Not so long ago, Kia was a byword for alternative. You bought a Kia because you couldn’t afford the equivalent Japanese, European or even American rival. Kia produced cheap cars which were meant to be used as means of transport and nothing more. In the last decade or two however, things started to shift. Kia became aware that people prefer quality and started making a comeback. The manufacturer finally started to rise up to the massive potential they had all along. The Cee’d proved really popular in Europe, and North America couldn’t get enough of the Optima.
Spurred on by that success Kia decided to venture into new waters: sporty sedans. Now, it’s one thing to make a good car, but a completely different to make a good car that’s also sporty. The world of performance sedans is dominated by the Germans, and making a breakthrough in such an environment is rather challenging. If your product isn’t completely on point, you’re not going to have a lot of success. Most people initially laughed at the idea of a sporty Kia, but when they launched the Stinger back in 2017, we all stood back in awe.
If you’re not particularly into cars, you might not even be able to tell it’s a Kia. Although the brand has been slowly creating their own design language over the past couple of years, the Stinger really brings out their full potential. The best compliment you can give it is that it doesn’t look like a regular Kia. Pictures are one thing, but seeing it in the flesh adds a whole new dimension to it.
It’s physically a large car, but the proportions are spot on. It’s wide, long with a long wheelbase, and rather low. The front overhang is short and the rear one is long, giving some hints as to what lies underneath. The front fascia is entirely new, with Kia’s revised Tigernose grille. If you, like most people, thought the Stinger would be a redesigned Optima, think again. This is an entirely new model from the ground up.
The roofline slopes downwards almost from the start of the B-pillars, creating this really unique shape which was once reserved only for the sporty German offerings. The rear end isn’t bad either. The taillights are connected via this big brake light stretching across the entire lid, and you even get quad exhaust tips in the top of the line GT model. It gets a small diffuser, and that air dam at the front is entirely functional too. As far as looks go, Kia seems to be in a sweet spot at the moment. Compared to something like a 4-Series or even an A5, it just looks light years better.
The Stinger’s interior is by far and away the best interpretation of a cabin Kia has ever done. As soon as you get inside you immediately thing of luxury. The materials are all first class and the build quality is up there with the Japanese rivals. Nothing squeaks or rattles and everything is solid. The dashboard is simple if a bit boring, but the large infotainment system atop it creates a nice break. There’s also an advanced HUD in front of the driver which can show information such as speed, navigation, audio settings, cruise settings, and blind-spot detection.
Despite the low roofline, there’s a ton of headroom in the back even for taller passengers. Legroom is aplenty in both front and rear rows, thanks to that lengthy wheelbase. The seats themselves are super comfortable, especially the ones on the high-end models covered in Napa leather. The driving position is spot on too. You sit nice and low in the car, as you should in any self-proclaimed sporty sedan.
The cargo capacity can hold 660 liters, which is more than sufficient for your entire luggage. It features the latest in driver assistive technologies such as lane keep assist and rear cross traffic alert. What more do you need to hear? It’s luxurious, well built, offers plenty of space, and has an even better driving position than its German rivals.
Engine and Performance
I know some of you still have doubts about the Stinger. Now that we get to the actual performance figures, you’re probably thinking it’s going to fall flat on its face. Luckily, it doesn’t. Not in the slightest. Even the entry models come equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 255 horsepower and 352 Nm of torque. Our test vehicle comes with a 3.3-liter Biturbo V6 producing an almighty 365 horsepower and 509 Nm of torque.
Power is sent to the rear wheels only via an eight-speed auto that Kia developed in-house. You can get the Stinger in AWD format, but for sheer driving excitement, stick with RWD as we have. The transmission is smooth and quick, even on the downshifts. It’s 99.9% as good as Audi and BMW’s dual-clutch versions. We didn’t have an issue with the transmission throughout the entire test, and we drove it harder than most owners are ever going to drive their own personal cars.
We never thought we’d see the day a Kia was willing to oversteer, but the Stinger is more than happy to do so. The rear will slide out if provoked even in second and third, but it’s remarkably manageable. The chassis is neutral so you can steer the car with the accelerator. That low center of gravity means you have a really sharp turn-in, followed by a slight hint of oversteer on corner exit. As far as driver’s cars go, the Stinger is as good if not better than the BMW. That’s right, they’ve managed to create something to rival “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.
The only reason you wouldn’t buy the Kia is because you’re still not able to gloss over its badge. Objectively, it’s more powerful, faster, better looking and more affordable than any of its competitors. If you still have a bad image of Kia in your head, go take a Stinger GT out for a drive. It will completely rewire your brain and the way you think of Kia, we promise.