The Kia Stinger ignites passionate debate like few other cars we’ve driven at CarAdvice. With a big engine up front, loads of space in the middle and power going to the rear, there was no shortage of hype.
As soon as it arrived in Australia, we knew we wanted to buy one. Here it is, resplendent in Hichroma Red.
Think of this as a rolling logbook, a little window into life with the cars in the CarAdvice stable. You’ll find the most recent entries at the top, and the older instalments at the bottom.
Expect to see monthly updates from here on out. They might be longer, more in-depth breakdowns of specific trips, or sentence-long snapshots of foibles that have popped up.
Let us know if you have questions about the cars and we’ll try to answer them. Most of all, enjoy!
Thanos Pappas, HotHatch.com.au
Thanos: I got the keys of the Kia Stinger and decided to make the most out of a hot summer day with a trip from Melbourne to Bells Beach. The Stinger is a comparably affordable four-door GT with impressive power (272kW), sexy looks and the advantage of rear wheel drive over its bigger rival, which in my opinion is the Volkswagen Arteon.
With all that in mind and after my wonderful experience with the Hyundai i30N, I had a lot of expectations from Kia’s latest halo car.
My first impression of the Stinger was its low seating position and its size (4830mm length) which was not something I was familiar with as I usually drive around in hatchbacks. From the outside, the car looks exciting, thanks to the sporty proportions, the beautiful 19-inch alloy wheels, the low bonnet and the sexy rear end design that distinguishes it from its rivals.
Inside, the cabin has a sporty and premium feel, with lots of space for all passengers, except the rear headroom which is partly sacrificed for the looks. Like the exterior, the dashboard has an exotic flair thanks to the three circular air vents in the middle, while the intuitive infotainment touch screen feels familiar to anyone who has driven a Hyundai or Kia model.
The seats are very comfortable, even though they could have massage, heating and cooling functions in the top of the range model. Lastly, boot space is more than I would ever ask for, especially if you fold down the rear seats, so overall, the car is a great compromise between sportiness and practicality.
On the highway, the Stinger is very comfortable, predictable, fast and quiet. The car doesn’t have an adaptive suspension but the setting is so well balanced, combining comfort with dynamic cornering abilities without any compromise. I loved the adaptive cruise control which, together with the active lane keeping assist, gives you a glimpse of the autonomous future. You always need to keep your hands on the steering wheel, but the whole experience is like someone looks after you and makes sure you stay safe.
After the boring part of the highway which was rather pleasant in the Stinger – especially when accelerating (note: 0-100km/h comes in just 4.9 seconds) – I had the chance to drive it on the first stretch of the Great Ocean Road.
That is when I fully discovered the character and the great handling of this Grand Tourer which transforms into a drivers car when you put it in Sport: the steering becomes heavier and more direct, the throttle response drastically improves and the gearbox reacts a lot faster.
Later in the day and while I was embraced by the cold ocean that saved me from the hot sun, I realised the true purpose of the Stinger. It is a car for those who don’t want to compromise their style and passion over the boring needs of everyday life. Those who want a visually appealing vehicle waiting for them in the parking lot, a car which will be both comfortable and thrilling to drive, with a design that is both sexy and mature. And thankfully, the Stinger almost perfectly balances all of those virtues.
Scott Collie, Journalist
The Stinger is designed to be an image-builder for Kia. If the following conversation is any guide, it still has some work to do. This isn’t a direct transcript, but it’s not far off.
Scott: “Hey mate, heading to the supermarket. Need a ride?”
Housemate: “Yeah sounds great, what are we driving?”
S: “Kia Stinger. The big, twin-turbo V6 one. Pretty quick”
H: “It’s a Kia? Ugh, it’s a Kia”
S: “But it’s a fast one. A red one. A fast red one.”
H: “Don’t care how fast and red it is, it’s a Kia.”
S: “Look at those air vents. They could’ve been nicked from a Mercedes-Benz.”
H: “But it’s a Kia.”
S: “It beat a Commodore in our most recent comparison…”
H: “I’ll just walk.”
