Kia's subcompact crossover offers decent looks and a fuss-free, engaging drive
Smooth and stylish Kia's Stonic The Stonic's 1-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine churns out 118bhp and 171Nm of torque, helping it zip around with a youthful exuberance. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Kia's new subcompact Stonic is the latest addition to an already crowded crossover segment.

The car scores a good first impression. It has a muscular silhouette, with bold lines exuding an air of adventure.

Wearing bright colours (29 to choose from) and riding on 17-inch wheels (SX version), the newcomer turns heads with a road presence which almost matches that of Audi's smaller sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

In fact, it is easy to mistake the Stonic for the handsome Audi Q2, which is also available in a yellow hue. After all, it is no secret that Kia's chief design officer, Mr Peter Schreyer, used to work for Audi.

Even its strange plasticky grille, which looks quite different from Kia's signature "Tiger Nose" honeycomb grille, does nothing to dent its stylish good looks.

The Stonic packs a 1-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine which churns out 118bhp and 171Nm of torque. While these numbers may seem ordinary, the car zips around with a youthful exuberance.

It actually feels quicker than the 10.6 seconds it takes to clock the century sprint.

It pulls well and never feels laggy at junctions. Even on expressways, the tiny car possesses enough power for many overtaking manoeuvres.

Coupled with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that is smooth and effective, the crossover delivers a fuss-free city ride. The engine starts to sound laboured only when you floor the accelerator.

Still, that does not make the Stonic any less engaging. In fact, its firm suspension gives it a rather sporty gait and the car negotiates corners more confidently than the average SUV.

Surprisingly, the Stonic is equipped with adaptive headlights, with the beams moving in the direction of the steering wheel, giving the driver a better view of the road ahead.

Kia cars, however, are known to pack more features than comparable rivals.

For an entry-level model, the Stonic is no less impressive. Apple Carplay is standard fare. It allows the driver to access smartphone functions such as navigation and music on the car's 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

The pricier SX version comes with sunroof, climate control, LED tail-lights, a start/stop button, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, metal pedals and rain-activated wipers.

There are shortcomings, though, including a poorer-than-expected fuel economy of just 9km a litre - a far cry from the stated 18.5km a litre. But to be fair, I drove the car with a heavy right foot and mainly in stop-start traffic.

The boot is also relatively small at 352 litres. But this can be expanded by flipping the rear seats down.

With a price tag of $80,999, the Stonic offers much value for money. It is hard to think of another car in its class that can offer better bang for the buck.