There used to be German domination when it comes to premium sport sedans, like the Audi A4, Mercedes C-Series or BMW 3-Series, but lately Korean brands started to gain some market share. One of the first Korean entries come to mind is the KIA Stinger. It may not be a new model, but it’s been heavily revised to make it even more competitive against the Germans.
Our tester, 2021 KIA Stinger GT Elite competes with the Audi S4/S5 Sportback, Mercedes C43 AMG and BMW M340i. As those entries have been on the market for several decades, it was not easy for KIA to penetrate to a market where prestige and brand recognition are very important.
If you are not loyal to any of those German brands listed above, KIA Stinger is actually pretty serious contender, despite it’s age. It offers pretty much everything that you’ll ever need from a sporty sedan, with a great balance of performance and comfort. In this article, we will try to get into the details.
Exterior and Interior
Though we compare it with sporty sedans, it is technically a mid-size liftback. It traces its roots to the GT concept from the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show and it’s been on the market since 2017. This was a big step towards being a premium brand for KIA, as it was previously known as a budget brand with cheap entries.
It may not be the newest kid in the block, but it still keeps its unique looks even today. In 2020, KIA unveiled a refreshed version that offered mild styling updates. For an untrained eye, it is really hard to see the difference. It still keeps controversial details such as the taillight extension and fake vents all around the car.
2021 KIA Stinger GT Elite also comes with refreshed interior design, though it is not a significant change. You still have the same dashboard design, same instrument cluster, but it comes with much bigger infotainment system. Our tester is the GT Elite with Suede Package, meaning that you will find not only soft touch and leather throughout the interior, but it also comes with lots of suede on the dashboard and seats.
Behind the steering wheel, you immediately feel sportiness yet it is still very comfortable. You don’t get as high build quality as some German entries, but that’s where Genesis G70 would be a better option if that’s your priority. For $50,000 range, it is very good for what it is.
Though it combines comfort, sportiness and premium feeling in one package, you still get lots of common parts used in other KIA and Hyundai models. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, as all physical buttons have tactile feeling, nothing feels flimsy or low quality.
There is no doubt that KIA Stinger is a long sedan (or liftback). As a result, you get a decent amount of rear legroom. However, due to the liftback design, the headroom isn’t the greatest. Also having a drive shaft doesn’t help overall rear space, so it is really meant for two adults.
2021 KIA Stinger comes with great trunk space, compared to the other sedan rivals. Behind the second row seats, you get 660L (23.3 cu. ft) and if you fold down the rear seats, it goes all the way up to 1158L (40.9 cu.ft). This is where liftback body type really shines, as it combines sedan looks with hatchback practicality.
Engine and Drivetrain
In Canada, All 2021 KIA Stingers come with one engine option, which is a 3.3 liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine that produces 368 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. What’s more impressive than power figures is the overall torque curve. KIA designed this engine the way that more than 80% of the torque is available almost from the idle all the way to the redline.
Like the engine, there is only one transmission option, it’s the KIA’s 8-Speed torque converted automatic transmission which is a tried and true platform KIA updated over the last few years. Even in Sport mode, the transmission is comfort oriented. Because of the flat torque curve, it doesn’t have to be hyperactive, meaning that there is no gear hunting to find the best rpm range.
Unlike the States, Canadian Stingers don’t get rear wheel drive option. AWD is standard in all trims. KIA made one of the best decisions when they designed the Stinger, as they keep it rear wheel drive platform even with the All Wheel Drive system. Despite having an heavy twin turbo V6 in the front, the car feels pretty neutral and it can oversteer easily.
Driving Impressions and Features
2021 KIA Stinger GT Elite offers a great balance of sportiness and comfort, but you just can’t have everything. It feels more of a Gran Tourer rather than a track weapon, not very nimble and it definitely feels like a big heavy sedan behind the steering wheel. Even in Sport mode, there is a body roll, but thanks to the AWD system, the grip is very high.
All Stinger models come with 19 tires and I am quite surprised how well the suspension handles the road imperfections. In the mean time, chassis give you a nice feedback about what’s going on, but the steering feels a little bit numb, and it is not the sharpest feedback.
I am surprised to see all 2021 Stingers come with the big Brembo brakes standard in the front and rear. Front brakes are 4 piston calipers with 13.8 inch vented rotors, slightly bigger than the 13.4 inch rear rotor and 2 piston calipers. They offer adequate stopping power for any type of driving on a public road with great pedal feedback.
Even with AWD system, being primarily a rear wheel platform helps a lot in terms of fun factor. It always sends power to the rear first, and can send power to the front based on throttle and steering input. It may understeer a little bit but you can easily fix it by applying more throttle.
As a daily driver, the biggest flaw is the overall fuel consumption. I was averaging around 13.5L / 100 km (17 MPG) with a lot of highway driving. If you have to do a lot of stop and go driving, it can be easily over 15.0L / 100 km (15 MPG) and worse. Having an AWD and twin-turbo V6 engine may sound like an excuse, but the M340i we reviewed last year had a similar power figures with much better fuel economy numbers.
Feature list is pretty long, but there are some features that should have been available after the update. First of all, as a premium sedan/liftback, KIA Stinger should have the digital gauge cluster, like other modern KIA and Hyundai models. It still comes with a small TFT screen in the middle of dashboard which can also show your blind spot.
I was also expecting to see wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Modern KIA and Hyundai entries are known for offering latest tech, and the infotainment systems are quite good, Stinger is no exception. I like the larger 10.25″ infotainment system as it has great resolution and feedback. Unfortunately, you still have to use USB cable to use the CarPlay and Android Auto.
Aside from the Blind View Monitor, one of my favorite KIA/Hyundai feature is the Adaptive Cruise Control with Highway Driving Assist. All Stingers come standard with ACC & HDA, and they work together flawlessly. HDA simply offers one of the best lane centering feature that you don’t have to keep your hands on the steering wheel for longer periods (not recommended) on a highway.
Pricing and the Verdict
Compared to the last decade, 2021 KIA Stinger GT Elite may not be as important for KIA/Hyundai group, as they released Genesis G70 to compete with the German entries. What hasn’t changed is that KIA Stinger still keeps its unique position by having rare liftback body style while undercutting German entries heavily by offering same features and driving dynamics for several thousand dollars cheaper.
2021 KIA Stinger GT starts at $50,495 CAD with the base Limited trim. If you want more features, GT Elite trim is priced at $52,995. It sets you back extra $300 if you want Suede interior and I think it’s definitely worth for extra premium feeling.
Considering all premium German entries start around $65,000 CAD, you get a lot of car with the KIA Stinger, as long as you can live with slightly less refined interior and less prestige. If the prestige and premium feeling is your priority, you should also consider the Genesis G70. For more details – please visit www.kia.ca