Kona cousin or the Toyota C-HR, but a little less refined than the Mazda CX-3.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

As I write this now, I’ve been living with the Stonic GT-Line for the past four days and while this SUV is little it hasn’t seemed cramped for my wife, myself and our six-year-old boy.

Up front, the cabin is spacious with good elbow-, shoulder-, and headroom, while the seats are wide.

The Stonic's cabin is spacious. (GT-Line variant pictured) The Stonic's cabin is spacious. (GT-Line variant pictured)

Rear legroom is on the tight side for me at 191cm tall and I need to almost roll up my legs to sit behind my driving position. Those rear doors, however, open wide and offer plenty of space to enter and exit.

For people taller than 191cm, rear legroom is on the tight side. (GT-Line variant pictured) For people taller than 191cm, rear legroom is on the tight side. (GT-Line variant pictured)

Boot space is good with a cargo capacity of 352 litres, which is a lot larger than the Mazda CX-3’s 264 litres. 

We used all 352 of those litres stuffing it with birthday party things, beachy gear, shopping bags and scooters and found it to be just big enough.

  • Boot space is rated at 352 litres. (GT-Line variant pictured) Boot space is rated at 352 litres. (GT-Line variant pictured)
  • The rear seats can be folded flat to increase cargo capacity. (GT-Line variant pictured) The rear seats can be folded flat to increase cargo capacity. (GT-Line variant pictured)

Cabin storage is also good: the double-decker shelves in front of the shifter are where I’ve thrown my phone, wallet and keys every time I’ve got in, and there are big front door pockets and large bottle holders in the rear doors.

There aren’t directional air vents for the second row, but the climate control in the GT-Line is good enough to make my son in the back tell me he was cold when it was 37°C outside. 

Another win during these hot days has been the rear privacy glass. Parents will know how valuable this is for keeping the sun off their kids’ faces.

For USB ports, there’s one up front and another in the second row.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The S and Sport grades are powered exclusively by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, making 74kW and 133Nm. The GT-Line is the only grade to have the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol, producing 74kW and 172Nm.

  • The 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine produces 74kW/133Nm (Sport variant pictured) The 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine produces 74kW/133Nm (Sport variant pictured)
  • The 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder makes 74kW/172Nm. (GT-Line variant pictured) The 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder makes 74kW/172Nm. (GT-Line variant pictured)

The manual gearbox and automatic transmission mated to the 1.4-litre engine are both six-speeds, while the auto paired with the 1.0-litre is a seven-speed dual-clutch. 

All Stonic’s are front-wheel drive.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Do you know what a Pokeball is? It’s a magical ball used to catch critters in that Pokemon TV show. My son wanted a Pokeball birthday cake, and me, having never made a cake before thought it’d be easy to do. 

It wasn’t, and although this isn’t a cake test, getting it to the party at a park about five kilometres away, while balanced on a cake board in my wife’s lap, proved to be one of the most stressful and thorough road tests I’ve ever conducted.

The GT-Line has a firmer suspension set up than the grades below it. (GT-Line variant pictured) The GT-Line has a firmer suspension set up than the grades below it. (GT-Line variant pictured)

It was tough. I was up at 2am making the cake, then we were running late in the morning, and the road between our house and the park was an obstacle course of speed humps, hills and roundabouts, all seemingly designed to make that Pokeball cake roll off and into the footwell, scarring everybody’s lives forever.

Kia had lent me the GT-Line grade of the Stonic. This one only comes with the three-cylinder engine. 

The Stonic's steering is outstanding for the class. (Sport variant pictured) The Stonic's steering is outstanding for the class. (Sport variant pictured)

According to Kia the GT-Line has a firmer suspension set up than the grades below it for sportier handling, but the ride was still soft and composed. I could get really car nerdy here and talk about how I think the Continental Premium Contact 5 tyres gave the ride a hint of harsh texture, but still it’s one of the most comfortable and settled little SUVs I’ve ever driven.

Steering is outstanding for the class. It’s weighted well, accurate and has great feel to it and the three-cylinder engine has plenty of grunt.

The Stonic GT-Line was easy and enjoyable to drive. (GT-Line variant pictured) The Stonic GT-Line was easy and enjoyable to drive. (GT-Line variant pictured)

Brake and accelerator pedal feel were excellent, and the transmission shifted smoothly. Some three-cylinder cars with dual-clutch autos lurch noticeably as the transmission changes gears, but not the Stonic. 

