In the past twelve-months I can think of two cars that have produced media frenzy – both from Korea and both geared around performance and driving experience – this is the latest award winner, named ‘Stinger’ and from Kia Motors.
Not just fast, but stylish too – pricing starts from £40,495 and is aimed at offering a more affordable, yet well finished alternative to the likes of Audi’s S5 which starts from £50k or the likes of the INFINITI Q60S which starts from £44k.
Both possible rivals are all-wheel-drive but the Kia is not, the Korean manufacturer with former head of BMW //M Division, Albert Biermann in charge of the design and development of these driver orientated cars, has kept the driving experience pure – with a real-wheel-drive set-up.
In essence, the Kia Stinger is a ‘Gran Tourismo’ – think ‘4-door executive saloon’ or ‘mile-munching rep mobile’ like that of the Jaguar XE, only with more charm, character and style, and despite looking like a saloon, the Kia is actually a slightly more practical hatchback.
Just a couple of months ago, I reported back after a track-test in Hyundai’s first ever hot-hatch – the i30N, and despite reading in many media outlets how good it was, I was dumbfounded by what I experienced! [Hyundai i30N review here]
Having seen so much hype about the Hyundai in the media, I was excited to get my hands on a ‘Kia Stinger 3.3 T-GDi V6 GT S’ as that mouthful also received copious amounts of acclaim on the way it performs, drives and for what it offers – picking up the accolade of UKCOTY’s ‘Best performance Car 2018’.
For a car that has only just come to market and one that is the first of its kind for Kia – this is one hell of an entry for the brand which is booming in several segments, but never had anything worthy of getting excited about if the truth be told.
Stinger is a very bold move for Kia, one that cements the brand’s intentions within the market of not only providing renowned reliability but now an edge of class, performance and something to change the badge snob’s perception of the maker.
Available with more frugal 2.0T petrol and 2.2T diesel –the full Stinger range offers plenty of power and torque, there will be no tree hugging engines for the foreseeable future but I anticipate some sort of hybrid-equipped Stinger in the next couple of years.
I will be bringing you my thoughts on one of the smaller engine cars later in the year – I’m yet to learn which one, but will find out once it arrives in the drive for a week – for now though, I introduce to you the model that I have been eagerly awaiting a drive in – the V6 GT S.
Six years in the making – the Stinger isn’t some half-assed attempt at entering a demanding segment and Kia insist the Stinger isn’t a ‘performance car’ – mentioning the words ‘Gran Tourismo’ several times in press copy.
“The Stinger has nothing to do with being the first to arrive,” says Gregory Guillaume, European Head of Design. “This car is all about the journey. It’s about passion. To embody that passion we believe that proportion is everything. From the wheelbase to the greenhouse, the width and the height – even the shape of individual body panels – getting the perfect balance is critical.”
With meaningful looks, this rather potent, rear-wheel-drive, 5-door hatchback from Kia has quite the road presence – especially in ‘GT S’ guise as tested, finished here – in the rather attractive ‘Ceramic Grey’ colour, the Stinger GT S comes equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels.
Rear privacy glass, automatic lights and wipers along with front and rear parking sensors all come as standard and having only been released; Kia’s Stinger attracts serious interest when on the road, perhaps aided by the massive brakes with Brembo calipers and quad-exhausts.
On opening the electric tailgate, a substantial amount of luggage space is on offer and with 60:40 split/fold rear seating, Stinger offers a lot of the practicality that you don’t get in many executive saloons that would maybe rival this Kia.
The cabin itself is soft-touch-tastic and far removed from the Kia’s of old – even the modern day, entry level models from Korea can still be a bit on the plastic side – thankfully this isn’t the case here, and at £40k some would say it needn’t be, nor should it be hand stitched either.
The black materials of the dash and door cards continue with Alcantara up the pillars and across the roof lining, further adding a quality feel to this mile munching machine. Miles that are done in great comfort thanks to the very supportive, low-slung, heated and cooled seating – finished on this model in red leather, the perfect complement to the exterior Grey.
A heated steering wheel is one attribute that will be well used going by the recent climate across the province and despite there being an abundance of room in the front – with four well-proportioned adults aboard, travelling a long distance – those in the rear will soon become cramped, with head and leg room that won’t suit taller travellers.
ISOFIX child seat anchorage points keep the most precious travellers safe wihile a plethora of charge ports are on offer and just enough storage pockets to cope with family life. A 7-inch display allows for easy monitoring of vital stats and systems on the Stinger, as well as a lap-timer, whilst a larger 8-inch in the centre of the dash is the hub of the infotainment.
Looking like a bit of an aftermarket afterthought – all the usual you expect from a new car is on offer including AM/FM/DAB Radio, Bluetooth with streaming, USB connectivity, MP3 playback and Apple Carplay alongside Android Auto with voice control and a Harman Karden premium speaker system.
As previously mentioned, the Stinger GT S is fitted with a rather potent engine, and despite several manufacturers downsizing power-trains whilst thinking of the Polar Bears, Kia are all about the consumer and providing what the market demands.
Producing just 365bhp, a figure which isn’t mind-blowing by any degree, the Stinger provides a mammoth 510lb/ft of torque which is put to the rear wheels via Kia’s own 8-speed twin-clutch gearbox and limited-slip differential.
This equates to a zero to 60mph sprint in just 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 168mph – in layman’s terms – its bloody fast, with real world economy around the mid-20’smpg with 30mpg likely achievable on a motorway run and emissions come in at 225 g/km meaning annual road tax for the first handful of years is £450/year
Driving the Stinger is a genuine pleasure, if maybe a little lardy feeling at near 2T in weight – nonetheless, it doesn’t slow this Gran Tourismo down much and being rear-wheel-drive offers all of the characteristics you would expect from such a drive-train.
On a day that a snowman would have felt cold in, I gave the Stinger GT S a good drive around Buckinghamshire and the traction was surprising – thanks mostly to the limited-slip differential when in slippery, damp areas, it worked hard to keep some sort of forward-motion, with just a little correction of the steering required under abusive acceleration.
Safety features include advanced smart cruise, blind spot detect, rear cross traffic alert and hill start assist whilst a 7-year, 100k mile warranty is in place or unlimited miles for 3-years.
Words: Graham Curry