The 2017 Kia Stonic has appeared online – unofficially – ahead of a global reveal planned by its Korean owner.
The images show what looks like a jacked up version of the Kia Rio fitted with all the SUV-styled cues we’ve come to expect, including black cladding around the wheel wells and under the sills to give a sense of elevation, and roof rails.
The Stonic will sell in other markets where it will compete against the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Holden Trax and the Ford Ecosport. It has also turned down the same road as the Nissan Juke and Citroen Cactus, offering a range of customisable features such as its orange “Targa” roof and contrasting interior panels that buyers can pluck from the options list.
However, the Kia Stonic isn’t a starter for Australia. Kia won’t say why, only that it has decided to pass on the small SUV for this market.
However, it is believed the Stonic’s potential mix of underwhelming three- and four-cylinder engines, all mated to a four-speed automatic, doesn’t have much appeal in a segment filled with perky powertrains and six-speed autos.
Instead, the Korean car maker is understood to be waiting for the upcoming arrival of what will become its spin-off of Hyundai’s Kona compact SUV. The more heavily SUV-styled Kona, the newest model from sister brand Hyundai, is due here in late September, but Kia’s version is believed to still be several years away, potentially landing here in 2019.
Inside, the Stonic looks little changed from the car it is based on, the Rio hatchback. The Rio was recently updated for Australia to make it roomier and much better equipped, but the carryover 1.4-litre engine and its four-speed automatic transmission – also expected to feature in the Stonic if it was brought here – leaves it half a step behind the competition.
The baby SUV segment is struggling a bit despite sales of the high-riding hatchbacks and wagons starting to consistently overtake those for traditional passenger cars on which many of them are based.
The Mazda CX-3 is leading the segment so far, with the Mitsubishi ASX – one of the oldest of the compact soft-roaders on sale, is snapping at its heels.
Honda’s HR-V, one of the newest models on sale here, has experienced strong growth over the first five months of this year. Other strong sellers include the Nissan Qashqai, the recently updated Subaru XV and the Suzuki Vitara.