BMW 3 Series VS Kia Stinger
BMW 3 Series
- A PHEV keen drivers can embrace at last
- Useable real-world pure-EV commuting ability
- Quality BMW cabin design and presentation
- Lofty pricing, and that's before expensive options
- Reduced boot capacity compared to regular 3 Series
- 2.0-litre turbo four lacks BMW six-cylinder refinement at higher revs
- A true halo car for Kia
- Potent performance
- Great ownership plan
- Entry grade interior not as nice
- Could be more affordable
- Sports exhaust optional on GT
BMW 3 Series
Is the 330e the best of both worlds?
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), it’s a part-time electric car for the city and a full-time sports sedan for everywhere else.
Both were based on the previous F30 3 Series shape. However, this year’s all-new G20 iteration improves the breed with a bigger boot, up to 50 per cent better range and brawnier performance.
The thing is, it shares showrooms with the 330i and M340i xDrive, which represent a powerful return-to-form for the 3 Series.
So, the question isn’t so much ‘Is the 330e a good enough PHEV?’ more so than ‘Is the PHEV worthy of the BMW badge?’ Let’s find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
The Kia Stinger was the most anticipated vehicle the Korean brand had ever launched - and less than a year since it first landed in Australia, the big rear-wheel drive five-door liftback is still one of those cars that, when you spot it on the road, you’ll find yourself exclaiming “ooh, Stinger!”.
This wasn’t the sort of car people expected from a brand like Kia. And it launched at a time when we were wiping away tears spilled over the loss of the Falcon and Commodore (yes, the latter is still on sale, but no, it’s not what it used to be).
It hasn’t sold in huge numbers since it launched, but that’s not what this car was developed for. It was made to change perceptions of the brand, and it has done exactly that. Bulk sales are left to models like the Cerato, Sportage and Rio - but the Stinger is what draws you to the showroom, if only for a bit of a sneaky look.
So, the Stinger is still stylish enough to make you turn your head when you drive past one… and it could be enough to cause you to consider a Kia, even if you can’t afford a Stinger. But should you be taking a closer look? Let’s find out.
|Engine Type||3.3L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
BMW 3 Series9/10
You know about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, right?
Well, its themes of too little or too much apply for buyers of an eco-focused luxury sports sedan. If a hybrid like the Lexus IS 300h isn’t electrified enough, and a pure EV such as the Tesla Model 3 is going too far, then a PHEV like the 330e plugs the gap just about perfectly.
Yes, prices are high (and especially so with a few choice options), boot capacity is on the low side for a 4.7-metre long sedan and that lusty four-pot turbo is sonically no match for a turbine-smooth BMW inline six as per the M340i, but the 330e does most of the expected things well and some of the ones you might not exceptionally.
Pay the price and you can have your cake and eat it too.
As far as halo cars go, the Kia Stinger is pretty much perfect. It’s the ideal aspirational offering - the sort of car that would definitely put a smile on your face and cause your neighbours to unexpectedly drop in for a cuppa, if only to see if they can have a look at your Stinger.
For this writer, the flagship GT is the model to go for - 92 per cent of buyers have done exactly that, and it’s because that variant, while pricey, is exactly what this car should be. And while you might find people saying “ooh, Stinger” in any of the versions available, the GT is the one that deserves the admiring stares the most... even if the additional safety equipment recently added to base models now warrants further investigation at the lower price points.
Is the Kia Stinger GT your pick of the range? Tell us in the comments section below.
BMW 3 Series
Remember when BMW 3 Series were compact three-box sedans that looked like nothing else? Today’s version seems so close in size to a 5 Series that only an anorak can instantly tell them apart. In fact, at a glance, differentiating the current G20 from the old F30 generation isn’t so easy, either.
It’s no surprise, then, to learn that both the 3- and 5 Series share the company’s scalable, light but super-strong ‘Cluster Architecture’. Imbued with a large-car feel, the 330e is elegant in silhouette and handsomely detailed, its imposing stance highlighted by the M Sport lowered suspension (by 10mm) and bi-colour five-prong double-spoke 19-inch alloys and (optional) Laser-light LEDs.
Flying under the radar for an eco-warrior, there is nothing other than two ‘filler’ flaps to give the PHEV game away externally. It’s all business as usual.
