Parkers overall rating: 3.8 out of 5 3.8
  • The 1.0 is our pick of the engines we’ve tried
  • Diesel to be avoided – it’s too noisy and gruff
  • Running costs take precedence over performance

The Kia Stonic gets a range of three engines - two petrols and one diesel.

Parkers Pick: 1.0-litre T-GDI turbo petrol engine

A small 1.0-litre petrol engine benefits from a turbocharger, which means it’s more powerful than the 1.4-litre also on offer, with 120hp and 171Nm of torque. This will facilitate a 0-62mph sprint in 9.9 seconds and a heady 115mph top speed.

We reckon the entry-spec Kia Stonic with the fizzy 1.0-litre petrol is a real sweet spot in the range – giving you an engaging drive, offering much more excitement than the less powerful 1.4-litre motor. It's characterful in a stereotypical three-cylinder way and drives far better than the diesel. It isn’t perfect, with a somewhat gruff nature below 2,500rpm until the turbocharger starts to come into effect.

It’s a bit laggy at low revs – as you wait for the turbocharger to respond – but then comes alive with a big punch of torque higher up, which makes it feel more powerful than its vital stats suggests.

Kia Stonic 2017 1.0-litre T-GDI engine

Once going it’s more than capable of propelling the Stonic to motorway speeds and overtaking.

We’d avoid: CRDi 1.6-litre diesel

The sole diesel option is a 1.6-litre with 110hp and 260Nm. This one smokes to 62mph from a standstill in 10.9 seconds and will eventually hit 112mph. We found the diesel option punchy, as you’d expect with that amount of torque, but not particularly interesting or enjoyable to drive. It doesn’t suit the Stonic’s character anywhere near as well as the 1.0, and it’s significantly noisier too.

The other petrol: 1.4 MPI

Available exclusively on entry-level 2 models, the first is a 1.4-litre petrol with 100hp and 133Nm of torque, enabling an amble from 0-62mph in a leisurely 12.2 seconds. Top speed is 107mph.

Gearbox options

The 1.4 petrol gets a five-speed manual gearbox, while the other two get a six-speed manual ‘box that works well. The first four gears are quite tightly packed in, while fifth and sixth seem a more spread out.

At launch there’s no automatic, but a seven-speed twin-clutch DCT will follow in 2018 alongside a lower-powered 100hp 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol engine.

How does it handle?

  • A strangely sporty experience
  • Engaging and fun to drive
  • Ride quality does suffer

It’s fair to say we’re surprised by the Stonic’s handling. It’s based on the Rio hatchback, but rides 42mm higher, so we were expecting the associated extra body movement to be at the detriment of its handling.

However, Kia has done a lot of work under the skin of the Stonic and it handles very well indeed. The steering is sharp and responsive, making the front end of the car feel agile and alert, and this helps you to feel a part of the driving experience, cornering in a balanced and predictable way. This does have an impact on comfort, as it’s a bit firm over undulating surfaces, but it keeps bodyroll nicely in check as a result.

Kia Stonic 2017 handling, grey

There’s no automatic parking system and while this is a compact car, its turning circle isn’t exactly small compared with some rivals, which can mean the driver has to work to get it into a space. Thankfully the high driving position helps you to see the extremities of the car well enough.

We found it a little tricky to drive smoothly due to the sportier nature of the suspension and all-or-nothing power delivery. In fairness, the diesel is better in this respect.