The History Behing KIA and Stinger
I will make a clear statement: The Stinger is the most beautiful, eye-catching “sedan” I drove for at least the last 12 months. And let me go back to a distant past to tell a different story.
Early nineties, as I was still living in Turkey and immigrating to Canada was not on our agenda, And I already knew the KIA brand. As Turkey was getting used more and more to imported cars, an industrial group was selling KIA vehicles in the country. TV and print advertisements with celebrities appearing almost every day on TV and newspapers, KIA was getting more and more attention. Still it was necessary to offer gifts like a set of winter tires and financing of up to four years, it order to sell those cheap Korean cars without a known history.
Times have changed. KIA is now a well-recognised brand not only in Turkey but also in Europe and North America. As I had an interview with Mr. Peter Schreyer, “The Man In Black” during the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS ) in 2012, he was the Chief Designer At KIA and spending his life at three locations: At KIA’s deisign studios in Germany, California and the company’s head office in Korea. As the North American Reporter of the weekly “Otohaber” by then, I remember him telling me “We want create cars, which are reliable and beuatiful that people will be proud to drive” By this time, KIA vehicles already has started to have an attractive design. By then the Stinger was being developed and with Peter, also Gregory Guillaume had his hands on this project. Guillaume, now KIA’s Chief Designer once said that the the design was inspired by the Coca Cola bottle.
When Albert Biermann, the former VP of BMW’s M Performance Division, joined KIA in 2017, the Stinger was almost ready for launch. Still, Mr Biermann was able to provide some contribution in driving deynamics, engine and suspension tuning. He added some BMW genes.
Albert Biermann is now the executive vice president of performance development and high performance vehicles of the Hyundai Motor Group, to which the KIA brand belongs. It is also worth noting that the Stinger shares the same platform with the Genesis G70, the luxury brand of the Hyundai Group.
And after a couple years, when I saw the Stinger for the first time during NAIAS in 2017, I had a sense that the mission is accomplished, without any doubts.
Three years after its introduction in North America, the Stinger is still fresh and modern to such extent that it makes you think if this vehicle would be a classic car.
This vehicle deserves every aspect of being a sports sedan except, it is not a sedan, but a hatchback. The design is timelessly beautiful and looks more as a sedan with flowing lines, until you open its hatch.
Engine And Powertrain
The Stinger offers a 3.3L V6-cylinder twin-turbo engine that delivers 365 horsepower and 510 lb -ft of torque. It is mated to an 8-speed transmission that communicates well and thus providing a smooth drive. This drivetrain platform is not only used in the Stinger, but in some Genesis models.
Most of the time, you will not feel the need to shift manually via the paddles. Instead, switch to Sport Mode for more driving enjoyment. In Canada, only twin turbo V6 and All-Wheel-Drive options are available. However, in the states, you will be able to find Rear-Wheel Drive as well as Inline 4 cylinder turbocharged engine which only comes with the base trim.
AWD system works pretty good, as this is a Gran Tourer, the engine is placed longitudinally, that means it is a rear biased all wheel drive system.
Inside and Outside – Driving Impressions
The driving dynamics, the acceleration, steering input, suspension all sing the same song of sportiness. A car that KIA could only dream of even 10 years ago. The long wheelbase makes you feel driving a car at a higher category, but we are in the compact, sports sedan class led by BMW 3 Series.
The ergonomic dashboard has legible instruments, the control buttons easy to reach and command, the tablet-style infotainment screen is not distracting. And as soon as you seat behind the flat-bottomed steering wheel in very comfortable and supportive sports seats with a low seating position, you are ready to move a “driving machine” built around the driver.
We drove the car on the relatively empty 400 series of highways and at some curvy and twisted roads of the Halton Region. The acceleration does not require any extra effort. The real joy of driving comes into play at the sideroads beyond boring highways. Select the Sport mode to deeply enjoy the sportiness of this car and enjoy its German roots.
Pricing and Conclusion
KIA is still not a brand directly associated with sportiness and performance. The Korean brand offers a portfolio consisting good quality, well designed and built everyday products especially, SUV’s, and crossovers. In this regard the Stinger is a halo car and strong symbol telling us about the future direction and how much the brand is capable. It was not a coincidence that Stinger was chosen as “The Best Car Of The Year” by AJAC in 2019.
Dan’s comments about the Stinger
After testing several cars this and last year, I can easily say Kia Stinger is the Swiss Army Knife of the car world. The Stinger does everything good, but nothing particularly best which you should not expect to get something “best” within $40,000-$50,000 price range.
