We drove the Kia Stonic Mild Hybrid “Eco+ Dynamic”: a dynamic and clever crossover

The Kia Stonic has been amongst us since 2017, and has recently been upgraded with a GT and a Mild Hybrid version. The latter we found very interesting to investigate for you further. The mild hybrid powertrain is based on the 1 litre three-cylinder turbo unit, dubbed the ‘Smartstream’ 1.0-liter T-GDi, developing some 120 HP, and was coupled to a 7-speed double clutch auto transmission in our test car.

How does it behave in practice? Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The mild-hybrid system does not increase the power or allow zero-emission electric motoring, but it can harvest energy normally lost while braking or decelerating, and assist the engine when it’s delivering power, reducing fuel consumption…and making the car more lively.

When starting up one is pleasantly surprised by the three-cylinder throb of this engine, which when you rev it up has a six-cylinder tinge to it. We always have loved the sound of three-cylinders, and this Stonic is no exception to this melodious rule. You can drive this Stonic in three modes, “eco”, “normal” and “sport”, and to test out the capabilities of the mild hybrid system, we stayed most of the time in the “eco” mode. In this mode, the 48 V new mild-hybrid belt driven starter-generator (MHSG) switches from ‘motor’ to ‘generator’ modes to improve overall efficiency.

The MHSG uses electric power to provide assistance during acceleration in ‘motor’ mode, thus reducing engine load and emissions, and can automatically switch to ‘generator’ mode during deceleration and under certain conditions to recharge the battery. This battery is a lithium/polymer battery, good for a temporary boost when one accelerates of some 12 kW or 16 HP.

Depending on the chosen mode, the extent and manner the kinetic energy is recuperated varies somewhat. In the “eco” mode and at lower speeds, the kinetic energy is fully transformed into electric energy, at higher speeds the “coasting” function is rather chosen, the car is just rolling and the engine is cut off.

In slower, urban driving, certainly in the “eco” mode, the car decelerates markedly when lifting off, and one soon learns to anticipate stops or slower traffic without using the brakes at all.

This results in quite good consumption figures in urban traffic, around 6 liters/100 km if one avoids fierce accelerations. On the open road and higher speeds, one finds oneself coasting quite frequently when one lifts the throttle, with the engine even shutting off. This is possible at speeds up to 125 km/h. On the open road, and respecting the legal speed limits, it’s easy to achieve figures between 5,5 and 6 liters/100 km. CO2 emissions are set at 127 g/km, with the manufacturer also quoting 5,6 l/100 km as average consumption.

The 7 speed DCT works smooth and alert, and gearchange patterns are varying according to the chosen mode. The changes are smooth and fast, and one clearly feels that manufacturers have learned a lot in developing and building DCT transmissions. At slower speeds and small throttle openings, de DCT seems to hesitate somewhat between gears, but as soon as you push the throttle again, it immediately knows what to do.

The Stonic is relatively light, some 1,2 tonnes, and this means that it has a lot of zest with the 120 HP engine. 0 to 100 km/h is reached in under 10 seconds, top speed being over 180 km/h.

Styling inside and out remains largely unchanged since the introduction of this cute compact crossover in 2017.

In the cleanly styled and pleasant-looking cabin, a new 4.2-inch instrument cluster and an eight-inch infotainment system awaits you.

The Stonic has now Kia’s new safety and driver-assist systems such as lane-keep assist, blind-spot collision warning and collision-avoidance assist, lane-follow assist, and smart cruise control. In stop and go traffic our test car was able to stop and accelerate again by itself, when cruising along in the traffic lane with the cruise control set at 30 km/h. The Stonic nicely slowed down and stopped when the vehicle in front came to a standstill. When the traffic got moving again, the Stonic also started up again. Wonderful!

Engaging to drive

The Stonic steers precise, has very good handling and feels nimble and quite sporty. It is rather fun to drive on winding roads, and one finds oneself adopting a dynamic driving style intuitively. Indeed, its an engaging and lively compact crossover. Comfort does not suffer too much, although we must admit that this Stonic lets you feel which road it is on, and also transmits some tire noise from the road surface.  

Top notch infotainment

The Kia Stonic spoils its occupants when it comes to infotainment. It is prepared for Apple Car play and Android Auto, has an excellent DAB+ radio, and the 8-inch screen on the center of the dashboard harbors an excellent navigation system with state-of-the-art graphics, UVO connect and Kia Connected Services. The UVO app has been developed to work in combination with your Kia equipped with UVO Connect. This app the offers an overview of key elements of your car’s status such as door locks, ignition, battery and charge level and supplies you with a Monthly Vehicle Report giving an overview of your car usage. It also allows you to pre-plan and set your journey through the app for seamless use in the navigation system.

A pleasant gimmick: you can choose your ambient music on the display: the sounds of a rainforest or a busy café…

Kia Connected Services featuring TomTom Live services takes reliable route guidance to the next level of accuracy. At the heart is a WiFi unit that enables the navigation system to connect to the internet through a smartphone. A new map update programme for your Kia is available at a cost.

Conclusion

A very convincing compact crossover, which made an impressive entry into the mild hybrid world, with a useful and alert Mild Hybrid system. It really makes a difference in consumption as well as in performance and responsiveness, making this Stonic very endearing and pleasant to drive and own, certainly if you know that it comes with the 7-year warranty, like all the other Kia’s…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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