2018 Kia Stinger GT Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Kia Stinger GT Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell Kia Stinger GT arrives with V8-esque thrust, good looks and room for a family.
2018 Kia Stinger GT
Price $59,990+ORC Warranty seven years, unlimited kilometres Safety Not tested Engine 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol Power 272kW at 6000rpm Torque 510Nm at 1300-4500rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive rear-wheel Dimensions 4830mm (L) 1870MM (W) 1400mm (H) 2905mm (WB) Weight 1780kg Turning Circle 11.2m Spare Temporary Spare Boot Space 406-1114L Fuel Tank 60 Thirst 10.2L/100km
THE KIA STINGER has arrived to take the place of the rear-drive Aussie muscle car. Sure, it’s not a direct replacement but if you’re after a bucket-load of oomph in a rear-drive package with room for a family then the Kia Stinger is just about all you can buy. Unless you’ve got deeper pockets.
What is the Kia Stinger?
The Kia Stinger harks back to the Stinger GT concept of 2011 and it has survived remarkably un-mucked-with. The concept and the Stinger (production version) was designed by a Frenchman, Gregory Guillaume, who drew inspiration for the design from European GTs of the 1970s. But GTs tend to be two-door coupes, and those sorts of cars don’t sell in the sort of volume needed to make a business case at Kia.
“The Kia Stinger is a true gran turismo, a car for spirited long-distance driving,” Guillaume explained. “It’s not about outright power, hard-edged dynamics and brutal styling, all at the expense of luxury, comfort and grace. The Kia Stinger has nothing to do with being the first to arrive at the destination – this car is all about the journey. It’s about passion.”
So, the Stinger gets the swooping looks of a classic GT, in profile, but with the four-door practicality of a sedan/liftback. But it’s not the design that’s got tongues wagging.
There’s both a turbocharged four-cylinder and a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 (which we’re testing here), mated to both variants is an eight-speed automatic transmission. In some markets, you can have an all-wheel drive version, but here we only get the rear-driver.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Stinger swopping in after the death of the Aussie-made rear-drive sedans to scoop up what’s left of that market, but it’s not quite the same sort of vehicle. Sure, in 3.3-litre twin-turbo guise the Stinger offers V8-like thrust with power getting to the road via the rear wheels, but it’s not intended as a tow car and it’s not quite as roomy in the back seat as either a Falcon or Commodore.
So, while in theory the comparison might seem sound, in practice it’s a little loose. And, besides, to simply pigeon-hole the Stinger as some sort of hole-filler is to do it an injustice.
No-one expected the Stinger from Kia in the same way that no-one expected an out-and-out hot hatch like the i30 N from Hyundai.
See, the passenger car segment is shrinking. It’s rapidly being eaten up by our insatiable appetite for SUVs, yet for Kia and Hyundai, vehicles like the Stinger and i30 N represent a coming of age… as being the builder of more than just affordable machinery.
But, while there’s been a lot of hype about the Stinger it isn’t intended as some sort of out-and-out road racer, like an M3. Rather, it’s intended to dynamic and comfortable long-distance tourer. It’s apt I mention the M3, because the Stinger and the Hyundai i30 N have been produced under the watchful eye of former BMW M boss, Albert Biermann. He’s got a fair old idea of how to make a dynamic vehicle.
The Stinger is available in three basic guises, each with the choice of the four-cylinder or V6 engine. For the four-cylinder models pricing starts at $45,990 for the entry-level 200S followed by the 200Si $52,990+ORC and rounded out with the GT-Line at $55,990+ORC. The V6 adds about $3000 to the price and kicks off with the 330S ($48,990+ORC) and 330Si ($55,990+ORC) topping out with the $59,990+ORC GT.
What’s the interior like?
This test sees us in the top-spec 3.3L V6 GT which lists from $55,990+ORC and is loaded down with kit. For a start the interior is swathed in leather that doesn’t feel like it’ll tear if you nick with your finger nail, while the dashboard is all soft-touch materials and gloss black and stainless steel accents. If you held you hand over the roundel in the steering wheel and squinted you’d get hints of Audi in the materials, build quality and colour scheme and Jaguar with the Rive-esque hoop at the top of the dash as it sweeps around into the tops of the doors.
I’m not so sure about the round air vents and how convincingly they sit (from a design point of view) beneath the tablet-esque touch screen but they do a good job of channelling air around the cabin. Not that that’s really an issue given the fact the seats in the GT are both heated and ventilated.
