After the storm, comes the calm.
In the case of the Kia Stinger, the storm erupted when the South Korean manufacturer announced its plans for a rear-wheel drive, large four-door sedan/liftback right at the same time as Australian manufacturing was beginning to grind to a halt. The automotive public couldn’t get enough of it, or at least, the idea of it.
The calm is right now, some 10 months after the Stinger went on sale in Australia. According to VFACTS, Kia has found new homes for just over 1400 Stingers since going on sale in September last year. That isn’t exactly an earth-shattering number, even if, as it does, represent almost 16 per cent market share in a once-dominant segment that is slowly and inexorably closing in on the gates of niche.
Still, as we did when the Stinger was first confirmed for Oz, we can revel in and celebrate a platform that harks back to a different era. Yet, and understandably, as all the focus turned to Kia’s hi-po Stinger GT, with its 272kW/510Nm 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 and 0–100km/h sprint time of just 4.9 seconds, it’s the variants lower down the rev range that represent, arguably, the Stinger nameplate at its most mainstream.
Enter the 2018 Kia Stinger 200Si that sits just two rungs above the entry-level 200S on the Stinger ladder. With a starting price of $52,990 plus on-road costs, the 200Si is exactly $7000 more than the 200S ($45,990) and $7000 less than the range-topping V6 GT ($59,990). You could argue that the 200Si is the median Stinger – not average, mind you, but the middle ground.
Options? There aren’t any, not on this car, not on any 200Si. In fact, the only available option is one hue of paint – Deep Chroma Blue – which asks for an additional $695. And that’s it.
The list of standard equipment is long, both in creature comforts and safety. There’s the black leather-appointed interior with eight-way electric adjustment for the driver. An 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment screen with satellite navigation (including 10 years’ MapCare) sits atop the dash and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as DAB+ radio and Bluetooth connectivity. There are two 12V outlets and two USB charging points, including one for rear-seat passengers. Kia lists full 'build and price' details here, and the full brochure here (links open in new tabs).
A word on the ‘info’ part of infotainment. The Stinger’s sat-nav is pretty vocal when it comes to alerting you to potential hazards on the road ahead, whether it be a speed camera, school zone, or a lane closure, as an example. And yes, this info can be handy, but it errs on the side of annoying with a preliminary voice warning followed by a series of beeps and alarms as you approach said hazard. Simply turning it off, one would imagine, would be an easy-to-find setting on the touchscreen.
But it’s not. If you do successfully navigate your way through menus and submenus to deactivate this function (and it’s not a given), then all your efforts appear to have been futile as the very next hazard will induce the by-now metronomic ‘Speed Camera Ahead’ followed by a series of beeps and bells. Worse still, if you happen to be on the phone – via Bluetooth – the voice alerts override everything else, meaning the person on the other end of the phone is left hanging in a vast and galactic silence. And just to be clear, this Stinger is not the only Kia in which we’ve had this experience.
LED daytime-running lights lead the way out front, while a rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines offers a decent view out back. And front and rear sensors make parking the 4.8m Stinger a cinch. There’s also hill-start assist, rain-sensing wipers, and a pretty decent nine-speaker sound system with two subwoofers.
Helping the Stinger 200Si score a five-star ANCAP rating is a pretty decent suite of active and passive safety. The usual complement of airbags is complemented by autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. But you’ll need to step into the GT-Line or GT if you want blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and a 360-degree camera.
Slide inside the Stinger and it’s clear Kia has been inspired by manufacturers up the automotive food chain. At first glance, there’s a premium, almost sumptuous feel to the cabin and its layout. There are plenty of nice materials in play, soft to the touch, although out of the line of sight there are cheaper materials to be found. Kia is not a lone warrior in this, though.
The driver’s seat slings you down low in the cabin, adding some sportiness to an already sporty ambience. Thanks to the electrically adjustable seat, though, finding the optimal driving position is easy. It’s comfortable too, snug even, with good lumbar support and bolstering. And that accented leather (i.e. artificial) really does feel pretty premium.
There’s a lovely scalloped edge curving along the dash that flows like a river in springtime – soft and gentle, calming. It really does lend a nice ambience to the cabin.
There’s tactility to the switchgear too, with plenty of brushed aluminium and faux carbon-fibre weave accents adding even more sporting intent. The leather-clad steering wheel looks and feels the goods, although the centrepiece, the boss cap, does look and feel a little cheap. Again, Kia is not alone in this, and it’s a small thing, but considering the centrepiece of the steering wheel is front and centre of the driving experience, a bit more care wouldn’t hurt. It might seem a small thing, but considering the steering wheel is the central touchpoint of any car…
As befitting a family sedan, the back row offers plenty of comfort for those consigned to road-trip purgatory. There’s plenty of head room for average-sized humans, despite that sloping roof line endemic to liftback saloons. The middle seat, though, is a bit of a letdown. The Stinger’s rear-wheel-drive underpinnings demand a central transmission tunnel that simply eats into leg room. Worse still, the middle pew sits above the two outboard seats – very much a case of sitting on it, not in it. And it’s firm – much firmer than the outboards, and uncomfortably so.
