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Kia Stinger 2021 review: GT-Line

The MY21 Stinger keeps the good looks and ups the safety and spec.

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

4/5

There is nothing quite like a car company occasionally building a car that could be considered a risk. And there are all kinds of risks in the car business - the market isn't ready for that car, people don't identify your brand with this or that type of vehicle, the list goes on. And it's long. It's very easy for me to sit on the sidelines and say, "Pft, what were they thinking?" Few cars land on your driveway without years of thinking having already gone into their development.

The Kia Stinger is the kind of car that would have caused lots of thinking and plenty of hand-wringing at Kia HQ in Korea. Not because it was a bad idea - it wasn't. Not because it's a bad car - it is, in fact, the opposite. And not because SUVs have already changed the way we look at cars - Kia has done well out of that.

It's just that Kia has never produced a car like the Stinger. A five-door coupe-sedan, rear-wheel drive and with a focus on driver dynamics. Most of us know very well how the Stinger GT burst on to the scene in a blaze of well-deserved glory. It's not all about the GT, though. There's a whole range of Stingers and just below that very accomplished sports sedan is the Stinger GT-Line.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

As is the custom at this time of the year, the Stinger scored a mild update for that minty-fresh taste at the dealer. Not much has changed in the looks department (good) and the most obvious tweak is the brand-spanking new media system already seen in the brilliant new Sorento.

The GT-Line is one of two four-cylinder variants of the Stinger, priced at $57,230 or $60,690 driveaway, a solid $7000 more than the 200S and it's $730 more than the MY20. It's also uncomfortably close to the 330S, which has the delicious twin-turbo V6, but obviously a lower equipment level.

For your money you get 19-inch alloy wheels, a 15-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, camera package that includes a reversing camera, side cameras and front camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, powered heated and ventilated front seats, sat nav, automatic LED headlights, head up display, leather seats and wheel and even more besides. It's a lot, which is fair given the price.

  • The front leather seats are heated and ventilated. The front leather seats are heated and ventilated.
  • The GT-Line wears 19-inch alloy wheels. The GT-Line wears 19-inch alloy wheels.
  • Up front are automatic LED headlights. Up front are automatic LED headlights.

The 15-speaker stereo is run by the excellent new media system on the excellent new 10.25-inch touchscreen. It's great to look at, has some really cool ideas in it (including the hilarious soundscapes list which includes, for some reason, a noisy cafe environment), DAB and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The 10.25-inch touchscreen is new for 2021. The 10.25-inch touchscreen is new for 2021.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Stinger looks fantastic. I know the car has its detractors, but there's a massive Euro influence here that sits well in my visual cortex. It's maybe not as ooh-aah as the A5 or the outgoing BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, but the Stinger can and should be mentioned in the same breath. It looks terrific, even if it is a bit fussier in the details.

The Stinger looks fantastic. The Stinger looks fantastic.

From the signature grille, the low beltline, big wheels and sports coupe roofline, it looks sleek and sophisticated. 

Inside is a bit more conventional, with some real classic touches such as circular air vents, conventional-looking gear selector and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. It's cool, clean and, with the big new screen, a bit more techy-looking than before. There are lots of nice materials and the odd rogue one, but it's a good cabin that feels well put-together.

Inside is a leather flat-bottomed steering wheel. Inside is a leather flat-bottomed steering wheel.

How practical is the space inside?

This is really a four-seater car. While there is good legroom in the rear, the falling roofline, small door aperture and huge transmission tunnel box you in a bit, almost rendering the middle seat useless for all but the shortest of folks. You do get your own air vents, though, which is generous.

The low roof also means limited headroom, made a little worse by the standard sunroof. I had room but taller people might brush the headlining. There are two cupholders front and rear for a total of four and each door has a bottle holder.

Because of the transmission tunnel box and falling roofline, the Stinger is really a four-seater car. Because of the transmission tunnel box and falling roofline, the Stinger is really a four-seater car.

The boot is a modest-for-this-size 406 litres, rising to 1114 litres with the seats down. Access to the boot is good if not spectacular; the hatch opens wide but a slightly narrow aperture means loading and stowing flat packs and things like that could be a struggle.

