KIA has made its first entry into the burgeoning baby ‘sports utility vehicle’ market, spurred on by predictions that sales in the segment will double across Europe in the next two years.

While the Stonic’s name might not be immediately appealing, its sharp and characterful appearance certainly is.

It’s a handsome and capable car, nicely made inside and out, and should allow the South Korean manufacturer to gain a foothold in this important marketplace.

Sales in the B-SUV segment are expected to hit 2.2 million a year in Europe by 2020, with Kia hoping to shift 10,000 to 15,000 Stonics in the UK in the car’s first full year.

The Stonic is based on the platform of the latest Rio supermini and is powered by efficient, downsized petrol and diesel engines previously used on the company’s Rio and cee’d models.

The 1.0-litre petrol engine, tested here, is zippy for a small unit. Described by Kia as its ‘little jewel’, this turbocharged direct injection engine feels sprightly when pushed hard, developing 118bhp.

Importantly, the power seems to be available from low down the rev range, with an impressive 171Nm of torque kicking in at just 1,500rpm.

That allows the engine to show great agility on the twistier roads, meanign the driver is not constantly changing gear to maintain progress.

The Stonic’s spirited performance is aided by a slick six-speed manual gearbox, with the sprint to 60mph achieved in less than 10 seconds and feeling a good deal quicker in real world driving conditions.

It does let out a noticeable growl when pulling away, although that soon settles down into a more refined hum once up to speed.

In downsizing engines, Kia is aiming to reduce fuel consumption and emissions without damaging performance.

While official figures suggested this version of the Stonic was capable of up to 56.5mpg, the reality on my uphill-down-dale commute into Bradford was fuel consumption of around 38mpg.

The car’s European-tuned steering and suspension are designed to offer the kind of driver engagement buyers have come to expect from the latest small SUVs.

Meanwhile, a carefully calibrated power steering system provides decent feel when cornering.

In terms of looks, the car isn’t lacking personality, with its striking shape incorporating several of the brand’s key recognisable signature design elements, such as the “tiger-nose” grille.

Styled in Europe, in collaboration with Kia’s Korean design studio, the body nicely blends sharp horizontal feature lines with softer sculpted surfaces.

In a segment where individuality is important to customers, the Stonic’s “Targa”-style roof enables buyers to choose a two-tone paint finish. Rugged-looking black plastic cladding runs in a ring around the bottom edge of the car and around the wheel arches, plus there are brushed metal skidplates front and rear.

Once inside, the Stonic is a pleasant place to be. The layout of the dashboard, mixture of materials and its colour monitor combine with functional design to produce an interior that’s more than acceptable.

Space up front is decent although, unlike larger SUVs, the Stonic does not have a raised driving position.

That said, visibility is excellent and there don’t seem to be any blind spots when driving or reversing. Stonic buyers can also look forward to features such as part-leather heated seats, a heated steering wheel, climate control, reversing camera, satellite navigation, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights.

With its striking looks, pleasant interior and engaging driving dynamics, it’s a car that’s well worth consideration for anyone looking to buy in this increasingly-competitive segment.

Kia Stonic 2 1.0 T-GDI

PRICE: £17,345.

TOP SPEED: 115mph

ACCELERATION: 0-60 9.9seconds

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive


EMISSIONS: 56.5g/km