Test Drives

Kia Stonic 2019 Review: Superstonic travel



The Kia Stonic exemplifies how cheap cars (by Singapore standards) don’t have to be nasty

SINGAPORE — Small but punchy turbo engine, twin-clutch auto, lots of equipment for the money… looking at the Stonic makes you wonder if Kia is becoming the new Volkswagen.

Actually, as a brand Kia seems happy to do its own thing, which is to put smart-looking cars in the showroom and fill them with features, and keep the price low.

So while you might find it hard to get excited about a Kia Stonic (or any small crossover, for that matter), it’s easy to get hot under the collar about its price. It was launched here for S$69,999 after a dip in prices for Certificates Of Entitlement, but even now you can get one for S$72,999.

The question is, should you? Read on…

It’s cheap by Singapore standards, so it must be nasty?
Not at all. The Stonic doesn’t feel like something Kia threw together in haste. It’s sharp-looking with neat details, like the faux skidplates under each bumper.

It’s less wildly styled than the Hyundai Kona, with slim lamps and a fetching shape for the grille, and it’s good looking enough to be a sort of poor man’s Audi Q2.

But there’s worthwhile stuff under the skin too, such as generous use of high-strength steel (which is worthwhile in terms of strength-to-weight ratio), and even things like heavy use of glue to bolster the body’s rigidity. Does that sound like something a nasty car would have?

Surely the cheapness shows through somewhere?
Well, the cost has been kept down, of course, and it does show in places. The cabin plastics look okay but they’re hard to the touch, and there’s a no-frills feel to the interior in general. The glovebox flops open limply, for instance.

Conversely, though, the Stonic comes loaded with kit. Even the standard EX model has a seven-inch touchscreen that’s Apple CarPlay compatible (dictate Whatsapp texts, raid your music collection, and let Google Maps tell you where to go to your heart’s content), and there’s other worthwhile stuff like keyless operation, auto headlights, steering wheel controls and a reverse camera.

You even get six airbags and electronic stability control, which is the absolute minimum in safety kit a sensible person ought to have.

What does the extra five grand buy you in the SX variant?
That bit of extravagance gets you a single-zone auto air-con system, auto wipers, cruise control, satiny roof rails, and cosmetic upgrades such as LED tail lamps and 17-inch wheels (compared to 15 on the EX).

Whether you want the SX extras is pretty much up to you, but it’s worth considering the price difference in terms of monthly loan repayments — for a seven-year loan the EX costs S$710 a month and the SX, S$758 a month.

Given how the EX is so well-equipped to begin with, you should choose the SX only if you want to treat yourself. If you’re as cheap as the average motoring writer, it’s just as easy to think, “For S$48 a month I can turn the wipers on myself.”

Hmmm, ok, but is the basic car any good?
If you’re starting out in life (or, conversely, you’re in your twilight years and are no longer a family chauffeur) there’s more than enough car here. Even you still drive people around the back seats aren’t cramped.

That said, the boot isn’t big, at 352 litres. Good thing you can fold the seats down to bump that up to 1,155 litres. The upshot of that is the Stonic is for ferrying people around, or a gear-heavy lifestyle, but not both.

How are things for the driver?
Quite nice, actually, and almost entirely due to the little engine. For something so small it pulls like a champ, and though you’ll never be frightened by a Stonic’s acceleration, it picks up speed so eagerly that sometimes you just want to cheer.

The twin-clutch gearbox helps it along nicely, too, so the Stonic seldom feels out of breath or sleepy. From standstill you can sometimes feel the clutch bite a bit abruptly, but the gearchanges themselves are otherwise smooth, and when you rev the engine there’s an appealing three-cylinder burble to listen out for. The drivetrain is just a delight.

But what happens when you get to, you know, a corner?
That’s where there’s less to cheer about. The steering’s light and visibility out of the car is good, but the Stonic does feel like something on stilts. It’s not hard to make the tyres squeal, and it doesn’t make attacking a bend feel particularly engaging.

Instead, it’s built to pounce at gaps in city traffic, and if you ask us the zippy acceleration and quick steering response make it perfect for town.

On the 17-inch wheels, however, the Stonic does have a busy, almost bouncy small-car ride at times. Perhaps the intended audience is a youthful one.

How so?
Apart from having supple spines, young people ought to adore the broad colour palette that’s available with the Stonic, as well as the mix-and-match possibilities that come with having five roof colour options — apparently you can choose from 29 combos in total.

Two-tone paintwork will cost you an extra S$1,000, but if you option it on an SX, it means giving up the glass sunroof.

On top of that, the are three cabin trim and upholstery options to choose from. Suffice it to say, if you run into someone driving a Kia Stonic that looks the same as yours, you should probably check that he didn’t steal it from you.

Surely Stonics aren’t going to proliferate to that extent?
Actually, they just might. The crossover market is hot, and the pricing really works — look around and see if you can get a similar car with as much equipment, a five-year warranty (10 for the engine) and such a lovely turbo/twin-clutch setup.

More to the point, the Stonic doesn’t just feel cheap-and-cheerful, but manages to avoid the nasty, tinny quality of some cars at this price point (Mitsubishi, we’re looking at you). If this is what happens when Kia does its thing, you should be quite happy to let it keep going.


Kia Stonic SX 1.0T (Sunroof)

Engine 998cc, in-line 3, turbocharged
Power 120hp at 6000rpm
Torque 171Nm at 1500-4000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
0-100km/h 185km/h
Top Speed 10.6 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 5.4L/100km
VES Band / CO2 A2 / 124g/km
Agent Cycle & Carriage Kia
Price S$77,999 with COE
Available Now

 

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.