Kia's cracking

smaller SUV

Kia Stonic, front static
Kia Stonic, front
Kia Stonic, front static 2
Kia Stonic, rear static
Kia Stonic, rear
Kia Stonic, boot 2
Kia Stonic, dashboard

FRIENDS have told me that they're worried about getting behind the wheel again after the easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

But I think it's like riding a bike. You never forget what to do so just take extra care and you'll be fine.

The first new car I managed to drive when lockdown ended was Kia's excellent Stonic - a good looking small family SUV that drives like a warm hatch.

It's based on the Rio supermini - a fine starting point - but the body height is raised by 42mm and this could have adversely affected the handling, allowing too much roll.

But Kia has worked some suspension magic to limit the effect, making it feel poised, well-balanced and safe through every corner.

The steering is also brilliant, only adding to the overall feel of agility and excellent response that makes a great driving experience.

However, as is often the case, there is a slight downside. In stiffening the suspension to control the roll and sharpen the chassis, there has been an effect on comfort, so that the ride is quite firm at slower speeds though it's rarely uncomfortable.

The trim levels for the Stonic are very simple - ‘2','3' and '4', and I drove the well equipped ‘3' powered by probably the best engine in the range - a 1.0-litre three cylinder turbo petrol with no less than 118bhp.

The other engines are a non-turbo 1.4 petrol with 98bhp that's only available in the lowliest ‘2' spec, and a 1.6 CRDI turbo diesel with 110bhp.

The 1.0-litre is hugely impressive. It drives the front wheels through a lovely six-speed gearbox with a very light, easy clutch.

It is smooth and quiet throughout its range, getting very slightly gruff if asked to pull from very low revs and giving a sweet sound higher up.

It will trickle along easily at 40 miles an hour in sixth gear and even pull away with decent acceleration after a slight turbo lag.

In the lower gears it will accelerate from a very low 1,200 revs and is pulling smoothly and hard by just 1,400. This is a cracking engine with excellent response from almost any speed.

It will rev to 6.5 but it's better to change up at lower speeds and let the turbo do its stuff, making acceleration just as good.

On a circular country route over all kinds of surfaces, the ride was quite acceptable at 40 to 50 miles an hour. I felt the worst surfaces of course, but they didn't stop me enjoying the drive.

The Stonic is a very enjoyable and practical small family car. I could easily live with one and would be delighted to do so.

It has good front and rear legroom for four and a very good boot with a light, easy hatch.

There's plenty of storage around the cabin with drink holders between the front seats and in the doors, map pockets and a good size glovebox for once.

It was lovely to live with around town, with rear parking sensors and a tight turning circle helping towards easy parking.

There was some tyre noise from tar and chipping surfaces on the move - as there is with most cars - and there's also a little wind noise at speed.

It was fitted with lane keeping assistance but I had to turn it off. The system gives a gentle push on the steering wheel if it thinks you're straying over a white line and I find this tremendously annoying and unnecessary. An audible warning is quite enough.

‘3' trim gives a good range of equipment, from Android Auto and Apple Carplay to sat nav and stability control.

It also has aux-in and USB, start stop, air conditioning, forward collision warning, alarm and cruise control.

FAST FACTS

Price: £18,870

Mechanical: 118bhp, 998cc, 3cyl petrol engine front wheel drive 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 114mph

0-62mph: 9.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 51

Insurance Group: 11

C02 emissions: 130g/km

Bik rating: 31%

Warranty: 5yrs/unlimited miles

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