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Kia Stinger GT S Fast Fleet test – 12,000 miles in the V6 sports saloon

After covering 12,000 miles on the Fast Fleet, did the Kia Stinger GT S convince us that it’s a credible alternative to its European rivals?

Evo rating

I offer but a snapshot, a single, seven-month experience, yet over that time with the Kia Stinger I met with virtually nothing but positive reactions. If Kia’s objective was to challenge and change the public’s perception of the brand, to show it can mix it with the established European luxury marques, then from what I’ve seen it has succeeded. The level of interest and admiration was amazing. And from the way the Stinger drove and how it performed during our 12,000 miles together, I’d say Kia pretty much nailed that side too. 

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The Stinger isn’t the first big, rear-drive Kia, but then no-one has ever seen an Optima, which would make it the ideal bank robber’s car: ‘The getaway car? Well, it was big. And grey…’ The Stinger had a different job and came with an altogether more arresting look and, in top-spec GT S trim, a lusty 365bhp twin-turbo V6, while Its development had been directed by some highly regarded German designers and engineers poached by Hyundai-Kia. The Stinger was a car born of keen ambition. 

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Its appeal was enhanced by an attractive list price and a remarkable tally of standard equipment. At a base of £40,495 (now £40,535) the GT S was thousands cheaper than anything similar from Europe, but I can’t imagine any customer saving £645 and going with the only no-cost paint option: Sunset Yellow. It’s as challenging on such a big car as you’d fear and a trawl through used car sites turns up not a single Sunset Stinger. We did rather better, getting a unique metallic blue GT S that Kia UK had commissioned to see if it wanted to add it to the palette. I’m surprised that this hue, evocative of Subaru’s Sonic Blue, still isn’t generally available, because it looks superb. 

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First impressions of the GT S were favourable. The ride wasn’t quite as resolved as expected but there were aspects that were absolutely spot-on: the steering, which was connected and precise, the brakes, which were responsive and progressive right from the top of the pedal travel, and the rich-sounding stereo. There’s so much standard kit that it took me a while to discover it had a heated steering wheel. Everything you’d hope for was there, with highlights including the clear head-up display and cooled seats. I liked the exterior – imposing, vaguely Maserati-ish – and the interior – a bit Mercedes-like with its swathes of metal – yet the Stinger is its own thing with its own character. 

It’s a big car and not especially light – nearly 1800kg – but it really shifts in Sport mode, when the V6 sounds subtly aggressive too. It kept some surprisingly sporting cars honest. Ambling around saw around 28mpg, a gentle motorway cruise upped this to 33-34mpg, while a keen cross-country hack would drop the figure into the high teens. 

Sporty as it was, it wasn’t an overtly playful rear-drive saloon. The rear axle seemed softly sprung and overly compliant for crisp handling, even with Sports damping selected, and the traction control was conservative and would shut down the power over moderate bumps. I doubted the Stinger’s sporting aspirations until I drove it into north Wales a couple of months before we handed it back. The initial roads were narrow and high-hedged, demanding precision. The Stinger is a wide car yet because its steering is so precise, it was easy to place. It was a very enjoyable drive, fast but relaxed and utterly absorbing. Such an easy accuracy in a big saloon is rare. For the first time I understood and fully appreciated the compromise the chassis engineers had struck. 

Downsides we encountered? One, maybe two. When shifting from reverse to drive the auto ’box would sometimes find neutral, which was frustrating, especially if you’d backed out into the road. It would be better with a larger fuel tank, too; 55 litres gave an effective range of 300 miles. The only other item of note was a rattle from the rear that sounded like the suspension but could have been the removable tow bar that we had fitted. 

Not a lot on the negative side, then, which is what you need if you are to change perceptions and prove you can make a sporting, luxury saloon every bit as good as the establishment. All used GT Ss are priced at about £30k, irrespective of mileage, which seems a bit of a coincidence, but the bottom line is that it’s a lot of capable car for the money.

People were attracted to the Stinger, open to the idea of a big, fast, sporty Kia, and pleased to hear that it drove well. Job done, Kia, job done. 

Date acquiredApril 2018
Duration of test7 months
Total mileage12,348
Overall mpg28.0
Total costs£225.42 service, £745 tow bar
Purchase price£41,140
Value today£25,000 (2024)

This story was first featured in evo issue 258.

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