The Kia Stonic Sport ought to be popular.
The relative newcomer to the compact crossover set, launched in early 2021 as a three-variant range, slots itself into an enticing price band against the likes of Mazda CX-3 and the related Hyundai Venue.
It was effectively facelifted on arrival, a fresher take on the version first launched overseas in 2017, bringing somewhat appealingly mature styling to a segment than can, in some rival, be a little too funky for its own benefit.
There’s more. The Stonic Sport brings a smattering of quite nice features, yet its mid-spec status means that, on paper at least, it represents the most compelling value pitch in range.
It’s been localised, in that its suspension has been tailored for local consumption. And, of course, with that Kia badge comes seven long years of warranty, which surely becomes a large dangling carrot at the more affordable end of motoring.
However, where the newcomer competes is increasingly hot territory and one that’s quite sensitive to real-world pricing and running costs – and it’s not quite the wallet-buster it was just 12 months ago (more below).
While we’ve shaken out its fortunes against its cousin, the Hyundai Venue Active, it’s perhaps worth a deep dive on the latest MY22 version on singular merit to see how it now fares now that the Stonic line-up and its Sport mid-ranger have all comfortably settled into the Aussie landscape.
The middleweight Sport automatic version of the Stonic launched, in early 2021, at $25,990 drive-away. A manual version could be had for $1000 cheaper for those who prefer three pedals.
A few months later, around the time of our twin test, pricing had crept up slightly, to $26,490, on a national drive-away offer. Come a year on from launch, the Sport auto now commands $28,190 drive-away on offer, based off a current list price of $26,490 before on-roads.
Needless to say, a $2200 hike in just one year is not inconsiderable. However, the mid-grade Sport’s drive-away is hardly excessive given its competitive set.
Logical rivals include Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport FWD auto ($30,904 D/A), Hyundai Venue Active auto ($28,620 D/A), Nissan Juke ST ($31,229 D/A), Renault Captur Life ($31,812 D/A) and Toyota Yaris Cross GX ($30,565 D/A).
All prices are private drive-away via official online configurators using a Sydney postcode.
The choice of six colours outside of Clear White, meanwhile, adds a further $520.
Stonic Sport highlights:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Power-folding heated mirrors
- Dusk-sensing halogen headlights
- 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto (wired)
- Satellite navigation
- DAB+ radio
- Six-speaker audio
- Proximity key with keyless start
- Premium wheel and shift knob trim
- Reversing camera with dynamic guidelines
- Rear parking sensors
- Cruise control
- Manual air-conditioning
- Dual USB-A ports
- Roof rails
- Space-saver spare wheel
The Stonic wears a five-star ANCAP rating, based on testing conducted on the related Rio hatch in 2017.
This was based on 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. The caveat here is that this older 2017 assessment is less intensive than the current regime.
All Stonic variants get:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Forward collision warning
- Lane-keep assist
- Lane Following Assist
- Driver attention warning
- Lead vehicle departure alert
- Six airbags
Absent from the local line-up if offered overseas (in Rio) include blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert, as well as adaptive cruise control.
The cabin design doesn’t depart much from Kia convention and, for the most part, that no bad thing.
There’s a maturity to its vibe with nothing too funky or polarising. It bears a familiar look to other Kia models, as well in colour scheme – well, mostly dark greys and black – and details. Like the Rio, it’s also nice and airy, with a genuine sense of natural roominess up front.
Appointments fit the Sport’s mid-grade positioning reasonably effectively, with the high-spec leather wheel/shifter combination and full-featured infotainment bringing a conspicuous sense of occasion to a fit-out otherwise indistinguishable from the base S variant.
The multifunction steering wheel, with ample reach and height adjustment, as well as height-adjustable seating means it’s easy to dial in comfort quickly. As is always a Kia strong suit, the displays are clear, there’s a nice, large digital speedo readout and the controls are intuitively laid out for welcoming, fuss-free operation.
It is quite plasticky and a lot of it is hard shiny stuff, if mostly out of direct line of view. The cabin is undeniably built to a price, even if it goes some way to mask it.
The Sport’s recent pricing creep means it teeters on feeling a little low-rent in places, particularly the manual air-con and lack of rear ventilation in a prospect nudging $30k. That said, the Sport isn’t particularly economical on spec against some of its competitors.
Case in point is infotainment. The 8.0-inch system here might lack the wireless smartphone mirroring of the base S – a design proven somewhat glitchy anyway – though proprietary sat-nav and DAB+ are nice inclusions. And, while dual USB-A ports is hardly generous, it’s handy that the Sport offers device power for both rows of occupancy. Storage is decent if unremarkable, save for the nifty dual-layer glovebox.
