The time has come to forget any notion of Kia being anything less than a brand deserving respect and, would you believe, aspiration.

That three-letter badge, in all caps, will probably never have the symbolism of a three-pointed star, four interconnecting rings or a spinning propeller roundel, but the company which once appropriated old Mazdas, employed Damir Dokic, and used the most annoying sting in advertising (Keeea!, anyone?) is now able to produce the goods to challenge all the above. 

Good Kias are indeed nothing new, with every new model launched in the past decade representing a giant stride towards - and sometimes eclipsing - Aussie favourites like Toyota and Mazda in the ‘Should I buy one?’ stakes. The new Stinger, however, should be the line in the sand that elevates your perception of the brand for good.

Not only does it push Kia into new and exciting territory, but it coincidentally arrives at a time where its Falcon and (Aussie) Commodore local rivals have turned up their toes, leaving behind a yawning abyss for enthusiast buyers looking for a relatively cheap, rear-wheel drive performance car that doubles as family transport.

There’s no V8, and probably never will be (though we reckon the K9’s 313kW 5.0-litre unit would probably bolt in), but the rising cult status of the late XR6 Turbo suggests we’re ready to stomach a twin-turbo V6 capable of the 0-100km/h sprint in under five seconds, and a surprise-package four cylinder version that’ll do the same in six.  

It’s all wrapped in a coupe/sedan lovechild five-door hatch body that promises most of the practicality of a wagon without looking like one, comes with the best warranty and ownership plan in the business, and even the top-of-the-range version sneaks in for under $60,000.

The time has come to forget any notion of Kia being anything less than a brand deserving respect and, would you believe, aspiration. The time has come to forget any notion of Kia being anything less than a brand deserving respect and, would you believe, aspiration.

Yes the new Euro-built Commodore is around the corner, which will come in the same shape and size, but it's not a patch on the Kia for visual appeal, and certainly won’t pack 272kW and the rear-wheel drive so cherished by Aussie die-hards.

On paper, the Stinger sounds like the most exciting new car of 2017, with a full range of three four-cylinder and three V6 models on offer, but we’ve now driven it on Australian roads and on the track to see if expectations outweigh reality.