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Lexus IS


Kia Stinger

Summary

Lexus IS

No it isn’t an all-new car. It might look like it, but the 2021 Lexus IS is actually a heavy facelift of the existing model, which originally went on sale way back in 2013.

There have been significant changes to the look of the new Lexus IS, including a revised front and rear end, and the company has widened the track and made “substantial chassis changes” to make it handle more adeptly, too. Plus there is a whole raft of newly added safety features and in-car technology, despite the cabin being, largely, a carryover affair.

Suffice to say that the new Lexus IS 2021 model - which the brand describes as having been “reimagined” - carries over a few strengths and weaknesses of its predecessor. But does this Japanese luxury sedan still have enough quality traits to compete with the likes of its main rivals - the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Genesis G70 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

Let’s find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Kia Stinger

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.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.3L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency10.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Lexus IS7.6/10

The new-look Lexus IS takes several steps forward over its predecessor - it’s safer, smarter, sharper to look at and still pretty well priced and equipped.

It is feeling its age inside, and the competition has moved on in terms of engines and EV tech. But even so, if I was buying a 2021 Lexus IS, it would have to be the IS350 F Sport, which is just the most fitting version of this car, though the IS300h Luxury does have plenty to like for the money, too.


Kia Stinger8.3/10

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.

Design

Lexus IS8/10

You either get the Lexus look or you don’t, and I think this latest version is possibly more agreeable than the IS in years gone by.

That’s partly because the brand has finally done away with the odd spider-eyes twin-section headlights and daytime running lights - now there are more traditional headlight clusters, which look a lot more resolved than before.

The front end still features a bold ‘spindle’ grille, which gets different treatment depending on the grade, and the front, to my eye, looks better than before but still very much stuck in its ways. 

At the side you’ll notice the giveaway windowline hasn’t changed, despite the chrome trim line having broadened as part of this facelift, but you can tell the haunches have muscled up a bit, with the new IS now 30mm wider overall, and the wheel sizes are 18s or 19s, depending on the grade.

The rear accentuates that width, with an L-shaped lighting signature now spanning the entire re-sculpted boot lid, giving the IS a pretty tidy rear end design.

Overall dimensions for the IS are 4710mm long, making it 30mm longer nose to tail (on an unchanged 2800mm wheelbase), while it now spreads across 1840mm (+30mm) and is 1435mm tall (+5mm).

The exterior changes really are impressive - I think it is a more purposeful but also more pleasant looking car now than it ever has been in this current generation. 

The interior? Well, there’s not a whole lot to talk about in terms of design changes, aside from the repositioned and larger media screen - which sits 150mm closer to the driver because it’s now a touchscreen with the latest smartphone mirroring tech. Otherwise it’s a carryover affair, as you can see from the interior pictures.


Kia Stinger8/10

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.

Practicality

Lexus IS7/10

The interior design of the IS, as mentioned, hasn’t changed dramatically, and it is starting to feel old compared to some of its contemporaries.

It’s still a nice place to be, with comfortable front seats with electric adjustment and heating across all grades, and cooling on many variants, too. 

The new 10.3-inch touchscreen media system is a nice unit, and means you can essentially do away with the silly trackpad system that still resides near the gear selector, so you may still end up bumping it accidentally. And the fact the IS now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (though neither are wirelessly connectable) does further its appeal on the multimedia front, as does the standard 10-speaker Pioneer stereo - though the 17-speaker Mark Levinson unit is an absolute blinder!

The centre stack below the media screen retains a CD player, and still has the electromagnetic temperature adjustment sliders as well. That part of the design is dating it just as much as the transmission tunnel console area, which looks a bit out of touch by modern standards, though still incorporates a pair of cup holders and a reasonably large centre console bin with soft armrest padding.

The front doors feature trenches with bottle holders as well, while in the rear doors there is still no drink storage - a carryover annoyance from the pre-facelift model. However, the middle seat in the back doubles as an armrest with pop-out cupholders, and there are rear air vents too.

Speaking of that middle seat, you wouldn’t want to sit in it for long, as it has a raised base and uncomfortable backrest, plus there’s a huge transmission tunnel intrusion eating into leg and foot space.

Outboard passengers also miss out on toe room, which - for my size 12s - is an issue. And it’s hardly the roomiest second row in this class for knee room and headroom, as my 182cm frame was a touch squished behind my own driving position.

Children will be better catered for in the back, and there are two ISOFIX anchorages and three top-tether attachment points for baby seats.

The boot capacity varies on the model you buy. Choose an IS300 or IS350 and you score 480 litres (VDA) of cargo capacity, while the IS300h has a battery pack that robs it of some boot space, with 450L available. 


