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Kia Stonic review: Cheap thrills
CHOOSING a car by brand is about as sensible as selecting a spouse by surname. Everyone knows you should choose by looks.
Only kidding, of course. Just because it worked out for me doesn't mean it's a good way for anyone else to find the perfect life partner.
The Kia brand might not exude much in the way of snob appeal, but its newest car is blessed with both a pleasant appearance and plenty of substance. A fine body never hurts, either, and the Kia Stonic has just the type that seems to have buyers here smitten at the moment: It's a crossover.
It's a petite one, at that, with a small boot and just about enough space for five adults. If they happen to be well-fed adults, the three in the back had better be chummy, because they'll be rubbing a lot more than shoulders.
By and large, you can forgive the Stonic its smallness, because it has a commensurately teeny price tag (at least, by Singapore standards). Prices for a basic EX version kick off at S$72,999. Financed over seven years, that works out to S$710 in monthly instalments, which puts the Stonic very much in bread-and-butter territory.
In case you were wondering, the price does include the Certificate Of Entitlement, plus a lot more besides.
In fact, while cars at this price level sometimes feel like a barely discernible upgrade over taking the bus, the Kia has lots of sophistication to offer.
Even the basic model has comfort features such as automatic headlights and keyless operation. Its touchscreen system comes with Apple CarPlay, which in turn puts digital goodies such as satellite navigation (via Google Maps) and a music library (Spotify) at your fingertips.
You can also dictate texts and Whatsapp messages, and just in case all that digital tomfoolery takes your mind off driving and results in a crash, there are six airbags. That said, the Stonic also comes with stability control, which helps to prevent accidents caused by old-fashioned poor driving.
If you can find an extra S$5,000 (have you looked under the sofa cushions?), the SX model adds an automatic climate control system, automatic wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels and a glass sunroof. I'm all for the cheeriness that glass roofs add to a cabin, but in this case you might want to save the extra money because the Stonic has enough brio of its own.
On paper it sounds feeble, with a measly litre of engine capacity spread across three cylinders. But a turbocharger fills its belly with gusto, so the Stonic zips around in a charmingly eager way, and with a characterful burble from the engine for a soundtrack. It also has a twin-clutch, seven-speed auto whose snappy responsiveness only adds to the Stonic's energetic demeanour.
Okay, so the chassis is only passable, with a jolting ride and not enough roadholding to permit (let alone encourage) heroism around corners. But the Kia's light steering and slightly elevated ride height make it a doddle to drive in town, and anyway the engine and gearbox are enough to give it the sort of bright personality that people usually have to pay much more for.
All in all, the Stonic is a reasonably fun car that's well-equipped and loaded with safety features. That lends itself to all manner of buyers; it's indecently decent as a first set of wheels or, for that matter, as a final set (or a car you buy for either your kids or your parents, come to think of it).
The Stonic basically suits anyone in search of a palatably good car at a price that isn't hard to stomach. And it might be a bread-and-butter car, but the sweet engine provides a nice sprinkling of sugar.
Kia Stonic SX 1.0T (Sunroof)
Engine 998cc, in-line 3, turbocharged
Power 120hp at 6,000rpm
Torque 171Nm at 1,500-4,000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Top Speed 185km/h
0-100km/h 10.6 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.4L/100km; VES Band / CO2 A2 / 124g/km
Price S$77,999 with COE
Agent Cycle & Carriage Kia