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Kia Needs 4X4 To Sell New Stonic Small SUV In The U.S.

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.

Engines too
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).


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