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Driven: Kia Stinger GT S. Image by Kia.

Driven: Kia Stinger GT S
Can the bold Kia Stinger really tempt drivers out of their Audi A5 Sportbacks and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupes?

 



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Kia Stinger V6 GT S

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: Kia's execution of a premium GT crossed with a sporty coupe is magnificent in almost every detail

Not so good: High emissions lead to big tax commitments, modest cruising fuel economy, feels a bit too skittish in low-grip conditions

Key Facts

Model tested: Kia Stinger 3.3 T-GDi V6 GT S
Price: Stinger range starts from 31,995; GT S from 40,495
Engine: 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door coupe-fastback
CO2 emissions: 225g/km (VED 1,200 first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 28.5mpg
Top speed: 168mph
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Power: 370hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 510Nm at 1,300- to 4,500rpm

Our view:

Affirmation of the Kia Stinger GT's appeal came somewhere on the M1 southbound, between Leicester and Northampton, on a murky January Saturday. Cruising steadily down the motorway in the new Stinger, as the gloom of night began to truly set in, the headlights behind us - from about 20 car lengths back - suddenly shot forward to close ranks on the Korean's back end.

Once past a middle-lane dawdler, we pulled in and the car behind accelerated sharply forward for an instant, before braking to match our speed. We looked over. It was a 66-plate BMW 640d Gran Coupe M Sport, one of the motoring world's favourite four-door luxury coupes; 67,000-worth of car when new, probably still worth the vast majority of that money a year after leaving the showroom. And the driver of it was nodding his hearty appreciation of the Stinger's lines. If a Kia marketing expert had been in the car, they'd have probably burst like a balloon with excitement.

This is no more than an aside to our week in this brave new Kia, yet apposite to the review that's about follow. Gaining the approval of one bloke in a 6 Series isn't the reason why we're here to tell you that the Kia Stinger is the new class leader in a market where it should, by rights, have no chance of succeeding. No, it's because this car has been executed to near-perfection, it's also a complete bargain for this sort of vehicle.

If you're going to get on board with the praise that we're about to heap on the Stinger, then it's important to say that, even with this most powerful, 370hp twin-turbo V6, it's supposed to be a grand tourer that's sporty, not a sports car that's capable of cruising. So this isn't an Asian AMG, it's not a Korean M car, you're not buying into a Far Eastern RS. It's supposed to be comfortable and luxurious first and foremost, and then good to drive as a pleasant bonus.

Judge it like that, and you'll struggle to come up with any cogent reason why you'd have an Audi S5 Sportback, BMW 440i Gran Coupe or Volkswagen Arteon 280 TSI instead. In fact, you even question the wisdom of choosing larger 'four-door coupes', like the 6 Series Gran Coupe, Mercedes CLS or Audi A7. The Stinger really is THAT good.

So let's begin the sermon. Like all Kias, the Stinger represents terrific value, without ever feeling cut-price or cheap. It's laden with every single bit of upmarket kit you could want as standard - including kit that's usually a cost option on the rivals. Items such as heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, adaptive cruise control, a 15-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, electric sunroof, a pin-sharp head-up display and more - the Stinger is, unbelievably, 40,495.

When a basic 440i M Sport Coupe costs 45,490 and an S5 Sportback is 48,850. That's either 4,995 or 8,355 in your back pocket, and may we remind you that both German cars will likely need several thousand pounds worth of options to match the Kia's kit list. They've both got less power, while neither comes with a seven-year warranty, either. Even the Arteon 280 R-Line is 39,540 and good though the VW is, it's powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that's 90hp and 160Nm down on the Stinger's V6.

There is a fiscal argument here that can be used to defend the Germans, which is that they offer much more competitive PCP deals - the preferred method for purchasing in this particular segment. The Stinger's unpredictable resale values, plus Audi/BMW/VW's strong brand image and financial clout means, for example, the S5 Sportback can be up to 100 a month cheaper on PCP than the Stinger. But that's haggling hard for a deal on the Audi and buying through certain outlets, and it ignores the spec gap that would affect the Audi's list price and thus its monthly repayments. So, we're inclined to say the Kia is still the best value of any car in its class, regardless of how you choose to buy or finance it. It's a massive win for Korea in this regard, then.

In terms of the looks and the interior, the Stinger has the ability to divide opinion, but we absolutely love the aesthetics, especially the cabin. We'll start on the exterior, because that's an area some people like and others don't. The thing is, if you're generating some sort of debate on the styling, then at least you've not made the thing bland - which would be more of an offence, in our eyes. It's possible to say the looks are derivative of Audi Sportbacks past but, thanks to designer Peter Schreyer's efforts over recent years, Kias have an individual look all of their own, and the Stinger is no exception. It's also one of those cars that looks far better in the metal than it does in pictures, having real presence and imposing proportions that suit it brilliantly. The 19-inch wheels are also gorgeous and it was definitely a car at which we often cast a backwards glance as we walked away from it.

