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Kia's small SUV has been facelifted, with mild hybrid power among the new additions.
Automatic headlights, LED DRLs, 16in alloy wheels, electrically adjustable heated and folding door mirrors, rear fog light, 8in touchscreen, Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, 4.2in driver display, air conditioning, cruise control and speed limiter, rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, hill start assist, lane keep assist, driver attention warning, high beam assist, intelligent stop and go, tyre pressure monitoring system.
Having first launched the Stonic small SUV - its entry into possibly the fastest-growing new car segment of them all - in 2017, Kia has now introduced a mid-life facelift.
Exterior design changes are very minor, limited to redesigned headlights alongside new paint colours and alloy wheel designs. However, a far more substantive change comes under the bonnet, with the introduction of a new 120hp petrol mild hybrid engine (a 100hp petrol is also available). The mild hybrid uses a 48V battery to assist the engine when accelerating and engage the stop-start system earlier. It also allows what's billed as 'sailing' mode, where the engine is switched off when coasting at speed. It's a clever feature, and so smooth you're unlikely to notice it without watching the rev counter and, although the 'eco' drive mode has to be selected for it to work, this doesn't unduly strangle power.
The engine, which offers useful performance helped by the mild hybrid system filling out the power band, is mated to either a six-speed 'intelligent' manual gearbox, which uses an electronic clutch to allow the sailing mode to be engaged, or the seven-speed auto fitted to our test car, which makes urban driving easy and responds to throttle presses promptly without any annoying hesitations between shifts.
There are other good things about the driving experience too. Accurate steering feels like a willing accomplice when cornering, and the car has a welcome general sense of lightness and agility, while the suspension does a good job taking the edge off bumps and ruts in the road.
Upgrades to the Stonic's interior include the fitting of a larger 8in infotainment touchscreen as standard. This is usefully responsive when operated and paired with welcome physical shortcut buttons. Although, at the risk of overly nit-picking, some screen fonts have an outdated appearance reminiscent of a 1990s computer game. The facelifted Stonic also features a higher-resolution 4.2in driver display, however, there is still no full digital instrument cluster as seen with some rivals.
Elements of the interior are disappointing aesthetically, especially since our GT-Line S test car is a top-of-the-range model, with swathes of black scratchy plastic adorn the doors and lower dash. However, the quality is much better for touch points like the leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear lever, and control buttons feel solid.
Rear legroom is OK at best, although headroom is plentiful, while a 352-litre boot is on the small side for the segment.
Another area of the Stonic addressed with the facelift is improved driver assistance systems, with cyclist recognition added to the autonomous emergency braking system, which is standard throughout the range, while GT-Line S cars with the auto box benefit from smart cruise control and rear blind spot collision avoidance.
In terms of a mild hybrid comparison in this segment, the obvious choice is the Ford Puma, and on a cost basis the Stonic actually comes out slightly ahead, being cheaper to buy and sitting one company car tax BIK band lower in comparable spec. However, the Puma does remain the more appealing package overall.