There’s a case to be made for the enormous Hyundai-Kia group being one of the most exciting car manufacturers right now. Sure, they produce the same range of anonymous hatchbacks and crossovers as other car companies, but they’re also spending money where it matters for the car enthusiast.
On one hand you have Hyundai’s i30N. For a company with very little performance car heritage – and that’s being generous – it's astonishing that the i30N has become one of our favourite hot hatchbacks straight out of the starting gate, displacing plenty of long-established names in the process.
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And on the other, there’s the Kia Stinger GT. That Kia has gone from producing depressing cars like the Pride supermini and desperate Shuma to a rear-wheel drive sports saloon in the space of two decades is remarkable in itself; that the rear-drive sports saloon is also an engaging and accomplished drivers’ car, while being competitively priced and better-performing than its closest rivals is appealing in itself.
With a potent twin-turbo V6 along with four-cylinder petrol and diesel models, there’s also something for (almost) everyone. Sure, spending up to £40k on a car carrying the Kia badge may still put some people off, but in time people will get over their preconceptions just as they have with brands like Skoda - and if Kia keeps producing cars like the Stinger, that may happen sooner rather than later.
Kia Stinger in detail
Performance and 0-60 time - Performance ranges from brisk – 7.6sec to 62mph for the diesel – to fairly rapid, the V6 achieving the benchmark sprint in sub-5sec. Weight blunts the sensation of speed.
Engine and gearbox - A choice of two turbocharged four-cylinders – a 2-litre petrol and 2.2 diesel – plus a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6. An eight-speed torque converter automatic is standard across the range.
Ride and handling - Steering could stand to feed back more to the driver’s hands and the weight impacts body control, but at a less hectic pace it’s impressive indeed – fluid, agile, responsive and throttle-adjustable.
MPG and running costs - Combined economy ranges from 50.4mpg for the diesel to 26.6mpg for the V6, but the on-paper figures don’t seem difficult to achieve in the real world. Kia’s 7-year warranty remains a huge selling point.
Interior and tech - Hints of Mercedes-Benz to the cabin design. Build quality is good, use of materials less so, but it’s comfortable, quiet and has a great driving position. Technology prioritises usability over flashiness – just as it should be.
Prices, specs and rivals
Stinger pricing begins at £32,025. For some, that alone will be enough to dissuade, as that’s strong money for something bearing the Kia badge. You do get a lot of car for your money though: that price refers to a Stinger GT-Line with the 2.0 T-GDi engine, with 18-inch alloy wheels, leather trim, a heated and 8-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat, navigation, a head-up display, cruise control and – get this – a standard limited-slip differential.
Opt for the diesel engine in the same trim and the price rises to £34,225, with GT-Line S trim above this. For £35,525 for the petrol and £37,725 for the CRDi, GT-Line S adds LED headlamps, heated and cooled front seats with heated rear seats, a 15-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system, 360-degree parking cameras and a sunroof.
Top of the line is the Stinger GT S with the V6 powerplant. At £40,535 it’s well into “for a Kia?” territory, but as well as a sub-5-second 0-62mph time GT S models get 19-inch alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, Nappa leather trim, and electronic dampers.
The GT S’s positioning is interesting given its relative price to several key rivals. The closest BMW 4-series Gran Coupe is the 440i M Sport at £45,490, though sacrifice the Gran Coupe’s fastback styling and opt for a 3-series instead and a 340i M Sport is £40,260. It’s enough to make you think, though the Kia out-points the BMW on performance and gives it a real run for its money as a drivers’ car too.
Audi’s closest analog is the S5 Sportback, but while it nips under the Kia’s 0-62mph time at 4.7sec, it also differs in sending power to all four wheels and in costing £48,850. Mercedes likewise, whose AMG C43 is as quick off the mark as the Audi and as chunky in the showroom at £45,830, a figure that quickly escalates with options.
If slick styling is your game then Volkswagen’s Arteon may be on your list, rivalling the GT S with a 276bhp 2.0 TSI under the bonnet, all-wheel drive, DSG and R-Line trim for £40,305. It’s stylish and the VW badge still carries weight at this level, but the Kia is much more entertaining to drive and outperforms it at all price points. Kia may be short on badge appeal against the German brands, but for those prepared to overlook such baggage there’s a lot to like.