In a crowded market, the Kia Stonic compact SUV crossover has some stiff competition, so I set out to discern if it’s worth choosing over its many rivals. The Stonic name comes from the words ‘speedy’ and ‘tonic’. All it stirs within me is gin and tonic, but Kia says it invokes fun.

It’s designed to go up against the Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Renault Captur and a whole bunch of others from pretty much every manufacturer in an extremely popular therefore flooded market.

Kia Stonic review Danni Bagnall motoring writer journalist - front

To the outside, the car looks awesome, with its sharp design lines and interesting colour combinations available. It’s these personalisation possibilities that really make this car a great rival to the Nissan Juke.

My test car was a diesel 1.6 CRDi ‘First Edition’ in Urban Grey with orange roof and, despite its SUV looks, it’s much sportier than you’d perhaps think. It features a harder ride than what’s traditional in these types of cars and it’s actually rather fun to drive.

Engine options available, however, don’t really live up to that sporty ride. They’ve been designed with economy in mind. And that’s more than fine. Keeping running costs down in current times is no bad thing. There are three engines to choose from, with two petrols, a 120bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged unit or a 98bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, and a 1.6-litre diesel lump boasting 108bhp.

Kia Stonic review Danni Bagnall motoring writer journalist - rear

Thanks to the turbocharger, the 1.0-litre is quicker than the 1.4-litre petrol unit. It produces 171Nm of torque and has a 0-62mph of 9.9seconds, before reaching a top speed of 115mph. The 1.4-litre is available exclusively with the trim level ‘2’ models and produces 133Nm of torque, with a 0-62mpg of 12.2seconds, before hitting a top speed of 107mph. The diesel has 260Nm of torque and can sprint from 0-62mph in 10.9seconds, before reaching its max speed of 112mph.

I found the diesel to be highly capable given its high levels of torque. It drives well and in a sprightly manner. Response from acceleration is immediate when coupled with the six-speed manual gearbox, as our test model was. The 1.4-litre option comes equipped with a five-speed manual unit. There’s currently no automatic transmission option, but a seven-speed twin-clutch unit is expected to follow in 2018. Engine noise isn’t terrible and the cabin insulates itself nicely against wind noise. Visibility is also good all round, thanks to its higher seating position and relatively slim pillars.

As the Stonic is based on the Rio hatchback model, it sits 42mm higher, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that this could affect its handling. However, Kia has worked hard to ensure the Stonic’s handling isn’t compromised ensuring a pleasant drive.

To the inside, the trim structure couldn’t be simpler, with just 2 and First Edition to choose from. Material quality is good and it has some funky colourful bits to brighten things up if you go with the First Edition model, which sees sat nav included.

Kia Stonic review Danni Bagnall motoring writer journalist - interior dashboard

As standard, the ‘2’ trim level gets the 7.0-inch infotainment unit, with six-speaker hi-fi system, 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, and auto headlights. Upgrade to the ‘First Edition’ and you’ll add keyless entry and start, stainless steel pedals, cloth and leather seats, LED rear lights, tinted rear windows, heated front seats, as well as contrasting colour options.

The 7-inch multimedia display features DAB radio, MP3 connectivity, Bluetooth and Smartphone compatibility, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also featured.

The seating position is good; it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the right positioning for you as the seat is height adjustable, along with the rake and reach being adjustable to the steering wheel.

Storage is also really good. Between the front seats is a large cubby, along with large door pockets able to accommodate a 1.5-litre bottle up front and a 0.5-litre bottle in the back. 60/40-split rear seats are featured; meaning boot space with the seats up comes in at 352-litres, and 1,155-litres with the seats down. A false floor allowing for a flat boot is also available, but only on the ‘First Edition’ trim option.

Kia Stonic review Danni Bagnall motoring writer journalist - boot

When it comes to running costs, the cheapest is the 1.6-litre diesel as tested. It has a claimed mpg of 67.3 – which I’d say is closer to 60, but strong nonetheless. The 1.0-litre petrol returns 56.5, while the 1.4-litre returns upto 51.4mpg.

Standard safety kit includes traction control and electronic stability control, as well as hill-descent technology and six airbags. ‘First Edition’ trim adds autonomous emergency braking, as well as blind-spot detection, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alerts.

The model also benefits from Kia’s seven-year warranty.

I love the Kia Stonic so much that I’m actually considering buying one. It has all the convenience of a bigger SUV model, but the driving characteristics of something much smaller. It has strong economy figures to boot, along with personalisation options that are sure to appeal. Upgrading to the ‘First Edition’ trim is highly recommended. It’s a great time for the introduction of the new Stonic to rival the Nissan Juke which is now starting to feel rather old. Yes, the SUV market is crowded, but the Kia should prove to be a force to be reckoned with.

© Danni Bagnall