Paul Maric, Senior Road Tester
It’s time for another service, and to have those damn rattles addressed – hopefully for the last time. Paul Maric dealt with City Kia in Melbourne, and found the experience wasn’t all smooth sailing.
Paul: So the rattles and whine from the differential have become worse, to the point where the rattling and creaks around the door seals are unbearable.
With the 21,000km service now due, we decided to book the car in for a service, along with rectification of the defects. We booked with City Kia, which is just around the corner from our Melbourne office.
When we dropped the car off, we asked for one of the technicians to come for a lap of the block with us to experience the rattles and differential whine. We were told to wait a few minutes, but around 30 minutes passed before anybody came out to see us.
During that time, we had one of the receptionists come in and try and sell us paint protection. The irony of Kia’s issues with yellow paint weren’t lost on us.
The service advisor came out eventually, we went for a drive and he recognised the issues and said it would be fixed. After three business days (and a weekend) our car was ready to collect.
When we arrived to collect the car, we were thrown the keys and went to drive away. After enquiring whether we needed to pay before leaving, the service advisor had a puzzled look on his face. They didn’t actually service the car, despite it being booked in for a service and a note on the service sheet suggesting it was now overdue for a service.
Aside from this mistake, all of the issues were fixed. The differential oil was drained and an additive was added to stop the whining noise. The seals were lubricated around the windows and finally the rattle in the boot was fixed.
We then booked the car in again for a service, at which point it was actually, properly serviced at a total cost of $436.
Jin Tee, Operations Manager
Jin: I’ve recently made a temporary move to the Melbourne office and I was thrown the keys to the Stinger for my journey down.
Loading up the Stinger with three months worth of personal belongings was not an issue. I had two suit cases, a helmet, a backpack, a gym bag and a 27-inch iMac loaded up, which filled up the boot quite nicely.
It was my first proper drive of the Stinger and was a great opportunity to get acquainted.
After a brief fiddle with the infotainment system I had my phone paired up relatively quickly and was on my way. Personally I don’t find Apple CarPlay that great, mainly because I think that there should be the ability to extend the screen instead of mirror, but hey it’s better than no integration whatsoever.
When I hit the Hume Highway I was finally able to make use of the adaptive cruise control. After I had flicked on all the driver aids, it was then I really started to see that the Stinger was going to be an awesome highway cruiser.
Crossing over from NSW to Victoria, I became reliant on the Kia navigation system which was giving me a heads up for those unmarked speed traps.
When the sunlight started to fade, I realised the Stinger had the auto high beams, which were a bit confusing to operate and a little sporadic once they were on.
I had the car in Eco mode for the majority of the trip and managed to clear 872.8 km over 9 hours 4 minutes with an average consumption of 7.7L/100km – which ended up being just over one-and-a-half tanks from Sydney to Melbourne.
Despite being a relatively large car, I didn’t have any issues manoeuvring the skinny streets of Melbourne’s inner suburbs.
Although it’s not the best sounding, it definitely is not slow. I had a smile on my face every time I had to get up to speed on the freeway onramps.
Matt Chandler, CFO
The Stinger has found its way to Sydney. Here’s how its primary custodian, Matt Chandler, is finding it as a commuter in the Harbour City.
Matt: On first impressions, the Kia Stinger is much better looking in the flesh than the photos on our website suggest. When you look at it from some angles, it belies its $60k price tag and has the looks to suggest it should cost more.
Large family sedans are not my car of choice. As a middle-aged man, living the in the Sydney suburbs with a wife, two kids and a dog I’m an SUV target buyer, and my daily drives are an 8 year old BMW X1 and a five-year old Nissan X-Trail. Whilst initially it took me a while to get used to the low seating position, I came to enjoy the engulfing nature of the cabin that really enhances the driving experience.
I really enjoyed driving the Kia. Its engine was smooth and powerful, great at accelerating, responsive when overtaking. I’m now thoroughly underwhelmed every time I put my foot down in my own car, and long for the responsive nature the Stinger.
Once you’ve experienced broadband, dial-up internet just doesn’t cut it anymore.
