Designed for fun

Kia Stonic 1.4 EX AT

Written by Chris Van Hoven

The Kia Stonic deserves to be on everyone’s radar as a feature-packed offering below the P1-million mark. We learned why after a 200-km drive from Bonifacio Global City to Tagaytay.

The Stonic is Kia’s latest entry into the emergingly popular sub-compact crossover segment. Kia has gone through great lengths to market the Stonic’s exterior styling as “iconic.” Though we wouldn’t go that far, we can’t argue that it is a handsome design. With a design that practically yells “let’s go have some fun,” Kia has done well with the Stonic’s look. It adopts youthful colors to match details such as the “Tiger Nose” grille, floating roof, two-tone cladding, muscular wheel arches, futuristic foglamp housings, stylish 16-inch wheels, and front and rear skid plates. All the elements combine to form an attractive, yet semi-rugged package that doesn’t go overboard with its youthful undertones. The Stonic’s chassis has utilitarian functionality as well, with an adequate ground clearance of 185mm.

Inside, the Stonic delivers a surprising amount of interior room, especially when compared to the competition in the segment, thanks to a relatively long wheelbase. Up front, the driver and passenger enjoy excellent shoulder-to-shoulder room and headroom as well, and two large passengers can sit in comfort at the second row. Three adult-sized passengers can make do as well, but since the middle portion of the second row seats are slightly raised, the journey won’t be as enjoyable for the middle occupant.

You’ll find a lot of hard plastics used in the interior, but that’s something you can expect for the segment, especially at the P700-P900K mark. What you won’t normally expect is the inclusion of a responsive eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system connected to six speakers and a rearview camera with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity across the range – something Kia has intentionally added to their lineup, and something other manufacturers should be adopting as well.

The rest of the interior is intelligently designed and cohesive. The steering wheel feels great, with easy audio controls, as does the shifter, while the instrument cluster is simple and highly legible. The cabin speaks highly of Kia’s quality control as well, as each button, knob, or switch feels great to the touch, without excessive wobbling that would indicate some cost cutting.

We got to enjoy the Stonic on the long straight roads of CAVITEX and CALAX, and the twisty, mountainous passes of Nasugbu. Kia organized strict procedures on proper health protocols even before the event proper. Each participant underwent swab testing, and social distancing measures were implemented throughout the actual event to ensure everyone’s safety. While seemingly “SOP” in this day and age, it certainly offered some insight as to how Kia Philippines pays attention to detail, which is reflected in the way they choose the equipment included with each model they decide to bring in.

The Kia Stonic performed impressively well on the almost 200-km drive to Tagaytay and back. Comfort was never an issue. Despite using a subcompact platform, the Stonic’s suspension system worked well enough to absorb pretty much any road imperfection, with just the right damping to maintain a great balance of comfort and handling. The way the Stonic handles is one of its finest attributes. Carving up curves on the Ternate highway was an absolute joy to do, and the Stonic felt stable, compliant, and predictable through corners.

While the Stonic handled exceptionally well, getting up to speed was sometimes difficult. Equipped with a 1.4-liter engine producing 100hp and 132Nm of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, overtaking at speed left the impression that the Stonic may be a bit underpowered. Manually shifting with the plus and minus controls on the shifter sometimes alleviated the transmission’s hesitance to shift down when overtaking power was needed. Of course, we were in a high-speed convoy where one of the main goals was to try to stick together as much as possible.

Drive leisurely and at your own pace, however, and you’ll find that the powertrain rewards you with a smooth, relaxed drive. It’s clear that the Stonic was made more for chill rather than thrill. Stopping power was always excellent, with disc brakes on all four wheels.

At P925,000 for the top-of-the-line 1.4 EX variant, the Kia Stonic absolutely delivers value for money in all the right places. It’s got exactly the right kind of features it needs to stay relevant, delivers a fun driving experience, and does it in style. Throw in Kia’s five-year warranty and 24/7 roadside assistance service, and you’ve got a real winner.