David MottonSee other tow car reviews written by David Motton
Tow Car Editor
It seems every other car launched these days is a crossover or an SUV. The Stonic is Kia’s latest, and size-wise it sits between the Soul and Sportage.
Think of the Kia Stonic as a rival for the Citroën C3 Aircross and Mazda CX-3. The shift away from diesel power has been especially pronounced among buyers of smaller cars, so we’re testing the 1.0 T-GDi petrol model. The Stonic is small, so is it practical enough for a caravan holiday?
You’d be bonkers to buy a car this size, with its modestly powered petrol engine, expecting it to tow anything heavy. The maximum towing figure of 1110kg sets the upper limit of what can be towed legally.
If you take a prudent and cautious approach to outfit matching you may set your sights on the 85% guideline, which in this case suggests caravans weighing up to 1007kg are a sensible match; micro-caravans or Swift’s Basecamp ‘crossover camping vehicle’.
And this is the caravan that we borrowed for our tow test, with a MiRO of 916kg. Would the Kia’s 1.0-litre petrol engine be up to the job? With one or two provisos, the answer is ‘yes’. It might have a small capacity, but turbocharging helps the Stonic’s engine to produce 118bhp and 127lb ft of torque at just 1500rpm. With our foot to the floor and working the gearbox hard, the Kia pulled the Swift from 30-60mph in 12.9 seconds. Not bad at all.
However, that doesn’t tell the full story. In-gear performance is weak. When we asked the Stonic to pull from 50-60mph in fifth gear, as you might after being caught behind slow-moving traffic on the motorway, the Kia took a leisurely 17.5 seconds. In practice, that means you need to change gear more often than you might with a beefier engine. Additionally, headwinds and slight motorway inclines are enough to slow the car noticeably. However, the engine’s willing character and the crisp gearshift mean this isn’t as much of a chore as you’d expect.
We’d take stability over speed any day of the week, and for such a light car with a short wheelbase, the Stonic is a secure and able tug. There are some slight movements when overtaking or being overtaken, but they’re little bobbles rather than any swaying which might get out of hand. Hill starts can be a struggle in small petrol cars, but the Stonic handles them better than most. The handbrake held the car still without having to be pulled on with undue force. However, deft clutch and throttle balance was needed to pull to the top of the 1-in-6 slope smoothly. In emergency braking the Stonic stopped from 30mph in 11 metres. That’s a solid but unexceptional distance.
The Stonic is refreshingly fun. A lot of the credit must go to the engine, which has an appealing note and a willingness to rev.
Kia has tuned the suspension for a firm ride, especially at low speeds, but it stops short of being harsh. And if that’s the price of decent stability while towing, it’s one we’re willing to pay.
The ride and handling balance isn’t quite as well managed as the Seat Arona’s, but the Stonic tackles bumpy B-roads without lurch or wallow, and well- weighted steering helps you to place the car precisely. That same steering is light enough to make parking manoeuvres easy, although better over-the-shoulder visibility would be welcome.
If we have a criticism, it’s that there’s a lot of road noise. You notice it most on coarse surfaces, but it’s present on smoother Tarmac, too. Wind noise also picks up at higher speeds.
It would be churlish to expect too much space from a car that’s just 4.14 metres long. However, the Stonic is reasonably practical.
Those in the front have plenty of room. The driving position is relatively low-slung by crossover standards, but it’s comfortable and the seat can accommodate tall drivers. The controls are logically placed and easy to use, but the dashboard plastics are disappointingly hard and shiny.
Predictably, the rear of the car is more cramped, but there’s enough space to shoehorn two adults in – just about. The boot offers 352 litres of space. That’s within a couple of litres of the Nissan Juke’s, but more than 100 litres shy of the Renault Captur’s capacity.
We’ve been testing the Stonic in the most affordable ‘2’ specification. It’s priced at £17,000 and What Car?’s research suggests you can save nearly £800 from that if you haggle.
Running costs should be affordable; even if it’s hard to match in real-world conditions, 56.5mpg is impressive for a petrol car. And we were happy to achieve 27.2mpg while towing. Expect to get back around 44% of the original price after three years and 36,000 miles.
|Engine size||998 cc|
|85% KW||1007 kg|
|Towball limit||75 kg|
|Maximum towing limit||1110 kg|
|Torque||127.0 lb ft|
|Official MPG||56.5 mpg|
|Towing MPG||27.2 mpg|
The Stonic is only a viable tow car if you own a very light caravan. But if you do, this is a capable and appealing small crossover.
- Refreshingly fun to drive – engine has a willingness to rev
- Crisp gearshift
- Handled hill starts well when towing
- Affordable running costs
- Good residuals
- Dashboard plastics are hard and shiny
- Only really suitable for towing micro-caravans
- In-gear performance is weak when towing – frequent gear changing required
- Better over-the-shoulder visibility would be welcome