  • With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 406 litres. With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 406 litres.
  • Fold the rear seats down and cargo capacity grows to 1114 litres. Fold the rear seats down and cargo capacity grows to 1114 litres.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Under the GT-Line's bonnet is Kia's Theta II 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. It's the same as before, with a stout 182kW and 353Nm. Driving the rear wheels is an eight-speed automatic from the Hyundai-Kia empire.

The GT-Line is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder making 182kW/353Nm. The GT-Line is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder making 182kW/353Nm.

It's pretty rapid, knocking out the 0-100km/h spring in just six seconds, a mere 1.1 seconds slower than its faster sibling's 4.9 for the benchmark.

How much fuel does it consume?

Kia's claimed combined cycle figure is 8.8L/100km. As the Stinger goes without trickery like stop-start or mild hybridness, it's no surprise that my week with it yielded an indicated 10.4L/100km, which isn't bad for a 1750kg sports sedan that was not molly-coddled and also spent some time in a resurgent case of crap traffic in Sydney.

It also drinks standard unleaded, which is a nice touch.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Stinger ships with an impressive safety package that includes seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, high- and low-speed forward AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, intersection assist, lane-keep assist, steering assist, driver attention alert, high- and low-speed forward collision warning, front cross traffic alert and rear cross traffic alert.

You get two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.

The Stinger scored five ANCAP stars in 2017.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Kia's ground-breaking seven year/unlimited kilometre warranty along with roadside assist for the first 12 months. Each time you service your car at Kia, you get an extension on your roadside assist for up to eight years.

Perhaps the only thing that makes you go, "Oh, what?" about the Stinger is the 12 months (Good)/10,000km (Oh...) service intervals. That's pretty common with Kia's turbo engines but is a little inconvenient. Then there's the cost - prices range from $312 to $685, which adds up to $3459 over the first seven services. If you stay under 10,000km/year, that's not bad going at under $500 per year for servicing, but if you're a high-miler, it will add up.

The servicing isn't outrageous - and the prices are capped - but it's not cheap, either.

What's it like to drive around town?

I have driven and loved the Stinger GT. It's tremendous fun, goes like a rat running away from a cut snake, which itself is being chased by a mongoose with its bottom on fire, and it handles like a proper sports sedan.

The GT-Line is obviously not that quick, but it's not slow, either. But it does take a bit of the GT's DNA and delivers a driving experience eerily reminiscent of an E90 BMW 3 Series. That seems like an out-of-date reference, but it was a beautiful car to drive with a lovely balance of ride and handling.

The steering has good feel and you know what's going on underneath the front wheels. You sit towards the centre of the car, also a BMW trademark. Turn the wheel and the car goes with you, despite its bulk, and it's happy to dance a bit with its limited-slip diff.

Around town, the Stinger is firm but very comfortable. Around town, the Stinger is firm but very comfortable.

The 2.0-litre turbo does a good job in most conditions but you feel it coming up short when you're hustling it. It's never breathless, but the torque deficit to the turbo six is clear. If you've not driven the faster Stinger, you may not notice, but there's a touch of lag in the 2.0 that contributes to the idea it's working hard to move the big sedan.

But back off a little and it becomes a fluid, fun drive. In town it's firm but very comfortable, gently bumping rather than crashing into potholes. The rear suspension is a complicated five-link set-up that costs money and eats into boot space but delivers the goods.

Given its length the Stinger is a bit tough to manoeuvre in tight spaces and its 11.2m turning circle isn't too flash either, but you soon get used to it.

The Stinger GT-Line is a great machine. It looks good, feels good to drive and while it's not the cheapest large sedan, it's also not a Camry. With a strong European vibe, it's a nice bridge between boring-dependable and out-of-reach European. Boasting a strong link to Europe in its chassis DNA, it has it all apart, maybe, from the badge.

But Kia has a habit of doing unexpected things and the Stinger was a bold move worth making just for the halo effect of having such a cool car in the range. It has done good things for the company's reputation, as though the rest of the range isn't proof already.

$57,230

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

4/5
Price Guide

$57,230

Based on new car retail price