STANDING out in the increasingly congested and highly competitive compact SUV sector is not an easy task.
The Kia Stonic ‘First Edition', however, is a real head-turner that does an outstanding job of distinguishing itself from the generic crowd of small crossovers and faux 4x4s - thanks to some striking two-tone colour packs.
The roof, wing mirrors and rear spoiler of this range-topper are contrasted in either black, lime green, red or orange, depending on the choice of main body colour, with matching accents inside on the seats and around the centre console and touchscreen.
Admittedly the most vivid choices are Â£545 cost options but they give the flagship Stonic a youthful and quirky feel that is absent in the entry-level ‘2' version - the only other trim option available.
Based on the South Korean car maker's Rio supermini, the Stonic hit showrooms last Autumn aiming to cash in on the seemingly never-ending demand for so-called B-segment SUVs - with sales expected to hit 2.2 million across Europe by 2020.
Slightly longer than the Rio, it is also 70mm taller and rides 42mm higher, while stylish roof bars, prominent bumpers, body cladding and chunky wheel arches all help to project the required rugged image.
Power in the flagship version is a straight choice between a perky turbocharged 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine or a torquey 1.6-litre turbo diesel, while if you opt for ‘2' trim you can also have a 1.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol unit - but this is fairly pedestrian by comparison.
Whichever engine you go for, they all come with a smooth six-speed manual transmission and Kia's intelligent stop/start system.
As you'd expect, the diesel offers the best fuel economy, with a claimed 67.3 miles per gallon on average, while delivering punchy performance with plenty of low-end pull. It may not be quite as responsive around town as the three-pot petrol but is refined and unflustered on the open road.
Light and accurate steering makes manoeuvring straightforward and, although there's not enough feedback to call it engaging, handling is nimble and agile and the body well controlled in bends thanks to a fairly stiff suspension.
Despite this, the ride on the 17-inch alloys that are standard across the range is largely comfortable and settled for a small car and it is one of the better of its kind to drive.
All Stonics are front-wheel drive, however, so if you want some off-road ability to match the looks - though very few buyers do in this class - you'll have to shop elsewhere.
Inside, many cabin features will be familiar to anyone who has sat in a Rio and it's a similar story with space too - as it is with most jacked-up superminis.
There's plenty of room in the front to get comfortable and it's okay in the back as long as you're not hitting the 6ft mark or above. Sitting three adults across the rear bench would be a tight squeeze but it'll be fine for kids into their early teens.
At 352 litres the boot will handle a reasonable family shop and maximum load space is 1,155 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded down, while ‘First Edition' models also get a dual-height floor for a little extra versatility.
Typically of Kia, equipment levels are attractive, with all cars getting air conditioning, all-round electric windows, rear parking sensors, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with digital radio and Apple and Android smartphone connectivity.
The range-topper also gets TomTom navigation, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, keyless entry and ignition and heated front seats.