Kia Stinger hatchback (2017 - ) review
The Stinger is a hatchback-saloon from Kia that offers a value-for-money alternative to premium cars like the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.
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The Stinger is an attempt by Kia to create a car that isn’t just practical, affordable and ticks logical boxes, but is desirable and good-looking too. We’ll leave it to you to judge whether it’s been successful, but the result is a saloon with a hatchback boot available in three different trim levels, all of which nudge towards the premium end of the market. There are no entry-level, steel wheel-wearing models here. The GT-Line cars come with 18-inch alloy wheels, while GT-Line S models have the same and add full LED headlights. Top-of-the-range GT-S cars have 19-inch alloys as standard. Sunset Yellow paint is included as standard, and the only option box you can tick is for five other choices of paint, at a cost of around £650.
We think Audi has the benchmark when it comes to interior quality in the premium market Kia wants to play in. While the Stinger has a damn good stab at it, it’s not quite as rock solid as the Audi, but it’s still a country mile ahead of any other current Kia, and more than acceptable. Of course, it’s still of a very decent standard. It’s considerably cheaper to buy than its premium rivals, but the plastics are strong, the leather is soft, and everything is well screwed together. You sit low in the car, on seats that are heated and electrically adjusted on all models, and are ventilated too on the GT-S. The steering wheel adjusts electrically to give you a sporty driving position.
All models have an 8.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system with satellite navigation, which includes traffic information, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for connecting your smartphone. You also get a head-up display as standard in all models, which displays speed and navigation instructions on the windscreen to save glancing down at the instrument panel. Said panel skips traditional analogue dials in favour of a digital 7.0-inch display.
The low front seating position is mirrored in the back, with chairs that sink low into the chassis and give plenty of head-room for two adults despite the sloping roofline. There’s a third space in the middle, but taller passengers will struggle there. The wireless charger – standard in all cars – gives you somewhere to store your phone, there are two cupholders by the gearstick, and a cubby hole under the armrest. The boot is quite shallow, but the hatchback boot lid means it’s easy to load stuff in, with 406 litres of space. However, that’s not as impressive as the 480 litres found in the back of the A5 Sportback, or the massive 563 litres found in the Volkswagen Arteon. Still, the rear seats fold down – not quite flat, but not far off – giving a larger 1114 litre load space, although again, it’s not quite as capacious as rivals.
Ride and handling
Kia describes the Stinger as a ‘gran turismo’, or grand tourer, which means it needs to ride a balance between comfort and excitement behind the wheel. Target rivals for the Korean firm include Audi and BMW, which is aiming high. So far we’ve only had the chance to drive the top-end GT-S model, which comes with electronic suspension that can be adjusted to focus on either comfort or sportiness, and overall it works well. With the GT-S facing off against the Audi S5 Sportback, it lacks a little of the German car’s stiffness while cornering, but it’s still capable through the bends, helped by a standard limited slip differential in all models, and balances this with well damped insulation from the worst of the road surface below. The steering is nicely weighted too. Although Kia does make all-wheel drive versions of the Stinger, only rear-wheel drive versions are planned for sale in the UK.
Three engine choices are available. The GT-Line and GT-Line S trim levels come with either a 2.0-litre petrol engine, producing 247PS, or a 2.2-litre diesel with 200PS. The performance-focused GT-S has a twin-turbocharged, 3.3-litre V6 engine with a serious 370PS, which is more than the Audi S5 Sportback, BMW 440i Gran Coupe, but slightly less than Jaguar’s XE S. However, all those rivals are considerably more expensive, even before you start ticking options boxes.
The GT-S will hit 62mph in less than five seconds, which is seriously quick, and the power is delivered in a smooth, linear fashion. It’s understated in its approach to speed, rather than a screaming, adrenaline filled thrill ride, which is well suited to the character of the car. Gears are shifted with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is effective and unobtrusive. Although there are manual paddles by the steering wheel if you want to shift cogs yourself, there’s no proper manual mode; after a few seconds of manual shifting, it’ll revert to full auto mode, which might annoy those that want more control. There’s no manual gearbox option.
The top-spec GT-S boasts a strong resale value and is cheap to buy compared to an Audi S5 Sportback and the BMW 440i Gran Coupe, although poor fuel economy means it costs about the same to run over three years as the BMW. However, it should be substantially cheaper overall than the Audi. A diesel GT-Line model also loses out in fuel economy to rivals like the A5 Sportback 2.0 TDi 190 S Line, which is also fractionally cheaper to service and maintain despite its premium badge. The Audi is likely to be cheaper to run over three years, although the Kia is almost identical in overall costs to the Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TDI R Line, despite poor fuel economy once again. Overall, the Kia is impressively competitive with rivals in several areas, but it’s not the bargain you might expect from the low purchase price.
As a brand-new model, we’ll have to wait and see how well the Stinger does for reliability, but Kia has an excellent reputation as a manufacturer. The brand sits solidly mid-table in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, which ranks manufacturers as a whole, and Kia sits equal top in JD Power’s 2017 Vehicle Dependability Survey. Should anything go wrong, all new Kias have an impressive seven-year warranty.
The Stinger has yet to be crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP, but all models come as standard with plenty of the latest equipment to help keep you safe. Every car comes with a full complement of airbags, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assistance and speed limit information, while the GT-Line S and GT-S also have a system to spot vehicles in your blind spot, and rear cross traffic alert which helps spot approaching vehicles when reversing. An active bonnet system helps protect pedestrians in the event of a collision.
With the only option across the range being metallic paint, each Stinger comes with an impressively high level of standard kit. All models have keyless entry and start, a wireless phone charger and adaptive cruise control with a speed limiter to help you stay within the limit when necessary. The GT-Line comes with a nine-speaker sound system, heated electric front seats and leather upholstery. The higher-grade models, GT-Line and GT-S, have a 15-speaker system from Harmon Kardon and a 360-degree camera system to help you manoeuvre, as well as an electric boot lid, heated rear seats and ventilated front seats for extra hot days. The GT-S gets a nicer Nappa leather upholstery, and extra adjustability on the front seats.
Because you’re not swayed by a fancy badge, and you want a premium, technology-filled driving experience without spending more than necessary. The Stinger fills a space between traditional volume brands and the more expensive, more luxurious manufacturers, and it deserves to do well.