Kia Stinger8/10

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

Lexus IS8/10

The updated 2021 Lexus IS range has seen a number of pricing changes, and a reduction of variants, too. There are now five IS models available, down from seven prior to this update as the Sports Luxury model has been axed, and you can only get the IS350 in F Sport trim now. However, the company has expanded its “Enhancement Pack” strategy across the different variants.

Opening the range is the IS300 Luxury, which lists at $61,500 (all prices listed are the MSRP - not including on-road costs, and are correct at time of publishing). It has the exact same equipment as the IS300h Luxury model, which is $64,500, and that ‘h’ stands for hybrid, which will be detailed in the engines section. 

The Luxury trim is equipped with items such LED headlights and daytime running lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity keyless entry with push-button start, a 10.3-inch touchscreen multimedia system with satellite navigation (including live traffic updates) and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, plus a 10-speaker sound system, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and memory settings for the driver, and dual-zone climate control. There’s also auto headlights with auto high beam, rain sensing wipers, power steering column adjustment, and adaptive cruise control.

Indeed, there’s a raft of safety technology included - more on that below - and there’s also a number of Enhancement Pack options.

Luxury spec models can be equipped with a choice of two Enhancement Packs: the $2000 Enhancement Pack adds a sunroof (or moonroof in Lexus speak); or Enhancement Pack 2 (or EP2 - $5500) further adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, cooled front seats, high-grade leather-accented interior trim, and a power-operated rear sunshade.

The IS F Sport trim line is available across the IS300 ($70,000), IS300h ($73,000) or the V6-powered IS350 ($75,000), and it adds a number of additional features over the Luxury grade.

As you can probably tell, F Sport models get a sportier look, with a body kit, 19-inch alloy wheels, standard fit adaptive suspension, sports front seats with cooling, sports pedals, and five drive modes to choose from (Eco, Normal, Sport S, Sport S+ and Custom). The F Sport grade also includes a digital instrument cluster with an 8.0-inch display, as well as leather-accented trim, and scuff plates.

Buying the F Sport grade allows customers to add further goodies by way of the Enhancement Pack for that grade, which costs $3100 and includes the sunroof, 17-speaker sound system and rear sunshade.

What’s missing? Well there’s no wireless phone charging in any grade, and no USB-C connectivity either. Note: the spare wheel is a space saver in the IS300 and IS350, but there is only a repair kit in the IS300h as there are batteries where the spare wheel would go.

There’s no go-fast IS F model sitting at the top of the tree here, nor is there a plug-in hybrid to compete against the circa-$85K BMW 330e and Mercedes C300e. But the fact the IS models all come in below $75K means it’s a pretty decent value proposition.


Kia Stinger8/10

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.

Every Stinger has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as built-in sat nav with 10 years of updates.

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

Lexus IS7/10

The engine specs depend on the powertrain you choose. And at a glance there’s no variance between the earlier version of the IS and the 2021 facelift.

That means the IS300 model still runs a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor producing 180kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 350Nm of torque (at 1650-4400rpm). It has an eight-speed automatic transmission, and like all IS models, it is rear-wheel drive (RWD/2WD) - there is no all-wheel drive (AWD/4WD) model here.

Next up the spectrum is the IS300h model, which has a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol motor teamed to an electric motor and nickel metal hydride battery pack. The petrol engine is good for a 133kW (at 6000rpm) and 221Nm (at 4200-5400rpm), and the electric motor produces 105kW/300Nm - but the combined total maximum power output is 164kW, and Lexus doesn’t provide a maximum torque figure. The 300h model runs a CVT automatic transmission.

The big horsepower offering here is the IS350, which runs a 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine, producing 232kW of power (at 6600rpm) and 380Nm of torque (at 4800-4900rpm). It runs an eight-speed auto.

All models have paddle-shifters, while the two non-hybrid models have seen tweaks to the transmission software that is said to “estimate driver intentions” for better enjoyment. 


Kia Stinger8/10

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.

Fuel consumption

Lexus IS7/10

There’s still no diesel model, no plug-in hybrid and no full electric (EV) model - which means that while Lexus was at the forefront of electrification with its so-called “self-charging” hybrids, it is falling behind the times. You can get plug-in versions of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, and the Tesla Model 3 plays in this space in full-electric guise.

As for the fuel-sipping hero of this trio of powertrains, the IS300h is said to use 5.1 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle fuel test. In reality, our test car’s dashboard showed 6.1L/100km across a mix of driving.

The IS300 with its turbocharged 2.0L engine is next best for fuel use, claiming 8.2L/100km. On our short launch drive of that model, we saw 9.6L/100km on the dashboard.

And the full-fat IS350 V6 petrol claims consumption of 9.5L/100km, while on test we saw 13.4L/100km.

