Kia's new Stonic is a fresh model in the burgeoning small SUV space, and it may well be this year the Irish operation's best selling car, writes Brian Byrne.
That need not be a surprise. The top seller for the brand here for several years has been the Sportage SUV, competent, stylish, and individualistic.
Stonic is adopting the same formula downsized. With the idea that it will take customers both from larger cars whose owners want to downsize, and get to the younger buyers with a frisky attitude. At the same time, it's a straightforward car which doesn't try to be more than it looks.
But it it does look good. Chunky, edgy, and as at home in a rural environment as the urban one to where most buyers will bring it.
It is one of those cars that smiles, and kicks off smiles from those it drives by. Kia gives each of its models a slightly varied version of its 'tiger-nose' grille, and the Stonic's version has a cheeky grin.
Just as important, the design is very practical, and even though it's on the small end of the SUV spectrum, it is roomy for four full adults, and the shape of the front door frame means I didn't have to stoop my head when getting in and out. For the pair behind there's pretty decent leg-room and all that head-room.
Kia has four levels of specification with the Stonic, but even the basic K1 comes with centre screen, spare wheel (yay!), alloys, audio remote and cruise control. At the starting price it is offering substantially more than spartan.
The engine options are 1.2 and 1.4 4-cylinder petrols, and a 1.0 turbo 3-cylinder petrol at the top of the line. There's also a 1.6 diesel. That's a wide choice and though diesel at this level will be the minority engine, at least it is still available for those who do a fair bit of long-distance driving and can take advantage of the running economies.
My review car was the K3 grade, with the 100hp 1.4 petrol, and in addition to details like A/C, roof rails, and high-tech lights it came with driver assistance systems, heated front seats, sat-nav and power mirrors.
Experiencing it as a daily car showed me a vehicle that is easy to live with, that I would be comfortable with for a long time, and would keep life in automotive terms simple. There's a great big section of people out there for whom that is their main motoring need, with bells and whistles and super-dynamic attributes quite down their list.
That's where Stonic will score for Kia Ireland.
PRICE: From €18,599; Review car €22,599. WHAT I LIKED: Smiling every time I sat in it. RATING: 4/5.