Kia has entered the market for small Juke-style compact Crossover SUVs with this model, the Stonic. It showcases the brand's fresh, more charismatic styling approach and offers buyers a highly personalisable choice in this growing segment.
As expected, the Stonic shares the engine line-up used in Kia's Rio supermini. That means a range of lightweight, downsized, turbocharged petrol and diesel powerplants, each paired with a manual transmission. Buyers have the choice of the brand's lightweight 118bhp 1.0-litre T-GDI turbo petrol unit, as well as the older-tech but cheaper 98bhp 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated MPI petrol engine. An efficient 108bhp 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine completes the range, offering the lowest emissions in the line-up.
The car's European-tuned steering and suspension are designed to offer the kind of fun responses buyers are now expecting from small SUVs these days. The stiff bodyshell should help here, this having allowed the development team to introduce a more compliant suspension system. A carefully calibrated power steering system should provide decent feel through the helm too. The standard 'VSM' 'Vehicle Stability Management; system includes 'Torque Vectoring; and 'Cornering Brake Control; to help you get the power down through the corners. All models are front-driven: there's not much appetite in this segment for 4WD.
This is one of the most strikingly Kia models we've seen to date, though the shape incorporates several of the brand's key recognisable signature design elements, such as the 'tiger-nose' grille. Styled in Europe, in collaboration with Kia's Korean design studio, the body aims to blend sharp horizontal feature lines with softer sculpted surfaces. The brand knows that individuality is important to many customers in the B-SUV segment and the Stonic's 'Targa'-style roof enables buyers to choose a two-tone paint finish. The idea has been to distance this Crossover from the Rio hatchback on which it's based. Hence also the sharp creases and kinks near the door sills and the way that the window line kinks upwards too. Rugged-looking black plastic cladding runs in a ring around the bottom edge of the car and around the wheel arches, plus there are brushed metal skid plates front and rear.
Inside, it's all much more Rio-like. The fascia is basically the same as is the switchgear, though Kia has tried to disguise this with a range of customisable colour schemes. Plusher variants get a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen. Space inside is slightly better than you'd expect from a car of this class, with decent leg and headroom, plus class-leading shoulder room. In the back, a two-step floor allows owners to expand or shrink the 352-litre boot to suit their needs.
Kia may be a late entrant in the B-SUV segment but it's produced an impressively complete contender here. Change the perception you might have of this brand as being somewhat dull and characterless. Products like the Stinger are changing that and this Stonic model is further evidence that Kia is mastering the art of producing desirable, yet affordable cars.
Which is just as well because buyers in the small Crossover class want charisma and individuality, attributes delivered in surprising measure here. If you're buying in this class, this contender is another that really ought to be on our list.Click here to find out more about our Kia Stonic range
Hyundai fills a conspicuous gap in its model range with this Kona, a little SUV aimed at the many supermini-based models now populating the smaller part of the quickly-growing Crossover segment. It's more extrovertly styled than you might expect a Hyundai to be and ticks all the right boxes in terms of safety and media connectivity.
Kona buyers initially get a choice between two petrol engines. The entry-level 1.0-litre T-GDI three-cylinder turbo is borrowed from the i30 and puts out 120PS and 175Nm of torque. It's manual only, using a six-speed box, and drives through its front wheels only. The other unit on offer is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder variant with 175PSbhp, available only with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto box and four-wheel drive. This top petrol model can make 62mph from rest in just 7.9 seconds on the way to 127mph flat out. For the 1.0 T-GDI, the figures are 12.0s and 112mph.
Small Crossovers in this class need to be able to offer fun, agile handling, something Hyundai says is delivered in the Kona thanks in large part to an advanced multilink rear suspension system - though this is only fitted to the 1.6-litre petrol model. Lesser-powered versions get the kind of cheaper torsion beam rear set-up that features on less advanced rivals. There's also an 'Advanced Traction Cornering Control' package to improve traction and damping in bends.
Aware that it was late launching a model into the smallest sector of the SUV segment, Hyundai felt the need to make a bold statement with the design of this car. Hence the aggressive body styling with its two-tone roof, unusual twin headlamps and distinctive 'Cascading' front grille. Short rear overhangs and a low roofline add to the purposeful silhouette, plus contrasting exterior accents and standard-fit roof bars inject a bit of all-important SUV flavour.
Inside, there's a cabin you can colour co-ordinate in a choice of different shades and lots of the switchgear is borrowed from the company's i30 family hatch. Plusher models get a floating 8-inch screen at the top of the dash. Lesser models get a 7-inch set-up. Either way, the infotainment package is compatible with the 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' systems. A head-up display is being offered for the first time in a Hyundai and audiophiles can opt for a thumping Krell stereo system. As for practicalities, well the Kona is a little longer than a rival Nissan Juke, something that really tells in terms of back seat space. Plus, there's a 361-litre boot that you can extend in size to 1,143-litres when the 60:40 split-folding rear backrest is flattened.
