Stonic style and features a big hit for Filipinos

Kia Stonic 1.4 EX AT

Out of all vehicles in their lineup, the Stonic is one of only three units that the Kia PH is really keeping their eye on (the other two being the Soluto and the K2500 truck) because its premium features and price point make a very good proposition for buyers looking for a subcompact crossover.

That’s a lot to put on the A, B, and C pillars of such a young model, so I take a look-see to find out what the range-topping EX brings to the market for its very affordable P925,000 price tag.

It’s actually more compact than in the photos. Small dimensions, low height, short overhangs, all come together to give it just the right amount of cuteness and functionality the hip market looks for in today’s horde of crossovers.

The rendition of the 13-year old Tiger Nose grille looks fresh with its black panel bordered by silver trims, which somehow takes the attention away from the plain projection-type halogen headlamps. At least it comes with daytime running lamps.

Upping the sportiness factor is the dual-tone body (only available in the EX variant), roof rails, the shapely fenders, the black cladding, and the underbody garnish that helps lay a thick impression that it has SUV-level capability. But with 16-inch alloy wheels and a ground clearance of only 185 mm, you’d best stick to city roads in this.

That being said, the whole vehicle is very attractive and could claim the crown in a segment-only beauty contest that’s for sure. It’s no surprise then that it’s currently Kia PH’s best-selling crossover.

Because of the low ceiling, it’s a bit of a squat getting in the driver’s seat and inside is where I felt the tight confines of the cabin. There was very little seat adjustment needed because the short wheelbase puts the driver in the right position immediately and the lack of width puts all controls within less than arm’s length away. All in all, the compact interior is actually a positive from the driver’s perspective. It should be noted though that three adults in the second row will be a very snug fit.

The millennial market wants a smart-entry system and a push-to-start button and that’s what they get from the EX. It’s also a huge plus that there’s Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto installed in the eight-inch touchscreen system.

There’s nothing fancy about the cockpit layout. It’s simple and straightforward. The only accents come from the slim glossy trim separating the upper and lower dashboard, and the silver border of the infotainment system.

Only the EX offers automatic air-conditioning but standard across all variants are six speakers, a multi-function steering wheel, a 3.5-inch LCD multi-information display (in the instrument panel), and 60:40 split-folding rear seats.

At this price point, it’s a given there won’t be any leather in the cabin and if given a choice, I’m sure buyers at this level would still opt for tech amenities over luxury upgrades. It’s really just a bit compact for me but I’m sure not for its target market — first-time crossover users, young professionals, and small families.

The 1.4L four-cylinder has no problem doing quick bursts in city-type conditions but it struggled to overtake at highway speeds. There’s a lot of pull on low gears but the response takes longer the higher it goes on the six-speed automatic transmission. I needed considerable throttle pressure to get the response necessary to easily pass traffic. It can maintain 100 km/h but at the expense of fuel consumption as revs are held at 2,300 RPM. It returned 9.1 km/l in both city and highway driving.

Comfort is good as it bounces off humps gracefully but noise, vibration, and harshness levels must get better as plenty creep into the cabin especially when it hits a bad asphalt patch. The 16-inch wheels may be partly to blame.

Handling is light and easy on the arms even if it weighs close to 1.2 tons and since ceiling is low, it has good rollover resistance around corners and turns. I can imagine this being a superb drive if given a bit more torque and a few more horses perhaps.

It’s not the best version of itself right now but it has a pretty good overall foundation for just P925,000. Filipinos like it now because of the design and creature comforts but it could really dominate if the next-gen or the facelift gets an upgraded engine, better insulation, and superior suspension parts.