2021 Kia Stonic review

The funky Kia Stonic crossover promises enhanced capability over the Rio hatch it's based on. Does it deliver?

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Courtney Lorking
Courtney Lorking
Contributor
PROS
  • High-resolution infotainment
  • Fuel efficient
  • Good boot space
CONS
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay bugs
  • No centre console or armrest
  • Lack of refinement at high speeds

The 2021 Kia Stonic looks familiar, given it’s based on the Kia Rio.

It has some added ride height and extra junk in the trunk, but don’t get too excited; this city-sized SUV isn’t packing acres of space.

The Stonic is labelled as the baby SUV in the Korean brand’s range which, besides being cute and totally on-trend with attracting a younger demographic, the word we should be focusing on is ‘baby’.

The Kia Stonic isn’t the only small SUV that shares its bones with a city car, but unlike some of its rivals it has a hard time hiding it at times.

How much does the Kia Stonic S cost?

There are three models in the Kia Stonic range. We tested the base Stonic S, which starts at $23,490 drive-away for the six-speed manual (on sale soon) or $24,490 drive-away for the six-speed auto seen here.

Further up the range are the mid-spec Sport ($25,490 drive-away for the manual, $26,490 for the auto) and the flagship GT-Line at $30,490 drive-away.

The main competitors for the Stonic include the Toyota Yaris Cross GX (from $26,990), Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport (from $24,890), and the related Hyundai Venue Active ($24,890).

MORE: 2021 Kia Stonic price and specs

What do you get?

The Stonic S comes with the following standard equipment:

  • 15-inch steel wheels
  • Auto headlights
  • 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Heated side mirrors
  • Reversing camera with dynamic guidelines
  • Rear parking sensors
  • AEB (Car/Pedestrian/Cyclist) with forward collision warning
  • Cruise control
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Lane Follow Assist (lane centring)
  • Driver attention alert with Lead Vehicle Departure Alert

Features found further up the range include:

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Power-folding mirrors
  • Premium shift knob and steering wheel
  • Satellite navigation
  • Single-zone climate control (GT-Line)
  • LED daytime running lights and front fog lights (GT-Line)
  • GT-Line exterior package with body kit, rear diffuser (GT-Line)
  • Two-tone roof or sunroof (GT-Line)
  • Alloy sports pedals (GT-Line)
  • Flat-bottomed sports steering wheel (GT-Line)
  • Rain-sensing wipers (GT-Line)
  • Auto-dimming interior mirror (GT-Line)

Is the Kia Stonic S safe?

The Kia Stonic wears a five-star safety rating based off tests conducted on the related Rio hatchback in 2017 under old criteria.

Category scores for the Rio included a frontal offset crash rating of 14.52 out of 16 and a side impact score of 16 out of 16, while whiplash and pedestrian protection were rated Good and Acceptable, respectively.

All 2021 Kia Stonic models come standard with front, front side, and curtain airbags, along with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping assist, lane centring, and driver attention monitoring.

Features such as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert can be had in other markets, but aren’t available here.

All these safety features are great inclusions in an affordable car, but we found AEB can be a little sensitive.

For example, it was triggered by a pedestrian standing offset from the road on a traffic island with no intentions of crossing in front of us. The vehicle also hit the brakes when it detected a car parked on the side of a curved road.

This behaviour isn’t unique to the Stonic, it’s relatively common across the industry.

On a positive note, the lane assist functions aren’t as aggressive as some competitors, slowly guiding you into the middle of the lane instead of a sudden jerky motion.

What is the Kia Stonic S like on the inside?

On first impression we were a bit disappointed, as Kia has hit a higher standard in some of its other models. The first thing we noticed is the lack of central armrest up front.

There’s a storage space and armrest in the Sport and GT-Line, and it’s missed in the base. 

The Stonic has everything you need and serves its purpose, but it’s pretty dated and doesn’t step up to the new look Kia is showcasing across the range.

There are scratchy, hard plastics throughout most of the car, and the doors don’t shut with the sort of thunk we’d like. That isn’t uncommon at this end of the market, but some of Kia’s latest cars had us wanting more.

Some of the positives of the interior are the storage (ignoring the fact the base model doesn’t come with a centre console). There are big door pockets with room for a bottle, two cup holders in the centre, a section for wallets, and a shelf for phones under the multimedia screen.

The Stonic is fitted with an 8.0-inch LCD touchscreen which is high resolution, easy to navigate, and quick to respond. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless in the base model, and wired in the two higher grades with in-built satellite navigation.

