So it’s no surprise that a whole series of new models from the likes of VW, Citroën, Hyundai and Seat are about to join the party.
The first of these new entrants is Kia which has decided that the time is right to add the Stonic to its line-up to sit below its incredibly successful Sportage.
The new Stonic is based on Kia’s Rio hatchback but with greater ground clearance and a sportier design aimed primarily at a younger market.
New car buyers are deserting three-door hatchbacks and small people-carriers in particular as they flock to baby SUVs.
According to Kia, it’s also the only new car segment where styling is the primary buying decision.
The Stonic has the potential to be Kia’s second most-important model in the UK, behind the Sportage and ahead of the Picanto and Rio small hatchbacks, which makes it a big deal for the Korean brand that says it is on course to be the only car manufacturer to grow its European sales for the seventh year in a row at the end of 2017.
The Stonic clearly shares a look with its Rio supermini sibling and from the front in particular has the appearance of a slightly raised hatchback rather than a full SUV.
The extra ground clearance is an obvious differentiator though, as is a big rear bumper complete with skid plate, plus the lower air intake on the front.
Kia Stonic Price range: £16,295-£20,495
Kia has gone for a sporty look, keeping the roofline as low as possible and limiting the front and rear overhangs to avoid the more unwieldy look and feel of some higher-riding rivals. Rugged plastic roof rails complete the look for a car trying to project an adventurous lifestyle image.
Personalisation is also seen as important in this sector and on the higher spec of the two trim levels – called First Edition – a contrasting roof colour and wing mirrors can be ordered – a black roof on the white, brown, red or yellow cars; a red roof on black cars; graphite cars come with a lime green roof and grey or silver get orange.
It really lifts the car’s looks away from the more ordinary singlecolour “2” spec and gives it some added youthful character.
The engine range is nice and simple, with the choice of one turbo-diesel and two petrols all with a manual gearbox (though a seven-speed automatic should join the range in 2018).
Kia Stonic Power: 0 to 60mph in 9.9 seconds with 115mph top speed
The entry-level car is the 1.4-litre 98bhp petrol, though this is also the least efficient with a 51.4mpg average fuel economy. The most popular engine, and the best choice in the range, is the three-cylinder 1.0-litre 118bhp turbo-petrol, offering 56.5mpg. It’s the fastest of the range, covering the 0-60mph dash in 9.9 seconds and with a 115mph top speed.
The most efficient model in the range is the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel, with an average of 67.3mpg and 109g/km emissions.
Those aren’t enough to make it worth putting up with what is far from the most refined of diesels though and the petrol makes for a much more pleasant Stonic experience.
The engineers have deliberately firmed up the suspension in the search for a sportier drive and it’s fair to say the Stonic handles pretty well for a class where none of the main players, including the likes of the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur, list a fun drive among their core skill set.
The bad news is the firm ride doesn’t deal particularly well with any change of road surface, with bumps clearly sending messages of their existence back into the cabin.
Road noise is also noticeable, even at lower speeds. The cabin is regular Kia in terms of look and feel though, like the roof bars, the material across the top of the dashboard looks nicer from a distance and turns out to be harder than expected to the touch.
Rear space is a Stonic strength, with good head and legroom for adult passengers, though boot space suffers as a result.
Kia Stonic Average fuel economy: 67.3mpg
At 352 litres, it’s smaller than the Nissan Juke while the Renault Captur can beat it by a clear 100 litres. However, there is a moveable boot floor on the higher-spec Stonic which increases practicality.
Kia has kept it simple by offering just two trim levels – 2 and First Edition. Plus, the options list only consists of metallic paint and, on the lower trim, a package of safety systems standard on the higher model which includes autonomous emergency braking safety, lane departure warning, driver drowsiness detector and high-beam assist.
All cars get 17-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen, DAB digital radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration systems, as well as rear parking sensors, air conditioning and automatic lights while the First Edition trim level adds satnav, keyless entry, climate control, heated front seats, rear privacy glass and a dual-height boot floor. The brand has high expectations for its new model, entering a sector of the market that is growing in spectacular fashion and the Stonic has pros and cons.
It looks very well priced yet still offers good equipment levels, gets Kia’s industry-leading seven-year warranty and is neatly designed, if a touch conservative if you don’t go for the two-tone colour scheme on the higher spec. Efficiency is reasonable without troubling what the Peugeot 2008 can offer and though rear space is very good, it’s countered by a boot that’s much smaller than main rivals.
Plus, the ride quality really could be better. So it’s a car with notable strengths and weaknesses but maybe lacking that bit of differentiation and character that could propel it to the front of buyer’s thoughts.
A thoroughly decent small SUV that won’t disappoint but the Stonic maybe doesn’t excite as much as it could have done.
Kia Stonic CO2 emissions range: 109g/km-125g/km
● Model: Kia Stonic
● Price range: £16,295-£20,495
● Engine range: Petrol – 1.4, 1.0-litre turbo; Turbo-diesel – 1.6-litre
● Power: 0 to 60mph in 9.9 seconds, 115mph top speed (1.0)
● Average fuel economy: 67.3mpg (1.6TD)
● CO2 emissions range: 109g/km-125g/km
● Rivals: Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur
● Rating: 7/10