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Kia Stinger 2020 review: GT long term

The Commodore is dead, long live the Stinger.

Malcolm Flynn is spending three months with his family aboard the Kia Stinger GT, to prove there’s a whole lot more to family life than outright practicality. 

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Part 1

When you’ve had the best, who would want to settle for anything else? Because humans aren’t always the most rational species, and we have a tendency to want what we don’t need. 

Our previous Carnival long term test car delivered outstanding family practicality well beyond the needs of my two-toddler family, and is arguably one of the very best family cars on the market. 

But it didn’t have a 272kW/510Nm twin-turbo V6, 0-100km/h claim of 4.9 seconds, a rear-drive chassis with Brembo brakes and genuine performance cred, all wrapped within a low-slung body dropping with sexy design details. And even though we need none of those things either, the Kia Stinger GT does. 

It also has five seats and doors, with one of the latter being a huge liftback that promises wagon-like practicality. 

From the moment the Kia Stinger first appeared in early 2017, it was hailed as the next best thing to the already-departed Ford Falcon and the VF Commodore that was on its last legs at the time. 

It is indeed close to these sedans most of us grew up with, but with a liftback opening to help bridge the gap between the cargo practicality we’ve grown accustomed to with SUVs. How effectively it bridges that gap, we’ll find out.

It sure ain't no SUV. It sure ain't no SUV.

The $60,990 (MSRP) Stinger GT doesn’t have a classic V8 growl, and nor does it line up on the grid at Bathurst in October, but more than two years later it’s still a standout in the market. The only close alternatives cost nearly twice as much, and are limited to the $103,200 (MSRP) BMW 440i Gran Coupe and $105,900 (MSRP) Audi S5 Sportback.

The 2020 GT brings the availability of the Neon Orange paint on our example, which was first previewed on the Kia stand at the 2017 LA motor show

Neon Orange has gone from the LA show stand to showrooms. Neon Orange has gone from the LA show stand to showrooms.

The only other change for 2020 is the heated steering wheel, which joins the heated and ventilated front seats. 

Ultimate train spotter detail: Heated steering wheel detail is new for 2020. Ultimate train spotter detail: Heated steering wheel detail is new for 2020.

It is easily the least obvious choice for a family car we've had to date, considering the Tiguan 132 TSI , Escape Trend, CX-5 Touring, CR-V VTi-S, Golf R wagon, Santa Fe Elite, CX-9 Azami and Carnival Platinum we’ve had over the past three years have all been either mid-size SUVs, a station wagon, or a full-size people mover.

First job as always was to fit my two 0-4 years baby seats, in the forward-facing position, which brought no challenges aside from needling to work within the lower roofline of the seductively tapered Stinger’s rear end. 

Impressively, the two ISOFIX mounts are covered by neat spring-loaded flaps, which require a lot less fumbling than having to jam the seat buckles between the cushions like many models.

The Stinger’s rising beltline and low seating position does restrict outward vision from the back seat, but no complaints from my kids just yet. They thankfully haven’t shown any signs of car sickness to date either.

Anyone who’s followed my family car journey will know of my ongoing desire to fit Grandma in the back alongside the two baby seats. The Stinger’s 23cm gap between the baby seats and 37cm between the ISOFIX points is a far cry short of the barely passable 40cm and 50cm measurements shared across the Santa Fe, CX-9 and CX-8 I’ve measured in the past. Sorry Grandma, you’re on the bus, but this is in line with expectations. 

One other advantage of fitting the baby seats is that the three headrests across the back row aren’t needed, so with them removed the visibility through the shallow rear window is significantly improved.

We collected our Stinger with 1004km on the odometer, and have managed to rack up another 2343km in our first month together. 

This included a trip from the Blue Mountains to Canberra and back, which yielded a highway-only fuel consumption figure of 8.3L/100km with a couple of toilet stops along the way. 

From this angle, you'd never know it was chockers with kids and luggage. From this angle, you'd never know it was chockers with kids and luggage.

Not bad at all for such a big (1780kg) and fast car, with a full load, in the heat of summer, on Regular 91RON unleaded. Oh, and neartl 2L/100km better than the 10.2 official combined figure on the windscreen sticker. 

 A bit more care was required to fit all our stuff in the back than the SUVs we’ve had before (duh), but it still swallowed more than enough of what we needed for the weekend, including the full-size pram and portacot. We just didn’t bring any of the kids bikes or extra big toys along. They’ll live, and as you might imagine, Grandma had plenty of all that waiting at the other end.

It won't carry everything, but it easily covered our needs for a weekend. It won't carry everything, but it easily covered our needs for a weekend.

Distance travelled this month: 2343km

Odometer: 3347km

Average fuel consumption this month: 10.8L/100km (measured at the pump)

Part 2

Month number two started with the need to transport a new washing machine home from the shop. I say 'need', but what I mean is a preference to avoid paying a delivery fee, and putting the car on the driveway through its paces at the same time.

Out came the measuring tape, and the Stinger with the back seats folded flat was actually within 10mm of being able to fit the box in the back. A washing machine!

It's 406-litre VDA seats-up measurement may not sound like much next to what a Falcon or Commodore typically offered, but that hatch opening literally opens up so many more options. If I'd been willing to take the kids' seats out and take the washing machine out of the packaging for the ride home, the Stinger would have done it with pride.

