Kia Needs 4X4 To Sell New Stonic Small SUV In The U.S.
“Because of the snow states buyers will demand 4×4 in the U.S”.
Kia has filled a gap in its product portfolio in Europe with a small SUV, the Stonic, and is thinking hard about introducing it in the U.S.
First of all though, it will have to add four-wheel drive.
In Europe, the Stonic is available only with 2-wheel drive. Often here, even heritage 4×4 makers like Land Rover apparently feel no embarrassment by offering what looks like a serious off-roader but with two wheel drive to keep costs down and fuel efficiency high. I’ve often wondered how neighbours might react when in the summer, a brand new, serious looking SUV arrives, but in mid-winter the plea for rescue from a snow-drift is met with an awkward apology.
Kia insists the take-up for all-wheel drive in this sector of the market is only 8 per cent.
Ivan Drury, Boulder, Colorado-based analyst with automotive industry experts Edmunds said if Kia decides to sell the Stonic in the U.S. it must have four-wheel drive, but that won’t be problem because sister company Hyundai is making its version of the Stonic, the Kona – on sale in the U.S. early next year – and that is already engineered with 4×4.
“Because of the snow states buyers will demand 4×4 in the U.S. There’s an almost 100 per cent take up rate. The odds of a Kia Stonic without four-wheel drive selling in the U.S. would be drastically reduced. If it brought it in with 4×4 that would be a very smart thing to do,” Drury said.
Would it cannibalize sales of the funky little Kia Soul?
“No I don’t think so. The Soul’s price point is a bit lower closer to $16,000,” Drury said.
The small SUV segment, also known as Mini-Utes, features competition from the Nissan Rogue and Juke, Subaru Crosstrek, Jeep Compass and Patriot, Buick Encore, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. Prices range from $20,000 to $30,000.
Kia would have to improve the power of the engines available too.
In Europe Kia offers a choice of a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder 117 hp gasoline direct injection, a 1.4-litre 97 hp gasoline motor and a 107 hp 1.6-litre diesel with six-speed manual gearboxes.
The Hyundai Kona has a 147 hp 2 liter engine with a six-speed automatic gearbox and Kia would have to match that.
But in Europe Kia reckons a combination of style and quality, plus of course its winning long-term warranty, will win big sales. It’s probably pushing on an open door, not least because in Europe this has become a massive sector of the market, accounting for 7 per cent of sales now at 1.1 million in 2016, and set to soar to 2.2 million in 2020.
Prices start at the equivalent of $21,600 after tax to $27,200.
Kia expects to sell 70,000 Stonics in Europe in 2018, rising steadily to 100,000 a year.
The Stonic is built in Korea alongside the Kona.
(Kia provided a accommodation and train travel for its Stonic launch event).