2018 Kia Stinger Review
Toby Hagon’s first drive 2018 Kia Stinger Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Kia’s Stinger is a performance car for enthusiasts who don’t want to buy a luxury performance car.
2018 Kia Stinger
PRICE $48,990+ORC $59,990+ORC (whole range) WARRANTY Seven years, unlimited kilometres ENGINE 3.3L twin-turbo petrol V6 POWER 272kW at 6000rpm TORQUE 510Nm at 1300-4500rpm TRANSMISSION 8-speed auto DRIVE rear-wheel drive DIMENSIONS 4830mm (L), 1870mm (EXCL MIRRORS), 1400mm (H) BOOT SPACE 406 litres TURNING CIRCLE 11.2m TOWING WEIGHT 750kg (UNBRAKED), 1500kg (BRAKED) KERB WEIGHT 1780kg SEATS 5 THIRST 10.2L/100km combined cycle FUEL regular unleaded petrol
JUST AS HOLDEN readies to shut down its local manufacturing facilities – ending a 69-year tradition of large cars – along comes a car that could fill the void it leaves.
The Kia Stinger is one of the more surprising cars to arrive from the Korean car industry. After all, rear-wheel drive large cars are out of favour globally, with most mainstream manufacturers instead switching to more practical and fuel efficient front-drive configurations. But along with its sister brand Hyundai, Kia has developed a car aimed at driving enthusiasts who don’t want to shell out for a luxury performance car.
Available with a four-cylinder turbocharged engine or a potent 3.3-litre twin turbo V6, the Stinger is targeting the market soon to be vacated by the locally-made Holden Commodore.
What is the Kia Stinger?
Kia’s most ambitious car to date and a car hoped to change perceptions of the brand. While it has hints of luxury, the Stinger is predominantly about performance and driving excitement.
Most similarly priced competitors – think everything from a Volkswagen Passat to the first ever imported Commodore, due in 2018 – drive the front wheels, which seriously limits how much power you can unleash on it before the whole driving enjoyment thing goes backwards in a big way.
But the Stinger drives the rear wheels. And if you choose the V6 there’s plenty of power to play with. Little wonder Kia sees those V6 models as a successor of sorts for the Holden Commodore SS, the V8-powered performance hero of the Holden lineup that will not be produced after October 20, 2017.
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. While affordable models tend to be the best sellers in many vehicle ranges, for the Stinger it’s the V6 that’s attracting most attention; early sales suggest at least 75% of orders will be for the more powerful – and more expensive – V6.
What’s the interior of the Kia Stinger like?
Just like the Maserati-esque tail lights there are hints of other luxury cars inside the Stinger. The trio of circular vents in the centre console, for example, is reminiscent of some Mercedes-Benzes. And the sweep of the dash has hints of Jaguar.
But dig deeper and the elegant façade doesn’t have the attention to detail of the luxury elite. Which is hardly surprising. After all, the Stinger starts from $45,990+ORC – and packs plenty in for the money. Think electric driver’s seat, auto headlights, gear shift paddles on the steering wheel, dual-zone air-conditioning, digital radio tuning, 18-inch alloy wheels and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
By the time you get to the top shelf GT-Line and GT the alloy wheels are 19 inches in diameter (with wider rear tyres) and additional features include a 15-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, head-up display, leather seats, a sunroof, auto wipers, radar cruise control and a suite of active safety gear to help avoid collisions. The wheels are also 19 inches in diameter and the touchscreen up to 8.0 inches.
Materials are a mixed bag. There are some quality metallic touches for the main audio controls and for the Harman Kardon speaker grilles (again, very Mercedes-Benz) but some of the switchgear, including the toggles for the exterior mirrors, look like those from a $20K Kia.
What’s the Kia Stinger’s passenger space like?
While it’s a large sedan the Stinger sits relatively low to the ground – part of its sporty sales pitch – so it gives the impression of athleticism. That’s also helped by the snug yet comfortable front seats. It’s a well presented cockpit.
Legroom in the back is OK without being spectacular, although taller people will find their heads just grazing the roof. For families, though, space is generous. While it has a sedan-like profile, the boot is accessed via a hatch, which reveals a 406-litre cavity with a flat floor and 60/40 split-fold for the back seats.
What’s the Kia Stinger like on the road?
Even in four-cylinder guise there’s loads of pull thanks to the addition of a turbocharger. It’s a hearty engine, courtesy of 353Nm of torque arriving from just 1400rpm. Spin it out and it backs it up with 182kW. Brisk, but somewhat unexciting.
And it pales compared with the 272kW/510Nm offered up by the 3.3-litre twin turbo V6. It’s a sweet engine that pulls strongly across its rev range. There’s V8-like thrust that makes for acceleration generally reserved for more expensive machinery. There’s also a launch control system to help achieve the clamed 4.9-second 0-100km/h time. It allows the engine to be stalled up to about 2000rpm, making for brisker take-offs.
The eight-speed auto transmission (it was developed in-house by Hyundai/Kia) has a useful spread of ratios, ensuring the engine is kept in its broad sweet spot. But the transmission is not particularly intelligent when it comes to holding gears during spirited motoring. Punting along a twisting, undulating road it’s ever keen to be in a taller gear, no doubt chasing better fuel economy.
It typically means it has to drop down a gear or two (or three) when you get back on the throttle. Sure, there are shift paddles so you can take control, but it would also be nice if the electronics were more in sync with the sporty nature of the car.
Continental tyres (either 18- or 19-inch) are a crucial piece of the handling picture. They’re decent on-road but were replaced for track driving with Michelins claimed to be better suited to a thrashing. The Michelins also felt like they had more grip; Kia is considering homologating them for the Stinger in future. Even with the standard Contis it’s an athletic and capable companion.
The suspension is more comfortable tourer than track screamer. So when you hit a bump there’s notable compression, albeit well controlled in all but large, high speed hits. Steering is responsive, although keener drivers may yearn for more feel.
And the Brembo brakes on the V6 do a terrific job of arresting pace, although repeated hard use can get them smoking. Ultimately, though, the V6 Stinger is a brisk road going four-door. Few cars short of six figures (Holden’s V8 Commodore excluded) would match it.
What sort of safety features does the Kia Stinger have?
Standard safety fare includes seven airbags (dual front airbags, side curtains and a driver’s knee airbag) as well as an active bonnet that pops up to help cushion pedestrians. The auto emergency braking that can automatically apply the brakes to avoid a crash is not included in the base model variants, which is a shame because it’s now common at this price level.
Instead you need to step up to the mid-level cars (200Si and 330Si), at which point you also get lane keep assist to warn the driver if you wander out of the lane. Blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert only come on the GT-Line and GT.
The Stinger is yet to be independently rated by the NCAP crash test authority.
So, what do we think of the Kia Stinger?
The big appeal with the Stinger is its driving nous. It doesn’t set any new benchmarks – the current Commodore V8 dishes up similar pace and is more mature dynamically – but it will soon be unique in what it offers in terms of space, pace and value.
The four-cylinder versions deliver respectable performance and are slightly better balanced in bends. But they make little sense when compared with the extra thrust offered by the flagship V6. For the money it’s a great alternative to the muscle cars we’ve come to love in Australia, albeit without the V8 muscle car character.