Every single time we mention the word Stinger on the CarAdvice website, a small smoke haze rises out of the server as the comments section descends into a chest-beating war of words.
A car has never been so divisive and it's not hard to see why. The all-new Kia Stinger is encroaching on territory long held by an Australian mob in the form of the Blue Oval and red lion. So you can imagine how excited, and a little concerned, I was to be heading a head-to-head comparison with the Kia Stinger Si and the Holden Commodore SS-V Redline.
The Stinger has effectively come out of nowhere – especially for a brand like Kia, which is more synonymous with value for money and efficiency. The SS Commodore has long held the ground as Australia's cut price answer to premium European sports sedans.
But, with local production wrapping up and the next generation Commodore going backwards in terms of straight line performance, the scene has been set for an almighty duke between South Korea and Australia. So without a moment's hesitation, we hit the road in the yellow Stinger and the grey Commodore to figure out which one deserves your cash.
Pricing and specifications
There's little surprise that Kia has lined the Stinger up to compete head-to-head with Commodore from a specification and pricing point of view.
The Stinger range kicks off with the entry-level four-cylinder at $45,990 (plus on-road costs), with the V6 just $3000 more at $48,990 (plus on-road costs). The mid-specification Si model tested here starts from $55,990 (plus on-road costs), which is a healthy step up from the base model V6. The range tops off with the Stinger GT at $59,990 (plus on-road costs).
From an equipment point of view, the Stinger Si is loaded with all the good stuff, including (see the full Kia Stinger pricing and specifications here):
- Leather trim with eight-way adjustment for driver and six-way for passenger
- 8.0-inch colour touchscreen infotainment with inbuilt satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- 19-inch alloy wheels with space saver spare wheel
- Adaptive cruise control with 3.5-inch mono instrument display
- Front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera with hill start assist
- Two 12V power outlets, two USB charging ports (with fast charging)
- Brembo brakes front and rear
- Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) (low speed), forward collision warning, lane keep assist, driver attention alert, and rain-sensing wipers
- Nine-speaker sound system with two subwoofers and Bluetooth input
- LED daytime running lights with halogen main beam
- Keyless entry and start
- Dual-zone climate control with rear air vents
Key dimensions, capacities and weights:
- Length: 4830mm
- Width: 1870mm
- Height: 1400mm
- Wheelbase: 2905mm
- Weight: 1780kg
- Cargo volume: 406 litres (expands to 1114 litres)
- Towing (braked): 1500kg, 750kg unbraked
Under the bonnet of the Stinger Si is a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine that produces 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque. It's mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox (with launch control) and sends drive to the rear wheels. Kia claims a combined average fuel economy of 10.2 litres of fuel per 100km.
There are seven colours available, with the Deep Chroma blue an optional pearl colour ($695). That also rounds out the options list, with nothing else available to select.
The Commodore range on the other hand is priced from $35,490 (plus on-road costs) starting with the V6-powered Evoke sedan. It goes all the way through to the Commodore SS-V Redline Sportwagon automatic from $59,190 (plus on-road costs). The SS-V Redline sedan kicks off from $54,990 (plus on-road costs) for the six-speed manual and $57,190 (plus on-road costs) for the SS-V Redline automatic sedan tested here.
Standard features include (see full 2017 Holden Commodore pricing and specifications here):
- Leather seats with four-way electric driver's seat adjustment
- 8.0-inch MyLink colour infotainment system with touchscreen and inbuilt satellite navigation
- 19-inch alloy wheels with full-size alloy spare wheel
- Cruise control
- Blind-spot monitor with forward collision alert, lane keeping warning and rain-sensing windscreen wipers
- Front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera and hill start assist
- Two 12V outlets with single USB charging and auxilliary input
- Brembo brakes front and rear
- Nine-speaker sound system with CD player and Bluetooth input
- LED daytime running lights with halogen main beam
- Keyless entry and keyless remote start
- Dual-zone climate control with rear air vents
Key dimensions, capacities and weights:
- Length: 4964mm
- Width: 1898mm
- Height: 1471mm
- Wheelbase: 2915mm
- Weight: 1758kg
- Cargo volume: 495 litres (seats don't fold for expansion)
- Towing (braked): 2100kg, 750kg unbraked
Under the bonnet of the Commodore is a 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine that produces 304kW of power and 570Nm of torque. It's mated to a six-speed automatic (six-speed manual available also), sends drive to the rear wheels and uses an official combined 12.9L/100km on the combined cycle.