Still, rear passengers won’t be left wanting for creature comforts with a USB outlet as well as a 12V socket. There are also air vents with temperature control. Nice touch. The fold-down centre armrest hides two cupholders, while the door pockets can easily swallow bottles. And lugging your little ones is no problem with ISOFIX points on the outboard seats.
Those seats fold down in 60/40 fashion, freeing up 1114L of boot space. With those seats in play, 406L is yours to play with – not class-leading by any stretch. There’s a space-saver spare hiding in there too. A big gripe at this end of the Stinger is the sheer weight of the tailgate. It’s manually operated and it is, to be blunt, bloody heavy, which is not surprising since there’s a fair bit of glass real estate to shift.
It’d be tempting, considering the pre-Stinger hype, to hustle this 1693kg family hauler like a sports sedan. However, the reality is that the Stinger, certainly in this four-cylinder spec, is unlikely to see too much duty as a corner-brawler.
That’s not to say the 200Si isn’t capable. It certainly is, with its 2.0-litre turbo four offering 182kW (at 6200rpm) and a reasonably healthy 353Nm (from a user-friendly 1400–4000rpm). The 0–100km/h dash is dispatched in six seconds flat, according to Kia. Sure, nowhere near the sub-five-second claim for the twin-turbo V6 GT, but plenty quick enough. Faster than most hot hatches, anyway.
Does it feel that quick under acceleration? Yes. And no. There’s no doubt the engine has plenty of poke, and in tandem with the eight-speed automatic transmission sending that power and muscle to the rear wheels, the Stinger 200Si is certainly no slouch.
The transmission – in auto mode – is smooth and linear, unobtrusive even, with seamless shifts that are barely noticeable. Getting your inner F1 driver on, though, by using the paddle-shifters is unrewarding. Sure, you can run the revs out longer than the Stinger would if left to its own devices, but the changes – whether up or down – aren’t the sharpest things going. There’s a bit of hesitation from the transmission as it ponders whether what you’re requesting is in fact the best thing for the car.
Speaking of which, the Stinger comes with variable drive modes, five of them to be precise. There’s Smart, in which the Stinger automatically adjusts settings according to different environments, but really it’s undetectable by the seat of the pants. Eco mode dulls everything down to maximise fuel consumption, while Comfort is as described on the box. Sport alters dynamics, allowing the engine to rev out longer in the hunt for more urgency while sharpening throttle response. Or, if you’re not happy with any of those ready-to-eat settings, Custom will allow you to mix and match to find your preferred set-up. It’s all a bit gimmicky at this end of the spectrum.
One thing the Korean manufacturers are renowned for in Australia is the local suspension tune. The Stinger has been fettled with one eye on the Australian market, and it shows. The ride is firm yet compliant, eating up imperfections with an easy appetite. This grade of Stinger doesn’t feature adaptive dampers – a party trick reserved for the GT Line only – but that doesn’t detract at all from the experience. There’s simply an assurance to the Stinger’s ride and handling, at once refined and adept.
Road noise is kept isolated from the cabin, underlining the Stinger’s premium aspirations. There’s a serenity, a calm even, when on the road, and in conjunction with its decent road manners, the Stinger 200Si presents as a decent grand tourer.
Despite claiming a reasonably frugal 8.8L/100km on the combined cycle, the Stinger 200Si quenched its thirst for fuel to the tune of 13.5L/100km. To be fair, though, much of that was spent in an urban environment, which Kia claims will use 12.7L/100km. An extended highway run did see our figure drop into the low tens, but that number rose pretty sharply once back in the urban grind of day-to-day traffic. Still, at least the Stinger, in this grade, only needs to drink from the cheap bowser of regular unleaded.
The Stinger 200Si needs a check-up every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. That 10,000km interval is a tad on the low side, and unlikely to see out the 12-month interval with the average annual use for cars in Australia at around 15,000km, according to Roy Morgan. That means a trip to the local service centre around every eight months. Buyers can prepay the first seven years’ – or 70,000km – scheduled servicing for a total of $3156.
The Stinger is, of course, covered by Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty along with 12 months’ roadside assistance. Kia details its warranty here (opens in new tab).
There’s a lot to celebrate in the Kia Stinger. Large-sized, family sedans are becoming a niche, and a rear-wheel-drive platform is rapidly becoming a nostalgic footnote in the annals of 21st century automotive history. So, it’s encouraging, even welcoming, to see a relatively new manufacturer like Kia taking a punt on creating something that, at the very least, reminds us of a time when vehicles of an entirely different kind roamed our roads.
The Kia Stinger, for all its fanfare and bluster of 12 months ago, has stood up well to the hype. Is it the saviour of mass-market large-sized rear-wheel-drive sedans? Unlikely, but what Kia has done is create a well-equipped alternative to the flood of SUVs and utes posing as family haulers on our roads.
And sure, the GT is the halo car in the Stinger range, but for those looking for a little less oomph and without the need for a manic sports sedan, the less powerful 200Si still offers plenty enjoyable motoring.