While the looks of the Kia are Euro-derived, the build quality of this Stinger is just not at the same level as a BMW. The plastic cover fell down from behind the rear-view mirror every time I drove the car, the remote boot unlock button stopped working and the driver’s door and rear boot rattles remain. This is disappointing in a car that cost $60k and is only nine months old.
I found the Kia infotainment system responsive, with an intuitive layout what makes it easy to read and use. It’s the first car I spent any amount of time in with Apple CarPlay, and now I’m back to driving my own car I miss it.
Most of my journeys in the Stinger were spent in Sydney traffic where my fuel consumption averaged around 12.7L/100.
Whilst I started off saying large sized family sedans are not my car of choice, I really enjoyed my time in the Stinger and though one wouldn’t be on my shopping list for my next car, I have come to appreciate its looks and power.
Scott Davison, Product and Marketing Director
Along with his standard bike test, Scott. D put the Stinger through a family test. How’d it stack up?
Scott: Following on from my bike test, I decided to put the Stinger to the family challenge.
This time my props were three young children (my nieces and nephews) and my girlfriend who is six months pregnant. More precious cargo I could not imagine.
Setting off from the CarAdvice office, I first loaded them up on doughnuts and then demanded they wash their hands before getting in the car.
My girlfriend shotgunned the front seat, leaving Liam (12yrs) and Cody and Jade (both 10yrs) to share the back seat. As you can see, they fitted comfortably, with Jade taking the centre seat to keep the boys in line.
After selecting ‘comfort mode’ and setting off on what would normally be a 40-minute drive, we immediately hit some peak-hour afternoon traffic and ground to a 10km/h crawl. So the trip turned into more like an hour. By the time we arrived at our destination two of the kids and my girlfriend were sound asleep, so clearly the comfort mode had done the trick.
I did get a couple of chances to put the foot down and demonstrate the very impressive acceleration. Well, the kids were impressed, the sleeping pregnant girlfriend – not so much (note to self).
The one hour journey gave the back seat reviewers time to form an opinion. I asked each of them for a comment on what they thought of the Stinger. Here’s what they said:
Back seat passengers:
Scott Davison, Product and Marketing Director
The Stinger is billed as a big, practical replacement to the traditional Aussie sedan – but it’s actually more of a ‘sportsback’ shape. That isn’t great for headroom, but it’s perfect for carrying big objects.
Scott: Most days I ride my bike to the office. But sometimes I grab one of our company cars, and when I do this, I have a standard test I like to try. Does my bike fit in the car?
My first attempt with our new Stinger was back in October. Being very careful with a brand new car I decided to remove the front wheel of the bike and as you can see it fitted very easily.
I was quite impressed with this, so we posted a photo on Facebook and it received many comments, mostly from people saying “so what? taking the wheel off is cheating”.
So when the opportunity next arose, I grabbed the Stinger and this time stuck the bike in the back with the front wheel still attached. Whilst I had to temporarily remove the parcel shelf (easily done), as you can see, the bike fits in the boot and the hatch closes.
So there you have it – one full-size bike in the back of a Stinger…. just! This reinforces to me the benefit of the sportsback design over the traditional sedan.
Boot sizes in litres is one measure, but in practice, the ability to put the seats down and open the hatchback makes the boot space on a sportsback so much more usable.
Fullboost, YouTubers and motoring enthusiasts
Fullboost took our Stinger for a weekend recently. The guys wanted to drive the big, rear-drive Kia before passing judgement – and put together a 15 minute breakdown of their time our car. Check it out at the link below.
James Wong, Journalist
Uh oh, something’s broken. Along with the squeaks and rattles starting to crop up, pieces of plastic have started popping off our Stinger’s interior.
James: I ran into a slight quality niggle today when driving around the inner suburbs of Melbourne. A piece of plastic that covers the wiring for the rain sensor behind the rear-view mirror suddenly flew off while the vehicle was in motion – for no apparent reason.
Also, despite the service a few weeks ago, there are a few rattles and squeaks starting to be heard again when going over the lumps and bumps of Melbourne’s roads. For a $55,000 vehicle, it’s a little disappointing.
