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Is the Kia Stinger a flash in the pan? The truth is it hasn’t set the automotive world on fire since its reveal in January 2017. Pre-launch hype suggested it would, but it’s yet to live up to it… at least on the sales chart.
But is that traditional drive set-up still desirable in 2020? Especially when you only have four cylinders and one turbo to play with? We've parked the twin-turbo V6 version, and put the Stinger’s GT-Line variant to the test to find out.
|Kia Stinger 2020: GT-LINE (RED LEATHER)|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to this beholder's eyes, the Stinger looks rather awkward.
Full credit to Kia for producing an eye-catching design, but unfortunately it is of the polarising variety.
On one side, there are people shocked that a Kia could look so stylish. And on the other side of the fence you have people like us, who think the Stinger tries a little too hard.
But that’s not to say we hate how it looks, because after all, hate is a strong word and the Stinger does have some redeeming design qualities.
For example, if you take the chunky LED headlights out of the front-end equation, you’re left with one angry face. We especially like the bonnet vents, fake or not.
Move to the side, however, and things really start to fall apart. The GT-Line’s 19-inch alloy wheels look the business, and so does the fastback-style roofline, but front fender the air vents distract, especially with the door creases that lead into them.
That said, our biggest bugbears are the upper-rear reflectors, which start at the Maserati-style LED tail-lights and wrap around the haunches. As far as we’re concerned, they look plain silly, especially when viewed from the side.
The rear end is the most resolved part of the Stinger’s exterior. Sleek and chunky mix together well, with the blacked-out rear diffuser and quad exhaust tailpipes obvious highlights.
Inside, Kia has maintained the design effort, except this time the results are overwhelmingly positive.
The materials used are predominately lovely. Soft-touch plastics for the dashboard and door shoulders, while leather upholstery adorns the steering wheel, seats and armrests.
Thankfully, gloss-black is only used for the dual-zone climate control and side air vent surrounds, with aluminium accents in support. A thoughtful selection, which is nice to see.
The overall look is suitably sporty, with the flat-bottom steering wheel (with paddle-shifters), alloy pedals, turbine-style air vents and intricate speaker grilles all great touches.
You even get a traditional tachometer and speedometer, which are increasingly rare. That said, there is a large multi-function display in between them and a windshield-projected head-up display above, so it’s still a tech fest.
And the dashboard is punctuated by a floating 8.0-inch touchscreen, which is surrounded by unfortunately large bezels. The multimedia system powering it does the job, though, so it’s not all bad news.
It pays to look good. In this case, ‘good’ is a relative term, but the Stinger still pays a price to look the way it does.
Indeed, the Stinger isn’t exactly practical, with most of the pain felt in the second row, where space is at a premium.
Behind my 184cm driving position, about eight centimetres of knee room is on offer, which is good. What isn’t is head and toe room, which are basically non-existent.
There’s also a large transmission tunnel to contend with, eating into precious footwell space and making three adults sitting abreast in comfort impossible.
But that’s if you make it into the second row in the first place, because the rear door aperture is puzzlingly small. Be prepared to contort your body to get in and out.
Then there’s the boot, which is accessed via a hatch. Given its fastback-style roofline, the Stinger's teardrop shape isn't cargo-friendly.
All in all, 406L of cargo capacity is available with the 60/40 split-fold rear seat upright. Drop it and this figure increases to 1114L.
Neither are large numbers for a car measuring 4830mm long, 1870mm wide, and 1400mm tall.
Front occupants are treated to a pair of cupholders in the centre console as well as door bins large enough to accommodate regular bottles.
Those in the rear get two cupholders in the fold-down armrest plus room for small bottles in the door bins.
Storage options also include a decent glove box and central storage bin, the latter including a removable tray and narrow cut-out for knick-knacks.
Connectivity-wise, there’s a USB-A port, a 12-volt power outlet and an auxiliary input in the centre console, while the former two are found again in the rear, below the central air vents.
The GT-Line is priced from $56,290, plus on-road costs, which is expensive for a mainstream sedan with this level of performance, but more on that in the next section.
Buyers are compensated with a long list of standard equipment, which includes a space-saver spare wheel, dusk-sensing lights, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors with heating, keyless entry, and a power-operated sunroof.
Other features on the list are, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a 15-speaker sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, a wireless smartphone charger, keyless start, power-adjustable front sports seats (with heating and cooling), a heated steering wheel, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and a suede roofliner.
Options include no-cost red leather upholstery (as fitted here) and eight paint colours (six free), including our test car's 'Snow White Pearl.' The two extra-cost hues command a $695 premium.
The GT-Line is motivated by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine punching out a reasonable 182kW at 6200rpm, and 353Nm from 1400-4000rpm.
Drive is exclusively sent to the rear wheels, while an eight-speed (torque-converter) automatic transmission is responsible for swapping gears.
With launch control on-board, the GT-Line can sprint from 0-100km/h in a hot hatch-like six seconds flat.
