There’s been few cars released into the automotive market that have divided opinions as much as the new 2018 Kia Stinger. Available in three trim levels and with a choice of two engines mated to the single transmission offered, an eight speed auto, the Stinger spent a fortnight with A Wheel Thing, in V6 twin turbo Si and top of the range GT-Line turbo four.The Si sits in the middle of the V6 range and is priced at $55990 plus on roads and options. The GT-Line with the turbo four is the same price and came clad in a gorgeous $695 option Snow White Pearl paint. There’s the standard seven year warranty and capped price servicing over the seven years, with the V6 being a total of $221 over the turbo 4.The V6 is the driver’s pick and backing up the four straight after sees it suffer in comparison. The 3.3L capacity V6 has a peak power figure of 272 kW at 6000 rpm and a monstrous 510 Nm of torque from 1300 to 4500. The four in comparison is 182 kW at 6200 rpm, and maxes out a torque figure of 353 Nm between 1400 to 4000 rpm. Although the V6 has a tare weight of 1780 kilos versus the four’s 1693 kg, it gets away cleaner and quicker, overtakes quicker, and will comfortably beat the four to the ton. Surprisingly, the required fuel is standard ULP and comes from a 60L tank.
Consumption is quoted for the V6 as 10.2L/14.9L/7.5L per hundred for the combined/urban/highway. The four isn’t much better, at 8.8L/12.7L/6.5L. AWT’s final figure for the six was 11.6L/100 km and for the four a slightly more reasonable 9.3L. These figures are slightly disturbing, in all honesty, as they’re more or less line-ball with the V8 engine seen in Holden’s VF Commodore and over the slightly bigger naturally aspirated 3.6L V6.There is a trade-off for that consumption and in the case of the V6 it’s the extraordinary driveability it offers. Off the line, and bear in mind it does offer Launch Control, it’ll see the 100 kmh mark in a quoted 4.9 seconds. There’s absolutely no doubt in that claim apart from a possibility it’s conservative. On a 48 hour trip to Dubbo in the central west of New South Wales, those 510 torques were so very useable in overtaking, with times to get up and pass and doing so safely compressed thanks to that torque.By having such an amount available through so many revs makes general, every day, driving unbelievably easy, with such a docile nature it’ll happily potter around the suburbs as easily as it will stretch its legs out in the country. The throttle setup is responsive to a thought, and there’s a real sense of urgency in how it all happens. There’s a bi-modal exhaust and this cracks a valve in the rear pipes allowing a genuine crackle and snarl from over 2500. Otherwise it’s a vacuum cleaner like woofle that can become wearying very quickly.The four, as mentioned, suffers in comparison, lacking the outright flexibility the bigger engine has. Note: “in comparison”. On its own the 2.0L turbo four, as found in the Optima GT and the sibling Sonata from Hyundai, is a belter. Paired against the big brother 330 it is slightly slower, slightly less able, slightly less quick to get going from a good prod of the go pedal as it waits for the turbo to spool up. Overseas markets do get a diesel and this is potentially the engine that Kia should replace the petrol four with. As long, as long, as it offers comparable performance to the V6.
The eight speed auto in both cars is a simple joy to use. All of the words that mean slick and smooth can be used here. Changes are largely unfelt, rarely does the backside feel anything other than forward motion as the ratios change. And naturally there’s different drive modes. Comfort is the default with Eco, Sports, Custom (GT-Line) and Smart the others and accessed via a dial in the console. However, somewhat confusingly, you can access a menu via the seven or eight inch (trim level dependent) touchscreen and set the steering to Sports, engine/transmission to Sport, and suspension to Sport yet have the driver’s display show Comfort from the dial setting.In Sport, the transmission doesn’t change any more cleanly but will hold revs longer and feels as if the shift points themselves change. There’s no manual shift mode as such; what this means is that the gear selector doesn’t have a side push or buttons to do a manual change. There are paddle shifts and once used doesn’t stay in manual mode but reverts quickly back to auto. What this means for the driver is simple piece of mind and not having to worry which mode the transmission is still in.Roadholding and handling from both was nigh on nearly impeccable. BUT, and it’s an odd one, the V6’s mechanical limited slip differential rear had more of a propensity for skipping sideways even on flat and relatively settled surfaces. A slight bump, a ripple, and the rear would move just enough to alert you of it. The Stinger has a big footprint though, with a 2905mm wheelbase inside the 4830mm overall length.Track front and rear also helps at over 1650mm minimum, as do the offset tyres of 225/40 & 255/35 on 19s for the Si and GT-Line six and GT-Line four. The others have 225/45/18s. And it’s McPherson struts front matching the Aussie tuned multilink rear that provide the superb roadholding the Stinger exhibits. The steering is precise, well weighted, en pointe, and tells you exactly how the road is feeling.There’s Launch Control on board as well and it’s a fairly simple matter to engage. Traction control gets turned off, the car must be in Sports mode, AND the computer must be happy with the engine temperature. It’ll also limit the amounts of attempts. Brakes in the