We drive Kia's exciting new performance car on Irish roads
Pros: Scintillating performance and drive, striking looks, cabin comfort
Cons: High running costs, rivals better-finished inside, unknown in class
Move over Audi, BMW and Mercedes, there is a new name in the sports segment and it comes from a brand that is better-known for making affordable mainstream models. This is the Stinger, Kia’s new sporty five-door coupe, with looks and performance to challenge the European class elite. The Stinger marks an exciting new move for Kia into performance car territory, but can it tempt buyers away from the more established models in this corner of the market? We recently spent a week with this 370 horsepower GT model on Irish roads to find out.
What is it like?
The Stinger is a five-door hatchback with flowing coupe-like lines, in similar vein to the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. It isn’t just the fastest production car that Kia has ever made, it’s perhaps the best looking too! Standout details on this range-topping GT model include sport bumpers with large air intakes, an eye-catching exhaust system with four pipes, 19-inch alloy wheels and large Brembo brake callipers. The Stinger stands distinctly apart from its rivals, and for that reason it has to be admired.
The Stinger is well finished inside with a low-slung driving position and electrically-adjustable front seats. Despite being a performance model, practicality is good with enough room to accommodate four adults comfortably and 406 litres of boot space, though headroom in the rearmost seats is a tight for taller individuals. The driver’s area is attractive with large circular air vents on the dashboard and an eight-inch touch screen display boasting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Everything in the cabin feels well-constructed, though it ultimately lacks the premium finish of its Audi and BMW rivals. Similarly, the infotainment system feels a tad dated when compared against class alternatives.
The Stinger is available with two engines from launch in Ireland. There is a 2.2-litre diesel unit which is the sensible choice, or a rapid 3.3-litre V6 turbo petrol version which is the one we drove. With 370 horsepower and 510Nm of torque going to the rear wheels, the Stinger GT is unreservedly enthralling to drive and it excites like few other large executive cars can. Select the raciest ‘Sport +’ driving mode and it surges forward from 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds and it will go on to a limited top speed of 250km/h.
The exhaust note is gorgeous and the standard eight speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and precisely. Does it match the German elite in terms of straight-line performance? Yes, and then some! Unsurprisingly, it is expensive to run, and the best fuel economy we achieved during the test was 10l/100km (circa 28MPG), whilst annual motor tax is listed at €1200. It’s a worthy sacrifice to pay for the performance that’s on offer however. The diesel Stinger offers a superior combination of performance and economy with 197 horsepower and rumoured economy north of 50mpg.
Ex-BMW M Division executive Albert Biermann joined Kia and headed up the Stinger’s development, and it certainly shows in the way it drives. The Stinger is a sizeable car, but it corners with agility and grips with aplomb on twisty roads. This range-topping GT test car has various driving modes which can be selected via a small dial on the centre console which adjust the damping and suspension settings accordingly. Comfort mode offers every day cruising ability, whilst the Sport and Sport + modes hardens the suspension and reduces body roll. Ride quality is good at high speeds and cabin noise is low too.
Prices for the new Kia Stinger start from €53,895 for the base diesel model, while the barnstorming 3.3-litre petrol GT that we drove starts at €66,895. This means it is by far the most expensive model in Kia’s range, and the question remains, will Irish buyers be willing to spend that kind of money? That said, the range-topping GT is considerably more affordable and generously equipped than comparable performance cars like the BMW M4. The GT features a plethora of standard equipment including LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a touch screen infotainment system and driver’s display, dynamic driving modes and a Harmon Kardon sound system to mention a few.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The Stinger marks an exciting move for Kia into the realms of performance and premium luxury, and it is a truly worthy halo car for the brand. This corner of the market has traditionally been dominated by cars from Audi and BMW, but the Korean-built Stinger poses a worthy alternative, with striking styling, thrilling turbocharged performance and an engaging drive, along with a premium-level cabin finish. It can’t quite match the premium finish and feel of said European rivals however, whilst the range-topping GT model is tremendously expensive to own and to run on a daily basis. As a first attempt into the unknown, Kia must be congratulated for building an exciting new model in the Stinger however.