Such a vehicle is the Kia Stonic, wading into a sea of smallish SUVs such as the Citroën C3 Aircross, Mitsubishi Eclipse and Seat Arona. Then there’s the tempting Kona, from its South Korean parent Hyundai. They are a similar concept, but are not the same. Kona is an all-new model.
The Stonic five-door body is built on the platform of the Kia Rio, a Fiesta-class contender. It was designed and built in South Korea with some input from Kia’s German R&D centre.
It is endowed with the brand’s 100,000-mile warranty (with a seven-year limit) which alone may be the clincher for the private buyer. There are stylised roof rails, scuff resistant cladding from nose to tail, and front and rear “skid” plates for those SUV moments. Ground clearance on 17-inch wheels is 7.2 inches – slightly more than Hyundai claims for the Kona.
The body has character, and some imposing bulges over the front wheels. Inside, there’s nothing alarming. It’s a sweet enough proposition, though lacking the young-at-heart body detailing of the C3 Aircross, which may be too shy-making for some.
Stonic prices start with the 98bhp 1.4 petrol engine at £16,295, but for an extra £700 you can have the cleaner, more economical and more powerful one-litre, three-cylinder direct injection turbo petrol engine giving 118bhp. The diesel offering is the 108bhp 1.6 from £17,795. Quoted economy, in order, is 51.4mpg, 56.5mpg and 67.3mpg. All have a six-speed manual gearbox. A seven-speed automatic gearbox is on the way. The core Grade 2 brings 17-inch alloys, air con, Bluetooth and so on.
My Grade 2 test car had the one-litre engine. This pulls well, without much roar. Acceleration is not too shabby, capable of the 0-60 dash inside 10 seconds. It has enough fizz for confident overtaking.
The ride is firm and it can be noisy. Unusually, minor vibration is felt through the steering wheel and seat. Handling is fine, with enough poise if you need to press on.
The poor fuel economy of this advanced petrol engine proved the appeal of diesel. My regular commuter run recorded 43mpg, as did motorway driving. Kia quotes 47.1mpg urban, 62.8mpg extra urban and 56.5mpg overall. The CO2 rating of 115g is well below what I was causing.