The emissions for the three models are 191g/km (IS300), 217g/km (IS350) and 116g/km (IS300h). All three are Euro 6B compliant. 

Fuel tank capacity is 66 litres for all models, meaning your mileage range for the hybrid model could be considerably longer.


Kia Stinger8/10

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.

Driving

Lexus IS8/10

With the engine at the front and drive to the back, it has the ingredients for a pure driver’s car, and Lexus made a bit of a big deal about the new-look IS being more focused thanks to chassis adjustments and track width improvements - and it does feel a pretty nimble and tied-down car in the twisty stuff. 

It is competent at stitching together a series of corners, and the F Sport models are particularly adept. The adaptive suspension in those models includes both anti-dive and anti-squat tech, which is designed to make the car feel solid and flat on the road - and it does, thankfully without feeling twitchy or uncomfortable, with good suspension compliance even in the most aggressive Sport S+ drive mode.

The 19-inch wheels on F Sport models are fitted with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx rubber (235/40 front, 265/35 rear) and there’s plenty of tarmac tenacity.

The grip from Luxury-spec models on 18s could be better, with those Bridgestone Turanza tyres (235/45 all around) proving not quite the most enthralling. 

Indeed, the IS300h Luxury I drove felt very different in character to the F Sport IS300 and 350 models. It was surprising how much more of a plush-focused model the Luxury grade feels, and likewise it wasn’t as impressive in dynamic driving due to the tyre grip and less-enthusiastic drive mode system. The non-adaptive suspension is a touch more jittery too, and while it’s not to the point of discomfort, you might expect better for a car on 18s.  

Across all models the steering is accurate and direct enough, with predictable response and decent feel to the driver’s hands for this electric power steering setup. The F Sport models have even further retuned steering for “an even sportier drive experience”, though I found at times it could feel a little numb for rapid changes of direction. 

As for engines, the IS350 is still the pick. It has the best zest, and feels the most fitting powertrain for this model. It sounds good, too. The auto transmission is pretty clever, there's easily enough pulling power, and it's probably going to be the last of the non-turbo V6s in Lexus's line-up when this cars life-cycle is up.

The IS300's turbo engine was the most disappointing, lacking some urge and constantly feeling bogged down by turbo lag, transmission confusion, or both. It felt underdone in enthusiastic driving, though in dull day-to-day commuting circumstances it came across as more acceptable, though the remapped transmission software was far less impressive in this application than in the IS350.

The IS300h was a lovely, quiet and refined experience all around. It’s the one you should go for if you don’t really care about all that go-fast stuff. The powertrain is proven, it accelerates with nice linear delivery, and at times it’s so hushed I found myself looking down at the instrument cluster to see if the car was in EV mode or if it was using the petrol engine. 


Kia Stinger9/10

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. 

Safety

Lexus IS9/10

Safety equipment and technology has been upgraded for the IS 2021 model range, though it is expected to carry over its existing five-star ANCAP crash test rating from 2016.

The facelifted version scores auto emergency braking (AEB) with day and night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection (from 10km/h to 80km/h) and car detection (10km/h to 180km/h). There’s also all speed adaptive cruise control with low speed following.

The IS also has lane keeping assistance with lane departure warning, lane trace assist, a new system called Intersection Turning Assist which will brake the car if the system judges the traffic gap isn’t big enough, and there’s also road sign recognition.

Plus the IS has blind-spot monitoring on all grades, as well as rear cross-traffic alert with auto braking (below 15km/h).

And beyond that, Lexus has added new Connected Services features, including an SOS call button, automated collision notification if an airbag deploys, and stolen vehicle tracking. 

Where is the Lexus IS built? Japan is the answer.


Kia Stinger8/10

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.

Ownership

Lexus IS7/10

On paper, Lexus’s ownership offer isn’t quite as enticing as some other luxury car brands - but it has a strong reputation for blissful ownership.

The Lexus Australia warranty period is four years/100,000km, which is better for duration than Audi and BMW (both three years/unlimited km) but not as accommodating as Mercedes-Benz or Genesis, each of which offer five-year/unlimited km warranty.

The company has a three-year capped price servicing plan, with maintenance every 12 months or 15,000km. The first three visits cost $495 each. That’s okay - but Lexus doesn’t offer free servicing like Genesis, and nor does it offer prepaid service plans - for three to five years for a C-Class, and five years for Audi A4/A5, for instance.

There is complimentary roadside assistance for the first three years, too.

That said, the company has its Encore ownership benefits program that allows a number of experiences and deals, and the service team will collect your car and return it, leaving you with a loan car if you need it.

 


Kia Stinger9/10

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!).