An offer you can’t refuse

The Stonic is Kia’s first foray into B-SUV territory, but with a twist: they want to kill the opposition first time out.

Cars are my only true obsession in life, but I do like other things as well, especially high-end hi-fi. Speakers, mostly.

Last Saturday I went to Imacústica, one of the greatest hi-fi stores in Europe, right at the centre of Lisbon, to check the new entry-level Wilson Audio speakers. They are called Sabrina, are fairly small, play music like they were engineered by angels and cost €20,000. Remember, these are the entry-level model (the top of the range, the Wamm Master Chronosonic, cost €750,000).

I went there in the new Stonic I had borrowed from Kia the day before. After a few hours in the car, I was pretty impressed by the new B-segment SUV the Koreans had created, but, coming out of Imacústica, it dawned on me: this Kia is cheaper than those Sabrinas (at least while Kia keeps its €3,700 price cut available).

It was one of those moments where I realised, with absolute certainty, I was driving a future best-seller. €18,000? For a great-looking car with a cracking petrol engine, good handling, surprising comfort, a seven-year warranty and very, very low maintenance costs? Really?

Well, yes, really. So that begs the question: how? How do they do it? How can Kia build a car, ship it to Europe, sell it for this price and all the while let everyone involved make money? The answer is simple: I have no idea.
Economies of scale, obviously, but still, I don’t know how they manage it.

To me, it makes the Stonic the most attractive car I have ever written about, from the value-for-money perspective. It really is unbeatable and if it was a B-SUV from a rival company, I would be worried I might be filling showroom space for quite a while.

Stonic stands for speedy and tonic. It is based on the Rio’s chassis and borrows its powertrains, but because everyone seems to want an SUV these days, I am guessing the Rio is not too happy about the arrival of its cousin. Kia says it is not important which car people buy when they walk into a Kia showroom – what’s important is they leave with one Kia, whichever they prefer. You cannot argue with that logic.

So far so good for the Stonic within its own brand and within its place in the market, but what about the car in absolute terms? Is it any good? That’s an easy one: yes.

The Stonic is another home run for Kia and I really am getting tired of success after success after success. It makes it harder for me to write new things. The B-SUV segment is the highest growing segment in the market, accounting for 1.15 million cars last year and two million cars in 2020. For Kia, SUVs account for more than 40% of its sales and that number is certain to go up with the Stonic.

I drove a 1.6 CRDI diesel with 110 horse power for five days and it fitted perfectly into my daily city life of relocating the kids every five minutes, stopping by the supermarket, run yet another errand, park it here, park it there, get the kids again. I even got some envious looks from fellow motorists driving cars worth three or four times more. The Stonic does look that good.

There are a lot of interior and exterior options, but I have made my mind up: mine would be in yellow with the black roof and the high-spec TX version, including sat-nav, cruise control, led lights, you name it. And remember, all of this for €18,000. The entry-level LX version is €13,000. Hard to believe, but true.

I am not sure the diesel is the right engine for this car, especially considering it costs €5,000 more than the petrol. The diesel averaged 5.8l/100km, but because the car had 12km on the odometer when I got it, that number is very likely to reach 5.3-5.4l/100km after the first 1000km. As for the petrol, people who drove it say it averages around 7 litres.

No matter really. Any engine you choose, you have picked a winner. The Stonic will be very important for Kia’s unstoppable invasion of Europe and, unlike many B-SUVs, here is a good looking, interesting car that will not break your bank account. Well done guys. Again.

By Guilherme Marques