Of course, if you want more punch and an ever so slightly higher standard spec, you’ll have to fork out an extra $4500 for the GT and its 272kW/510Nm 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol unit.
Kia claims the GT-Line consumes 8.8 litres of 91RON petrol per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle test (ADR 81/02).
In our real-world testing, we averaged around 12L/100km across an even mix of city and highway driving, which is okay given the inclusion of several 'spirited' blasts.
For reference, claimed carbon dioxide emissions are 201 grams per kilometre on the same standard assessment.
ANCAP awarded the Stinger range a maximum five-star safety rating in 2017.
The GT-Line’s comprehensive suite of advanced driver-assist systems extends to autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist, driver attention alert, hill-start assist, tyre pressure monitoring, a surround-view cameras and front and rear parking sensors.
Other safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain, plus driver’s knee), electronic stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes (ABS), brake assist, and electronic brake force distribution (EBD), among others.
Indeed, there’s not much missing here. Bravo, Kia.
7 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Stinger comes with Kia’s industry-leading seven-year/unlimited-kilometre factory warranty, and its service intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. The latter falls short of the industry standard (15,000km).
A seven-year/70,000km capped-price servicing plan is available for the GT-Line, costing $3528 (an average of $504 per visit) at the time of writing.
While only one year of roadside assistance is offered as standard, this term can be extended up to eight years if the Stinger keeps coming in for its annual scheduled services at an authorised Kia dealership.
Does it surprise you to know that one of the key people behind the Stinger’s development, Albert Biermann, was previously the head of BMW’s M high-performance division?
Yep, Kia was very serious when it conceived the Stinger, and picked the perfect man to infuse it with sporting intent to match its name.
Indeed, the Stinger is a Kia that feels like a BMW to drive. It’s staggering at first because you just don’t expect such a high-quality feel.
Even with a four-cylinder engine under the bonnet, the Stinger is still a great drive.
The engine is surprisingly good fun. A thick wad of torque is served up from just above idle and holds throughout the mid-range. Push harder and maximum power is unleashed just prior to the redline, but it does feel less refined as you approach the top end.
That said, the resulting exhaust note is pretty decent. While lacking theatrical crackles and pops, it's bass-heavy and provides a friendly reminder that this is not just a visually enhanced Optima.
The automatic transmission does a reasonable job of tying things together, delivering smooth gear changes around town, where it prefers to keep engine speeds ticking barely above idle.
Stick the boot in and it will drop a gear or two, albeit in a leisurely fashion. If you’re driving with intent, though, switch from the 'Normal' drive mode to 'Sport', which makes the throttle response and shift points more aggressive.
And don’t forget the paddle-shifters, there for when your patience wears thin!
The resulting ride is really, really good. Like the rest of the Stinger, it feels super solid, but it’s also smooth, dealing well with poorer road surfaces.
The solidity does give it a firm tinge, but not an uncomfortable one. And this firmness can be dialled up by putting the adaptive dampers into their sportiest setting, which is basically a pointless exercise given the Stinger’s handling prowess.
Case in point, body control is strong when pushing hard around a corner, where the Stinger comes into its own thanks to its long wheelbase (2905mm) and rear-wheel drive set-up.
Upon corner entry, the Brembo brakes (350mm ventilated discs with four-piston calipers up front, and 340mm solid rotors with two-piston stoppers at the rear) do a great job of washing away speed before the Stinger turns in sharply.
Mid-corner, the limited-slip differential springs to life, helping to put power down when getting on the accelerator nice and early, at which point you can really start to feel the rear wheels drive you out of the bend.
Thankfully, the electric power steering is just as good. Like the suspension, it is tuned locally, and done so beautifully. Yep, even the road feel is pretty good!
Kia nailed the weighting in the Normal drive mode. Switch across to Sport, however, and the artificial heft becomes a little too much in hand – a classic BMW trait.
This system’s variable ratio is appreciated at low speed, especially in tight spaces, such as car parks. And it’s also a winner at high speed, providing additional stability, particularly on low-quality roads.
While the jury may be out on the Stinger’s looks, there’s no denying it’s great to drive thanks to a bit of engineering magic. And as far as rear-wheel drive sedans in the mainstream market go, it’s a historic effort, no matter how unloved it’s been so far in its short life.
That said, the GT-Line is expensive for what it is, so we’d forgo its turbo four-cylinder engine for the twin-turbo V6 in the GT. Sure, doing so would require an extra $4500, but it would be well worth the spend for the extra performance. Trust us…
|200S (AEB)||2.0L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO||$47,190||2020 Kia Stinger 2020 200S (AEB) Pricing and Specs|
|330S (AEB)||3.3L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO||$50,190||2020 Kia Stinger 2020 330S (AEB) Pricing and Specs|
|GT (BLACK LEATHER)||3.3L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO||$60,790||2020 Kia Stinger 2020 GT (BLACK LEATHER) Pricing and Specs|
|GT (RED LEATHER)||3.3L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO||$60,790||2020 Kia Stinger 2020 GT (RED LEATHER) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|