If you haven’t already seen the Kia Stinger GT S, then you have no idea just what you’re missing. This is a tremendous-looking car, turning heads wherever it goes.
I mean, just look at it. It looks good from every angle. My test car was finished in Ceramic Grey; by far the best colour available. It’s a simple colour, almost understated. But it gives the Kia Stinger a stealth-like appearance which only enhances its visual appeal.
At the front, the Kia ‘family’ grille is recognisable, but it is framed with a wonderful dark chrome trim. It looks wonderfully premium: more sophisticated than a simple gloss black trim, less gaudy than regular chrome.
Twin sweeping LED daytime running lights create a striking image in the rear-view mirrors of other motorists. The LED cluster indicators look superb. In the corners of the front bumper huge vents allow air to the brakes, showing the Kia Stinger’s looks have performance design built in.
To the side, mirrors and vents are finished in dark chrome. 19-inch snowflake alloy wheels sit atop big red Brembo brake calipers.
The rear door window sweeps upwards as it reaches the rear quarter, highlighting the broad shoulders of this grand tourer. A red reflector extends about a foot from the rear light cluster.
At the back, four oval tail pipes hint at the performance on offer. The sleek design of the tailgate incorporates a lip, which negates the need for a separate spoiler. More cluster LED indicators finish off a rear end that is all most people will ever see of the Kia Stinger.
Downsides? Well, there’s no privacy glass, which would have enhanced the premium appeal. There are also some superficial design elements, such as the ‘vents’ on the bonnet and rear bumper corners.
Rivals of the Kia Stinger – the likes of the BMW 340i and Audi S5 – have a higher standard of interior than the average Kia. So for the Stinger they’ve tried to up their game.
Take a look inside the Stinger and you can tell. Dodgy plastics are all but non-existent, making way for soft-touch alternatives, leather and brushed aluminium.
My test car had a deep red leather trim. Not only was this a superb contrast to the Ceramic Grey exterior, but it harmonises that very aggressive-looking exterior with what is a generally reserved cabin.
Take the seats themselves as an example. These aren’t lightweight, shell-style racing seats. These are big, comfortable chairs aimed to make the Stinger a true grand tourer. They are bolstered to hold you in place, but there’s sufficient adjustment in the bolsters that larger drivers won’t feel cramped.
The three vents in the centre of the dashboard are a nice design feature, sadly ruined by the clunky multimedia screen above it. The frame of the screen seems unnecessarily large.
The dials are simple black, white and red, with a multifunction display in the middle. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is chunky with bumps for your thumbs. Even the gear knob is sleek.
But the rest of the switchgear has come directly out of a Sportage. And that is a little disappointing, especially on a £40,000 car.
A large sunroof lets plenty of light into the cabin, but with the red leather and aluminium trim there was never a danger that the Stinger would feel dark and gloomy.
The Audi S5 has a nicer interior, with its super sports seats and virtual cockpit. But Kia has done a good job with the Stinger; making it a nice place to be. Like a grand tourer should be.
True to the name ‘Stinger’ the GT S model packs some serious venom. Its 3.3-litre turbocharged V6 engine packs 370PS and 510Nm; making this the most powerful Kia. Ever.
Power is sent to the rear wheels only, through an 8-speed automatic gearbox and limited-slip differential.
In the dry, that makes the Stinger a force to be reckoned with. 0-62mph takes 4.9 seconds and the top speed is 168mph. That puts it right up there with the Audi S4 and S5 (essentially the same car) and BMW 340i.
But not in the wet. As soon as it’s not bone dry the Audi S4 and S5, with Quattro all-wheel drive systems, would absolutely trounce the Kia.
What’s missing from the driving experience is a soundtrack. There’s no sports exhaust system, and that’s a shame. With the sound symposer you get a little bit of a V6 note in the cabin when you engage Sport mode, but outside it’s far too civilised.
I get it; the Kia Stinger is a Grand Tourer. It’s designed to waft along comfortably, but with the ability to pick up some serious speed. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have a flap-opening exhaust system that lets out the sound of hell fire when your mood so wishes. I mean the Audi S5 manages that just fine.
And when you look at the Stinger, you expect big things. Its image is striking, so when you see ‘370PS’ written down you can’t help but think “God I bet this’ll be good”. But without the theatre of noise it’s a little underwhelming.
Take the Stinger on a grand tour, and it comes into its own. It cruises effortlessly. But with peak torque available from just 1,300rpm you can pick up unbelievable speed at the prod of your right foot.
With the Stinger being designed as a grand tourer, you won’t be overly surprised to know it’s rather comfortable. The GT S model has adaptive dampers, so it can be comfortable without compromising performance; in sport mode its firm and composed.
The suspension set up on the Stinger is absolutely spot on. You will, undoubtedly, spend most of your time in comfort mode. With those big armchairs up front I can think of few cars better suited to a long journey. It’s at that point the lack of engine noise is a good thing: the Stinger is incredibly quiet on the motorway.
The Stinger is also aptly named for the sting it has in its tail. Rear wheel drive and 370PS means this is a Kia that demands serious respect. It bites.
On the track, I imagine you could get to grips with the car. With the width to play with I dare say you’d soon be having some incredible fun. But on the road, you have to be mindful of being a bit throttle-happy.
The steering is nice and heavy, and you’ll be glad it’s quick enough to catch the rear should it try and misbehave. Feedback through the wheel isn’t the strongest, but it is sharp enough for this not to be an issue.
Braking power is provided by Brembo disc brakes all-round: four-piston calipers at the front, two-piston at the back. The Stinger pulls up well, with strong bite and a good feel in the pedal. For the road they are ample, but I’d be keen to see how they’d stand up to some serious stick on a track.