The same cool insouciance permeates our 3 Series’ leather-laden and metallic-accented cabin, that is now properly spacious for four adults. It still retains the signature-BMW driver-centric dashboard angle, but the style certainly isn’t retro, with twin large digital displays and a myriad of personalisation and vehicle configuration choices underlining the 330e’s modernity.
Aided by plenty of eco incentives to go PHEV, in Europe, BMW expects the 330e to be the best selling version; that said, given the inherent conservatism of premium medium sedan buyers globally, there is virtually nothing about this model’s overall execution that is too futuristic, intimidating or oddball.
I’m at about 80 per cent like, 20 per cent dislike with the Kia Stinger’s exterior design.
There are some really sweet and sleek elements to it: the silhouette of the car is long and muscled, the headlights and grille work together really well, and the integrated body kit with front spoiler, side skirts, rear spoiler and rear diffuser all combine nicely.
There is no denying the street cred of the Stinger, and it partly comes down to the sheer size of the thing. Its dimensions are 4830mm long, 1870mm wide and 1400mm tall, with a lengthy 2905mm wheelbase.
So, it has presence - and pretty much every model in the range has that, even a base grade 200S. Unfortunately there’s also some pretence.
Things like the fake bonnet vents look like eBay add-ons, and the plastic red light line that runs from the tail-light into the rear guard, for me, ruins the cohesion of the car. These parts look cheap, where the rest of the Stinger looks expensive.
I also struggle to deal with the projector halogen headlights on the lower grades: you get LED headlights in the top-spec, and LED daytime running lights on all of them, but yellow beams? Yuck. They could have at least gone with HID or xenon lamps.
But on the whole, there’s a lot more to love than hate.
As you may know, the wheel design and size depends on the model of Stinger you choose. So, the 2.0-litre gets an 18-inch alloy in silver, fitted to the 200S and 200Si, and the same wheel but with black highlights is fitted to the 330S.
The 19-inch alloy wheel fitted to the 330Si and 200 GT-Line is identical. And the 330 in GT spec has a model-specific 19-inch wheel (though it looks very close to the other 19-inch wheel option). Every Stinger comes with a space-saver spare wheel.
As for the cabin, the interior dimensions are pretty accommodating - you need to remember the size of this car, because it’s pretty big. Check out the interior photos to see what I mean, and we’ll take a deeper dive into the inside.
BMW 3 Series
For a swoopy sports sedan, the 330e’s interior is pleasingly practical and – after a little familiarisation – user-friendly. As the biggest-ever 3 Series, four average-sized adults can fit in easily, while a smaller fifth person can crowd in on the rear-centre cushion. For short periods, anyway.
One surprise is the lightness of the doors due to them being partly aluminium, which means while they close with a reassuring thud, they’re might feel flimsy at first.
No such misconceptions await once inside the cocoon-quiet cabin, thanks to solid and lush materials everywhere the eye lands and hands touch. Even the plastics seem expensive.
As the 3 Series is famous for, the 330e’s dash is driver-centric, with ample adjustability of the fat-rimmed wheel and unimpeded reach for most of the important switchgear. Sat low and cosily ensconced between door and bisecting centre console, the mood is definitely grand-touring sports sedan.
For this generation, BMW has honed the once-controversial 'iDrive' controller into an artful yet logical example of on-the-move multimedia interface and data retrieval, with a concerted effort to simplify what is a mountain of available information.
Of course, familiarisation is essential, but even a short tuition will open up a world of configuration and customisation of every single facet of the car – chassis, powertrain, climate control, audio, communication and media being the main platforms. Sounds intimidating but isn’t.
To help relax (or energise), there’s even a ‘Caring Car’ feature in the sub menus with appropriately chilled ambient lighting, audio and climate control.
Indeed, the Germans have made strides in improving the perceived quality and functionality in other areas of the latest 3 Series, such as the gear lever operation, thoughtful storage and effortlessly effective ventilation.
However, the digital instrumentation has ignored decades of classy analogue style for a messy computerised multi-view layout that is just too Space Invaders.
Sure, it’s multi-configurable and includes a less-cluttered basic screen, but where’s the sophistication and beauty here? Notice to carmakers: would you wear a watch this ugly?
Moving to the back seat, the optional sunroof might eat into rear headroom, and really long-legged travellers need to ensure the front-seat occupants are as far forward as comfortably possible, but otherwise it’s the same story of well-sculptured cushions and backrests, set within a business-class style environment.
