You have to admire the chutzpah of Kia Motors. The Korean automaker is taking on the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes, with a new sport sedan, the Stinger. Will Kia be able to lure potential buyers of German machinery to a Korean brand? That remains to be seen. However, if Kia can get buyers to focus on the Stinger’s merits, rather than on its nameplate, then it should do well.
The Stinger is an eye-catching grand tourer that is designed to compete specifically with the BMW 3-Series, the Audi A4, and the Mercedes C-Class. Yet, its dimensions are more like a midsize sedan. It is longer, both in wheelbase (114.4 inches) and in overall length at nearly 16 feet, than its rivals. Furthermore, it has more storage capacity for vacation travel.
A long hood, a steeply raked windshield and a semi fastback roofline place the Stinger in the ranks of desirable sport sedans. It is more akin in appearance to the larger Audi A5 Sportback in this regard, than its actual rivals. Inside, it looks very German, with its somewhat austere low-luster black dash. A tablet-like infotainment screen stands upright in Teutonic fashion in the middle of an otherwise smooth-flowing landscape.
Standard leather seats with side bolsters hold driver and front passenger securely in place. Up to sixteen power adjusters insure that folks of all sizes will be comfortable. However, seating in the rear is less commodious. This is surprising, since the car has a long wheelbase. Head-and legroom are just adequate. Compensating for this is the cargo area that is best in class. Thanks to the hatchback in the rear, the Stinger provides almost twice as much capacity (23.3 cu-ft.) as a typical compact sedan.
Kia offers buyers a choice of two engines, a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 255 horsepower, or a 3.3-liter twin turbo V-6 with 365. Both are teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Rear-wheel drive is standard and AWD is optional. Kia says the V-6 will rush you to 60 in 4.7 seconds, whereas the four-cylinder will take another second plus to get you there. My test car had the V-6, and the acceleration was just as advertised. Moreover, the transmission shifts were almost imperceptible.
Behind the wheel, you might think that you were driving a BMW if you didn’t know better. The steering impresses with its quickness and its great feel of the road. Furthermore, the Stinger zips through corners with uncanny balance, even in the standard “Comfort” mode. Switch to “Sport” and the suspension stiffens; the steering tightens; the transmission shifts more aggressively and throttle response gets sharper as well. This car can hold its own on any twisty road, and when it comes to stopping power, the mighty Brembo brakes haul you down from speed without drama.
Kia offers the Stinger in five levels of trim. The base Stinger and Premium come with the four-cylinder engine, the GT, GT1 and GT2 get the V-6. The base model and the GT have the fewest frills, although they do come standard with leather. The Premium and the GT1 add luxury with features like a sunroof, and a 15-speaker sound system. The GT2 gets just about everything standard, including a suite of safety features that includes a blind spot monitor and forward collision warning.
The Stinger offers all the goodies an enthusiast could ask for, but the frosting on the cake is a price that is thousands lower than others in its class. Stingers start at just $32,800 for the base model, and range up to $52,300 for the GT2 with all-wheel drive. If you are shopping for a compact sport sedan, the Stinger should rank high on list of cars you are considering.
Great Handling and Power