OF course, performance matters.
In driving, it is important that the vehicle one drives is sturdy, the engine robust, the drivetrain responsive, the handing accurate and the suspension pliant. Safety, is one of the indications of performance, making it very important.
Yet in the many test drives I have had, this is the first time wherein, I had sat behind the wheel of a car and didn’t pay attention to the performance at all. Is that a bad thing?
Don’t get me wrong. Kia’s Media Test drive (I joined number 7 of 10) was extremely well organized. Not only were health safety protocols followed to the letter, driving safety was top of mind. I came to this conclusion this looking at how the routes were organized and the drivers were grouped together.
I was car number one in a convoy of six Stonics, and I had to run after the pace car onboarded by race driver George Ramirez through the twisties of Cavite and Batangas on route to the classy Escala Tagaytay. That was no mean feat. We took the long route that went through the Kabiyang Tunnel, and up the I had to keep my safe 4-second distance between myself and the pace car, listen to instructions on a walkie talkie and push the car to its limits on upshifting and downshifting the tiptronic to no end.
The Kia Stonic failed to displease. It performed every time it was requested. On the uphills, delivering power on the curves, on the downhills, where’d I’d use engine braking as not to scrub off too much speed and momentum. In the straights, where we would be at the verge of breaking the speed limits–if we truly wanted to—the energy exhibited by the Stonic was instant, and the gratification, extended.
It also failed to create discomfort. The seats are firm, bolstered where is mattered—didn’t pretend to be sport seats, but held me in place when the “Gs” started to kick in. I blame the tight curves, because we were nipping corners when needed, but the suspension remained taut—not racing firm—just enough to keep grip and the rubber where it is needed. Heavy braking on two occasions meant pushing the ABS on the top of the line ___ Stonic and keeping the car straight was not a chore.
One more thing this car was not so good at is dissatisfying. All the intuitively-located bits were where they should be—including a slot by the center console designed for a phone but also great for a bottle of alcohol, a feature necessary during these pandemic times. The infotainment system connected quickly, Android or Apple. Controls on the steering wheel managed most of the tuning and music duties on the drive. A curated selection of music marked as “#Style That’s Iconic” on Spotify intensified the test drive, keeping us all on pace, and on the go.
The touchscreen can also mimic and the gearshift lever felt so ergonomically in place. Though the glove box was tiny, it still didn’t bring any displeasure to me, it was, I believe enough for what it was intended for—gloves. The air-conditioning controls were satisfyingly organized with the prompt buttons all in place.
One thing that the Stonic brought with it was a feeling of invigoration and youthfulness.
“The Kia Stonic, is designed for the younger generation, but also for the young at heart,” Kia President Manny Aligada said in an informal conversation over lunch with fellow motoring journos Jong Arcano of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Alfred Mendoza of Autobuyers.ph, and Louie Ramirez, one of the event organizers. He said this as if confirming my instincts.
“But being young does not come with age. You can be young at heart and soul even if you are past the pre-determined age bracket,” he said with a hearty laugh as our discussion on the table quickly moved to the comparison of the metabolic age and actual age, prompted by Albert’s description of his “buffed” father-in-law.
“When a car is fun to drive it brings back emotions. The younger driver sees the fun and the ease of acquisition, and the Kia brand. But, the more mature driver sees the pricing but also the practical ownership and also what is behind the Kia nameplate.
By that, he meant that the Stonic comes with a 5-year/160,000km warranty, and a free 24/7 roadside assistance, a parts and service network that is built on the 3 decades long -experience of the Ayala Group handling cars so that “from the time you buy it, to the time you own it, to the time you enjoy it, ownership is always problem-free.”
When I said “performance does not matter” this is what I meant.
No matter how good the car is when actually driving, what comes beneath and behind it counts as much. The Stonic delivered the high level of performance expected of the badge, so I did not bother rating speed and acceleration and fuel economy, someone else will do that. Read: “A style that changed my mind.”
What I did put on the scales is a comparison of its closest rivals in the price scale and see whether they can compare with the “beneath and behind” of the Kia Stonic. And that is where the comparison ends. And where the Stonic, will become, iconic.