With a 3.3-litre V6 under the bonnet, you could be forgiven for thinking the Kia Stinger will be a regular at the petrol station. And it’s easy to fall out with any car that guzzles its way through your wallet, week after week.
Take the official figures for fuel consumption: 28.5mpg on the combined cycle. Given that the reality is often far below the official figures, I was a little worried myself. Happily, it turned out I needn’t be.
The Kia Stinger has start/stop technology. It has an Eco drive mode which makes the throttle less responsive and the gearbox more eager to shift up. Having 8 gears also helps improve fuel consumption on the motorway.
So in reality you can achieve 28.5mpg. In fact, on long motorway drives you can better it. And that was a very pleasant surprise indeed.
CO2 emissions of 225g/km are a little on the high side. For example, the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine in an Audi S5 Sportback emits just 174 g/km.
First year VED when you purchase the vehicle is £1,240. Subsequent years’ VED is the standard £140. However, there’s the ‘expensive car’ surcharge to contend with. It applies to cars costing more than £40,000.
Annoyingly, the Stinger GT S costs £40,535. That £535 means you’ll pay an extra £310 VED in years 2-6. The only saving grace is that all the Stinger’s rivals are more than £40,000 too, so the VED is comparable.
The Stinger is a rather large car. As such, it has a spacious cabin. Having said that, the rear legroom looked to be less than expected. The reason for this is the extra deep rear seats. They’re comfortable, and taller passengers had no issues sat in the rear.
The boot, at 406 litres, is less than you’d get in an Audi S5 Sportback or BMW 340i Saloon, both of which hold 480 litres. But I wouldn’t exactly say the boot in the Stinger is cramped. There’s more than enough room for luggage and the weekly shopping.
Despite appearances, the Stinger can be a reasonably reserved car. In Comfort mode, acceleration is gentle, the suspension is soft and the gearbox is smooth. That makes the Stinger no harder to drive through town than a Ford Fiesta.
Parking isn’t a problem either thanks to the 360-degree camera with front and rear parking sensors. The adjustable power steering is also lighter in comfort mode, making manoeuvres easier.
Most surprisingly, the Stinger GT S is rated for towing. I’m not sure how many customers will use the feature, but the GT S can tow 750kg unbraked, and 1,500kg braked.
I would say that means you can take the caravan away for the weekend. But I don’t see the type of person buying a Stinger GT S being one to holiday in a polystyrene box.
Perhaps the only downside to practicality in the Stinger is going to come when the weather goes decidedly British on us. When the snow falls, you’d rather be in an Audi S5 with its Quattro all-wheel drive system that’s for sure.
Unlike many manufacturers, Kia don’t do optional extras. You buy whichever grade comes with the toys you want. I can see the benefit of this; it is a simpler manufacturing process by standardising the product.
In order to make this system work from a consumer point of view, Kias tend to be more generously equipped than rivals. With the Stinger GT S, you get absolutely everything, and all as standard.
For convenience you have keyless entry and go, power front seats with driver memory function, adaptive cruise control and electronic parking brake with auto hold function.
The front seats are both heated and cooled, and the outer-rear seats are heated. A heated steering wheel is a treat on colder mornings.
In the multimedia department there’s wireless charging in the centre console, a Harmon Kardon sound system, satellite navigation, DAB radio and a heads-up display.
The Stinger also features an array of safety equipment, such as lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, driver alert system and autonomous emergency braking.
An electronic tailgate makes loading and unloading fun, while dual-zone climate control avoids arguing with your passenger about what temperature to have the cabin.
The list goes on and on. After spending a week with the Stinger there was nothing I felt it was missing in terms of equipment. With cars like the Audi S5 you always worry about the options list; how much it will add to the price of the car. With the Kia, you get what you are given, but that’s ample.
Value For Money
Since Kia first announced the Stinger, it’s been hotly anticipated. Despite this, it has still managed to meet or better the high expectations of the media.
The Stinger GT S costs £40,535. The only optional extra is premium paint, which adds £645. Sunset Yellow is the standard colour on the GT S, with all other colours subject to the premium.
So the bottom line is a car that costs a shade over £41,000. When you consider the performance capabilities that makes the Kia Stinger an apparent bargain compared to its German competitors.
And it’s not like you can say Kia has skimped with the Stinger. Sure, the interior isn’t quite as high-end as you might have liked. But adaptive dampers, Brembo brakes and the limited-slip differential and performance parts that mean business.
The equipment list is comprehensive, such that you don’t want for anything in terms of gadgets or technology. That such equipment is all standard on the Kia Stinger is an advantage over competitors, for which many luxuries are an optional extra.
By the time you configure an Audi S5 to a similar specification as the Stinger, you could be looking at a price that’s £15,000 higher. But that just leaves the current unknown for the Stinger as a new car: depreciation.
With the Audi, you know it will hold its value. You won’t struggle to sell it in 5 years’ time. The concern for me would be what a £40,000 Kia will be worth down the road. Hopefully with its 7-year, 100,000-mile it will surprise us all and hold value well.
Facts and Figures
|Engine||3.3-litre, V6 T-GDi turbocharged petrol|
|Max power||370PS at 6,000rpm|
|Max torque||510Nm at 1,300rpm|
|Drivetrain||8-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive with limited-slip differential|
|Fuel tank size||60 litres|
|Fuel consumption||28.5mpg, combined cycle|
|Towing capacity||1,500kg braked / 750kg unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||406 litres|
|NCAP rating||5 stars|
|Price as tested||£41,180|