What is it?
This, ladies and gentlemen, is Kia’s first real attempt at building a proper sports saloon. It may not be up there with the Audi RSes and BMW Ms of this world, but it’ll certainly hold its own against the likes of the Audi S4 and Mercedes C43 AMG. What’s more, it’s supposed to be a really good drive, having been engineered by Albert Biermann, the former president of engineering at BMW’s M Division.
Oh, and the Stinger’s trump card? It’s about AED 100,000 cheaper than the Germans it’s competing against. It’ll obviously take a lot to overcome the weakness of the Kia badge when it comes to sporting saloons, but, on paper at least, the Stinger looks like the car for the job.
How does it drive?
In the UAE, you can have your Stinger in just two flavours. The first costs AED 149,000 and comes fully loaded (more on the interior toys later on). It’s powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder developing 250 bhp and good for 0-100 km/h in 6.0 seconds.
The one you really want, though, is the Stinger GT, which costs AED 169,000 fully loaded, and comes with a 3.3-litre turbocharged V6 developing 365 bhp. That’ll do the 0-100 km/h dash in 4.9 seconds and go on to a top speed of 270 km/h.
This means the Kia is only slightly slower than the (very rapid) Audi S4, and it’s about AED 115,000 cheaper. It’s all sounding a little too good to be true.
The thing is, it’s not. The Stinger GT feels every bit as fast as its numbers suggest. In fact, with its drive mode set to sport, it feels even faster. In this mode, the throttle is twitchy if you misuse it, but beautifully responsive once you get a feel for it. There’s a little turbo lag at low revs, but as soon as you properly floor it, the Stinger is off like a shot. The car just drop-kicks your stomach half a mile down the road. And before you know it, you’re doing the national speed limit and are in serious danger of being flashed by a speed camera.
Crucially, the Stinger is also rear-wheel drive, meaning there’s some fun to be had around the corners. There is an all-wheel drive version available, too, but we wouldn’t bother. Even with the power going solely to the rear wheels, you’ll have to push pretty hard if you want to engage in any tail-out malarkey – such are the levels of grip that the chassis offers. Plus, the traction control (which you can turn off with a simple button) comes down reasonably hard to prevent much slip. Still, push hard, and you can enjoy a little slide before the traction control steps in. Turn the system off, and you’ll find the Stinger can be tail-happy if you boot it through slow bends, but it’d prefer to be driven hard and fast, and to stick to the racing lines. Having said all that, it’s certainly more dynamically entertaining than the Audi S4.
The steering is nicely weighted when it’s set to comfort, but becomes needlessly heavy in sport. The problem is that there isn’t actually that much feel through the wheel, so the sporty steering setting is a skin-deep function that doesn’t really offer a better drive. Happily, you can customise the drive modes so that they apply to different functions. So, for example, you can have the engine set to sport, and the steering and suspension set to comfort.
And none of this is to mention the refinement. Even with the suspension set to sport, the ride is smooth and tolerable. In comfort, it’s near-perfect – the dampers creating a pliant ride that still offers some connection to the road. The cabin is fabulously quiet, too. A good thing, given that the Stinger’s V6 isn’t the sweetest-sounding motor in the world.
Still, all in all, for AED 169,000, it’s a wonder that the Stinger can do half of the things it does.
Interior quality and tech
There’s hardly anything to complain about here. In the UAE, you can only buy the Stinger fully loaded – whether you opt for the V6-engined GT or the standard 2.0-litre model. That means you get everything you could reasonably expect from a luxury car. Adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree parking camera (as good as the ones offered by BMW and Audi), navigation, a killer stereo, Bluetooth music streaming, a sunroof, an electronic boot lid, and fully adjustable electric front seats are all included. The one technological gripe (and it’s a small one) is that the graphics on the centre console screen aren’t quite as polished as they are on, say, Volkswagen’s offerings. But given how much is included in the price, and that it all works as intended, you can forgive that one small drawback.
The interior quality is beyond reproach. On the GT model, you get seats lavished in real Nappa leather. At the front, there’s plenty of room, and while there’s plenty of plastic, all of the plastics are solid, chunky and premium-feeling, so long as you don’t mind a bit of faux-carbon fibre. Otherwise, you have to really hunt around the cabin to find anything flimsy-feeling. And in the back, there’s way more room than the Germans will offer you, and a fabulous centre-armrest that looks like it’s from a big, executive saloon.
If we were really nitpicking, we’d say that the design of the cabin isn’t exactly awe-inducing. But that’s a very, very small complaint (and a totally subjective one). If you had this as your daily driver, you’d be very comfortable in it indeed.
In the GT model we tested, you could get up to 600 km on a tank of petrol – we’re afraid that’s the price you have to pay for having a big, powerful V6 engine. The four-cylinder will be more frugal. In terms of insurance, for the GT, you’re looking at around AED 5,000 for a fully comprehensive policy. Oh, and we reckon resale values will be high – not only does this car represent amazing value for money, but it’ll also benefit from Kia’s stellar service and warranty packages.
In short, the Stinger GT is an early contender for our car of the year. It’s blisteringly fast, entertaining around the bends, and comfortable enough to tempt you away from German sports saloons way above its price range. If you aren’t worried about brand cache, and want to move about quickly for a reasonable price, you have to have one of these.