Ford Focus VS Kia Stinger
- Great chassis
- Surprising engine
- Optional advanced safety
- Better tyres would be nice
- Too many optional colours
- 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
Ford's small hatch, the Focus, is criminally under-bought in Australia. The latest model is one of the best hatchbacks on the road and when you chuck in the decent price, impressive equipment and absurdly powerful engine for its size, it's a winner.
But you lot? You don't buy it in nearly the kinds of numbers it deserves. Partly because there isn't a bait-and-upsell boggo model to lure you in, partly because it's got a badge that is not exciting Australians any more and partly because it's not a compact SUV.
Or is(n't) it? Because alongside the ST-Line warm hatch is the identically priced and therefore technically a co-entry level model; the Focus Active. Slightly higher, with plastic cladding, drive modes and a conspicuous L on the transmission shifter, it's a little bit SUV, right?
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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|
Ten years ago, the idea that the higher-riding version of a hatchback would be a good city car would have been laughable. The Focus Active is pitched as a kind of SUV with its different low-grip driving modes, which you'll never touch if you stick to the city.
The Ford Focus is genuinely a brilliant car, no matter where you take it. The Active takes a terrific chassis, tweaks it for comfort but, ironically, doesn't lose much of the speed.
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.
For a fairly conservative hatchback, the Focus came under fire for what some termed its derivative styling. I quite like it, and not just because the styling work was led by an Australian. The front end is very much family Ford, as long as it's the European arm of the family, fitting in with its smaller sibling, the Fiesta. The Active scores the usual black cladding, higher ride height and smaller diameter wheels, in exchange for more compliant, higher-profile tyres. All of that takes nothing away from a design that I think looks pretty good.
The cabin is well put together, with just that oddly angled touchscreen causing me a bit of a twitch. The design is a fairly steady Ford interior with a lot of switchgear shared with the Fiesta, but it's all quite nice. The materials feel mostly pleasant and the hardwearing fabric on the seats feels right for this kind of car.
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.
The Focus is quite roomy compared to other cars in its class. The rear seat has good leg and headroom, with the feeling of space accentuated by large windows. Annoyingly, though, all that work put into making the rear a nice place to be is ruined by a lack of amenities like cupholders, USB ports or an armrest.
Front-seat passengers fare better with two cupholders, a roomy space at the base of the console for a phone and a wireless-charging pad. The front seats are very comfortable, too.
The boot starts at a fairly average 375 litres - clearly sacrificed for rear-seat space - and maxes out at 1320 litres with the seats down. While you have to lift things over the loading lip and down into the boot, it's one of the more sensibly shaped load areas, with straight up and down sides. Ironically, the smaller Puma has a noticeably larger boot.
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
The Focus Active wears a $30,990 sticker but the several people I know who bought one haven't paid that much, so Ford dealers are obviously keen to do deals. Even at that price, it's got a fair bit of stuff. The Active has 17-inch wheels, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto LED headlights, LED fog lights, sat nav, auto wipers, wireless hotspot, powered and heated folding door mirrors, wireless phone charging, a big safety package and a space-saver spare.
Ford's SYNC3 comes up on the 8.0-inch screen perched on the dashboard, which weirdly feels like it's facing away from you slightly. It has wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, DAB+ and also looks after various functions in the car.
The panoramic sunroof is a stiff $2000 and includes an annoying perforated cover rather than a solid one.
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
Ford does an excellent range of small turbo engines. The "normal" Focus range (such as it is, now the wagon has disappeared from the market) comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Bucking the SUV-this-size trend (yes, I know it's not really an SUV), this punchy little unit delivers an impressive 134kW and 240Nm. They're both very decent numbers for such a small engine.
The big numbers continue with the transmission boasting eight gears, a number you don't often find in a hatchback. It's a traditional torque-converter auto, too, so those of you who have bad memories of Ford's old PowerShift twin clutches should worry no more.
Power goes to the front wheels only and you'll get from 0 to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds.
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.
Ford's official testing for the big window sticker delivered a 6.4L/100km result on the combined cycle. In my time with the Focus, I got 7.2L/100km indicated on the dashboard, which is a pretty solid result given the Focus spent a good deal of the time on suburban or urban roads.
With its 52-litre tank, you'll cover around 800km if you manage the official figure, or just over 700km on my figures.
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.
Despite the very mild off-road pretensions, if it's a comfortable city ride you're after, the Active is the Focus to have. While the ST-Line isn't uncomfortable - not by a long way - the Active's more compliant tyres and higher ride height (30mm at the front and 34mm at the rear) iron out the bigger bumps without sacrificing much of the sportier car's impressive dynamic prowess, even with the low-rolling-resistance tyres.
The cracking 1.5-litre turbo is responsive and well-matched to the eight-speed auto. The big torque number pushes you along the road and makes overtaking much less dramatic than a 1.5-litre three-cylinder has any right to.
Ford's trademark Euro-tuned quick steering is also along for the ride, making darting in and out of gaps a quick roll of the wrist, which has the added benefit of meaning you rarely have to take your hands off the wheel for twirling. That darting is aided and abetted by the engine and gearbox, with the turbo seemingly keeping the boost flowing with little lag. It's almost like they planned it that way.
You have good vision in all directions, which almost renders the fact that the blind-spot monitoring is optional acceptable. Almost. It's very easy to get around in, easy to park and, just as importantly, easy to get in and out of. Compared to, say, a Toyota Corolla, the rear doors are very accommodating.
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.
The Active has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (low speed with pedestrian avoidance and highway speeds), forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, speed-sign recognition and active lane-keep assist.
Annoyingly - and I can't for the life of me work out why this is a thing - despite some advanced safety features in the base package, you have to pay $1250 extra for blind-spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert and reverse AEB, which are part of the Driver Assistance Pack. No, Ford is not the only company to do this.
The back seat has two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.
The Focus scored five ANCAP stars in August 2019.
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.
The first five services cost $299 each and also include a free loan car and a 12-month extension to your roadside assist membership for up to seven years.
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!).