The Kia Stinger is not the most impressive car I’ve driven this year, but it’s by far and away the most impressive achievement. Impressive for the brand and category all while arriving at the perfect time and place. Now the big Aussie performance brands are gone, where can we turn to for that kind of bang for your buck. I’ve driven just one model of the six available in the Kia Stinger stable, but I’m convinced it’s an absolute winner. Ford has filled the void with the Mustang and good for it. However, do Holden stand a chance against the Stinger?
But It’s a Kia?
The funny thing is I’ve only driven the $45,990 Stinger 200S, the absolute base model equipped with the 2.0-litre 182kW turbo-four cylinder. I’ll get to the twin-turbo 272kW V6 in another review, but I already know this car is a revelation. But why?
First up I think the car is a stunner, it’s one of those cars that looks far more striking in the flesh, photos just don’t seem to do it justice. Front on, there’s a genuine aggressive look to it, the imitation bonnet nostrils give it an almost American muscle car feel. The profile creates a real sense of luxury and sophistication, on par with the best Europeans at least in terms of perception. The fastback / hatch style is becoming more common these days, making for a kind of squashed station wagon look. I think it comes together perfectly on the Stinger, the new Opel sourced Holden Commodore will feature a similar body style. But I think Kia wins the best looks easily.
The rear-end is possibly the most contentious part of the exterior. The quad exhaust pipes and wraparound taillights are the most dramatic thing Kia has ever created. Personally, I’m a fan, it’s probably overkill for the 2.0-litre model, but certainly hammers home the GT’s potency.
The interior, even on the entry level vehicle is a big leap up from any other Kia. It adds a sense of occasion not seen in a South Korean car before. The trifecta of mid console circular air vents, metallic look buttons and trim, plus pop up style infotainment screen combine to really impress. It’s still a couple of rungs below the best Audi or Mercedes cabins but for the price, it’s superb.
The hatch style rear door reveals what on the surface appears to be an enormous boot. It certainly has plenty of depth but is a little limited in width. For example, I was unable to fit a pram that normally fits our Toyota Camry Hybrid boot, a boot that is partly ruined by the hybrid battery.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine produces 182Kw @6200 and 352Nm available between 1,400 – 4000rpm. It’s matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual paddle shifters. The wide spread of torque allows the smaller unit to hammer along very nicely indeed. Despite being the “slow” Stinger, plenty of fun can be had with this rear wheel drive Korean. I mean heck, there’s even a launch control feature on this car.
The Stinger is one of those cars that has perfected the driving position. From behind the wheel there’s an almost BMW level of precision in this area. Just about anyone should feel completely at ease when sliding into a Stinger.
The unit propels the Stinger to 100km/h in just six seconds, 1.1 seconds slower than the more powerful V6. The engine note is not exactly inspiring though, there’s no turbo whistle or any real aggression to the note.
The steering is about as on-point as it comes. Plenty of times I found myself comparing it to any BMW sedan or Coupé. The feel and feedback are spot on and when combined with the ideal driving position the package becomes even more compelling.
The ride is firm and despite a local tuning program, doesn’t match the plush ride found in the Kia Optima GT. The car clearly has more of a sporting bent to it and the low-slung platform based on the Genesis G70 is skewed this way deliberately.
The standard brakes have plenty of bite too, in fact it takes a little time with the car to prevent jerky stops. My main, and probably only real, complaint about the drivetrain would be the transmission. The eight speed isn’t as sharp or clever as an Audi or BMW setup. It has a typical Kia 6-speed automatic feel with just an extra couple of cogs. It’s not a major problem, but it does serve as a reminder that this isn’t a 100k + car.