Anyone looking for an in-depth review of the new Kia Stinger GT should look away now. There has already been plenty written about this new offering from Korea and undoubtedly there will be a whole lot more in the coming weeks and months. So, those of you seeking informed commentary about the Stinger will be spoiled for choice. This is merely the initial impressions I have formed after a few hundred kilometres spent enjoying this impressive car after an extended test drive.
The reason I am driving the most expensive Kia actually has a lot more to do with the offerings at the cheaper end of this manufacturers’ range. I recently upgraded the vehicles in my small business to Kia Picantos and I have been enormously impressed by this sturdy, economical and relatively inexpensive machine.
Apart from knowing that my team are driving safe and reliable cars, the seven-year warranty is also a strong attraction for anyone looking to contain costs. The arrival of our final Picanto coincided with the dealers’ Stinger demonstrator becoming available, and I was lucky enough to be given the keys to a Micro Blue GT for an extended test drive over a weekend.
If you are like me, and more than a bit brand phobic, it comes as a surprise to find out that a Kia is actually a car you can be very impressed by. The Stinger is beautifully finished with a quality interior and a pleasing silhouette. It’s not an Audi inside and it isn’t a Mercedes C Class coupe to look at, but it is a mighty good first go at building a quality performance sedan.
We have a Lexus IS200t in our garage and the Stinger is noticeably bigger with a similar feel of quality. It also seems similarly quiet and more refined, if anything.
I believe the Stinger shares its platform with the Hyundai Genesis and it feels substantial and well built. The big difference between the Stinger and other offerings in its circa $60k price bracket is, of course, what is under the bonnet. 272 is a wonderful number of kilowatts for any car let alone a comfortable sedan with more quality than you would expect. That price/power combination should put the car on a lot of drivers’ shopping lists.
My test drive may have been short but it did involve some very iconic tarmac. When you live at the end of the famous Oxley Highway and you have the keys to a performance sedan and you are hungry it is only right and proper that you head up to a Ginger’s Creek cafe for a coffee and a hamburger.
The distance isn’t great, about 100 kilometres each way, but you're spoiled with the variety of the roads on offer. The suburban streets at the start highlight how good the Kia is at everyday commuting. Leave the dial in the default Comfort mode and the mundanity of lower speeds and traffic become at least tolerable as you enjoy the quiet and comfort.
You are aware that you are riding on big wheels but the suspension does a good job of smoothing out whatever surface you are on. There is a lot to be said for a performance car that is very happy at lower speeds in these days of speed cameras and high traffic.
Using more of the available performance from the engine in Comfort mode, especially when exiting bumpy corners, showed up some deficiencies in the setup. The suspension is too soft and it all felt a little disconnected and overwhelmed.
Fortunately, more control is just a turn of a dial away and Sport mode tightens things up nicely.
Further along the Ox past Wauchope and Long Flat, the road becomes a delightfully flowing and open valley road as it winds along the Hastings River. This highway is very popular with motorcyclists and is heavily policed, making this section the perfect place to use the very effective cruise control.
It holds your set speed very closely and will slow the car down on downhill traverses which is reassuring.
It was also a good place to pay a bit of attention to the sound system which is good, but not great. It may be that more fiddling with this would improve the sound quality so I will leave it to testers who spend longer in the car to comment more on this.
Overall though, the Stinger works well on this type of B-road. The final part of the highway and the only bit that really matters is the climb out of the valley and through the mountains to Ginger’s Creek. If you haven’t driven or ridden this road I recommend putting it on your bucket list. There are about 50km of corners in total through the mountains, and they are all good.
Typically posted at between 25km/h and 45km/h, and with a recently upgraded surface, the road deserves its reputation for fun. The Stinger was also fun after choosing Sport mode and using the paddle-shifters for the eight-speed gearbox.
Turn-in is direct and there is more than enough power and torque to balance the car. I was surprised at how good the the exhaust sounded and how much torque was on offer. Redline is just into the sixes so it isn’t a particularly high revving motor. And that low down grunt together with the delicious sound, gave the Kia a bit of an old school feel.
It was raining by the time I reached Ginger’s. Tight corners and wet roads aren’t the ideal combination but the standard fit tyres gave plenty of grip and the electronic safety systems worked well. The car never felt anything but safe and secure. The coffee and burger were fantastic too.
I also had the opportunity to be a passenger in the car on the Pacific Highway on a cruise down to a cafe the next day and it’s a comfortable place to be.
A trip to Bunnings on the way home showed another advantage of the car as everyday transport, with long items being very comfortably swallowed by the hatchback with the back seats down.
The Bunnings car park also highlighted that while Kia may not yet have the badge credibility of other brands, it certainly has the street cred of an aspirational brand. It’s been a long time since any car I have driven has engendered such interest amongst the general public.
Listen to the CarAdvice team talk to Michael Percival below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.