Commodore is available in 10 colours, with all but two a $550 metallic option (Redhot solid and Heron white solid). Other options include a black roof ($550 with metallic paint, or $1100 with solid paint), rear spoiler ($500) and 20-inch forged alloy wheels ($1500).
From a straight out cost perspective, the Commodore is $1200 more expensive than the Stinger before adding on options like metallic paint.
As one of the most expensive new products for Kia in Australia, the Stinger always needed to be a premium offering both visually and in terms of features.
Open the driver's door and you are presented with a nicely presented interior with flowing lines right from the door and around the dashboard. The 8.0-inch infotainment screen sits proudly atop the dashboard and doesn't look overly out of place.
The air vents that sit beneath the infotainment screen feel premium and can be adjusted in terms of direction and opening/closing. Infotainment controls beneath the screen are finished in a brushed aluminium finish style with climate controls directly beneath.
The gear lever is a single shift transition between drive, neutral and reverse, while the park position is activated at the push of a button. The park brake is a lever operated system that actuates electronically.
There are two cupholders, plus a storage cubby ahead of the gear selector. A decent-sized centre console that slides also offers ample storage for odds and ends.
The steering wheel sits nicely in hand, but we really dislike the polished leather finish. It easily slips from the hands during quick turns and doesn't feel as premium or bulky as the SS-V Redline steering wheel. On the upside, the steering wheel controls are easy to use and the paddle-shifters are easy to grab and actuate while driving.
In terms of infotainment, the system is very easy to use and quite quick, but it can take a bit of fiddling to move through menus. It's not quite as intuitive as it could be. Another point of frustration is the voice recognition system that only works when you have a phone paired via cable — most other cars on the market will operate voice recognition via an internal system or via the phone over Bluetooth.
Thankfully, it's loaded with features like DAB+ digital radio, inbuilt satellite navigation that works well, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone mirroring. Fit and finish around the cabin is excellent. In fact, we found it hard to point out any flaws with the build quality or materials used throughout the cabin.
It also helps that the driver's seat is immensely comfortable, especially for long distance drives. The adaptive cruise control works well and we didn't encounter any false calls with the AEB system, which can happen with poorly calibrated systems.
Leg- and headroom at the front is excellent. It feels airy with great visibility out the front and sides. Rearward visibility is a little compromised due to the sloping roof line of the hatchback. It makes up for it with a high quality rear-view camera that also works well at night.
Rear seat legroom is good, but the Stinger is massively let down by next to no toe-room. You need to jam your toes under the seat to fit and taller passengers will find their head potentially making contact with the roof line. Shoulder width is good and the rear seat bench features a centre armrest with cupholders, ISOFIX child seat points, plus a 60:40 split-folding second row that expands the cargo volume offering.
Step over to the Commodore and it's a very familiar feeling. The interior is very spacious with an 8.0-inch MyLink infotainment system taking centre stage.
Build quality is also good, but it doesn't feel quite as premium or well assembled as the Kia. Some touch points can feel a bit cheap (such as the centre console surrounds) and we're not sure how well the suede-esque material on the dashboard will feel over time. Tap the roof and it also flexes around the sunroof, which didn't feel that sturdy.
Unlike the Kia, the steering wheel feels excellent to hold and the paddle-shifters are perfectly placed for an easy grab. There's plenty of storage up front with a deep centre console and glovebox.
Visibility out the front, rear and sides is excellent with the only let down small wing mirrors that are often difficult to place cars in, plus the giant A-pillar, which easily loses cyclists or other road users.
Front leg- and headroom is excellent and it reaches the next level in the second row with acres of leg-, head- and toe-room, plus plenty of shoulder-room. Unlike the Stinger, the second row doesn't fold at all, but it does have a centre armrest with cupholders and a ski port. Plus, you'll also find ISOFIX anchor points.
The Commodore trumps the Stinger for cargo volume by almost 100 litres, which is a big bonus if you tend to travel with a heap of gear.
Holden's MyLink infotainment system is starting to feel dated with clumsy menu transitions and a lack of digital radio or Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. On the upside, the internal voice recognition system is excellent and works exceptionally well. It can also transmit commands to your Bluetooth smartphone without a connected cable.
On the interior front, the Stinger really surprises with excellent build quality and spaciousness. But it falls short of the Commodore in terms of interior room – taller passengers will find it hard to get comfortable in the second row without the driver or front passenger shifting their seat upwards.
