When the Kia Stonic was introduced to the Philippine market in late 2020, it struck me as a vehicle that could potentially punch above its weight class. After all, its looks and feature package were on point, and it was well within most car buyers’ budgets.
That last bit is especially important now given the country’s current economic climate. Banks are clamping down on auto-loan approvals, and any household hell bent on pursuing the dream of car ownership this year has some tough decisions to make—decisions that Kia is hoping to make easier with the Stonic’s P735,000 starting price.
So, does local distributor AC Motors have a new-normal winner on its hands? We’re here with the top-of-the-line Stonic EX AT to find out.
“Kia Stonic. Style that’s iconic.” The tagline might be a bit much, but this subcompact crossover is definitely a looker. Rugged design cues—including chiseled shoulders, durable-looking black plastic elements, and a pair of angry headlights—make it appear much larger than its compact dimensions on paper might suggest. The two-tone color scheme is also a nice touch, especially with the bright colors available to the Stonic.
One gripe: On the bottom half of the vehicle, there’s a small gap missing some black plastic trim in between the front and rear doors. This isn’t really an issue, though, as it’s barely noticeable.
Dark, minimalist, and pretty straightforward with an emphasis on tactile feel—no surprises here. I’m a big fan of the bare use of piano black inside the cabin, though the plastic armrests on the doors seem prone to smudging. None of the plastic surfaces here is too hard or cheap to the touch, either.
The steering wheel feels great to hold, and everything is within reach of the driver. The latter isn’t much of a feat, given the size of the vehicle, but it’s still worth mentioning. While the seats are made of fabric, they’re of good quality, and though firm, they never became uncomfortable to sit on.
Overall, this isn’t a bad place to spend the daily slog through traffic, and there’s actually more room inside than the compact exterior might suggest. The only complaint I have is that the bottle holders are pretty small, though I do carry around a 32oz insulated Hydroflask, which is on the large side.
The Stonic packs a 1.4-liter in-line-four gasoline engine capable of 99hp at 6,000rpm and 132Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because those figures are similar to what the Soluto subcompact sedan puts out.
“So, underpowered then?” Not exactly. In city driving, you aren’t going to run into any issues. It won’t wow you off the line, but the Stonic gets up to speed in decent time and throttle response is good. We were only really able to notice reduced performance in an urban setting with four passengers and some cargo on board.
The vehicle can hold its own on the expressway, too. Again, it’s no speed demon, but for a car of this size packing this kind of engine, you won’t be complaining. Twisty mountain roads and constant uphill climbs did pose a challenge for the vehicle, though. At first, I figured that, nope, packing the Soluto’s numbers under the Stonic’s hood wasn’t the best move. However, as soon as I shifted to manual mode, performance became far punchier.
This leads me to believe that the six-speed automatic transmission is responsible for the Stonic’s uphill woes, as it’s likely more geared toward fuel efficiency than performance. Considering I averaged 9km/L in mixed city and highway driving, with some spirited fun up twisty bits and idling during shoots in between, I’ll take that compromise.
Ride and handling
The Stonic is a nimble little runabout thanks to its compact size and nicely weighted steering. Would we throw it around corners? Hell, no—but you can if you want to. Just expect plenty of body roll and set aside time for picking up change from the floor.
It rides higher than your average sedan does, but you wouldn’t be able to tell while driving it on account of the low seating position. In terms of comfort, the Stonic handles road imperfections pretty nicely for a vehicle of its size. Road and wind noise, however, becomes very noticeable at highway speeds.
Finally, one of the biggest positives with this crossover is how ridiculously easy it is to park. Not only is it small, the driver also has an excellent view of the surroundings, and there’s a reverse parking camera to help out, too.
We’re extremely happy to report that the Stonic comes with an Android Auto- and Apple CarPlay-compatible touchscreen infotainment system. What’s more, the sound setup is decent relative to the crossover’s price. It’s crisp, clear, and punchy, but don’t expect much in terms of bass.
There’s an automatic A/C system, push-to-start ignition, as well as an intuitive information screen tucked in between the minimalist gauges. Would have been nice if Kia managed to include automatic headlights, and the absence of one-push window controls is an oversight, but we’re happy overall with what’s been thrown in.
It isn’t perfect, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more ideal city car than the Kia Stonic. It nails all the basic features and offers great urban performance, while at the same time being able to hold its own on road trips. It also makes for a great starter vehicle on account of its relative affordability and impressive maneuverability. The automatic transmission leaves a little to be desired under some conditions, so perhaps the manual variant might be worth looking into as well.
SPECS: 2021 Kia Stonic EX AT
Engine: 1.4-liter gasoline
Power: 99hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 132Nm @ 4,000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive layout: FWD