Rear room is decent if unremarkable, and taller adults will only find genuine comfort for brief trips. Otherwise, head and knee room are fine enough and it’s fair to say that if you’re shopping for a device to haul around four or five adults, you really need to be looking in larger segments – or at machinery with more oomph than the Sport offers under the bonnet…
At 352 litres, the boot is reasonably sized, offering 60:40-split-fold rear seating for convenient load-through when needed. The floor is quite deep, too, helped by the fitment of a space saver spare under the carpet.
Of the two engines offered, the Stonic Sport shares its naturally-aspirated 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with the entry-level S, outputting 74kW at 6000rpm and a humble 133Nm well up in the rev-range at 4000rpm. It runs on regular 91 RON fuel in its 45-litre tank.
It’s paired with either a six-speed torque-converter automatic, as tested here, or a six-speed conventional manual gearbox. All versions of the Stonic drive the front wheels.
Advertised combined consumption does vary quite a bit depending on transmission, with the auto’s quite decent 6.7L/100km quite a bit thirstier than the manual’s 6.0L/100km claim. On test, we managed figures around the eight-litre mark across a variety of driving, from highway to stop-start traffic.
Stump up for the flagship GT-Line graduates to a more efficient 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder producing an identical 74kW if with a lustier 172Nm, plied through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic as standard. This version’s combined consumption is claimed at 6.7L/100kms.
Lead-footed? Impatient? Best look elsewhere. That’s because getting anywhere in a hurry is not a Stonic Sport strong suit.
As a handy barometer – as we pointed out in our comparison last year – rival and relative Hyundai Venue is two seconds quicker to triple figures, and with its larger 1.6-litre engine the Venue is hardly swift by any realistic measure.
The Stonic doesn’t necessarily feel slow, at least one-up without being encumbered with added weight. In fact, response from the little 1.4 is quite crisp. It’s just that any suggestion of getting a move on is met with a helluva lot of sonic protest and not a lot of enthusiasm.
That said, outright pace at a moderate clip is actually fine for urban commuting and generally staying out of harm’s way.
More of a shame is the transmission, not for a lack of intuition when shifting, but just for its granular and nibbling behaviour – it ought to be smoother. In fact, paired with a manual to more effectively pluck its high torque peak, the naturally-aspirated Stonic could (maybe) be a bit of fun, though the jury is currently out on that configuration…
The flipside of its modest nature is fuel economy. The little Kia is, one-up and without stress of excess haulage, fairly faithful to its sub-seven-litre combined consumption claim, again driven in sympathy and without temptation to constantly throttle the engine’s neck.
However, it’s no chore to drive, if mostly because the tuned-for-Oz chassis is, well, mostly quite good.
There’s decent fundamental compliance to the ride, and the suspension musters up enough body control to make for a fun punt, matched with nice direct steering and enough grip for the sort of pace the Stonic can muster. That said, the hardware itself can get a little noisy and the damping does get caught out occasionally on square-edged speed humps and potholes, if to no major fault.
The cost consciousness extends to the sound deadening, or lack thereof. The Stonic is a little tinny and the tyres do drum up noticeable rumble across anything bar billiard-smooth surfaces. But it’s stable, planted, offers strong stopping power and underpins a fair amount of confidence in its manner.
In short, it’s a decent drive in need of the sort of torque and shove you get, well, from the turbocharged flagship GT-Line.
Kia’s seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty has been around for a while now and still remains one of the big feathers in the Stonic’s cap.
Servicing is every 12 months or 15,000kms. Interval costs are $269, $455, $323, $608, $303, $586 and $322 through seven years and 105,000km.
Those prices have come down a bit in the past 12 months, though the Stonic isn’t the cheapest compact crossover out there to service.
The mid-spec Stonic is a mixed proposition.
In its favour is its appeal in maturity, some pleasing features, a willing chassis and that long seven-year ownership surety. Working against it is its unwilling engine, some cost-conscious manner and that its ballooning price – while not excessive against the competition – does tarnish its value pitch.
Powertrain aside, there’s no a lot about the Stonic Sport to dislike though, for a relative newcomer to the segment – at least locally – it doesn’t really bring much new or different, other than one-upping some rivals in one or two niceties.
In that sense, it certainly deserves its place in consideration if you’re tyre-kicking light SUVs. But, it’s equally worth checking out the variants sat above and below it in range if you’re after either a more compelling drive or a package more seductive in affordability.
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MORE: Everything Kia Stonic