AS SUV-fever continues to strengthen its grip on the UK motoring scene Kia has just launched another cracker into the mix.
It's called the Stonic and it is available in two trim levels called ‘2' and ‘First Edition' with a choice of three powertrains.
The five-door hatchback, which is front-wheel-drive only and priced from £16,295, is built on the same platform as the all-new Kia Rio, but offers extra space and practicality.
With so many compact SUVs on our roads today, it's nice to be able to stand out from the crowd and the Stonic does just that with higher grade cars modelling snazzy two-tone colour schemes.
The First Edition cars have the roof, mirror casings and rear spoiler in either orange, red or lime green depending on the main bodywork colour, and that bright and cheerful styling is carried through to the interior with flashes of colour on the seats, steering wheel, across the dashboard and around the centre console.
All models sit on 17-inch wheels which is a relief. Some car manufactures insist on fitting over-sized wheels to demo cars and despite looking the business, it really has a detrimental effect on both the economy and performance.
The Stonic looks fabulous from any angle thanks to a sporty, muscular design with sharp lines to exaggerate the car's width.
There are short front and rear overhangs, a sporty lower intake grille, the signature ‘tiger nose' front grille, roof rails, LED daytime running lights and lots more besides to draw attention from onlookers.
Move inside and the cabin is beautifully styled with a clutter-free but feature-rich layout.
All the controls, dials and read-outs are perfectly positioned and easy to use.
For example, controlling the temperature means turning a dial, adjusting the air flow is also accomplished by turning a dial and altering the direction of the air con is achieved at the press of a button.
This may sound like common sense, but too many vehicles have been over-complicated and a simple operation like cooling the car means accessing a touchscreen menu, scrolling down, then trying to steady your finger as the car bounces over the bumpy road surface - all of which is a distraction from looking at the road.
All Kia Stonic models are well equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard across the range.
The grade ‘2' models have a seven-inch touchscreen, a six-speaker sound system, DAB radio, MP3 compatibility, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, all-round electric windows, Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming, automatic headlights, remote locking and electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors.
Step up to First Edition and you will see the likes of a touchscreen navigation and infotainment system, black cloth and grey faux leather upholstery with colour accents, heated front seats, a D-shaped steering wheel, LED rear lights, privacy glass, smart key entry system and engine start/stop button, stainless steel pedals, automatic air conditioning, additional chrome window trim and a dual-height luggage floor.
There's a choice of three powertrains that each have their own appeal.
The line up starts with a 1.4-litre 98bhp petrol engine which is the cheapest model, a 1.0-litre 118bhp three-cylinder petrol engine or a 1.6-litre 108bhp diesel option - the latter of which can deliver combined fuel economy of 67.3mpg with carbon emissions of 109g/km.
For now, the Stonic is fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox but a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission will be made available next year.
We decided to focus on the all-singing First Edition cars as they looked so appealing with their two-tone colour schemes. We tried the 1.0-litre petrol and the 1.6-litre diesel versions and they were completely different in every way apart from styling.
The tiny three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol model was full of fizz as it whizzed along the country lanes, firing through the gears.
This car, priced at £19,695, can reach 60mph from a standing start in 9.9 seconds and tops out at 115mph. It can achieve combined fuel efficiency of 56.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 109g/km.
Don't be put off by the smaller engine because it has ample power and zip to fire the Stonic and makes very light work of overtaking slower moving vehicles. It's lively, energetic and a pure delight to drive.
Next up was the 1.6-litre diesel model priced at £20,495. This car reaches from 0-60mph in 10.9 seconds and tops out at 112mph.
Once again, it is a car that will appeal to the masses. It wasn't quite so exhilarating to drive as the little three-pot, but the running costs are more impressive.
Acceleration was smooth through the six gears and it seemed a little more sensible and composed than its petrol sibling.
The cabin on both cars was well insulated against outside noise and the car was confident into bends with excellent road-holding and very little sign of body roll.
Comfort levels within the cabin are also first rate and there is ample space for tall adults to sit in the back without feeling cramped.
The boot has a 352-litre capacity which is increased to 1,115 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
Elsewhere throughout the cabin, there is a decent-sized glovebox, cup holders, a drop-down sunglasses compartment, a convenient tray in front of the gear stick, along with door pockets front and back that can accommodate a water bottle.
The First Edition car also gets the extra storage under the boot floor.
Safety systems are comprehensive too and although the Stonic has not yet been tested for a Euro NCAP safety rating, Kia is confident of achieving a high rating.
All in all, the Kia Stonic, complete with its amazing seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, is another very welcome contender for sales in the compact SUV sector.
And after a few hours behind the wheel, the company's target of 8,000 to 10,000 sales each year seems very realistic and achievable.