V6 come courtesy of Brembo, however seats of the pants says the brakes in the four cylinder equipped Stinger are just as able.Design wise the Stinger foreshadows and continues a coupe like look for a five door sedan or four door hatchback. It’s a long, flat, E-Type-ish bonnet that has two faux vents. Apart from aesthetic reasons they’re pointless. Why? Because there’s vents in the front bumber into the wheelwell and from the rear of the wheelwell that exits from vents in the front doors. The roofline tapers back in a gentle curve before terminating in a rear that’s a cross between an Audi A5 and Maserati. The rear lights themselves are Maserati and LED lit front and rear in the GT-Line. Inside there’s plenty of legroom in the rear, a slightly compromised cargo space at 406L due to the hatchback style, a power gate for the GT-Line, and a stylishly trimmed interior. Plastics, for the most part, look high quality, and the overall presence echoes something from Europe, perhaps Jaguar, in this case. The central upper dash mounted seven inch touchscreen that looks as if it rises and falls, ala Audi, for example. It’s mostly intuitive, clean to read and use, but sensitivity needs to be upped as sometimes two or three taps were required to activate a menu. There’s DAB radio and here there’s a minor hiccup.With other brands tested with a DAB tuner, in comparison the one used in the Stinger also lacked the sensitivity found in others, with dropouts in more areas in comparison. There’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus voice recognition, with the middle and top range Stingers having nine or fifteen speakers with under front seat subwoofers. Harman Kardon is the feature brand in the GT-Line. As an overall presentation is pretty damned good, yet there’s still a sense of, in the top of the range GT-Line especially, that it lacks a knockout punch, and doesn’t seem to visually say this is a premium vehicle.The menu system on the touchscreen includes safety options such as voice warning for school zones, merging lanes and such like. Although an eminently worthwhile feature it became tiresome very quickly. Thankfully the voice presentation can be deactivated. Extra safety comes in the form of a forward camera and 360 degree camera depending on the model. The 360 degree version superimposes a Stinger top down view into the picture on one side of the screen and shows whichever camera view selected in the other. It’s super clear and immensely handy for parking. Another Euro feature is the rocker and Park button design for the gear selector. Foot on brake, press a tab on the selector, rock forward for Reverse or back for Drive. Inexplicably, the GT-Line had more issues correctly selecting Reverse or Drive.Only the driver’s seat is electrically powered however both front seats are vented but only in the GT-Line (for the Australian market, this is a must) and heated. A slight redesign has these operated via simple console mounted rocker switch that lights blue for venting, red for heating. Across the range they’re supportive, comfortable, and do the job well enough, along with the ride quality, that you can do a good country drive and feel reasonably good at the break. The GT-Line also features two position memory seating and a pad for smartphone wireless charging for compatible smartphones. It’s a leather clad tiller and the GT-Line gets a flat bottomed one but the material felt cheap, as did the buttons under the three central airvents in comparison to the good looking interior design.Even the base model is well equipped for safety; there’s seven airbags for all models, front seatbelt pretensioning, pedestrian friendly AHLS or Active Hood Lift System before moving to Lane Keeping Assist and Advanced Smart Cruise Control (with forward collision alert and autonomous braking) in the V6 Si. The GT-Line gets Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, High Beam Assist, and Dynamic Bending Headlights.Naturally there’s Kia’s class leading seven year warranty and the fixed priced servicing. The turbo four is cheaper from start to finish, with a gap of just three dollars for the first, two for the second, before the third service opens it to fifty. The final service sits at $785 for the V6 and $696 for the four.
At The End Of The Drive.
The easiest way to consider this is that, as a first attempt, Kia have just about nailed it. Just about. It’s a big car, seats four beautifully, rides as good as one should expect, goes like a scared rabbit in the V6 and a not quite so scared rabbit in the turbo four, is well equipped, and is utterly competitive for the features on price. Its biggest sticking point is one that’s completely inescapable and has already caused derision and division. It’s this: KIA.
Far too many people have locked themselves into the thought process that says Korea can’t built a competitor for the outgoing Commodore or the fading from memory Falcon. Ironically, as many have pointed out, detractors will have typed their sneering comments on a Korean built phone or have a Korean built TV. It’s also not unexpected that those slinging arrows from afar won’t avail themselves of the opportunity to test drive. More fool them.
However, for a first attempt, like any first attempt, there’s room for improvement. A lift in presence to say more how the car should be perceived is one, and fuel efficiency needing a VAST improvement is another. The last one is something both Kia’s marketing gurus and Australia’s luddites need to work on. That’s that a Kia CAN be this damned good. The 2018 Kia Stinger is that damned good car.