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Kia’s new Stonic to be late to the party

Not so fast: Kia Australia wants the new Stonic, but not until its gets a suitably powerful engine to compete with the likes of Mazda’s CX-3.

Stonic compact crossover not for Kia in Australia until it puts on some more muscle

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Kia logo7 Jun 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) has ruled out an early launch in this market of the South Korean company’s all-new Stonic small SUV that is scheduled to be launched in the second half of this year.

Kia’s head office today released design sketches of the small crossover wagon, at the same time confirming the Stonic name that it says is a combination of speedy and tonic “which refers to the first and last note on the musical scale”.

Although other markets are set to take the Mazda CX-3/Mitsubishi ASX/Toyota CH-R competitor in the last quarter of 2017, KMAu media and corporate communications general manager Kevin Hepworth has told GoAuto that the lack of a suitable powertrain in the initial line-up meant Kia’s Australian branch had knocked back the vehicle for now.

He said KMAu has decided to wait for later version with an engine/driveline combination more suitable for Australian SUV customers.

“For us, it is more than 12 months away,” he said, before indicating it could be 2019 before the preferred version arrives.

The situation is a blow to KMAu, putting it at a disadvantage to rivals including sister company Hyundai which is set to welcome its new compact SUV, the Kona, in the third quarter of this year.

It is unclear how Hyundai Australia appears to have secured powertrains that it deems suitable for Kona – which is thought be related to the Stonic – while Kia has not.

Although the powertrain line-up for the Stonic is yet to be confirmed by Kia, some publications are speculating the engines could be borrowed from the Rio.

In Australia, the Rio light hatch comes with a normally aspirated 1.4-litre engine producing 74kW. While that is fine for that market segment, most of the leading compact SUVs step it up to about 100kW, with the top-selling Mazda CX-3 offering 109kW from its 2.0-litre petrol engine.

KMAu might be waiting for Kia’s engineers to come through with a version loaded with the Cerato’s 2.0-litre 112kW four-cylinder engine or perhaps the 97kW 1.6-litre GDI offered in the American Rio.

The images released today suggest a new design direction for Kia’s SUVs, embracing European design flair.

Says Kia: “The car blends sharp horizontal feature lines with softer sculpted surfaces, and brings compact dimensions and a low centre of gravity to the class”.

The so-called “tiger nose grille” is maintained, albeit in a new metallic finish. LED daytime driving lights are evident at the front, along with LED tail-lights at the rear.

The metallic grille finish appears to be carried over to the front splitter and rear diffuser, with the latter pierced by two whopping tailpipes that appear to be a victory for form over function.

Oversized wheels – obligatory on such sketches – will not make it into production, although the matte black touches such as wheel arch protectors, side skirts and roof racks might.

Kia says the interior design “places technology and ergonomics at its heart”. A large floating infotainment screen is front and centre of the simplified spread of controls. The dash appears to carry over the silver metallic look of the grille, but is broken with what appear to be orange metallic flourishes around the console.

When it arrives, the Stonic will sit below the mid-sized Sportage that starts at $28,990 plus on-road costs in Australia.

The small SUV segment has developed into one of Australia’s most important market categories, accounting for about 8000 sales a month, although sales this year are down 6.3 per cent.

Kia is one of the few mass-selling brands not to have a contender in the segment, perhaps holding it back from a permanent spot in the sales top 10 in Australia.

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