Mark’s On The Road; Kia Stinger

At last, Kia has stepped into the performance car market. So much so that this car actually gets admirers round it even in the supermarket car park along with that age old question….’What is it?’ A radical departure from Kia’s usually fashionable yet slightly reserved offerings, the new #Stinger not only hints at the manufacture’s trans-Atlantic styling but introduces a high performance premier fastback saloon car onto the UK market. A grand tourer in nearly every respect, the Stinger also hits the executive segment as hard as any of the established brands.

Based on Kia’s 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show concept, the Stinger isn’t only a brave move it also demonstrates what we all hope is Kia’s intent and direction. It’s also proof that they can actually design and build a car that style wise really is ‘up there’. It’s also Kia’s first serious attempt at taking on the established sports saloons but as to whether it’ll give Mercedes, BMW, Audi

Low and as rakish as it stylish, the fastback coupe Stinger makes a bold statement. Elegant, purposeful, low riding and a car that begs you to drive it, from the radar housing ‘Tiger Nose’ grille, modular lighting, scoops and air intakes although most of them are purely cosmetic.

Throw in some seriously classy 225/45 shod 18” alloys, a rear venturi and four chrome tailpipes and a near flat rear profile and its welcome to the performance saloon time. Looking like its been glued to the road surface, its MacPherson strut and 5-link multi that provides front and rear suspension, the rest of the Stinger’s presence courtesy of the designer’s pen.

The leather, brushed aluminium and upmarket soft touch surface clad cabin in theory seats five although seat profiling means you’d be better off regarding it as a pure four seater. A combination of sports and comfort, each passenger enjoys their own individual space whilst all major, minor, contactless phone charger and 8” centre screen controls are well placed to ensure the driver’s attention is concentrated on the road ahead, the ‘head’s up’ display duplicating the speedo and satnav instructions.

And like most modern performance cars, a thick rimmed, multi-function D-wheel fills nicely fills the driver’s hands. As a daily driver or practical long distance tourer, with the rear seat upright the Stinger will still carry 406 litre of cargo expanding to 1,114 litres with the seats folded. Roof capacity is 90kg with a further 1,500kg towing capacity. However, personally I can’t foresee many Stinger buyers fitting a roof box or hitching up, its just not type of car.

But its the Stinger’s performance that astounds. Currently powered by a smooth 244hp 2-litre turbo charged 4-cylinder petrol engine as tested or a 365hp twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 petrol both of which sit just beneath the front suspension bracing struts. There’s also the option of a slightly more economical 2.2-litre 197hp diesel unit that will have significant appeal, the combination of looks and fuel efficiency the most sensible given the limited ability to utilise either of the petrol engines considerable performance here in the UK.

Transmitting power just to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission, its the 1,998cc turbo petrol that offers the best or more sensible compromise although the 365hp 3.3 V6 twin turbo has endless allure, the 168mph top end and sub 5 second 0-60mph beyond magnetic for certain people. The 2-litre Stinger is still no slouch, 60 coming up in 5.8 seconds with a 149mph top speed. And if driven sensibly you can still expect around 29mpg average or an impressive 44.6mpg on steady throttle running. But don’t expect much more than 370 miles per 60 litre tank of premium unleaded.

Sliding behind the wheel before the system automatically read adjusts you to your preset seating position, the Stinger has the feel and the view of a performance saloon coupe. The low set view still provides more than enough external sighting. The first main option is to select the most appropriate ‘mode’ via the small rotary control located by the driver’s left hand. Eco is probably best left for motorways, Comfort the best all round whilst Sport and Sport+ allow the driver full access to the car’s performance either with or without traction control.

Throttle response is good as is engine take up although a harsh stab on the pedal is best left until you’ve become more familiar with the car. In most instances leaving the transmission in auto will suffice although flicking either of the paddles will activate the sequential system. Irrespective of whatever the motoring you’re full aware of the Stinger’s mass since in no way can it be described as a small or even medium sized car. It also indicative that the Stinger needs to be driven in the more old fashioned sense of the term.

In most instances the Stinger is refined and progressive to drive, the ride smooth even over more uneven surfaces, most road irregularities ironed out before they find their way into the cabin.

The vented disc all round brakes complete with bright red calipers bring the car to a rapid even halt whilst the 2.4 turns lock to lock 11.2 m turning circle still makes the Stinger reasonably manoeuvrable.

The variable ratio power steering weights up nicely as speed increases. Turn in slightly early feed on the lock and gently increase the power and the Stinger corners with precision all the while reminding the driver that its still rear wheel drive, the sensation of being pushed along increasing along with the speed. Unless provoked the Stinger feels balanced the only requirement being an occasional increase in steering input to counteract the car’s natural propensity to understeer. That apart the Stinger feels right, the on road dynamics tempting you to push that little bit harder each each and every time a sequence of bends appear in the road ahead.

It’s something of a cliche but the feel and feedback constantly inform you that you aren’t trying hard enough, that there’s more still in reserve if you like to explore that little bit more. Like all performance cars, part of the pleasure of ownership is learning how the car reacts under different circumstance, something only time, feel and a wide variety of road types will actually reveal.

Stinger prices start at £32,025 for the entry level 2-litre GT-line rising to £41,180 for the 3.3-litre V6 GT-S whilst the diesel variants start at £34,225 or £37,725 with the 2-litre GT-Line S as tested is all yours for £35,495, all Stingers carrying Kia’s famous 7-Year Warranty. As to whether the Stinger in whatever guise will successfully take on the established makers of this type of car remains to be seen. Even something as simple as switchgear can make that all important difference, the Stinger lacking that all important solid ‘click’ when certain controls are deployed. Similarly, whilst the Kia badge is deservedly respected, it still has to make the shift to the truly desirable.

Whilst some may view this as an insult it certainly isn’t meant to be. Kia has carved out an enviable reputation as manufacturers of quality cars, the 7-Year Warranty testament to Kia’s confidence in their own product. In North America Kia is viewed slightly differently, larger engined saloons a familiar sight but the Stinger is a first of the type here in the UK and Europe. Given the styling and performance the Stinger should and will alter the market’s perception of the Kia name whilst the pricing structure will generate positive attention.

For the UK and Europe the Stinger is the first of its type. I genuinely hope it isn’t the last and is a precursor for even more vehicles of this type. This serious departure from the norm is proof positive Kia is more than capable of designing and building a high performance car but due to other influences has been reluctant or prevented from doing so. The Stinger is at least for Kia a radical departure something that I for one will celebrate and encourage, the onlookers the car attracted proof that the Stinger was and is well overdue!

By; Mark Stone

John Nicoll

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