If you are one of those people who still like Sedans or Liftbacks, this car may be a great option for you. It offers great practicality and trunk opening like an SUV, while still being able to handle corners greatly. I am a person not a fan of SUVs as you have to sacrifice driving dynamics to get more practicality, unless you go really exotic which most likely you have to spend $100,000 or more. Without spending this kind of money, for the half price, this car can still offer plenty of legroom, headroom, decent cargo size, but with much lower center of gravity and better driving dynamics.
You should keep in mind, this is not a track car, it isn’t engineered nor designed for very extreme situations. However, it is very capable when it’s on backroad, or when you do spirited driving. Due to its big size, it is not very agile, but it feels much smaller when you drive it on the road.
At the end of the day, it is a Gran Tourer and it is very easy to drive it at high speeds, especially on the highway. Seats are very comfortable but at the same time side bolsters hold you in corner very good, probably one of the most comfortable one in this price range. Compared to Genesis G70, though they use the same platform, Stinger has more rear legroom, which is better if you drive with your family or kids. I was able to sit behind myself (6’1″) and my knees were not touching to the front seat. It may not be a class leading legroom size (compared to FWD alternatives like Camry or Accord), but it is quite impressive for an All Wheel Drive vehicle that has this kind of legroom. However, due to it’s coupe-ish design, rear headroom isn’t the best. My head was touching to the headliner especially when you sit upright.
Being a Gran Tourer, the drivetrain is also tuned for this kind of circumstances. Twin Turbo V6 engine is a perfect match with Kia’s 8-speed transmission, shifts are fast and engine offers great torque down low rpm or in the mid range. Kia was able to find a great equilibrium when it comes to drivetrain choice. In our G70 test from last year, we criticized fuel consumption was too high, and that car has same engine and transmission. With the Stinger, it is not really that different, unfortunately. We were unable to get lower fuel consumption than 15.0L / 100 km, which is quite high in today’s standards. As a reference, we were getting average fuel consumption around 12.5L / 100 km with BMW M340i with the same driving style, which also the car has very similar power/weight ratio.
However, there is no perfect car and Kia Stinger is not perfect either. This platform is slightly getting older, and it starts to show it’s age, though it has a very modern design elements both exterior and interior. We wish that they didn’t use fake vents all around the hood, and front bumper. It doesn’t look bad from distance, but when you get closer, it looks cheesy. Also, there is an interior feature that needs to be improved: For instance, there is no “Lock” button in the trunk, so every time you use the trunk, you have to go back to the front door to lock the doors. This lock button in trunk is getting very popular in latest generation vehicles as it is very convenient feature, and we are sure it will be available when the Stinger is refreshed in the future.
Let me explain why Kia Stinger is an excellent car for every day driving and spirited driving on back roads, but not a great car if you treat it like a track toy (which you shouldn’t anyways). First of all, the stability control. Unfortunately, if you have the All Wheel Drive version, Kia won’t allow you to fully disable the Stability Control. It always wants to get involved, which is not a pleasant experience if you want to reach Stinger’s handling limits. We found that this is not the case with Rear Wheel Drive version, which is unfortunately not available in Canada.
Also, Automatic transmission won’t get into fully manual mode, it just wants to upshift when you reach the rev limiter. One last area that needs to be improved is the adaptive dampers. Though it is tuned very well, the difference between driving modes is not very distinctive in terms of suspension stiffness, we wish that it was a little bit stiffer in Sport mode. Since this is a GT car, so we don’t blame Kia for this decision. If those things don’t bother you, you will be very happy in the long term, as rest of the car is very well done.
Interior of the Stinger is very well laid out and easy to figure out what’s going on when you see the button layouts. If you are familiar with the Hyundai products, you would feel home when you get inside the Stinger. There are lots of soft touch plastics and leather. All crucial features have hard touch buttons, and you see typical Hyundai/Kia infotainment system that is very user friendly and it offers pretty much everything that infotainment system can provide. It also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Unlike the newer Hyundai/Kia vehicles, the Stinger doesn’t come with digital gauge cluster, again this is something that shows this model’s age, which we believe it will be updated when it gets refreshed. We must admit, gauges and screen in the instrument cluster is very easy to read and navigate around the menu.
I would definitely call the Stinger as the “Equilibrium Queen” as it offers a great balance of driving dynamics, daily drivability, road comfort, reasonable quality and pricing, everything all together within its limits. It may not be able to offer 10 out of 10 in any category, but it is still capable to get 9 out of 10 in almost every category (maybe except the fuel economy), which is very hard to find in any car under $60.000 range. This is why we would highly recommend Kia Stinger if you are one of those people who don’t need or like Sport Utility Vehicles and want something that can do almost everything very good.
For more detailed and the most-up-to-date information, please visit: http://www.kia.ca
Article and Photos By Varol McKars and Dan Gunay