Twin USB-C ports, a 12V outlet and temperature controls are a bonus, hungry door pockets can take a large drink bottle and the essential cupholders are set within the centre armrest.
The only giveaway that this 3 Series is hauling extra electrification is inside the boot. Somewhat shallower than the regular 480-litre item, a higher floor than usual cuts that by 105L to 375L.
But at least the battery doesn’t intrude to the point where you can’t use the cabin load-through with the tri-sected backrests folded down (via a handy lever if you’re standing behind the vehicle). A through-loading system is part of the standard 40/20/40 split-fold backrest.
The floor itself is stepped half way, but if you require a flat surface, it can be lifted to even out the area. And remember, there is no spare wheel – just tyres that can be driven ‘flat’ as required to drive you to the nearest garage.
The interior of the Stinger is undoubtedly the most desirable of any vehicle ever sold by Kia in Australia. It looks good, no matter which spec you’re going for… but clearly, the S version with its smaller 7.0-inch touchscreen can’t quite match the bigger tablet in the models above, let alone the little changes in trim and finishes that you see as you step up the range ladder.
The flagship GT and GT-Line models are sumptuously appointed, with loads of adjustability to the driver’s seat and trim that looks as expensive as the price-tag suggests it should. The Si is smartly luxurious, where the S looks more like a ‘price leader’.
Now, to the real complaints. The driver’s seat is perched too high for my tastes - I’d like to sit a little lower when pushing through corners - plus there’s no lumbar support in lower grade cars. And anyone my height (182cm) or more will need to watch their head getting in and out of the driver’s seat. I banged the top of my noggin on more than one occasion.
The headroom situation is similar in the back seat, because the scooped roofline makes for limited space if you’re on the tall side. Thankfully, though, legroom is pretty good, and so is shoulder-room if you have two in the back. Three across will be a squeeze, as the middle seat is more ornamental than anything else, with very little legroom due to the transmission tunnel and not much in the way of comfort to the seat base or the upright.
If you have children, there are dual ISOFIX attachments for the rear window seats, and three top-tether hooks as well. Plus all Stingers have rear air-vents - and so they should.
Storage is pretty thoughtful throughout, with bottle holders in all four doors, plus map pockets (mesh ones!) in the seatbacks, and there’s a fold-down armrest with cupholders in the back. The front has a pair of cupholders between the front seats, plus a covered central storage bin, and a caddy for your phone in front of the gear selector.
Clearly if you’re thinking about a Stinger, then you’ll want to know what sort of boot space it offers, given the size of this car. But sadly, the cargo capacity is pretty slim, at just 406 litres. I guess that explains why I’ve seen a lot of Stinger models with a roof rack set-up…?
Price and features
BMW 3 Series
It’s clear that electrification will become the norm in the not-too-distant future, from hybrids combining internal combustion engines (ICE) with electric motors and batteries, to the full battery electric vehicle (EV) and eventually hydrogen EV experience.
Somewhere along that spectrum, and nestled between the 320i (from $68,900) and 330i (from $74,900), is the 330e.
Arriving from Germany in either racy M Sport or dreary Luxury grades from $81,900 (before on-road costs), it features an electric motor and battery pack for up to 60km of pure EV propulsion, before a four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine kicks in for in excess of 1800km between refills, officially. Range anxiety be damned.
Mind you, the similarly-engined 320i but minus the electrification is almost 300kg lighter. Blame all that extra electrification swag like an 83kW synchronous motor, 10.3kWh lithium ion battery and a five-metre 1.8kW charging cable.
Being a PHEV means it needs up to six hours to recharge from a regular 10-amp household plug, down to a minimum of around 3.5 hours from a larger power source.
In contrast, a non-plug-in, series-parallel hybrid like the Lexus IS 300h barely manages 2.0km of sub-40km/h-only EV range, before its ICE takes over to replenish a much-smaller battery pack, and relegate the electric motor to mere performance and/or economy boosters only. That’s why the Lexus is some $20,000 cheaper.
Though both promise slightly less EV range than the 330e, the former is comfort-biased while the latter is a bit of a Swedish hot-rod, blitzing all for sheer oomph while scoring all-wheel drive into the bargain.