At the end of the day, nice materials, high quality fit and finish and digital radio doesn't win you a lane ending contest.
We strapped our GPS-driven VBox to both cars and lined them up for a number of performance tests to see which was fastest. These include the standard standing start tests up to 200km/h, plus braking from 100km/h and a slalom course.
Our test facility is the huge Australian Automotive Research Centre (AARC) in Anglesea. It provides a safe environment where we can safely stretch the legs of both cars without running the risk of being photographed by the boys and girls in blue.
|Model||Kia Stinger||Holden Commodore|
|1/4 mile (no 1ft roll out)||12.79s at 176.82km/h terminal speed||13.32s at 172.17km/h terminal speed|
|100km/h-0 (best time and distance)||2.7s at 36.7 metres||2.8s at 37.7 metres|
|Slalom (standing start)||21.99s||22.15s|
To put these tests into context – the Stinger comes with launch control, which is the mode we used to achieve the best time. This is activated by switching stability control off, holding one foot on the brake and the other on the throttle. Once releasing the brake pedal, the car accelerates away.
For added safety we switched stability control back on after the car moved to second gear. The Stinger's time bettered Kia's claimed 4.9 seconds and we found that of the six attempts, the fastest was on the third run.
Beyond 100km/h it moves surprisingly quickly towards 200km/h. The braking results were also surprising given the Stinger is around 20kg heavier than the Commodore.
The result that surprised us the most, though, was the slalom. Our slalom begins with a standing start into a five cone slalom, through a large radius turn into a tight direction change, through the five cones again and then through a tight radius turn with the timer started and stopped when the wheels cross the start line.
Stinger was quickest by a whisker when driven in Sport mode with stability control switched off and using launch control off the line. It sat surprisingly flat through the slalom and the front end bit nicely through the big radius turn.
The steering offers plenty of feel and enough feedback to let you know what's going on under the front wheels. The only thing we noticed working against it was how light it felt at the rear. When it came on boost it would snap into wheelspin quite quickly, so it needed quick hands and more precise throttle control to keep it steady during direction changes.
On approach to the tight radius turn at the end the chassis dealt nicely with a sudden change from acceleration to braking. The nose dived nicely and the brakes bit with confidence to tuck the front in for an effective u-turn.
The Commodore, on the other hand, took a bit of work to get it down to its fastest time. We ended up settling on 5.6 seconds to 100km/h before we did our 0-200km/h runs where it scored a 5.3 second 0-100km/h split. Of the six attempts we made, the fastest time was set on the the last run.
Commodore was a little harder to launch cleanly than the Stinger. The quickest way to launch it was in Competitive Mode, which is the second stage of the stability control program with the gearbox in Sport. It's then a case of loading up revs against the brake, side stepping the brake and dropping the hammer.
We found the quickest launch happened with a little wheel spin off the line. On two occasions, with the shift from second to third, there was an unclean shift by the gearbox, which resulted in a slower time. Our test car had a little over 10,000km on the clock, so it was feeling its age, too. We've also seen a best time of 4.9 seconds in a manual Commodore previously, so 5.3 seconds was definitely off the pace.
Regardless, the Stinger never performed worse than 4.9 seconds, so no matter what our best time was in the past, it's clearly not a repeatable feat with the Commodore.
On to 200km/h, the Commodore took a little longer to wind up, but felt just as confident on the brakes. In fact, it felt like it stopped quicker than the Stinger from 100km/h, but the numbers show that the Stinger pulled up quicker and in a shorter distance.
On the slalom course, the Commodore really was smile inducing. Its quickest time was also had with stability control completely switched off and manually moving through gears. It felt far heavier through the cones than the Stinger – partly due to the electrically-assisted steering tune.
But, it felt a little more fun. It was planted and you could confidently keep the foot in it when changing direction, knowing that it was only a quick flick of opposite lock to keep it in check. Through the big radius turn it washed a little wide, so the quickest way to get through that complex was to slow it up more and let it step a bit sideways on exit.
Approaching the tight radius turn at the end it needed more effort on the brakes to slow it up and tuck it in for the tight turn.
Either way, it still performed incredibly well given it's naturally aspirated and on a platform that would be considered ancient in the automotive terms.
The big difference between these two with stability control off was that the Kia doesn't fully switch the system off. In its fully off mode, it will still intervene with sharp steering input and a 45 degree slip angle.