With the Kona, Hyundai has clearly benchmarked what buyers want in this class, then ruthlessly set about providing it. Aggressive styling: tick. Trendy media connectivity: tick. Class-competitive safety: tick. Potential for fun handling: tick. It's hard to argue with the finished result. Surprise, surprise, it ticks a lot of boxes.
You can't always create a great product through this kind of process. We'd argue, for example, that the class-leading Nissan Juke has an extra dash of emotive spirit that doesn't come from working through a spread sheet. If you don't care about that though, the Kona makes a strong case for itself. We think it's a car the segment will like.Click here to find out more about our Hyundai Kona range
Renault's little Captur Crossover model has proved to be a strong seller for the French company, but since its initial introduction, an army of fresh rivals have been launched to try and eat into its market share. Hence the need for this facelifted version which offers a smarter look, a classier interior and extra safety technology. As before, it'll appeal to supermini buyers wanting extra versatility, as well as family hatchback customers in search of something more interesting and affordable.
Nothing's really changed here in terms of either engineering or driving dynamics, but then, nothing really needed to. Set off on your first drive and if you're used to a supermini, the commanding driving position will be welcome - unless you're the kind of enthusiastic owner who realises that with extra ride height, you usually also get extra body roll through the bends. Renault appreciates this too, which is why the Captur features a 'Roll Movement Intervention' system, supposed to stop the body pitching about through sharp corners.
Under the bonnet, almost all Captur owners will find 90bhp beneath their right foot: most will want the dCi 90 diesel, offered with either manual or EDC auto transmission. There's also a manual-only version of this unit offered in 110bhp guise. If you'd rather have petrol power, there's a manual gearbox three cylinder 0.9-litre TCe 90 unit - or a 1.2-litre 120bhp petrol powerplant with a choice of either manual transmission or a twin clutch 6-speed EDC automatic gearbox. We'd choose the diesel every time. That TCe engine gives you over 50% less pulling power than the equivalent dCi diesel, so as usual, the black pump version will feel the quicker day-to-day tool.
Don't get any designs on off-roading though. There's no 4WD option and there won't be for the platform this car rides upon hasn't been designed to take it. In compensation, there's a decent 170mm of ground clearance.
'Passionate, practical and innovative'. Is that what this is? The answer depends, as usual, upon your point of view. The Captur's certainly an eye-catching thing, especially when specified in contrasting colours. Changes made to this facelifted version include a modified radiator grille that features smarter chrome trim and can be flanked by full-LED 'Pure Vision' front headlights that bring the look of this baby Crossover even closer to that of its larger Kadjar stablemate. At both the front and rear, the bumper incorporates smarter skid plates.
The cabin has been upgraded too, benefitting from higher-quality plastics, extra chrome trimming and more comfortable seats. The steering wheel is made from more upmarket materials and, on certain versions, comes trimmed with full-grain leather. The gear lever boasts a more modern appearance, while the door panels have been revised to seamlessly incorporate buttons and controls. At the same time, the New Captur retains its most practical features, including the availability of removable upholstery and the 'Grip Xtend' traction system, depending on trim level.
As before, all variants get a pretty unique feature in this class, a sliding rear bench that moves backwards or forwards by up to 160mm (though only as one unit), enabling you to prioritise either legroom or boot space. Position the seats to maximise luggage space and cargo capacity rises from 377-litres to 455-litres. And you get a false boot floor that can be repositioned to suit the height of the load you need to carry and has a wipe-clean reversible flip side. Push forward the 60/40 split-folding rear seat and you'll find that it doesn't quite lie fully flat but in this position, you do get access to 1,234-litres of total fresh air.
Passionate and practical, the Captur remains an endearing thing. Of course, there's always a danger with this class of car that in its mix of SUV, MPV and family hatch, you end up with a confection lacking the core strengths inherent in any of these three genres. Broadly speaking, this is a trap Renault has avoided here - provided your expectations in each of these areas aren't too great. It doesn't have 4WD, you can only just carry five people and you won't want to drive it on its door handles. None of which will bother most buyers at the smaller end of the Crossover segment one jot.
They'll love the buying personalisation - and trendy touches like the removable seat covers and the clever apps you can download through the R-Link infotainment system. At which point, class-leading running costs and versatile features like the sliding rear bench and the double-sided boot floor will come as a welcome bonus. True, this Captur faces increasing competition from a growing band of very talented rivals. But it's a model you must consider before buying any one of them. A cleverer Crossover. If you really want a car of this kind, then you'll really want to try itClick here to find out more about our Renault Captur range