I have to admit, I’m not part of the Kia Stonic compact crossover’s market demographic, which has been pinpointed as first-time car buyers between 20 and 35 years old. I’m not openly admitting I’m way over that age bracket, though.
When I first saw the Kia Stonic in the flesh—a brand-spanking, newly disinfected, pristinely waxed Extreme Blue Stonic EX AT variant media test unit—as it wheeled into my garage on the weekend leading to March 8, I frowned a bit and thought to myself it would look like I’d be driving around in a vehicle that I (forcibly) borrowed from my nephews or nieces. I also abruptly remembered the Kia Stonic’s online launch in October 2020, with youngsters in yellow and orange dancing beside the crossover. They were obviously having loads of fun. But I just couldn’t imagine myself hip-hopping into that picture.
The people at AC Motors and Kia Philippines had other ideas, though, to make me feel the youthful vibe of the Stonic, and it was through a good old, straight-up drive experience—the kind that strips away all the marketing bells and whistles and leaves me with just this essential blue Stonic delivered to my doorstep that weekend.
That delivery also meant I would be engaging in a group activity for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic virtually halted everything from March 2020 onwards. So, that small frown I made also reflected my worries about how this ride with other people could be conducted as safely as possible.
Having the team of Georges Ramirez—the guru of organized group drives—take care of the nitty gritties of a media ride-and-drive made things vastly more reassuring. The pre-ride protocols were thorough. I had to be at the Bonifacio Global City meetup venue at 7:15 a.m. on March 8. I was alone inside my Stonic, and I had to be inside that vehicle at all times, even when I was subjected to a Covid-19 antigen swab test (my first-ever, mind you). In essence, as George would blurt out over our 2-way radios, the Stonic was our own “personal bubble”.
The Stonic media ride-and-drive was carried out in batches beginning in early February. For our batch, there were four of us media participants. We were strongly discouraged from exiting our vehicles and mingling before the results of the swab tests were known.
Speaking of results, the good news for all of us came 20 minutes later. We were all found positive and made to go home. Just kidding. Having been tested Covid-free, we could all proceed with the drive as planned.
In true Ramirez style, our six-car convoy—which included Louis in the lead car and Georges as the sweep—were constantly kept tightly together, from the crawl out of Monday morning traffic in the city, to the rush at the tollways, to the open countryside cruise. Our route was also thoughtfully plotted out, as it included fairly high-speed cruises at Naia-X, Cavitex and Calax tollways, and scenic but challenging mountain roads in Tanza, Naic, and Maragondon in Cavite and Nasugbu in Batangas. All of these, of course, served to highlight the Stonic’s stable and confident handling and the gear management of the tiptronic, which allowed me to optimize the torque and power generated by the 1.4L dual-CVVT gasoline engine and 6-speed A/T during crucial stretches such as overtaking and going on steep downhills and ascents. We were also encouraged to try out the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto features of the Stonic’s infotainment system, which was highlighted by the 8-inch touchscreen.
It was during this drive that I realized the Stonic isn’t all just “song and dance”. This cute little crossover just brought a smile to my face at the zig-zags of Cavite and Batangas. The Stonic could just as ably handle the challenges usually reserved for more expensive performance vehicles.
In just three hours, Georges’ job was done. He and his team (collectively known as Ramirez & Cutter Inc) had led us safely to our lunch venue in Hillcrest Gardens Tagaytay in Alfonso, Cavite. There were no youngsters in yellow and orange dancing to greet us, but I appreciated so much more what the Stonic truly was, and what it could do to enhance the first-crossover experience of its intended target market.
I sat down alone at my table, the other participants a safe distance away in their own dining bubbles in the outdoor venue. Georges’ crew was thoughtful enough to remember my dietary preference, as I was served a sumptuous vegan lunch consisting of vegetable tempura, pumpkin soup in coconut cream, fruits and vegetable salad with lemon vinaigrette, and a main course of tofu and mushroom steak with plain pesto, steamed broccoli, plain rice and fresh fruits.
A thought popped out of my head as I was enjoying my meal. It was about “personal bubbles”, and how important it was during this ongoing pandemic. Kia Philippines and the Ramirezes were able to come up with their “bubbles” for us to come to savor just this moment. For sure, this event looked simple, straightforward, and lots of fun—gather a few people and let them drive their own vehicles to lunch—but the planning and design behind it was immense, thorough and covered all the bases.
Come to think of it, I could say the same about the Stonic.