So which of these two was more fun through the slalom? It was close, but it was the Commodore by a whisker. With that said, we were pretty impressed with the Stinger. It bit hard in tight turns and returned big smiles after several runs, which is the important part.
On the road
We've driven and reviewed Commodore extensively, so we know how well it performs in Australian conditions. This portion of the comparison will focus on how the Stinger compares to the Commodore.
During recent overseas product launches in South Korea, we've experienced the domestic market tune and commented on how soft it is. It works well for the South Korean market, but it falls apart in Australia when you begin throwing cars into winding roads or across continuous undulations.
Our test route stretched from inner Melbourne, through country roads, along gravel and to the AARC in Anglesea, where we did our performance testing. The drive route aimed to encompass the main reason people bought the Commodore – for its versatility on the highway and throughout country Australia.
Despite using non-adaptive dampers (which are standard on the Stinger GT), the Stinger rode smoothly on the highway stretch. The ride is smooth enough to cope with small road changes, which can often unsettle firmer riding vehicles.
Potholes and road joins were softly damped, while the steering offered ample feedback with slight inputs at highway speeds. It was a little vague at times about centre at highway speeds, which is something we've often criticised the Commodore for as well.
Road noise at highway speeds was excellent, with just a bit of wind noise from the wing mirrors. As luck would have it, our decibel meter failed during testing. As soon as we get another Stinger through, we will update this section with precise noise measurements at highway speed.
As a comparison, the Commodore was a little noisier at highway speeds and the ride a bit firmer also. The FE3 suspension tune tends to ride a bit firmer to help keep the car flat through quicker direction changes.
Stinger really stepped up the game on the country road stretch. Our test road is notoriously bad and not only features potholes and road joins, but a number of continuous undulations that cause the suspension to almost fully extend at 100km/h. Lesser cars will still be at full extension when the rise of the next undulation hits, which causes it to crash down over the rise.
The Stinger would extend and settle in time for the next hit, keeping the body settled throughout the whole rollercoaster ride. Kia has spent a great deal of time and money tuning the Stinger for the Australian market, and it really shows.
Where we'd normally err on the side of a sports car with adaptive dampers to cover the full gamut of comfort and sportiness, the Stinger nicely bridges the gap between both, especially on this low quality country roads. Of course, the Commodore is at home on these roads and while it feels a bit firmer, the body control over low quality country roads is excellent.
When throwing the Stinger into faster corners, it stayed flat and tracked nicely. Feedback through the wheel was excellent and throttle response was addictive. Despite using an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the Stinger rarely hunts for gears and makes full use of its in-gear torque to propel the car forward.
Gears can be manually selected at any time using the paddle-shifters, but the car won't hold gears. It shifts up as you approach the limiter in each gear. If you decide to bury the right foot, the Stinger starts hauling with incredible pace. Despite the lack of sound, the torque delivery is relentless. 510Nm may not sound like much, but it certainly feels like much more.
A mode control knob allows the driver to switch between several drive modes including Economy, Smart, Comfort, Sport and Custom. The modes are pretty self explanatory, with Custom allowing the driver to select steering feel and engine response.
This flexibility makes mundane driving a little less cumbersome than the Commodore. While the Commodore can switch between stability control modes, the Commodore's steering can be a little heavy at low speeds in comparison to the Stinger in its Comfort mode.
Using a six-speed automatic gearbox, Commodore relies more on gearing than torque to produce spurts of acceleration. Start pushing the throttle and it will travel back through the gears until it eventually kicks down into an almighty roar.
When you slam the throttle down in the Kia, it's hard to catch any noise from the engine or exhaust. The Commodore on the other hand erupts into a fury of V8 goodness. It uses a mix of plumbed noise induction and a bi-modal exhaust to make the LS3 engine really sing – it's one of the car's strongest points.
The Stinger's braking comes in the form of Brembos on all four corners. The front brakes measure 350mm with ventilated rotors and four-piston calipers, while the rear rotors measure 340mm with two-piston calipers. Brake pedal feel is good, but a little softer than the Commodore's. But, step hard on the anchors and the Stinger pulls up nicely.
As a comparison, the SS-V brakes measure 355mm at the front with four-piston calipers and two-piston at the rear. The pedal in the Commodore is a little more responsive and offers slightly more feel.