James Wong, Journalist
As a big, powerful rear-drive liftback, the Stinger has the right foundations to be a great GT. James Wong put those foundations to the test on a road trip, and came back impressed.
James: I managed to nab the Stinger for the weekend and did quite a bit of driving in it. Over two days, I covered over 450km mainly on the highway, and the car’s long-distance comfort continues to amaze me.
Even at 110km/h on the freeway, the twin-turbo V6 barely ticks over 1750rpm in eighth gear, yet it still responds so quickly and brutally when you need to make a quick overtake.
Another highlight is the front seats, which are super comfortable over longer journeys thanks to their plentiful back and thigh support.
The cabin is also well suppressed from the outside world, even on rougher sections of country highways. Very little road and wind noise enters the cabin, meaning you can still maintain a normal conversation without having to shout.
It rides beautifully too. I just love driving it and taking my friends and family.
Melissa Ong, Social Media and Community Manager
We know the Stinger is great to drive, and we know it’s making plenty of power. How’s it holding up mechanically, though? Our first proper service provided some answers, with a few frustrating outcomes. Here’s a look at what was wrong, what was right and what still needs fixing.
Melissa: Our red Stinger has hit a milestone: 10,000km. It’s actually just ticked over 11,000km – don’t tell anyone, okay?
There were a few issues going into the service. Rattles in the boot and driver’s door have popped up during our time, and a small parking scrape required a bit of touch-up paint. Beyond that, it was business as usual.
The service advisor provided great customer service, explained the costs involved and kept us updated on how long the car was needed. As it turned out, it was an overnight trip – the rattles proved hard to pin down. The rattle in the boot was sorted, the one in the door has proven more persistent.
A follow-up visit may be required to tackle that one, because it’s absolutely maddening.
Along with the service, our Stinger gained a set of floor mats and a bottle of red touch-up paint. There’s no exhaust yet, but that’s still coming as well.
The final point to note? Our car went in with white numberplate surrounds and came back with black ones. We didn’t ask for the change, but the new surrounds look better than the originals, so the sneaky swap is forgiven.
Total cost? $252.00.
Mike Stevens, Producer
Mike: There’s a lot to be said for effortless power, isn’t there? My daily driver is a naturally aspirated, 2.5-litre 2008 Subaru Liberty wagon. It’s a manual, bless the thing, but with 127kW and 226Nm in its day and surely a lot less now (should I get it tested? Not sure I want to know the answer), it’s not exactly overcome with gusto.
So, when the boss (my actual boss, not our CEO Andrew Beecher) informed me we’d be heading away down to Phillip Island for a few days, I knew I’d want to cruise in something with a little more oomph. And a little more space. And some newer tech, both on the safety and connectivity fronts.
Nabbing the Stinger for a few days, I loaded the family and far more things than we needed into the liftback’s boot. It might be tough to make out from this shot, but there’s quite a lot in there, along with one of the rear seats folded down for a little extra carrying capacity (we still had just one kid at the time, conveniently – my wallet is agreeing furiously with that statement).
Cargo space is pretty good, and the liftback design helps both with capacity and loading clearance. Of course, as a wagon guy, I could’ve done with just a little more…
Lastly, I loaded in the lady and the little boy and off we went. Loping down towards The Island, the Stinger showed its strengths well. Although not loaded to the brim, it was still fairly full-up on people and holiday gear, yet it poured through roundabouts and accelerated out quite nicely. That’s not to say I was ‘maniacking’, as meine Liebe tends to describe my style of driving (she exaggerates), but it’s clear enough what the big liftback is capable of even as a family hauler.
Overall comfort is good, with a decent amount of ‘kick room’ in the rear for our harnessed toddler. Certainly welcome, considering he’s usually the source of an unexpected and violent back massage in our smaller Liberty… Likewise, the long-distance (well, longish) drive down to The Island revealed nothing unwelcome about the shape and firmness of the seats in the front row, arriving at our mudbrick AirBnB retreat fairly relaxed and without aches.
Fuel use over the weekend was good, returning 11.3L/100km, which isn’t far off the 10.2 combined figure Kia claims.