Note, however, that from $75,425 (before tax and on-road costs) will buy you the mouthful Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus RWD (rear-wheel drive). As a pure EV, the Yank has kicked the ICE habit with a silent and furious need for speed.
Not that our 330e M Sport Package isn’t hot to trot, with its M Sport-enhanced suspension, brakes, aero body kit, 19-inch alloys shod with run-flat tyres (so no spare wheel), steering wheel, Alcantara/Sensonic vinyl upholstery and ‘Shadow Line’ gloss-grey trimmings. Menacing.
The BMW’s list of goodies is barely good enough for a sedan that’s over $90K drive-away. You’ll find adaptive dampers that switch seamlessly from firm to soft depending on how stiff/supple you want the ride to be, auto entry/start, stop/start, heated/folding/dipping mirrors, two USB and a single 12V ports, tri-zone climate control, electrically adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory, three-year subscription-based in-car emergency and concierge services, Apple CarPlay (but still not Android Auto at the time of publishing), 12.3-inch digital instrumentation with head-up display, a 10.25-inch central screen, satellite navigation, extended Bluetooth connectivity, an unreliable ‘Hey, BMW’ voice-activation system, digital radio, 205W amplifier audio, a 32GB hard drive, wireless smartphone charger and a personalisation function in the key saving all your preferred settings.
On the safety and security front there’s also autonomous emergency braking (AEB), warnings and active assistance/intervention for steering, lane-change, lane-departure and front/rear cross-traffic (with braking) situations, full-auto parking with surround-view 3D cameras and sensors, adaptive cruise control with full stop/go, auto high-beam LED headlights with delay/off, rain-sensing wipers, low-speed EV-mode acoustic warnings for pedestrians and localised recharging info including range radius. Handy.
Still, a sunroof is optional, as are our car’s trick 'Laser-light' active/adaptive LEDs, ambient cabin lighting, motion-sensor electric bootlid, seat and steering wheel heaters, galvanised trim, and other goodies, amounting to over $10,000. All blow out pricing towards $100K. Ouch.
At least you can pre-set the climate control in your 330e via a BMW app. Cool!
So, you want to know how much a Kia Stinger will cost you? Well, it’s an extensive range, with a price list that should help it appeal to a broad range of consumers. There are six models in the line-up, and here’s a simple rundown of the list price (or RRP, before on-road costs) for each of them.
With the 2.0-litre engine you can get: the 200S, priced at $45,990; the 200Si, priced at $52,990; and the GT-Line, priced at $55,990.
For Stinger models powered by the 3.3-litre engine, you have three options, too: the 330S, priced at $48,990; the 330Si, priced at $55,990; and the flagship GT, which lists at $59,990.
We asked Kia Australia to provide us with a model comparison table, showing where the GT sits in terms of popularity for sales so far in 2018. Amazingly, 92 per cent of sales are the GT, meaning vs the other five variants account for only eight per cent between them.
Now let’s take a look at the standard features across the trim levels.
The entry-grade 200S and 330S models have artificial leather trim on the seats, dual-zone climate control, electric driver’s seat adjustment (eight-way), manual front passenger seat adjustment, a digital driver info display with digital speedometer, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto headlights (halogen projector beams with LED daytime running lights), heated exterior mirrors with folding, and a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with a six speaker sound system.
There is no CD player, but you get media USB (plus an additional USB charging socket and two 12-volt outlets) and there’s Bluetooth phone and audio streaming connectivity, as well as DAB+ digital radio. Keyless entry (with a button on the door handle, rather than the more advanced hand-sensing system on some rival cars) and push-button start are standard on all models, too.
While in late 2017 the Stinger didn’t come with advanced safety equipment on the base model S versions, that has been rectified for 2018 model cars. Read more about what’s included in each variant in the safety section below.
The 200Si and 330Si models gain real leather seats, along with a larger 8.0-inch multimedia screen and an updated sound system with nine speakers (including a subwoofer under each front seat) active cruise control, plus this version adds auto wipers. The Si grade also gains a luggage net and carbon-fibre-look trim.
The 18-inch rims fitted to the 200S and 200Si are the same, but for the 330S you get 18s (another design) and the 330Si gets bigger 19s (again with a unique style).
If you decide to step up to the GT-Line (for the 2.0-litre) or the GT (for the 3.3-litre), you gain quite a bit of extra kit.