We suspected that gravel would be the Stinger's undoing and we were right. While it sits nicely on gravel – even as speeds increase – it doesn't feel anywhere near as settled as the Commodore. Steering inputs would cause sudden changes of direction at the rear, while throttle inputs mid-corner wouldn't be as predictable or progressive as in the Commodore.
The Stinger's stability control also bit quite aggressively on gravel, which would upset the direction of the car under throttle and with steering inputs. The Commodore's stability control tune allows extra movement and works with the driver to allow minor direction changes before harsher intervention. The end result is a smoother drive on gravel surfaces.
If you're not planning on spending much time on gravel, it won't be an issue, but it's something worth considering in the back of your mind.
As expected, the Commodore used a premium amount of fuel in comparison to the Stinger. Following the highway and country drive, along with a stint at the AARC, the Stinger ended up at an average fuel consumption of 13.9 litres of fuel per 100km, while the Commodore finished up at 15.7L/100km. It's worth keeping in mind that despite most of the drive being on highway and country roads, the driving at the AARC was predominantly much harder, which skewed fuel use.
We were pretty surprised with how well the Stinger performed across a variety of road conditions. While it's not as competent as the Commodore over gravel, it had no issues out in the country and proved that local engineering well and truly helps cover the huge cross section of roads we cover in Australia.
Kia fires out of the starting blocks with a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty that's hard to match. Kia also offers capped price servicing at service intervals of 12 months or 10,000km.
Kia offers capped price servicing for a period of seven years, coming in at a total of $1975 for five years or 50,000km, pushing out to $3375 for seven years or 70,000km.
Holden on the other hand offers Commodore with a three-year, 100,000km warranty and capped price servicing at nine month, 15,000km intervals.
Servicing over a period of five years or 105,000km costs $1993. It's an uneven equation given you need to service the Commodore every nine months, meaning seven services over five years, with coverage for 105,000km. That compares to only five services for the Kia, but only coverage for 50,000km.
Holden has a special offer for the remainder of 2017 that gives customers a seven-year, 175,000km warranty, making the Commodore level-pegging on its warranty offering with the Stinger.
Replacing tyres will be a thing you need to do if you plan on driving the way these cars were intended to be driven.
The Stinger runs on Continental ContiSport Contact 5 tyres, which cost $398 for each front tyre (225/35R19) and $466 for each rear (255/35R19).
The Commodore will set you back $401 for each front tyre (Bridgestone RE050A 245/40R19) and $510 for each rear (Bridgestone RE050A 275/35R19).
What do you think?
We were keen to find out what everybody thought about the Stinger and Commodore in person. We held an impromptu pop-up car showroom at the CarAdvice office in Melbourne and were surprised with your feedback.
Have a listen below to find out whether you guys, our readers, love or loathe what Kia has done with the Stinger.
We went into this test expecting a bloodbath with an Aussie contender coming out on top.
But, it didn't end quite as expected. Aside from a set of destroyed tyres on the Kia, the South Korean managed to well and truly hold its own when pitted head-to-head against the Commodore.
It blitzed the Commodore on the performance front, won over consumers and has the looks to turn heads. Unfortunately it falls well short in terms of noise and the pure soul and emotion the Commodore oozes each and every time you stab the throttle.
Time has moved on, though. And with that, we have a change of guard. While the Commodore still sounds incredible and maintains an image of one of Australia's best sports sedans, it can't keep up with the high-tech Stinger.
With a new exhaust, the Stinger would take on a new persona and pick up where the Commodore left off. There's a new exhaust coming, which can be fitted after purchase. Kia is putting the finishing touches on this system and is expected to have it available soon.
So the end result of this comparison is the Stinger ahead by a nose. It was a tough call, but it's the better car overall and delivers performance in spades. And it doesn't fail to excite when you switch everything off and bury the right foot.
Which car would we buy? It's genuinely line ball. I would happily sacrifice the performance for the noise of the Commodore, but the Kia delivers everything else you could want from a modern, rear-wheel drive, bang-for-your-buck, sports sedan.
For the purposes of nostalgia, it'd be the Commodore, but for all out performance and a modern package, it's the Stinger. My hat comes off to Kia.
Our time with the Stinger was cut short due to us chewing through a set of rear tyres — so the photos we had hoped to snap of the Stinger and Commodore on gravel and out in the country couldn't happen. CarAdvice has bought a V6 Stinger Si, so we will show you with content once it reaches our hot little hands.
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss this comparison below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.