The compact and subcompact crossover segments have become increasingly popular in recent years, as people search for something that drives more like a car but adds the ride height or all-wheel capabilities of an SUV without taking up too much space on the road. Take the Nissan Qashqai, which isn’t terribly pleasing on the eye but which has a presence on virtually every road in Ireland these days.
Given that around 1.1 million of new European car sales are in the subcompact segment (think Dacia Duster or Renault Captur), Kia has decided that now is the time to jump into this lucrative market with its all-new Stonic.
Though it’s based on the Kia Rio hatchback the Stonic looks like it has taken some inspiration from Peugeot and Citroen. Launched as a direct competitor to the Nissan Juke and due on sale in the autumn, consumers will have a choice from a range of lightweight and turbocharged diesel and petrol engines paired with a manual 2WD or 4WD transmission, beginning with the 1.0L T-GDI producing 118hp.
Based on what Kia is promising so far, the Stonic sounds like a tasty package. Alongside steering and suspension tuned to European standards, a lightweight platform and bodyshell, and smart use of interior space (including a 353L boot), buyers will be able to customise their new wheels to their liking, with the option of a two-tone paint finish offering a stamp of individuality. Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability Management will come as standard, while safety will be boosted by options such as autonomous braking with pedestrian recognition, forward collision alerts, blind spot detection and a driver attention warning system to name but a few – there’s really very little left for the driver to do.
The name comes from a dubious combination of ‘speedy’ and ‘tonic’, though customers are likely to be more attracted by Kia’s seven-year, 100,000 mile warranty. Slotting in beneath the Sportage in Kia’s line-up, it’s nice to have some options in the market, but there’s almost too much choice these days, not to mention confusion over the increasing amount of labels. Gone are the days when you had a choice between a car, jeep or a van – you need your dictionary, or perhaps a thesaurus, when you visit a dealership today.
However, Kia is quite hopeful about the Stonic’s prospects, to the point they think this particular branch could overtake larger competitors like the Qashqai or even the Sportage in the years ahead.
Your move, Nissan.