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Stonic jumps into soaring SUV market 

AN increasing number of small, medium and large-sized SUVs continue to roll off the production lines.

Sales of these models are booming so it’s hardly surprising that almost every car manufacturer is desperate to grab a share of the market.

No surprise then that Kia has recently jumped in with a new B-SUV model.

Based on the Rio supermini, the Kia Stonic arrived on UK roads in October and the company has high expectations for it.

It’s only available with front-wheel drive but the extra 42mm ground clearance allows it to venture off the tarmac onto rougher terrain.

There are two trims – ‘2’ and First Edition – with one petrol and two diesel engine choices.

On-the-road prices start at £16,279 with my top-of-the-range First Edition costing £19,695.

The Stonic is 70mm taller than Rio and this gives it more of an SUV appearance.

It’s stylish enough in ‘2’ trim but the First Edition I sampled stood out from the crowd with its standard two-tone paintwork

The roof, wing mirror casings and rear spoiler were lime green – other choices are black, red or orange – and this is matched inside with colour accents on the seats and around the lower centre console and display screen areas.

Head, elbow and legroom is fine up front and you could squeeze three adults into the rear seats but just for small journeys.

The ‘2’ edition comes with a seven-inch display with DAB radio and MP3 compatibility, and all models get android auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.

Being a ‘2’ trim, the spec you get it much higher than you normally receive on entry-level models.

This includes air-con, all-round electric windows, Bluetooth with voice recognition, music streaming, LED running lights, auto headlights and electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors and rear parking sensors.

Move up a model and additions include heated seats and steering wheel, auto air-conditioning, rear USB port, luggage net, a false boot floor, reversing camera, engine start/stop button, stainless steel pedals, LED rear lights and privacy glass on the rear side windows and tailgate.

Despite its higher stance, the Stonic is a pretty agile performer with excellent road holding and grip on some winding roads.

My model was powered by the smallest – yet most powerful – engine in the range.

The 1.0-T-GDi litre three-cylinder unit produces 118bhp and you get to like this turbo-charged petrol engine the more you drive it.

It allows the Stonic to pick away smartly with a zero to 60mph time of 9.9 seconds and is capable of reaching 115mph.

A slick six-speed manual brings quick gear changes and mid-range acceleration was impressive.

It was never too noisy, sitting smoothly at motorway speeds, and ride comfort couldn’t be faulted.

And economy figures are impressive with a claimed combined fuel figure of 56.5mpg – 47.1mpg urban and 62mpg extra urban.

This Stonic is well equipped to be a player in the ever-booming B-SUV market and Kia is confident of 70,000 sales in the 31 European markets in 2018, rising to 100,000 a year.

It is targeted to attract 10,000-15,000 buyers in the UK in the car’s first full year.