Our only complaint (granted, it’s a big one) with the screen is it occasionally was completely inoperative with the CarPlay active, and proceeded to stop the screen working all together.

Hyundai and Kia are aware of the bugs of its wireless smartphone mirroring systems and are currently working on a fix.

The Stonic has a customisable 4.2-inch trip computer, with a digital speedo, driver assistance, and fuel economy readouts.

Overall space is on the tighter side, with 332L in the boot expanding to 1135L with the rear seats down. We had enough space to get a pram in but having a generous boot for a small car does impact the cabin space.

A front-facing child capsule worked well, leaving enough space for a front passenger, but a rear-facing seat would be much tighter.

Having the driver’s seat set to my driving position at 169cm, there’s enough space behind the driver for someone of average height with acceptable headroom, but taller passengers wouldn’t be as comfortable.

The rear seats have clips in the side panels where the seat belt buckle can slide in, which will prevent the metal getting too hot and is a great feature to prevent branding your children, especially in the Australian heat.

It also keeps them out of the way when the rear bench is folded flat.

What’s under the bonnet?

The Stonic S and Sport feature a 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine making 74kW of power (6000rpm) and 133Nm of torque (4000rpm).

Drive is sent to the front wheels through a standard six-speed manual or the optional six-speed auto as tested here.

Moving into the sportier GT-Line gets a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol with the same 74kW of power (6000rpm), but a meatier 172Nm of torque (1500-4000rpm) which comes on tap earlier and gets you off the mark stronger.

The GT-Line also comes paired with a seven-speed dual clutch auto, and also scores fuel-saving idle stop/start technology.

How does the Kia Stonic S drive?

The Stonic drives well at city speeds. It’s quite happy and comfortable just cruising around.

Steering is responsive, and suspension is comfortable. It’s a little on the stiffer side which gives more of a sporty feeling, but it’s still generally comfortable. With that said, we definitely felt speed bumps and potholes through the cabin.

As for the engine? At low speed we were waiting for the car to pick up speed – the accelerator doesn’t feel like it does much when you kick it in the guts – but once it does get up to speed it’s good.

On the other end of the spectrum, high speeds brought some issues as well. The Stonic would hold high revs (around 4000rpm) at freeway speeds and really didn’t want to shift up when we were around 90-110km/h.

There’s plenty of noise and vibration through the steering wheel, which really undermines the refinement.

The Stonic won’t be winning any traffic light drags, let’s leave it at that. It’s fine for pottering around the city, but doesn’t have enough punch to feel truly at home on the highway.

Kia also hasn’t been able to isolate the cabin from noise and bumps, especially at high speed. It’s worth keeping in mind this is an entry-level, city-focused crossover – so open road refinement isn’t high on the priority list. Maybe look at a Seltos if you do more regular freeway driving.

The suspension makes for a smooth enough ride, but Kia hasn’t been able to isolate the cabin from some small creaks and shakes though the body over bumps, which reminds you of the Stonic’s budget-focused origins.

As well as wind noise, tyre noise and the thrashy sound of a struggling engine isn’t enjoyable.

How much does the Kia Stonic S cost to run?

All Kias come with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and capped-price servicing for the same period.

Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000kms for the Stonic S and Sport, whichever comes first, which is a similar setup to rival models.

For the first seven visits, servicing will cost $281, $467, $336, $702, $317, $600 and $336 – totalling $3039 over seven years or 105,000 kilometres.

The Stonic will run on regular 91RON unleaded, which will keep running costs down, and has a 45L fuel tank. Kia claims the Stonic uses 6.0L/100km in combined driving, but we averaged an indicated 7.0L/100km with a mix of urban and freeway driving.

CarExpert’s Take on the Kia Stonic S

The Stonic is affordable to buy and run, as well as easy to drive, and you probably won’t be getting any speeding tickets.

The technology on this base model is fitting for the younger generation and the target market, and for the price we can’t really fault the standard inclusions.

Just be aware that its SUV looks can’t completely cloak its origins as an entry-level hatchback.

Click on the images for the full gallery

MORE: Kia Stonic news, reviews comparisons and videos

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Courtney Lorking
Courtney Lorking
Courtney Lorking is a Contributor at CarExpert.
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Ratings
Overall7.4
Show Breakdown
Cost of Ownership 8
Ride Comfort 7
Safety 8
Fit for Purpose 8
Handling Dynamics 8
Interior Practicality and Space 6
Fuel Efficiency 7
Value for Money 8
Performance 7
Technology Infotainment 7
Top Line Specs
6.7L
74kW
155g
Not tested
View all specifications

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