Inside, the inevitable Audi comparison is going to leave the Kia at a slight disadvantage, because it's not quite that good in terms of fit and finish. However, it's very close and it's Kia's best interior by a huge margin. That's not to damn it with faint praise, because Kia cabins are usually excellent from Picanto-level upwards. Bigger bonus points, though, for the absolutely colossal amount of rear legroom. The fact you can take four passengers if you want to (given there's a third seatbelt clip tucked away in the back) and a driving position that's superb - low to the floor, looking out over that long, twin-vented bonnet and with pedals that aren't offset in the slightest. All the switchgear looks and feels really good, and we like the two-tier dash sculpture that Kia has obviously worked hard on, as well as the big graphical screen in the cluster between the dials.

Moving on, the Kia Stinger has a tremendous V6 engine that delivers as much power as a Porsche 911 Carrera. It's not loud and raucous, nor is it blessed with the sort of pop-pop-bang-bang exhaust that is all the rage these days; there's just a low, creamy V6 roar that fills the cabin when you press the throttle. And that pedal is exceptionally well judged, because it doesn't even feel fuzzy and woollen in Eco mode, never mind in Normal, Sport or Sport+. Serious pace is not something the Kia lacks, while its eight-speed automatic is largely innocuous - this is a good thing, let us tell you, although it will shift up for you, even if you're in Sport+ and clicking the paddles for full manual mode... and that's the sole powertrain annoyance, it really is.

The dynamics, though, are spot on - save for the rear of the car feeling a little wayward in wet, greasy or icy conditions. More wayward, for instance, than a BMW 440i M Sport, although the compensation there is that the Stinger is much easier to slide; it will languidly kick its back end out with little difficulty in most lower gears, and when it breaks, it breaks easily and progressively. The steering is unequivocally Kia's best effort yet, as it's nicely weighted, accurate and even feelsome. Mighty Brembo brakes provide epic stopping power, while there's a lovely balance to the chassis that results in minimal levels of road-speed understeer. Throw in corking body control on the adjustable dampers and, if grip levels are high, then the Stinger will charge along challenging roads in a thrilling, composed and talented fashion.

Yet it's on the motorway where the Stinger astounds. It suppresses tyre and wind noise to a standard unsurpassed in this class, while the engine remains muted in the extreme on a trailing throttle. But the ride steals the show, the Kia lopes along with graceful, smoothly controlled vertical body movements and a high-speed stability that is second to none. Burring along fast trunk routes and up and down the M1, it's hard to imagine many cars you'd rather be in than this V6 Korean. Even if its best cruising return of 33mpg is nothing spectacular (overall, we got 29.2mpg out of the Stinger GT S, at a high 52.4mph average speed).

The Kia Stinger is just wonderfully wrought, especially as it's Kia's first attempt at this sort of premium, relaxing GT. Majestic on motorways, amazing on A-roads, brilliant on B-roads, the simple fact of the matter is this - the Kia is easily more fun and rewarding to drive than an Audi A5/S5 and Volkswagen Arteon, and it feels like it is at least the dynamic match for the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. It's more interesting and intriguing than any of the alternatives, and the overall package is an extremely strong offering in today's badge-obsessed marketplace. Certainly, if the rapturous public reaction during our 670-mile week in the Kia's company was anything to go by, people are more than ready to accept a Kia can be a real rival to upmarket German metal.

So, to answer our own standfirst, can the Kia Stinger really tempt buyers out of the A5 Sportback or 4 Series Gran Coupe? Yes. Oh, crikey yes. You can say that the Stinger isn't the sharpest tool in the box, and that you can probably secure a better PCP deal for a German rival, and that the Kia feels lairy in low-grip conditions. But all of the above are straws to be grasped at by Teutonic fanboys, scared of a seminal changing of the guard and trying desperately to avoid the inevitable conclusion.

Which is this: the best premium four-door coupe GT sports car on the market right now is the Kia Stinger V6 GT S. No questions asked. The new world order starts right here.

Alternatives:

Audi A5 Sportback: If you can put up with the Audi's super-taut, stretched face, then the A5 Sportback is as devastatingly, comprehensively talented in all departments as ever. If a bit dull...

BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe: There's a creeping feeling that BMWs are losing their ultimate dynamic edge in favour of comfort - and the prime exponent of this worrying trend is the assured but safe 4 GC.

Volkswagen Arteon: Deeply impressive VW, like the Kia, has striking styling, a lovely cabin and is more than capable of taking the fight to Audi/BMW. Range-topping 280hp model can't match the Stinger's pace or poise, however.


Matt Robinson - 1 Feb 2018









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2018 Kia Stinger GTS drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Stinger GTS drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Stinger GTS drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Stinger GTS drive. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Stinger GTS drive. Image by Kia.








 

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