SMALL – BUT PERFECTLY FORMED
Thinking of buying a supermini but want something a little more interesting this time round? Then what you probably want is a car from the growing small SUV segment, a sector of the market rapidly expanding thanks to a whole raft of fresh arrivals. Motoring Correspondent Jonathan Crouch runs his eye over three of the most interesting ones
Back in 2010, a car was launched that shook up the small car segment in a big way. Nissan’s Juke was based on the running gear and underpinnings of the brand’s humble Micra model but it offered heaps more attitude in a lifestyle-orientated SUV package. Since then, other manufacturers have piled into this part of the market and interest in models of this kind is high. Here are three of the most important fresh arrivals in this segment.
New Hyundai Kona
Hyundai has filled a conspicuous gap in its model range with this Kona. 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.
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. Plus, there's a decently sized 361-litre boot.
Kona buyers get a choice between two petrol and two diesel engines. Petrol buyers choose between two T-GDI units, a 118bhp 1.0-litre variant or a 175bhp 1.6. Diesel folk get 113 or 131bhp versions of a 1.6 CRDi powerplant. In both cases, it's only the more powerful versions that get sophisticated multi-link tear suspension. The 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol unit puts out 119g/km of CO2 and manages 53.3mpg. And the 1.6-litre T-GDI variant delivers 169g/km and 38.7mpg.
In summary, we think this is a car the segment will like.
New 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.
This is one of the most strikingly Kia models we've seen to date. 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 to disguise this with a range of customisable colour schemes. 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.
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 120PS 1.0-litre T-GDI turbo petrol unit, as well as the older-tech but cheaper 1.25 or 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated MPI petrol engines. An efficient 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine completes the range, offering the lowest emissions in the line-up.
New 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.
This little Crossover 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. 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.
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. As for diesel options, the efficient and reliable 1.6 TDI unit is available with 95 and 115PS. All Arona models are front-driven: there’s not much appetite in this segment for 4WD.
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.