Nappa leather lines the seats, and there’s flat-bottomed steering wheel with GT badging, plus the front seats add memory settings and powered bolster adjustment and thigh support adjustment. The front passenger seat gains electric adjustment, and both front seats have heating and ventilation, but there’s no heated steering wheel.
The GT-Line and GT models rock a 15-speaker harman/kardon audio system, and add an electric sunroof (not a panoramic sunroof), auto-dimming side mirrors, and extra technology including a 360-degree camera and colour head-up display, including speed limit indicators - but it doesn’t have traffic sign recognition, so it’s useless in roadworks-prone areas.
The interiors of these two models also sees the introduction of alloy sports pedals and Qi wireless phone charging, plus faux suede headliner and pillar trim.
If you get the range-topping GT, there are model-specific digital gauges for oil temp, torque output, turbo boost, G-forces and a lap timer. Plus this version has electric steering wheel adjustment in this variant only.
The GT-Line and GT have LED headlights with auto high-beams and cornering function, plus the wheel size jumps up to 19-inch for the GT-Line, and the GT also gets a unique 19-inch wheel design. Plus these top two versions have adaptive dampers.
And to reinforce the sportiness of the Stinger V6, every model with that drivetrain comes with Brembo brakes, a limited slip differential and a variable-ratio steering rack.
Australian GT models can be optioned with a $2500 locally-developed bi-modal exhaust. It’s worth the money, but really could be included standard. And you can’t option an exhaust through Kia Australia on the turbo four-cylinder models, which is a bummer.
Floor mats are standard on all grades, and you can expect the “tinted windows upgrade” question to be asked at the point of sale, as no model comes standard with privacy glass. What about colours (or colors, if you’re reading this somewhere other than Australia)? I personally think white looks great on the Stinger, but there is also silver, red, blue, black, grey and a darker blue that almost looks purple depending on the light. There is no orange option like the hue used on the GT Federation concept.
There are some widely reported problems with the hero 'Sunset Yellow' paint colour, and Kia Australia has instituted a fix for this: it will repaint the car at no cost (with a lifetime guarantee), refund the customer or replace the vehicle. For more on potential Kia Stinger problems, read the ownership section below.
Engine & trans
BMW 3 Series
BMW’s modular (B48) 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine delivers 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque, and drives the rear wheels via a ZF eight-speed automatic. The latter is regarded as one of the best transmissions of its type in production today.
That transmission also houses the 83kW/105Nm synchronous motor, while the 10.3kWh battery pack is located underneath the back seat. Total outputs are 185kW/420Nm.
Each power source works together to create a smooth and quiet EV experience up to a published 60km, before the 2.0-litre takes over the main driving function, but powering down again when coasting or under very light throttle, to help eke out maximum mileage between refills.
There are three modes to choose from – 'Sport', 'Hybrid' and 'Electric' – with the latter allowing for pure EV driving as long as the batteries are juiced up enough; otherwise the default Hybrid setting kicks in, where both propulsion options are used to maximum efficiency.
Back in Electric mode, in Battery Control mode, the driver can pre-select a minimum battery charge level for use later on where conditions are better-suited to EV driving – such as in downtown.
There’s also a so-called ‘XtraBoost’ function, providing up to 30kW of extra power (topping out at 215kW) for short periods, and is accompanied by a fake/enhanced exhaust note. It’s a bit of a scorcher, actually, revving hungrily to the redline and reeling in the horizon like a proper BMW should.
Don't go searching for an evocative in-line six-cylinder soundtrack, however. Instead, there's simply a zingy metallic snarl as the tacho swings swiftly upwards. S mode loves holding on to each gear ratio, aided by a thoughtfully placed set of paddle shifters.
Overall, the 3 Series PHEV is surprisingly rapid – clearing the 100km/h marker needs just 5.9 seconds – but subjectively actually feels even faster. BMW limits the 330e's EV top speed to 140km/h, or 230km/h in dinosaur-fuel mode.
Let’s talk engine specs. There are two drivetrain options for the Stinger range: the four-cylinder turbocharged 2.0-litre engine (hence the 200 prefix), and the twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 (ditto the 330 prefix).
