New car buyers and enthusiasts alike have known for some time that the Korean brands make good cars. They make popular small cars, family cars, sensible cars, stylish cars and now desirable cars can be added to the list.
Nothing proves the point more than the Kia Stinger, this is a car that arrived with more hype than a royal wedding.
In an industry where timing matters, the Stinger reached Australia at a favourable moment. With the demise of the locally made Commodore, fans of large rear-wheel drive cars were looking for a new hero.
Some parts of the automotive media were very quick on the draw and forecast the Stinger to fill the void left by an icon. It is a reasonable conclusion to reach, but in many ways, it’s also an overly simplistic one. Unfair is the word that comes to mind after further analysis, it’s unfair to both cars.
The Stinger shouldn’t be thought of as a ready-made replacement for the Commodore. Yes, it offers a V6 engine and rear-wheel drive, however, it’s something different.
We are reviewing the Stinger in the same way potential owners should test drive them, four-cylinder first!
Interestingly, not a great deal has been said about the four-cylinder models, all the glory has been heaped on the V6 powered variants, which is all well and good but the four-cylinder options have a bit going for them too.
On test here is the 2018 Kia Stinger GT-Line, it’s the range-topping four-cylinder option. $55,990 plus on-roads is the spend required to park one in your driveway.
There’s no point pretending that $56k isn’t a significant spend when it most certainly is. The value is strong, the GT-Line is flooded with standard equipment and safety tech. The list is so extensive it resembles a Tolstoy novel.
Unique is the word that springs to mind when considering the Stinger GT-Line, rear drive four-cylinder cars are virtually extinct in the mainstream market.
If you’re keen on the Stinger, driver engagement must be at the forefront of the purchasing decision, otherwise, why spend the coin?
Let’s start with the drive. Straight up - with a four-cylinder engine, the Stinger is an entertaining car to drive. It takes no time at all to be reminded why the traditional formula works.
All the benefits of a properly engineered rear-drive chassis are on show - precision steering with a natural feel, a brilliantly judged traction calibration and satisfying cornering ability are the Stinger’s strengths.
The Stinger GT-Line is beautifully balanced in the bends. The smaller engine does save some weight from the front end. Best of all, it’s one of those cars drivers of all ability levels can enjoy.
Kia’s local suspension engineers have held up their end, in this instance, the adaptive dampers add considerably to the ownership experience. For this type of car, the Comfort mode setting is extremely well sorted. The suppleness of the ride will be appreciated by country buyers. Turn the dial to Sport and everything becomes slightly tauter which improves the body control if the right road presents itself.
The engine in question develops a respectable 182kW of power and 353Nm. In a straight line, it can hit 100km/h from a standstill in 6.0 seconds, so it can’t really be described as a slouch.
Gear changes are taken care of by an eight-speed automatic which can be controlled manually. This is one car where the paddle shifters are actually worth using. Upshifts are lightning fast but it’s the downshifts that need to be a fraction quicker. This will only be noticed if you’re attempting to extract every drop of the GT-Line’s performance.
As a daily driver, the Stinger isn’t as comfortable as the Kia’s forgotten model, the Optima GT. For busy days of running errands and meeting deadlines, the Optima’s slightly raised seating position and refinement levels make it hard to toss if comfort is the main aim.
After adding nearly 700 kilometres to the Stinger’s odometer, we returned a combined consumption figure of 9.4L/100km.
While the drive is a rewarding one, the Stinger’s design will get plenty of people excited. Starting with the exterior, it’s a great looking car. The fastback silhouette flows in a very gentle, yet dramatic fashion to the rear - it stirs an emotional response.
One area where Kia is investing wisely is in its cabins. From the driver’s seat, the interior of the GT-Line is elegant with an abundance of soft-touch materials broken up with classy brushed surfaces and Mercedes style circular air vents. Our tester went a step further with red leather trim covering the seats.
There’s an obvious sporting flavour, established by the perfectly sized flat-bottom steering wheel. It’s a layout that removes unnecessary controls which presents a clean, modern look.
It would be remiss of us not to mention the infotainment system. The responsiveness of the 8.0-inch touchscreen is excellent regardless of the function you happen to be working with. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, as is a 15 speaker harman/kardon sound system.
Packaging isn’t the Stinger’s strong point, there is a ransom to be paid for the gorgeous sloping roofline, it comes at the cost of rear headroom. Passengers in the back also need to contend with a lack of leg room, things are tight in the second-row despite the large 2905mm wheelbase. This could prove an important point for those needing to ferry around growing teenagers.
When the conversation turns to ownership credentials, Kia is the benchmark. The brand resembles Icarus blazing towards the sun, only a fall isn’t coming. Curiously, there’s still no sign of any major competitor ready to push their chips to the centre of the table and go all in.
Every Stinger is backed with a seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, seven years of roadside assistance, along with seven years of capped price servicing, which can be transferred to subsequent owners. Maintenance costs average out to $450 for each dose of fresh oil.
So after a week with the Stinger GT-Line, we can say unflinchingly that the driving experience is certainly a rewarding one. But, and it is a big but, after every stint behind the wheel, all we could think about was the V6 model – how much better would it be?
The chassis is capable of more and the additional thrust of the extra two cylinders makes plenty of sense. To move from the GT-Line to the V6 GT requires $4000 to be added to the cheque. Now before anyone has a sook, we understand $4K shouldn’t be sneezed at, but in the context of the purchase, it needs to be considered.
Aside from the extra grunt, moving to the V6 GT also adds a limited-slip differential, variable gear ratio steering and Brembo brakes.
Regardless of which Stinger gets your blood pumping, the car is a significant addition to Kia’s portfolio. At a time when large sedans are losing out to SUVs, Kia has taken what can only be described as a calculated risk, one that will pay dividends.
The Stinger is a reputation builder and for many buyers, this will be their first Kia. In speaking with a few owners, both confessed to cross-shopping the Stinger against models from BMW and Audi before signing up. For a brand with a narrative that for many years only focused on price, is there a greater compliment?
2018 Kia Stinger GT-Line Specifications
Price from $55,990 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 182kW @ 6200rpm Torque 353Nm @ 1400-4000rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 8.8L/100km Tank Capacity 60L Performance 0-100 6.0 seconds Length 4830mm Width 1870mm Height 1400mm Wheelbase 2905mm Turning Circle 11.2m Tare Weight 1693kg Service Intervals 12 months/10,000km Warranty seven year/unlimited kilometre
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