The car has its shortcomings, of course. Some rattles and creaks have appeared in the brief time we’ve owned this car, and while we’ve all had a pretty thorough go of the thing now, none of us is harsh with it. So we’ll have to see how that all goes at service time.
Another niggle for me is that putting the car into reverse can be misleading. It’s as though the shifter sometimes stops at neutral, and you don’t notice until you’ve tapped the accelerator and the car hasn’t moved. So it’s another whack of the lever before it engages the gear, and off you go. It’s not consistent, and it might be something about the way I’m doing it, but still. Odd stuff.
Looking forward to some more time with our big red rocket.
James Wong, Journalist
James: Bright and early on a Friday morning, I dropped the Stinger off for its 3000km/three-month check-up at South Melbourne Kia.
I was taken care of by the service manager, Aaron, who was friendly, attentive, and made sure I grabbed a coffee while I waited.
In addition to the routine service work, I asked the team to have a look at the driver’s door, which had developed a rattle that has become quite annoying, frankly.
My guess was it had something to do with whatever holds the window in place, and the service technicians quickly got to work dismantling the driver’s door to try and find the problem, as the photos show. They also had no objections to me observing the process.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t narrow it down on the day due to time constraints, but they were more than happy for us to reschedule a time for them to spend more time in the vehicle and try to diagnose the issue.
The Stinger was also returned washed and vacuumed. Lovely!
Paul Maric, Senior Road Tester
Paul: The guys at Chasers in Melbourne were kind enough to allow us to test the Stinger for an idea about how much power it was making at the rear wheels.
Kia quotes 272kW of power at the flywheel. After subtracting around 20 per cent for automatic gearbox efficiency losses, we were expecting to see around 220kW at the rear treads.
During the first run on the dyno, the guys noticed some surging and an inconsistent power curve. After a quick look under the bonnet, they noticed a small hose that was sitting loose.
They traced the hose to a boost line from the intercooler pipe before the throttle body to the solenoid. The hose was short enough to get loose during engine movement moments. The hose was replaced and we put the car back on the dyno.
This time around power went from under 200kW at the wheels to 242kW at the wheels, a huge improvement. We left Chasers afterwards and it felt like a new car.
It looks like the hose disconnected after the track day, and it was enough to make the car perform dramatically differently. That’s now solved and it is truly quick. We want to line up another track day at Phillip Island to see whether we can feel the difference with the replaced hose.
Paul Maric, Senior Road Tester
Paul: After a brief running-in period, we submitted the Stinger to a track day at Phillip Island. One thing we noticed during testing with the media vehicle was how badly the Continental tyres deteriorated when we switched stability control off and started having some fun.
The tyres held up fine at Phillip Island, so it may have been a dodgy set that was attached to the press car. Our experience at Phillip Island wasn’t entirely positive from the car’s point of view though.
The gearbox began hitting the limiter in second and third gears – despite the gearbox normally shifting on its own any other time.
We also found it hard to pass other cars coming on to the front straight. With a boot full of throttle, cars like the Audi S3 and BMW 330i would pull away comfortably. The car didn’t feel anywhere near as quick as the press car we had previously.
This aside, the brakes held up well even after three or four full laps of the track, and the handling was en pointe with limited body roll and excellent communication through the steering wheel and chassis. We came away from the track day a bit disappointed.
The following week we discovered the reason the car wasn’t feeling great.
Paul Maric, Senior Road Tester
It’s big, rear-wheel drive and powerful. It isn’t packing a V8, but Kia has essentially nailed the brief for the perfect Australian sedan. Does it live up to the considerable hype? There was only one way to find out.
Paul: As something of an unofficial, spiritual successor to the rear-drive Commodore, the Kia Stinger melts our website every time we talk about it.
It’s an important car for the South Korean brand, because it signals an entry into a segment it hasn’t really competed in: large, rear-drive performance sedans.
So we thought we’d buy one – a 2018 Kia Stinger 330Si. We ordered our car shortly after Australian details were announced and patiently awaited its delivery through Kia South Melbourne.
As an introduction, this post is longer than most. Check it out here.