The 200, or 2.0-litre turbo motor, isn’t the horsepower hero here, but nor is it underdone. It has 182kW of power (at 6200rpm), and 353Nm of torque (from 1400-4000rpm). The four-cylinder is only available in Australia with an eight-speed automatic transmission - no manual gearbox is available.
The 330, or 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged engine, offers more punch - and so it should, considering its engine size. It has 272kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 510Nm of torque (1300-4500rpm). Again, it only comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox - there is no manual transmission option.
If we had to give a rating for each engine individually, it’d be a 9/10 for the 3.3L and a 7/10 for the 2.0L - and not just because of the stats.
You can forget any type of turbo diesel motor in Australia (but there is a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel in Europe - the same engine used in the Sorento SUV). We’re an all petrol market, though no market has an EV, plug in hybrid or LPG version of the Stinger, and you can probably forget all about a Stinger with a supercharger, too.
And while all models sold in Australia are rear-wheel drive (RWD), not front wheel drive like all other Kia passenger cars sold in Australia. The diesel sold in Europe is available with all-wheel drive (4WD / AWD), and so is the V6 in some colder markets.
Being a big car with a strong engine, you might be interested in fitting a towbar (yes, you can) to haul some weight behind you. If so, the towing capacity of the Stinger is the same across both engine types: 750kg for an un-braked trailer, 1500kg for a trailer with brakes, and with a tow ball download limit of 75kg.
BMW 3 Series
On the flipside, BMW reckons over 1800km is possible, thanks to the official combined figure of only 2.2 litres per 100km. That’s outstanding range, especially considering the fuel tank is a teeny 40 litres.
Maybe it was the addictive allure of all that XtraBoost oomph, or perhaps it’s the porky 1740kg throwing its weight around, but we could not better 6.3L/100km during our week with the Bavarian wunderkind.
BMW recommends either premium unleaded (95 RON plus) or E10 ethanol, so no standard stuff, please.
Meanwhile, in EV mode, less than 40km is the real-world range, and that can drop dramatically with amenities running like the AC. The EU electricity consumption figure is 15.4kW/h/100km, which is reasonable for the 330e’s size and weight.
Fuel consumption mightn’t rank highly on your list of priorities if you’re looking at a Stinger, but even so, below are the fuel economy figures for both models in the range.
The 200 models, or versions with the 2.0-litre engine, have claimed combined cycle fuel use of 8.8 litres per 100 kilometres.
The 330 models, with the 3.3-litre V6, have claimed combined cycle fuel use of 10.2L/100km.
During our time in the four-cylinder GT-Line we saw a displayed average of 8.7L/100km (with a lot of highway driving in the mix), while the V6 GT model we drove - mainly in highway driving and commuting, with some typically argumentative Sydney traffic - was using 9.7L/100km. A spirited drive down the coast returned 10.4L/100km at the bowser in the 330S.
Both are capable of running on regular unleaded fuel, but premium unleaded (95RON or 98RON) would be our recommendation.
The fuel tank size for the Stinger is just 60 litres, which is quite small for a vehicle of this size, and could mean less mileage than you’d think - even if you engage the Eco mode. In fact, in the best-case scenario you’ll see about 680km in the four-cylinder, and 590km in the V6.
BMW 3 Series
The good news is that the 330e is designed for built-up and urban environments, since it benefits from a quiet electric motor to whoosh you along almost silently and always serenely for up to that 60km official range. Acceleration is instant, punchy and remains strong as speeds quickly rise, making the BMW ideal for darting in and out of traffic gaps.
In the real world, with the climate-control switched on and other drains on the car, that drops to under 40km, though that can often be more than enough for most commutes. If there’s access to a normal 10a socket, the BMW will be fully charged to get you back home in fewer than six hours.
Of course, the beauty of a PHEV is that the main form of motivation is a brilliantly muscular and responsive BMW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which really gives the 330e wings as a fast and fluent open-road grand tourer. It just laps the miles up.
Still, running on petrol, the Bavarian is as impressive around town, too, since there’s a hefty lump of low-down torque on tap for prompt throttle responses. The superb eight-speed torque-converter auto provides an almost supernatural ability to select the right ratio at the right time, and in a most harmonious manner too.
Perhaps this is a one-off blip in our test car, but a concerning powertrain jolt was discernible from somewhere in the transmission at step-off, as if the 330e is struggling to reconcile electric and petrol power seamlessly.
