The 5 things you need to know about the 2017 Kia Stinger
The Kia Stinger has arrived Down Under and we’ve already driven it a couple of times. Here are the five things you need to know about it.
TRACK BACK A DECADE and try telling anyone who’d listen that there’d be genuine hype about a new Kia and you’d get laughed at, then humiliated.
Back yourself and explain that it would, in fact, be feverish hype, and that said Kia would be generating excitement far greater than any seen for an all-new Holden Commodore due in a few short months. Oh, how the automotive landscape can change so quickly.
So how can Kia, once the butt of poor build quality jokes, and current vendor of retirement home favourites Picanto and Rio, get Aussie car shoppers so aquiver?
Because times have changed, people. Korean Kia is the fastest growing volume seller in Australia, and is flush with decent offerings at tempting prices…then there’s that unbeatable seven-year warranty.
And now this. The Stinger. A 3.3-litre V6 twin turbo, 272kW, 510Nm, rear-wheel drive GT car that sprints to 100kmh in under five seconds…if you pick the proper one.
Looks pretty sexy too. No wonder your Holdens and Fords are nervous. Who knows, maybe instead of that BMW, Audi, Merc or Alfa Romeo, shoppers would fancy a punt on one of these undeniably presence-packed Koreans without the Euro sticker price?
And wouldn’t it be great if Australians didn’t simply default buy SUVs and actually consider a practical sportback GT car for family duties?
Kia Got Big Names On Board For Stinger And It Shows
Albert Biermann used to be found setting up then slinging BMW’s performance M cars around the Nurburgring, now he’s Kia’s head of high performance development.
Under the watch of Biermann the Stinger’s ride and handling were honed in Germany at the Nurburgring Nordschleife, and it’s all a bit smart under the skin.
There’s Kia’s Dynamic Stability Damping Control (DSDC), an electronically-adjustable suspension system that can be tuned via the Drive Mode Select. Front and rear dampers can be firmed or softened independently, and you can pick from five drive modes: Eco, Sport, Comfort, Smart and Custom.
Yes, that’s the sort of tech we’d expect from our German brands, but the Stinger’s shape also has a distinctly Euro flavour too.
Chief Design Officer of Kia Motors is Peter Schreyer, pinched from Audi in 2006 after penning the original (and most influential) Audi TT in 1998. The highly regarded German has been responsible for the bulk of Kia’s modern designs, which have helped transform the Korean’s image.
Car companies aren’t exactly shy when it comes to hyperbole surrounding its latest offerings, but Kia has every right to be a bit smugly confident with the Stinger.
“I think for the Kia brand, the Stinger is like a special event,” said the aforementioned Albert Biermann. “Because nobody expects such a car, not just the way it looks, but also the way it drives. It’s a whole different animal.”
On the Australian front, Kia Motors Chief Operating Officer Damien Meredith is equally chipper: “This is the car that brings passion and desire to the Kia brand,” he said. “It is styled to catch the eye and the heart, it is powered for a big country and tuned and balanced to provide the sort of easy long-distance performance that Australian drivers have come to expect from their family cars.”
Powerplants And Spec To Suit Your Desires And Wallet
We Aussies get the choice of two petrol engines: a single turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 182kW/353Nm or a twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 pumping out 272kW and 510Nm. Both send their power through the rear treads only, via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
You get the choice of three specifications – S, Si and GT-Line with the four-cylinder car, or S, Si and GT for the V6.
Prices start from $45,990 for the entry-level 200S, the 200Si is $52,990 and GT-Line $55,990. If you want the right engine (c’mon, you gotta get the V6), expect to pay $48,990 for the 330S, $55,990 the 330Si and $59,990 for range-topping GT, all before on-roads.
All with the V6 can see 100kmh in 4.9-seconds using launch control, but we shouldn’t bag the four-cylinder too much. It cracks 100kmh in a neat six seconds, which is more that respectable for a proper GT car.
The Specification List Rivals Premiums With Similar Performance Costing Almost Twice The Price
Yes, really. Kia likes to load its cars with features to give its salespeople plenty of ammunition to dazzle customers, and its new flagship Stinger model had to be spec-heavy.
That said is hasn’t entered the “self-driving” semi-autonomous arms race the Germans in particular seem intent on battling out. Guess what? Plenty of large car shoppers aren’t bothered with these Big Brother-esque additions.
What do you get then? Pretty advanced safety including Kia’s Vehicle Stability Management, autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian recognition, smart cruise control, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, 360-degree camera, blind spot detection and high beam assist.
You score a head-up display to keep a peripheral watch on your speed, navigation guidance, audio and blind spot detection. There’s a wireless smartphone charging pad for all Stingers, and a 7-inch touchscreen for entry-level cars; 8-inch for everything else. GT-Line and GT grades, meanwhile, score a 15-speaker Harman-Kardon sound system.
All Stingers feature 18 or 19-inch alloys, GTs get an auto tailgate to raise the attractive sportback hands-free, while V6 cars score mighty 350mm Brembo brake rotors with four-piston calipers, plus a mechanical limited slip differential. That’s your suitable track toy right there.
The Interior Really Gives The Germans A Run For Their Money
It is Commodore priced, but a step ahead in cabin comfort. My first in-seat experience helped cement my belief that we have a seriously strong all-round package here. If the on-paper performance and desirable body style aren’t enough to have you put a deposit down, the quality feel to the cabin should seal the deal.
Call me a snob though, I couldn’t stop looking at the Kia badge on the steering wheel and wishing for something different. It’s the same badge that stares me in the face when I’m piloting a Kia Rio, Cerato or Carnival, but the Stinger feels like it needs something, you know, a bit more special.
Stick a “Stinger” or “GT’ badge on that steering wheel centre and I bet the appeal would increase manyfold. Hey, Hyundai dropped its run-of-the-mill “H” badge for its Genesis…
There are some classy touches in the Stinger though. Kia says it features “Aeronautically-inspired spoked circular vents,” that Audi and Mercedes shoppers will identify with, while GT buyers score “deeply-contoured seats in ultra-soft Nappa leather,” using language BMW loyalists will understand.
And let’s not shy away from the sporty reminders. “The large gauges are ringed in metal and accentuated with sweeping red needles,” Kia says. After all, red equals racy.
GT and GT-Line buyers can no-cost option red leather trim (again, think racy), while GT buyers score a colour TFT screen between the gauges relaying your performance data. You know, cornering G-forces and lap times should you fancy substituting Phillip Island for the Nurburgring (no bad plan, that).
A Great Car Certainly, But Is It Enough In A Struggling Segment?
The sub-$70,000 large car segment – occupied by your Holden Commodores, Ford Falcons and Toyota Aurions – has been haemorrhaging sales for years now. In 2017 so far this segment is down 24%, on the back of a 10% fall in 2016 and 8% drop in 2015.
So the big question. Is the Kia Stinger the right car at the wrong time, now that the Australian love affair with the larger car is massively on the wane?
Or maybe, just maybe, can this rear-drive performance Stinger at a tempting price inject new life into the segment, and make us fall in love with big cars all over again?
Interest is such that it no doubt will in the short term. Only time will tell if the Stinger can sustain the mega interest it has generated so far. And who knows, it may just entice a few more players into the arena…