The Stonic lifted us over bumps with out throwing us around, went around corners without leaning, braked, accelerated and changed gears smoothly. 

The visibility out of the Stonic is good. (Sport variant pictured) The visibility out of the Stonic is good. (Sport variant pictured)

And it got us there without the cake rolling off. The candles were blown out, the cake was cut, our boy was happy, and I was exhausted.

Over the following days I had the chance to drive the Stonic GT-Line on my own, without a cake as a passenger, and faster than 50km/h. Handling was great and the three-cylinder is responsive and playful. I set the drive mode to Sport, put the transmission into manual and when I kept the revs in the powerband this little SUV is so much fun. 

The three-cylinder engine has plenty of grunt. (GT-Line variant pictured) The three-cylinder engine has plenty of grunt. (GT-Line variant pictured)

Eco mode is the fuel-saving setting and this makes the transmission jump up super quickly to higher gears and every time you start the Stonic it defaults to that setting. Normal mode is better for responsiveness without the gear-holding nature of Sport mode. 

As a daily driver the Stonic GT-Line was easy and enjoyable to drive. The turning circle is small at 10.2m, the visibility is good, and controls are set out logically and within reach.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Kia says that after a combination of open and urban roads the 1.4-litre petrol engine should use 6.7L/100km, while the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol betters that at 5.4L/100km.

I tested the GT-Line which comes exclusively with the three-cylinder. I started with a full tank and drove 218.6km over the course of my week living with it normally, then I filled it back up again. The pump told me 18.67 litres had gone in (or been used) which comes to 8.5L/100km. The trip computer was saying 7.7L/100km. I should also point out that when I started driving the car there were only 589km on the clock and often cars which are this new have a higher fuel consumption until they’ve been ‘worn in’ a bit. 

Both the 1.4-litre and the 1.0-litre need 91 RON – that’s the most affordable petrol.

Kia says there is not a hybrid or EV version of the Stonic currently planned for Australia. This is disappointing and one of the reasons why the Stonic’s score for fuel consumption is lower here. Kia says the Stonic is designed for the urban dweller and, if this is the case, then there should be an EV variant of some sort. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

Kia says the S and Sport grades of the Stonic will adopt the Rio’s five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2017, while the GT-Line is still being assessed. 

Why no five-star ANCAP 2021 result? Well, the car has been out in Europe for a few years and Kia Australia would have to crash test the Stonic again for themselves now to see if it meets current five-star standards. Kia says that’s an extremely expensive undertaking. We know, however, without a centre airbag the Stonic can’t score a five-star rating by today’s criteria. 

That said, the Stonic comes standard with a host of advanced safety technology such as AEB which is active for cars at speeds from 5-180km/h, and for pedestrians and cyclists from 5-85km/h. Lane keeping assist and lane follow assist are also standard from the entry grade up to the GT-Line.

For child seats there are three top tether mounts and two ISOFIX points. I found installing my son’s top tether seat to be easy and he had good visibility out of his window.

Along with six airbags that extend to cover the entire rear row, there’s ABS and traction control.

A space saver spare in under the boot floor.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

The Kia Stonic is covered a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months/15,000km and the pricing is capped.

Verdict

The Stonic is practical for the class, good value for the price, but also easy and enjoyable to drive. It served my little family as our SUV superbly, but I’d like to see more advanced safety tech, such as rear cross traffic alert, and a hybrid variant would make this an ideal urban car.  

As I mentioned in this review the Sport is the sweet spot in the range – sure, it doesn't have the 1.0-litre engine or styling of the GT-Line, but it has the built-in sat nav, proximity key and push-button start.

Pricing guides

$27,240
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$24,490
Highest Price
$29,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT Line 1.0L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $29,990 2021 Kia Stonic 2021 GT Line Pricing and Specs
GT Line (two-Tone) 1.0L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $29,990 2021 Kia Stonic 2021 GT Line (two-Tone) Pricing and Specs
Sport 1.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $25,990 2021 Kia Stonic 2021 Sport Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Driving8
Fuel consumption7
Safety7
Ownership9
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$29,990

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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