In the past twelve-months I can think of two cars that have produced media frenzy – both from Korea and both geared around driving experience – this is the latest award winner, named ‘Stinger’ and from Kia Motors.
Not just potent, but stylish too – pricing starts from £32,435 and is aimed at offering a more affordable, yet well finished executive saloon alternative to the likes of Audi’s A5 Sportback or the BMW 4-series Gran Coupe.
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 rear-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.
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 three engines, starting with a 2.0L turbocharged petrol producing 244bhp you can chose a more affordable to run 2.2L turbocharged diesel with 197bhp or a 3.3L turbocharged V6 petrol with its fire-breathing 365bhp.
The full Stinger range offers plenty of torque and there will be no tree hugging engines for the foreseeable future, I do anticipate some sort of hybrid-equipped Stinger in the next couple of years however.
Six years in the making – 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.
With meaningful looks, this rather potent, rear-wheel-drive, 5-door hatchback from Kia has quite the road presence – especially in ‘GT S’ guise, the only model to come equipped with the largest of the engine line-up.
For those after a less feisty experience, two trims accompany the brace of engines available – starting with a Stinger ‘GT-Line’ priced from £32,435 which gets you 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery and 8-way power adjustable driver’s memory seat with heated front seats.
An 8-inch screen is the hub for sat-nav, radio, and connectivity, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Safety is helped with smart cruise control and head-up display along with front and rear parking sensors.
Next in the line-up, a ‘GT-Line S’ starts from £35,935 and adds heated rear seating, LED headlamps with dynamic bending, electric open/close tailgate and a Harman / Kardon premium sound system.
Wireless phone charging and a 360° around view monitor add convenience whilst an electric sunroof opens the cabin up to the stars.
Finally, and from £40,535, the ‘GT S’ gets 19-inch alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, premium leather interior and electronic controlled suspension, as well as the turbocharged V6 engine.
Having driven the 2.0T petrol GT-Line S as pictured for a week, finished in the best colour possible, the rather attractive ‘Ceramic Grey’ – it received very mixed emotions from several enthusiasts who saw it either in the flesh, or via pictures I posted on social media.
One observer commented “It’s really nice in the flesh, certain angles remind me of Maserati Quattroporte” whilst another stated “Great looking motor, certainly more than a few hints of Maserati about it” – comparison to some fine Italian metal is surely something Kia never would have imagined, but can be incredibly proud of.
Finally, a straight talking motoring enthusiast said of the Stinger “An 18 plate in Red hoofed it past me on the motorway, frig me it’s some looker of a yoke!! First one I’ve seen, well done Kia”!! – others questioned the cost of the car, more so the depreciation, which they seemed to anticipate would be high, as well as slightly higher running costs, compared to rivals.
Personally, I feel the Stinger looks great, but I am a bit of a fan of something that isn’t ‘the norm’ and something that challenges people’s views which something the Stinger does perfectly, as it more than challenges the badge-snobs perceptions of Kia Motors.
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 over £30k 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 seating – finished on this model in red leather, the perfect complement to the exterior Grey.
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 while 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.
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.
Traction is surprising, thanks mostly to the limited-slip differential and 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.
With a 7-year, 100,000 mile warranty or for those heavy business users, an attractive unlimited mile warranty for 3-years is not to be sniffed at.
Words & Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY
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