I'd also measured up the hole in the back of the Stinger when it first arrived, given we'd borrowed a Sportage for a week to bridge the gap between it and our dearly departed Carnival.

Not as much difference in boot space between these two as you might think. Not as much difference in boot space between these two as you might think.

The results were actually very surprising, with the Stinger's boot floor being 20cm longer, with the height of the load area (to the underside of the hatch opening) being just 11cm lower. On the surface, this just doesn't make sense given the difference in shape between their bodies, but be mindful the Stinger has a space saver spare under the boot floor unlike the Sportage's full size unit.

One other key practicality difference between the two is that the Stinger's solid load cover requires removal to make full use of its space, whereas the Sportage's flexible cover retracts when more space is needed.

This month also gave us the chance to put Kia's ownership plan to the test, but not via the seven-year warranty that grabs most of the headlines. I received a call from my other half one morning during the daycare dropoff, reporting that the Stinger sounded like it had picked up a nail or a screw in one of the tyres. She'd pulled over to inspect and couldn't find anything, and the tyre pressure monitoring system wasn't ringing any alarm bells.

So rather than risking anyone's safety or those gorgeous 19-inch wheels, I suggested she call the Kia Roadside Assistance number on the windscreen.

Within 20 minutes an unbranded service ute arrived, and the friendly bloke took about 20 seconds to spot that a gumnut had wedged itself within the tread of the right-front Michelin Pilot Sport 4. Crisis averted, and the easy service was delivered with a smile.

Our distance travelled this month was almost a carbon copy of the four weeks prior, with just an extra five kilometres racked up. We clearly spent more time trudging around town though, as the average fuel consumption climbed nearly half a litre to 11.24L/100km. Still pretty good for a car of this size with so many kilowatts under the nose and kilograms under its wheels.

Distance travelled this month: 2348km

Odometer: 5695km

Average fuel consumption for this month: 11.24L/100km (measured at the pump)

Part 3

The great irony with car design is that you can't enjoy it while you're driving it. Similarly, we've only grown to appreciate what a huge safety advantage our Stinger's Neon Orange paint is when looking for it in a carpark. As the majority of the car-buying public go full resale-safe by choosing white, grey and silver en masse, it's much easier to spot a 4.8m long traffic-cone orange performance liftback than pretty much anything else. And while we've only experienced it from a convenience point of view, just imagine how much more obvious it would be in your periphery during lane changes or tricky give way situations.

  • No hiding an orange Stinger here. No hiding an orange Stinger here.
  • Or here. Or here.
  • Or here. Or here.
  • Or among a hat-trick of other Stingers… Or among a hat-trick of other Stingers…

It even stands out among smoke and fog, which is two things we've ironically had more than enough of in 2020.

  • This is why bright orange is an RFS favourite. This is why bright orange is an RFS favourite.
  • No complaints about the lack of fog lights either. No complaints about the lack of fog lights either.

That orange brightness is also good for shooting through months of road grime. Those big Brembo brakes also shed very little dust over more than 8000km.  Full disclosure: the first time I washed the Stinger in our three months was in preparation for the wrapup video at the top of the page.

Neon Orange fires dirt and grime better than an infomercial cleaning product. Neon Orange fires dirt and grime better than an infomercial cleaning product.

A big birthday party gave us another excuse for a highway run to Canberra and back during our final month, and that also meant loading up the Stinger more than ever.  I mean presents stacked to the roof, plants and balance bikes on top of all the usual stuff.

Yep, that’s forcing all rear vision to come via the side mirrors, but desperate times... Yep, that’s forcing all rear vision to come via the side mirrors, but desperate times...

So it was anything but light, and somehow managed to better our previous 8.3L/100km highway run PB with an 8.07L/100km figure. On Regular 91 RON unleaded! May I remind you that this figure was generated by something with a 3.3-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 generating 272kW/510Nm, with a kerb weight north of 1800kg. Wow, and such efficiency also makes for a decent range between fills of the relatively small 60-litre tank.

After 8742km, our overall average turned out to be 10.54L/100km, which is so close to the 10.2L/100km official combined figure, and sneaks just under the 10.6L/100km average figure we experienced with the CX-9 long termer we had last year. It was a great car, but no Stinger.

It wasn't until shooting the above video at the very end of our time with the Stinger that I truly appreciated what a nice drive it is.

It may lack aural personality, and it's a touch embarrassing when your three-year-old asks you what those bonnet vents do and you have to admit they're purely ornamental.

But on top of all its long-legged comfort, the Stinger GT is a sharp and very rapid tool when you find the right road.

For just over $60,000, it offers thrills I'm yet to experience in an SUV at any level, and that includes the Lamborghini Urus.

Distance travelled this month: 3047km

Odometer: 8742km

Average fuel consumption for this month: 9.6L/100km (measured at the pump)


The Wrap

Likes

Fits my family
Equally tickles my performance and design fancy
Surprising fuel economy for its size and performance level

Dislikes

No chance of fitting Grandma between the two baby seats

Scores

Malcolm:

4.3

The Kids:

4

$49,990 - $72,500

Based on 50 car listings in the last 6 months

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