This time we test the new Kia Stinger, a luxury, high performance four seater GT car that the manufacturer aims to push it into the territory occupied by the likes of Audi, Jaguar, BMW and Mercedes.
Long, low and elegant with some lovely styling details, the Stinger is a good looking car by anyone’s standards. Generally speaking, all cars in this sector must have this quality to get anywhere but the Stinger has one extra element – surprise.
No disrespect to the brand, but you just don’t expect a Kia to look like this. A bold front end, that long wheelbase and low stance and the lovely downward sweep of the roof line as it runs into the back make it a great looking car.
Styling is always going to be subjective but its stance, nicely balanced proportions and elegance get it top marks in my book. It would look quite at home next to anything from the Germans or Jaguar. Lovely.
I take my hat off to Kia here. BMW, Jag and Audi have strong reputations for building ‘drivers’ cars’, cars engineered to handle nimbly and which make a journey fun. Hah, try that on our roads today!
I am fed up with cars which have been developed on race tracks in the name of being ‘sporty’. If I wanted a car good on the track I’d buy a race car.
Back on Planet Reality, in this market sector we tend to buy cars as much for their comfort and ability to smooth out our knackered roads and to cosset the driver and passengers in such a lovely environment that the miles simply fly by.
My test car was the range-topping twin turbo 3.3 litre V6 so it has plenty of power but a BMW M Series rival it is not. You only need to turn it into a couple of corners to know it doesn’t have the instant steering response or agility in a bend of something like that.
Nor is it designed to.
Kia wants the Stinger to be a great GT – Gran Turismo – car and it is bang on target.
It has brilliant suspension and if you leave alone those silly adaptive damping controls which people play with once and then keep in its normal setting, it absorbs and rides over bumps at least as well as the Jaguar XF I had the other week and retains good body control when you transfer the weight turning into a bend at any decent speed.
If you want to get technical, I particularly appreciated the dampers’ rebound qualities.
With 365 bhp to play with the Stinger is more than quick enough but it doesn’t feel explosive in its acceleration. Yes, it has a sub-five second 0 to 60 time and it will get within a whisker of 170 mph, but it doesn’t seem as dramatic as those figures might suggest.
What you do get is a deep well of mid-range torque and power which makes overtaking simple and lets you cog it down a gear or two from the paddle shift and use the throttle to help steer it into and through a bend if you’re in the mood.
On an admittedly short test over one of my regular routes which quickly reveals what a car is like, I found the Stinger’s forte to be delivering rapid, easy driving which I think would be really enjoyable on long cross country journeys. Even on our roads!
In terms of driving, it really hits the brief.
Brilliant, one area where Kia has pulled out all the stops and it shows. Top end materials, great interior styling, lots of room and especially so in the back courtesy of that long wheelbase.
On short acquaintance I would say it is the equal of the BMW 5 Series and Jag XF I have had recently, ditto a comparable car from Merc or Audi. Forget Alfa Romeo, its Giulia simply isn’t in the game here.
Kia has no brand image here and cannot charge a premium for the badge as the others can. It stacks up well on the list price and it doesn’t then charge the earth on extras and its standard is generous.
Prices kick in at around £32,000. No one yet knows what the residuals will be but with extremely limited supply, it being such an excellent car, its warranty and because it is something of a rarity among hordes of its rivals advertised on AutoTrader, I suggest they will be pretty good.
I am so glad Kia has avoided the well-trodden path of trying to make a new ‘halo’ car, a brand booster, grab the headlines with outstanding performance figures and blowing journalists away with its abilities around a race track.
It’s taken a more sensible and realistic tack and given the market a hugely sophisticated and capable car that was enjoyable to drive in my limited test and I can only imagine would be even more so on longer trips.
Technically, stylistically and price wise it is more than capable of holding up its head. But will it be able to overcome the badge snobbery so rampant among car buyers? Would someone driving a Jaguar or Mercedes want to tell people they drive a Kia?
I don’t know – but it would be their loss if they don’t even try it.
Price – From £31,995
Car tested – 3.3 V6 twin turbo GT S – £40,495
0 to 60 – 4.7 seconds
Top speed – 168 mph
Economy – Average 29 mpg
Warranty – Seven years/100,000 miles