Climbing into the front of the Stinger you sit down deep inside the beast (in the driver seats lowest position it’s 45mm lower than the seat in the Kia Optima) with the shallow glasshouse giving the sensation of being sat down in something low and slinky. And that takes a little getting used to or, rather, reconciling the size of the Stinger with this sensation of being in something smaller than it is.
The seats are nice and comfortable with decent side and under-thigh support. Despite the shallow glasshouse there’s good vision around the front and sides of the vehicle; the rear three quarters is a little tricky because of the slabby c-pillar. Thankfully the GT features blind-spot monitoring and well-positioned wing mirrors.
All controls are easy to reach and operate and while plenty of car makers are moving ahead with touchscreens that can control everything from streaming music, to fan speed, to ambient lighting, Kia has kept its interior practical. The dual-zone climate control offers physical dials and buttons which are much easier to use than pinpointing an image on a screen.
Speaking of the screen there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as native sat-nav. It’s a good set-up but doesn’t pack the pizzazz of Audi’s infotainment wizardry but nor is necessarily trying to, at least not in Australia. There are more than enough power and USB outlets to keep your equipment charged with a Qi wireless charging pad at the base of the centre console.
It’s a neat and practical cabin with materials and build quality that keep Kia at the sharp end when it comes to cabin quality.
In the back, the swooping roof line means that head room isn’t amazing for six-foot-tall passengers (my head touched the roof), but the long wheel base means there’s reasonable legroom; the backs of the front seats are scalloped to give you more kneeroom, but you’ll need to ask those in the front to raise their seats slightly to give you some toe wiggle room.
There are two directional rear air vents at the back of the centre console and charging outlets for those in the back. The middle back seat lacks the shape of the outboard seats and is more of a perch than a seat you’d want to travel in for any great period.
As usual, I fitted my daughter’s booster seat to the back which was easy-ish (you’ve got to raise the boot and pass the top tether into the back and then latch it at the base of the back seat) and left her with enough head and legroom to be comfortable. In my week with the Stinger, she had a friend over and so a second booster was needed. This too was fine, but it left only minimal room for my son to squeeze between the two booster seats; he wasn’t comfortable. The moral here is that if you’ve only got one or two kids travelling in a booster seat, then the Stinger will be fine.
The boot is accessed via a liftback which, in GT trim, is powered which can open all by itself if it detects the key in close proximity for three seconds. There’s 406 litres of storage space in a long and wide but shallow boot. The floor is flat and hides a space saver spare wheel underneath. The rear seats are 60:40 split fold meaning you can expand the boot to 1114 litres if needed.
What’s it like on the road?
The hero of the line-up is the 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine which makes 272kW at 6000rpm and 510Nm of torque from 1300-4500rpm. This engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, can get to 100km/h from rest in just 4.9 seconds (if you use launch control) which makes it the fastest-accelerating production Kia ever. Fuel consumption is a claimed combined 10.2L/100km.
At 1780kg, the Stinger isn’t light yet the lusty V6 ensures you don’t notice the weight on the highway or when cruising up hills and/or overtaking. There’s an accumulation of speed rather than neck-snapping acceleration, and this is true to the grand tourer inspiration. The Stinger is intended to make progress easy and comfortable with just enough dynamism to be entertaining to drive; it’s not about tearing great gouges out of the tarmac as it rips its way along the road.
From the low-slung driving position, there’s a real sense of occasion when you first set-off in the Stinger but, around town it feels less like prowling cat and more like just a big car. And that surprised me after reading PM’s own first drive reviews. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting something so ordinary feeling; and whether that’s a good or bad thing, I haven’t completely determined.
And this behind the wheel experience at around town speed stands in stark contrast to the level of attention the Stinger draws. From cyclists to pedestrians, to builders by their utes, to school kids and even Commodore owners, the thing copped plenty of finger pointing, approving nods and, from the Commodore owner an almost leg-humping level of fascination. In the week I had the Stinger, I got the sort of attention I just wouldn’t have expected from driving a Korean car, but maybe this is something owners will have to get used to. Moving on.
Tootling around at 60km/h, the eight-speed automatic feels, if I’m being kind, slow, running straight to top gear as quickly as it can. And, while there’s theoretically bucket-loads of torque to rest on from low down in the rev range, that doesn’t stop it from dropping cogs when it doesn’t necessarily need to and grabbing it a moment or two after you wanted it to.
