Vehicle Comparisons

Kia Stonic

Kia Stonic

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 skidplates 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 o 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
SEAT Arona

SEAT Arona

The Arona is SEAT's idea of a small sporty SUV and it's likely to find favour with the increasing number of buyers who would once have simply bought another supermini but now feel the need to get themselves something more interesting and lifestyle-orientated. It's good looking, safe, well connected and very personalisable. If this is the kind of car that appeals to you, then an Arona may well tick a lot of boxes.

As expected, the Arona shares the engine line-up used in SEAT's Ibiza supermini, which means that all of the powerplants on offer have direct injection and a turbo. There are three different petrol units to choose from, the headline emphasis being on the usual Volkswagen Group three-cylinder 95PS 1.0 TSI petrol unit, available in 95PS form with a five-speed manual gearbox or in 115PS guise with either a six-speed 'box or dual-clutch seven-speed DSG auto transmission. The third petrol choice is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder 150PS TSI unit with active cylinder deactivation technology, which is exclusive to the 'FR' trim and is connected to a six-speed manual gearbox.

Go for that sporty 'FR' trim and you get dual-mode suspension and the 'SEAT Drive Profile' that allows you to alter the steering, throttle response and suspension feel via four modes: 'Normal', 'Sport', 'Eco' and 'Individual'. As for diesel options, the efficient and reliable 1.6 TDI unit is available with 95 and 115PS. The 95PS version can be paired with a five-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed DSG auto, and the 115PS variant with a six-speed gearbox. All Arona models are front-driven: there's not much appetite in this segment for 4WD.

The Arona's sits on the same hi-tech MQB platform that underpins the latest Ibiza supermini and its styling follows the same structure as that used in the brand's slightly larger Ateca SUV. Here, that model's three-dimensional look is more pronounced, without being too aggressive. Like its rivals, this car is trying to give the feel of being a sturdy car for everyday life for the urban jungle, hence the strong protection in the bumpers, the wheel arches and the dark coloured rubber side skirts, as well as the roof rack and the aluminium look-like protection at the bottom of the bumpers.

In terms of its dimensions, the Arona is 4,138mm long, which is 79mm more than an Ibiza. However, the real difference lies in its height, as the Arona is 99mm taller. As a result, this SUV offers not only higher ground clearance for any off-road adventures, but also more front and rear headroom, and, above all, a larger boot, with a 400-litre capacity. Another important feature is the seat cushion, which is 52mm higher and gives a dual advantage. Firstly, a higher driving position for raised view of the road ahead. And secondly, it makes it much easier to get in and out of the car. The passenger seats are also 62mm higher than they would be in an Ibiza, while headroom is 37mm greater in the front and 33mm in the rear. The suspension height has been increased by 15mm and the windscreen is slightly more vertical for a roomier interior.

The Arona, says SEAT, is designed for 'drivers looking for a sense of excitement, distinction and functionality. People who know that age is just a number, not an outlook on life.' In other words, the people who've been busily buying Nissan Jukes and Renault Capturs in considerable numbers over the last five years. The Spanish maker wants in on this lucrative market and this little Crossover looks to have everything necessary to entitle them to a useful slice of sales in this segment.

The potential for personalisation will be key to this car's prospects, as will the efficiency made possible by its efficient engines and light, stiff MQB chassis. It's taken some time for the Iberian maker to bring us a Crossover of this kind but we can see quite a few target Arona customers feeling that the wait has been worthwhile.

Click here to find out more about our SEAT Arona range
Toyota C-HR

Toyota C-HR

Toyota aims to bring something fresh to the growing compact Crossover segment with its C-HR. Here, concept car looks are matched to proven mechanicals that include a hybrid powerplant. If you're thinking of buying something Qashqai-sized in this class or one of the trendier compact models, then this fashionable contender could be exactly what you're looking for.

The C-HR is being offered with two familiar engines from Toyota's Auris hatch. The most affordable variant gets a 114bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine and is available with a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT automatic - and front or all-wheel drive. Alternatively, buyers can choose a full hybrid powertrain with 120bhp, but that's 2WD-only. For the C-HR, Toyota has made its hybrid system lighter and more efficient, and engineered it to give sharper performance. Detailed design changes to the 1.8-litre hybrid engine have resulted in 40% thermal efficiency - a world-beating level for a petrol unit. Other hybrid components have been made lighter and smaller, and have been repositioned for improved packaging.

As for handling, well this Toyota aims to set a fresh standard in a segment not noted for sharply-responsive models. The engineers realised that the major issue with taller Crossovers of this sort related to bodyroll and its detrimental effect on ride comfort. Huge efforts have therefore gone into structuring this model's TNGA platform and giving it a low centre of gravity so that the car doesn't pitch about through the corners. Steering feel has been emphasised too, something else that tends to be lacking on this class of car. As a result of all this effort, Chief Engineer Hiroyuki Koba is convinced that a C-HR handles up to a standard comparable with any conventional Focus-segment hatch.

Toyota's first proper entrant in the Crossover segment should cause quite a stir, styled with a combination of a coupe-like upper body and the powerful underpinnings of an SUV. Coupe-like elements include disguised rear door handles, integrated into the rear pillars. At the rear the strongly tapered cabin features a top-hinged tailgate that gives access to loadspace big enough to carry luggage for five people. This styling contrasts with the pronounced flaring of the wheel arches which gives C-HR a wide and powerful stance.

Inside, layered architecture for the instrument panel aims to create a warm and welcoming feel and there's an 8-inch 'Toyota Touch 2' multimedia system that's angled slightly towards the driver. Because the touchscreen stands proud of the dashboard, rather than being enclosed by it, the upper section of the dash is considerably shallower in depth, helping secure good field of vision for the driver. The two-tiered front seat design combines a slender, sporty upper section with a more strongly bolstered and supporting lower part. The difference between the two is emphasised by the use of different tones, textures and patterns in the upholstery. Overall, there's a high quality feel to the cabin and decorative parts around the dash are finished in high-quality piano black and satin silver trim.

We can see a ready market for this C-HR. Plenty of people attracted by a model like Nissan's Juke in the Crossover class would rather like a contender that'll be slightly bigger, more sophisticated and better-finished. This is that car.

We think the styling will attract many, but there are other product strong points too. Proven hybrid technology brings the potential for impressive efficiency and we rate the more conventional 1.2-litre petrol engine too. Plus C-HR buyers will like the sharp handling and the strong standards of safety and media connectivity. Style and sense combined then? Quite a few buyers in this segment may well think that.

Click here to find out more about our Toyota C-HR range