Every aspect of the BMW PHEV’s powertrain and chassis – engine, transmission, steering and suspension – can be altered from a cushy softness to a muscular firmness, according to the mood of the driver (or passengers).
Although never heavy, there is substance to the steering even at slower speeds, and the upshot is an engaging and involving experience. Switching to Sport intensifies everything, for an edgier, more athletic experience.
Great for keener folk seeking the 3 Series’ enthusiast’s machine reputation. That said, the turning circle is tight for easy manoeuvrability, while the auto parking feature helps getting the sedan into tighter spots, and generally works reliably.
Adaptive dampers do a great job in helping to smother out most of the bumps and ruts of suburbia’s roads, though larger speed humps can expose the limits of available suspension travel as well as ground clearance (147mm).
Out on the open road, the steering is a boon, working with the taut chassis for sharp handling and balanced roadholding. Displaying towering levels of roadholding, the 330e simply remains glued to the road, even at speed.
One small observation is that the 330e lacks a mechanical limited slip differential, so there isn’t quite the surgical handling crispness that elevates the latest 330i into the dynamic stratosphere.
That, plus the extra mass of the PHEV, do dull the steering’s sharpness and BMW’s overall agility slightly. Never stodgy, just not supernaturally athletic. That’s the price you pay for parsimony.
Finally, in the sportier settings, with the stability and traction controls’ hold loosened, the tail can be made to swing out, meaning the driver must remain alert and ready to reel it all back into place.
This isn’t as much a flaw as a playful aspect of the 330e’s very broad dynamic bandwidth. There’s something for everyone.
Let me just put it out there: if you’re considering a Stinger, you should be going for the V6. Of the buyers who have already purchased a Stinger, almost all of them have done exactly that… I mentioned the GT accounts for 92 per cent of sales, and V6 versions count for 96 per cent of all Stingers sold.
It’s not just because the V6 offers the most enviable performance figures - although speed is a big reason to buy a car like this: a 0-100km/h time of just 4.9 seconds is fantastic considering it can run on 91RON regular unleaded petrol.
The real reason is that the Stinger feels like the V6 is what it should have, and the four-cylinder is only there to meet a price point. Is there any need to meet a price point, though, when almost all Stinger buyers are choosing the most expensive version? I think not.
Sure, the 2.0-litre engine is a zesty offering, but doesn’t set the senses on fire as much as the V6. It builds pace well, and even sounds pretty good under hard throttle - but for me, the six is better suited to the character of a big car like the Stinger.
The automatic transmission is focused more on efficiency when teamed to the four-cylinder, upshifting a little too soon in the normal or comfort drive modes - though choosing sport mode is the best way to rectify that, as it makes the throttle response and shift patterns more aggressive.
But the V6 is just so much better. It offers superb refinement, excellent throttle response and it’s properly fast. The transmission feels up for it, more ready for sudden throttle thumps, and it rewards with potent in-gear grunt. But the fact the transmission will overrule you when you're using the paddle-shifters is truly annoying, even if it is protecting costly, breakable moving parts.
You will need to keep an eye on your rear tyres, because Kia has done a great job of allowing some tolerance from the traction control system. From a standstill, the alloy wheels at the back will often do more rotations than those at the front…
But it isn’t just the punch - it’s the way the Stinger handles itself. There are four suspension tunes that have been developed by the brand’s local suspension gurus, and the examples I sampled - the GT-Line, GT and 330S - all did a terrific job of controlling the body of the car.
The GT-Line and GT, admittedly, have adaptive dampers to can firm things up when you engage the Sport drive mode or tailor the 'Custom' drive mode as such, and if the road surface isn’t perfect the wheels can be a little slappy in their engagement with the road below.
But just find a smooth road, and you’ll be able to properly unleash the abilities of the Stinger. Plus for models on sale in the latter part of 2018, the GT will see an upgrade from Continental rubber to Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, which is what Kia intriguingly fitted to track cars at the launch of the Stinger in 2017, before switching back to Contis for the road drive.
And while most of us won’t be carving up mountain passes everyday, the Stinger makes for a comfortable and composed cruiser or commuter, too. There’s not much cabin noise, and Comfort mode in the cars with adaptive dampers is very good. It’s not as cushy as air suspension in some cars three-times the price, and you don’t have the same ground clearance advantages as you might in, say, a Mercedes-Benz CLS which can raise up for steep sections, but unless you have a hellish driveway, you’ll struggle to bottom out. For those interested, the ground clearance is 130mm.