Don’t misread me here, I’m not suggesting its slow and frustrating, just that it’s not as sharp at low speeds as perhaps it should be and the eight-speeder is certainly not as slick as the transmissions in some of its more expensive rivals. There’s also a little bit of turbo lag under 2500rpm, which is where you’ll be at, say, 60km/h… from there on, though, the engine starts hard-charging and the thrust is impressive. Indeed, when our Robert recently drove his Toyota 86 around Mount Panorama at a dirve day he rang me up and told me how Cody Croker had ripped past him on Mountains Straight, in a Stinger GT, like he’d been standing still.
After a few days of driving around town in the Stinger and, and I’ll be honest, wondering what all the fuss was about, I headed out onto our test loop. Sure, the Stinger had conquered the Nurburgring at its international launch but it could it, ahem, handle the Practical Motoring test loop? Surely it would… our Stingers have, after all, undergone further ride and handling tweaks in Australia.
Our loop lies west of the Blue Mountains and takes in around 30km of highway, fast and flowing corners, patchy bitumen, tight and twisting corners with short straights that torture brakes and body control, and some dirt.
On the highway, the Stinger feels like a different car to how it behaved around town, and that is relaxed but with urgency just a toe-flex away. The steering is nicely weighted, the throttle progressive feeling underfoot and the seats comfortable, and the transmission also smooths right out from 60km/h up. On the highway, the Stinger GT is the very picture of distance-crushing composure.
Onto fast, flowing roads it retains a sense of effortlessness. The steering is precise, if lacking in feel, and there’s good weight. The body is well controlled and the gearbox, because the car is running faster, is much better behaved than at around-town speeds. Indeed, there’s little to fault.
But then comes the tighter, twistier stuff where the surface, in the main, is good but in sections, particularly some corners, is patchier. And it’s this tighter stuff where the surface isn’t the best that unsettles the big Stinger. And perhaps that’s to be expected; this thing is, after all, aimed at long distance cruising.
There’s good grip and, again, the steering is more than up to the task even as the corners get tighter. The brakes are solid and so is the body control and that’s regardless of whether you select either Comfort, Sport or Smart via the Drive Mode Select (Eco, Sport, Comfort, Smart and Custom). But, what the Stinger doesn’t like is mid-corner bumps. I drove the Stinger across the same section of road a couple of times using different settings, once in Comfort and once in Sport. And each time the same mid-corner bump caught the thing out. In Sport, it bucked the rear end off line and then joggled about a bit while the dampers caught up. In Comfort, it felt a bit floaty in its response to the mid-corner bumps.
I fiddled with the damper settings, which you can do manually as the Stinger GT runs electronically-adjustable dampers, allowing you to manually stiffen the front and soften the rear or vice versa. But I couldn’t get it to make a difference on this or other patchy corners I drove around. It’s unlikely the average owner will ever play with the dampers and that’s because 99% of the time the standard settings and the body control are fine.
Despite its struggle with mid corner bumps, the Stinger doesn’t ever feel like it’s suddenly going to snap into oversteer. But that’s probably down to the well calibrated electronics which you keep you pointing in the right direction, regardless of how ham-fisted you’ve gotten, and without ever feeling intrusive.
In the same way that I said the transmission can feel a little lazy around town, the steering-mounted paddles never allow you to take full control; shifting up as you approach the redline, whether you wanted to or not, and even ignoring requests for downshifts.
The Stinger GT gets Brembo brakes and they do a top job of reining it in around town with a nice progressive pedal action. And, while I’ve heard you can get them smoking around a race track, but on our test loop which is designed to simulate real-world road conditions they remained strong despite copping a pounding.
In the end, despite a few gripes the Stinger GT is, overall, a rapid road-going four-door that deserves your attention.
What about safety features?
There’s still no ANCAP rating for the Stinger, but our GT test car gets a full suite of active safety, including lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, driver attention alert, active bonnet (standard across the range), front and rear parking sensors, rear camera, 360-degree camera, and autonomous emergency braking, airbags, traction and stability controls, and a limited slip differential.
So, what do we think?
The fact the Stinger is now all on its lonesome as an affordable, family-oriented, rear-driver means it’ll get plenty of attention and deservedly so, because beyond just those attributes the Stinger is a class act. It drives well and offers a lovely cabin and all the grunt and grip you could possibly expect from a family-oriented sporting road car.