Tested: Kia's Stinger is a fast, head-turning grand tourer
Road tests / 3 December 2018, 09:19am / Jason Woosey
Johannesburg - "This machine has some serious muscle car vibes", I ponder while approaching the tail end of the Kia Stinger GT in our office basement. Possibly even a hint of Corvette in the way the upper extension of the rear bumper grips around those 3D taillights. But let’s not dwell on the particulars here, this is the Kia we’ve all been waiting for and it looks absolutely arresting from every angle.
Sadly, it is sold out, and at this stage no further allocation has been confirmed, although you can still pre-order one on the www.kiastinger.co.za website and hope for the best.
It’s 3cm lower than a 3 Series and just 2cm taller than a Ford Mustang. The Korean is as wide as a 5 Series, and closer to the latter in length than it is to the 3 Series. But what really matters is that in true grand tourer tradition, the Stinger has the classical ingredients of a long bonnet, short front and long rear overhangs as well as a cabin that sweeps back over the rear wheels.
Images really don’t prepare you for just how much attention it attracts out on the street. I should have known the second our security guard at the office’s exit boom gave it one of the biggest thumbs-up and smile combos that I’ve ever seen from him. Needless to say that I encountered many upward-turned thumbs during the week that followed, had numerous conversations at traffic lights and even saw a few cell phones poking out of car windows.
Not since the Mustang has a car (non-exotic at least) attracted so much attention out on the mean streets of Jozi. Unlike The Ponycar, however, you don’t get asked to rev it at every stop street, which can get a touch embarrassing when Ford sent you the 2.3-litre EcoBoost.
Whereas the Mustang makes you choose between four and eight cylinders - and I’m drawing this comparison out a bit here because I really do believe that the Stinger is a Mustang rival with two extra doors - Kia gives you just one engine option. And it’s a fine one at that.
The 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 pushes 272kW at 6000rpm and 510Nm from 1300, and in this case that’s more than enough to shunt this GT along at furious velocity. Kia quotes a 4.9 second 0-100km/h sprint and 270km/h top speed, and while acceleration is impressive to say the least, what really stands out here is the responsiveness of the turbo unit and the eight-speed automatic gearbox through which it powers the back wheels.
Though not a ripsnorting growler in the muscle car tradition, the engine sounds good by V6 standards, even mildly enticing when you’ve cranked it into Sport mode, although there is admittedly some fakery going on there.
Sport is one of five modes that you can select via the Drive Mode Select rotary control on the centre console. In addition to the acoustics, this system fiddles around with things like throttle and gearbox response, steering assistance and chassis characteristics, via the adaptive dampers. You can also preset your own mixture of settings through the Individual mode.
The car’s sheer size and 1.8-tonne bulk does limit its agility, but the Stinger is plenty grippy and handles neatly, without much drama or body roll. Turn off that traction control, however, and there is plenty of tail happy entertainment on the cards. The steering is lacking a little in the feel and feedback department, but it is tolerable.
The other area where Kia has made a serious attempt to rock the German status quo is in the cabin, and it is a largely successful attempt in our opinion, with its mix of high quality materials - soft touch surfaces and classy satin chrome featuring aplenty here. The dash design, however, is more borrowed-from-Mercedes than distinctively Kia, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Electronically it falls behind the latest and greatest however. There’s no digital instrument cluster and the 20.3cm touchscreen infotainment system is mostly in black and white, making it seem rather dated. It’s not a complete Flintstone affair, however, as the system is at least compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
You can’t call Kia out for being stingy with the features, as this package includes a 15-speaker Harman/Kardon premium sound system, Head-up Display, around-view monitoring system, power-operated tailgate (the Stinger is a five-door hatch by the way) and Nappa leather seats in black or red, powered and heated for those upfront.
It’s hard to recommend a car that’s sold out and at R849 995 as it’s listed on the website - assuming that applies to any new allocation that might come at a future stage - it’s not exactly a bargain, even considering what you’re getting. But if you’re looking for a GT car that excites, turns heads and laps up the miles in comfort, the Kia Stinger is an enticing proposition.