In the 330S, the chassis (MacPherson strut front suspension/multi-link rear suspension) is really well set up. Sure, you don’t get the smarts of adaptive dampers, but the tune that Kia’s local team has done on it is excellent: it rides over bumps well (the slightly smaller wheel/tyre package undoubtedly helps in that regard), and it handles corners with ease and steers quite nicely. A bit more nose-end grip could help things even more.
The braking response of the Brembos on the V6 models was definitely better than the four-cylinder models - strong and straight, and with good pedal feel, too.
One minor complaint I had was with the adaptive cruise control - it isn’t as good as some other systems I’ve used: it can be jagged in its reapplication of throttle, whether in the 2.0-litre or the 3.3.
BMW 3 Series
As part of the G20 3 Series line-up, the 330e achieved a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating in October, 2019.
There basically isn’t an active or passive safety item left unticked in this grade, meaning AEB (operational from 5km/h to 210km/h), stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, cornering brake control and brake-assist, active lane-change and lane-departure warnings and intervention, front and rear cross-traffic alert with braking and blind-spot monitoring.
Eight airbags are fitted – front and side airbags for driver and front passenger and head airbags for all outboard seat occupants.
There’s also adaptive cruise control with full stop/go functionality, as well as a low-speed EV-mode acoustic warning for pedestrians and cyclists to get out of the way. That’s set to about 20km/h.
When Kia launched the Stinger, it had not one safety rating, but two: a three-star ANCAP score for the 200S and 330S base model versions, and a five-star ANCAP for all other Stingers. The reason was the S models lacked some electronic safety features. Now, however, every Kia Stinger has the five-star ANCAP rating, based on 2018 testing.
Now, let’s just put this out there: this scoring was confusing and also confounding when compared with other ratings from the safety watchdog. For other vehicles in the market, ANCAP hadn’t issued two ratings if a specific variant didn’t have the safety equipment needed: instead, it would issue an overall rating for the range, with a side note about specific models that may not meet the five-star score… like the Honda CR-V. Why ANCAP decided to single out the Stinger is beyond us.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk safety equipment.
Every Stinger now has auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, driver attention alert, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, and seven airbags (dual front, front side, full length curtain and driver’s knee).
The high-spec GT and GT-Line models gain a 360-degree camera/surround view camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and front parking sensors - but no park assist system to help you out in carparks. These versions also get a colour head-up display (HUD).
Where is the Kia Stinger built? The answer is South Korea.
BMW 3 Series
The 330e’s servicing is condition-based, depending on how it’s driven and other factors, with a dash warning appearing to let the driver/owner know when it’s time. In the UK, a two-year/30,000km interval is advised, if that helps.
No capped-price servicing regime is offered, but the 'BMW Service Inclusive Basic' packages cover scheduled servicing from three years/40,000km to five years/80,000km, and start from $1350.
Kia offers one of the best ownership plans in the business, with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan backed by seven years’ roadside assist if you keep your logbook stamped by Kia dealers, and a seven-year capped price service plan.
The cost varies depending on whether you choose the four-cylinder or the V6, but the intervals are the same: both four- and six-cylinder models require maintenance every 12 months or 10,000km (whichever comes first). That’s shorter than most Kia models, which only need servicing annually or every 15,000km.
The four-cylinder models are more affordable to own due to a lower average service cost of $451, compared with the six-cylinder version at $487.
If you’re worried about Kia Stinger problems - be it engine problems, transmission problems, suspension issues, quality complaints (like that yellow paint issue) or any other type of reliability complication - check our Kia Stinger problems page. Don’t forget that old-school owners manual in the glovebox, where you’ll be able to find out what sort of replacement battery you’ll need, also what oil type is required.
As for resale value? That’s a bit of guesswork, given the car hasn’t been on sale all that long. But Glass's Guide’s depreciation calculator suggests the following: for a GT model after three years/50,000km, you should expect a trade-in price of just $21,200, or a private price of $26,000.
Thinking a base model 200S might be a good buy? Maybe wait three years, because the predicted resale value is just $15,800 as a trade-in, and only $19,500 retail (and you'll still have four year's worth of warranty!).