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February 4, 2021

Review: 2021 Kia Stonic 1.4 EX

Form is very important to the Filipino buyer. Case in point is the 2021 Kia Stonic. While crossovers are all the rage these days, the choices below the sub-million-peso range are slim. Thus, in an enlightened moment of product genius, Kia took the Rio/Soluto, raised its ride height then added roof rails and plastic wheel arches. The result is this: one hip, fashionable, and above all, an unbeatable value-for-money soft-roader. Watch out, sub-compact sedans, this one’s going after your lunch money.

Admittedly, the Philippines has been late to the Stonic party. It was launched in 2017 and was, curiously enough, teased by Kia’s then Philippine distributor at one point. The entire “will-they-or-won’t-they” process took a total of three years and the appointment of a new distributor for Kia before it, along with its earwormy jingle, “Style That’s Iconic” landed in showrooms, both real and virtual.

Here’s the thing though: it’s managed to withstand the test of time. Kia’s decision to imbue the Stonic with simple lines and a straightforward form is a stroke of genius. It remains as timelessly fresh and young as Paul Rudd. And just like Rudd’s titular role in Marvel’s Antman, the colorways are bright. Extreme Blue (pictured) is already the most subdued hue, with others being Clear White, Flash Yellow, and Flame Orange. Want something black (or silver for that matter)? Sorry, Bruce Wayne; this isn’t the DCEU.

Now, mind you, that playfulness stops right outside. Open up, and the Stonic satisfies Mr. Wayne’s preferred color scheme. Regardless, it feels solid. Press and prod around, and thing wobbles. Meanwhile, the switches and buttons all feel nicely damped. There’s a “but” here though, and that there’s little give in the surfaces. Just like any other vehicle in this price point, hard plastics abound, including on the door trims and dashboard.

The Stonic’s driving position feels odd at first, not because it’s poor, but rather it takes some adjustment. Even at its lowest setting, you sit tall (the front seats are mounted noticeably higher than the rear seats). This will surely please conventional SUV fans, but not the handful who prefer to sit closer to the ground. Still, there’s no doubt that you’ll find a comfy posture in here. What’s more, the button placement is all sensible—placed exactly where you’d want them to be.

The tall seating position also lends the Stonic excellent visibility. It’s pretty easy to see what’s in front of you thanks to the slim A-pillar. The view from the side and back aren’t so bad either, and with a standard rear parking camera, parking is a cinch.

Speaking about the rear parking camera, on-board tech is one of the Stonic’s biggest selling points. Positioned high on the dashboard—in the same line of sight as the gauges actually—the 8-inch system is easy to see, and with its large icons easy to hit on the move. Plus, it boasts of standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto too.

Compared to sub-compact sedans, the Stonic has a slightly longer wheelbase. This means you’ll never be short of room, especially at the front. Head- and legroom can accommodate even taller occupants, and with no conventional center console to speak of (it has a multi-compartment divider), the driver and front passenger won’t be banging elbows. At the back, space is also reasonable, though sitting three adults is a bit of a squeeze. In terms of cargo room, it’s good enough for the weekly trip to the grocery, but add the flexibility of the 60/40 split-folding rear seat, and it’s a winner for the occasional trips out of town.

On that note, daily trips is what the Stonic does best. The mechanical package—its 100 horsepower, 132 Nm 1.4-liter Dual CVVT is perfectly suited for the urban confines. Despite giving up 100 cc compared to its sub-compact sedan rivals, it pulls eagerly once you get some revs in. The engine itself is somewhat peaky, but at least offers commendable smoothness.

It’s only when you try speeding up on the expressway, or try overtaking on a two-lane winding road does the Stonic starts running into trouble. And mind you, it’s not because of the engine. The blame lies squarely with the 6-speed automatic. Clearly tuned for economy than power, it’s slow on the downshifts, but quick on the upshifts. Using the manual +/- helps, but left to its own devices, it causes any built-up momentum to disappear quickly.

Once you get used to the Stonic’s unique power delivery, the rest of the handling package is hard to fault. As a jacked-up Rio, it feels reasonably quick and agile. It’s more like a hatchback than an SUV in that it responds eagerly to steering inputs, and stays upright through corners. And even mid-corner, it remains composed even as the roads become bumpy. On the flipside, the ride is a touch firm, especially when passing over ridges, but not overly harsh. At speed, it settles down nicely with a sense of stability typically absent from other choices in this class.

Compared to most sub-compact sedan offerings out there, the Stonic comes across as a very likeable choice. The enticement starts with the fact that it’s a crossover—a body style that’s hip these days, but beyond that, it’s also well-made, full-featured, and above all, delivers a fine drive too. It may be Kia’s smallest crossover to date, but it’s their hero. It’s full of value, and surprisingly, full of character too.

2021 Kia Stonic 1.4 EX

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Ownership 2021 Kia Stonic 1.4 EX
Year Introduced 2020
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact SUV
Warranty 5 years / 160,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 5-door SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.4
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 100 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 132 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6AT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 10.20 km/L @ 28 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,100
Width (mm) 1,735
Height (mm) 1,533
Wheelbase (mm) 2,570
Curb Weight (kg) 1,117
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Manual
Tires Nexen Npriz AH8 195/60 16 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features No
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes, Rear
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 6-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Fabric
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
Sunroof No
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Rear View Mirror Day/Night, Manual
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Great review, sir! Covered a lot of what I wanted to know about this. Seems like a great alternative to subcompact sedans. However, in Kia PH's spec sheets, the Stonic has a turning radius of 5.5m, which is quite a bit bigger than the 5.2m of every other market's Stonic. 5.5m is unusually large for a small crossover/hatchback (almost just as wide as a Montero Sport). How is its turning circle in the real world? Could 5.5m be just a typo by Kia PH?

    1. It might be a typo because others list it as 5.2m. Subjectively, I had little trouble with it even with the one particular U-turn slot I take going home (with pickups or PPVs, I usually have to take a wide berth).

  2. our market's Kia Stonic is really the Kia KX1 from China. though dimentions are smaller than the European Stonic.

    1. Yup. There are minor differences such as bumpers, interior trim, etc., but the platform's the same.

    2. Hi Ulysses, yeah I just wished they released a model with like sunroof for a little more, or power fold side mirror. though i think it can be added later, the color options are the same as the KX1.

    3. They actually brought one in as an engineering model. That one had leatherette seats, sunroof, power folding mirrors, and TPMS. Not sure if they'll add this to their line-up in the future.

  3. yeah i think i noticed that in the preview of either TopGear or C! Magazine's Youtube... or maybe if they release a limited GT Line.

  4. This would've been my choice, until the Korea-made Venue came out.

  5. nice review. as expected from CarGuide.PH.


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