When you think of Kia it’s easy to agree that the name has never been synonymous with performance driving. So you could imagine when the Stinger was unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor show, most consumers and automotive insiders alike didn’t really expect much from the Korean economy brand. Kia would now be trying to rival a market where German manufactures have had decades to earn their chops and have undoubtedly accomplished that. Where there is smoke there is fire, so it’s safe to say Kia intended on bringing some heat to the competition with this stellar performance bargain.
Our tester was the most robust version offered, equipped with a very healthy twin-turbocharged 3.3 liter V-6 which makes 365 horsepower through an 8 speed automatic that felt plenty competent when shifting on its own. Boasting a 0-60 of 4.4 seconds and Brembo brakes to back it up, registering a competitive stopping distance of 156 feet from 70mph to 0 (which bests its premium sport sedan counterparts). Light to light the Stinger is a serious bruiser and can more than hold its own when it comes to straight line surges. Get her on the freeway and the GT feels right at home during a 25-mile commute from suburb to city.
From there the performance shortcomings become exposed. Dive hard into a sweeping right hander and feel the car shimmy as the rear dampers communicate to the driver that it’s time to back off. The locking limited slip differential does what’s asked of it during a good hoon, but leaves something to be desired for pushing limits on a serious track day. Prepare to accelerate with a downshift and feel the undesirable split second of the transmission deciding what gear it needs to be in. Giving the Stinger the benefit of the doubt, it would be miraculous for a manufacturer to have these things sorted out in their first iteration of a premium sports hatch. Overall the Stinger has some serious gusto but lacks the dialed in feel that has come to be expected from its competitors.
As for the looks, it’s a sexy long lean machine that really stands out in any setting. The tail lights somewhat remind me of what Dodge has going on but in a more streamlined design, which is an aesthetic we still enjoy. The front however is undoubtedly Kia judging from the grille, with muscular intake scoops to remind you her intentions, and subtly aggressive LEDs to finish off the business end. The rear does look the part with its well executed diffuser, accompanied by the always welcomed quad tip exhaust. 19-inch alloy wheels with Michelin pilot sport 4s finish off the ready to pounce persona of the car. This being Kia’s first attempt with this type of platform I feel they’ve managed to stay true to their identity while still pushing the envelope that’s necessary for a car named Stinger!
The interior is a home run. Our model came in with all the amenities you’d expect from a 2018 car in this segment. An 8 inch touch screen sits atop a well organized and accessible center dash. Black Napa leather seats are offset with an aluminum center console and well placed accents, whether they’re real or not is of no concern while spending time in the pleasant cabin. The seats are comfortable but may lack the bolstering needed for more aggressive driving. Interior space is plentiful, allowing adequate leg and head room for adult passenger in the back. When compared to the BMW 3 series/Audi A4 the Stinger's interior materials are not quite the same feel, but when it comes to getting your money's worth, the value's there in spades.
A platform like the Stinger is fresh and exciting. It may be exactly what Kia needs for boosting their image and targeting new markets. The recipe they’ve used makes for a driving experience that many enthusiasts can enjoy. Who wouldn't enjoy the thrust of this twin turbocharged V-6, paired with the stopping power of Brembo brakes? For some, that’s all you really want out of a daily driven car. The interior may lack some of the material quality found with the Germans but the fit and finish are there. Honestly at this price point the cabin is bang on. I enjoyed it a little more everyday. Kia knew what they were getting themselves into, thankfully they came with there guns loaded. Suspension dynamics need refining in order to achieve genuine sports car prowess, but the Stinger checks some other very important performance boxes. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, well neither are sports car pedigrees. That being said, Kia has laid down a foundation they can be proud to build on.
General performance (acceleration, braking, handling, steering)
Limited rear headroom
Lacks cachet to anyone who's not an auto enthusiast
Specs: Engine: 3.3L Twin-Turbo V6 Drivetrain: RWD
Power: 365hp @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 376 lb-ft @ 1,300 rpm Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic Curb Weight: 3,829 lbs Base Price: $38,350 Price as Tested: $50,100