Road Test: Kia Stinger GT S
Kia’s 365bhp flagship is a turning point beyond its modest sales expectations, says Alex Grant.
SECTOR Compact Executive PRICE £40,495 FUEL 28.5mpg CO2 225g/km
Confidence; it’s a driving force at Kia lately, and justifiably so having spent a decade nibbling away at mainstream rivals’ market shares, with good looking, high quality, competitively priced products. Even so, the Stinger – a rear-drive grand-tourer unrelated to anything else it sells in Europe – feels like a giant leap into the unknown.
Engineered to revive the spirit of high-performance 1970s Continent-crossers, the flagship has premium brands in its crosshair; not just the Germans, but driver-focused sports saloons from Alfa Romeo and Jaguar. It’s the production realisation of the 2011 GT concept, albeit with two extra doors, and a sign that Kia can step outside of its comfort zone, building truly desirable premium products as well as stylish hatchbacks and SUVs.
This isn’t strictly speaking new territory; at £40,000 in this guise, it’s up with the weight of UK Sorento demand in the UK, and the Stinger shares a platform and factory with Kia’s K9 luxury saloon, though that’s never come to Europe. It means production can be stepped up to meet demand; though predictions are conservative for now, at around 1,800, and half going to fleets.
There are no half measures here. Designed under Peter Schreyer, it’s got its own sense of style, hunkered over forked 19-inch wheels, its metalwork stretched over wide tracks and honed to maximise high-speed aerodynamics. But – optional yellow paintwork aside – it’s not garish with it, despite the fake bonnet vents filling with water when it rains.
Likewise, the cabin comes very close to premium-brand standards, with supportive bucket seats trimmed in soft leather, acoustic double-glazed windows and accents of aluminium throughout. It’s let down by a few plasticky parts, sadly including the horn push, but offers ample space for adults front and rear, with a generous boot easily accessed through a large hatchback. Its infotainment system is familiar from other Kias, and includes a simulated birds-eye view for parking – an essential feature, given the otherwise poor visibility.
This isn’t skin-deep. Giving the Stinger agility to match that styling fell to ex-BMW M Division boss, now head of chassis engineering at Hyundai and Kia, Albert Biermann, and it shows. Whether it’s motorways or flowing country roads, this has all the confidence and poise of a coupe, with added talent of being surprisingly compliant for day-to-day use. It’ll deliver you to your destination without ringing ears or an aching back, in ways some premium brand cars can’t match. It’s not just a saloon with heavy steering and stiff suspension, it’s the real deal.
The GT S gets the most powerful of the Stinger’s three engines; a 365bhp twin-turbocharged, 3.3-litre V6 petrol, paired with Kia’s own eight-speed automatic gearbox. This delivers 62mph in around five seconds from rest, putting power to the rear wheels through a mechanical limited-slip differential, and, with a peak torque available from 1,300 to 4,500rpm, in-gear acceleration is (predictably) effortless. In turn, it’s barely ticking over at motorway speeds; 30-35mpg is possible with a little restraint. It’s a marked difference over the more rev-hungry four-cylinder petrol, which also can’t match the economy of the 2.2-litre diesel – likely to be the UK best-seller, if a little behind rivals at 153g/km.
But there are downsides. The 60-litre fuel tank offers a range of 350-400 miles, which tends to mean stopping off for a top-up before a return journey, and the petrol engines require 6,000-mile, six-month service intervals too. Though, on the upside, the Stinger gets an unrivalled 100,000-mile, seven-year warranty, as offered on the rest of the Kia line-up. Drivers who can’t overlook the badge on the bonnet are missing out.
What We Think:
The Stinger is the sort of multi-talented tourer that could have come from decades of heritage, and bodes really well for Kia’s next-generation models. All it lacks is that premium brand badge.
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