Less powerful Kia Stinger still strong on the heart strings
THE Kia Stinger was Australia's most anticipated new model last year, the rear-drive large grand tourer arriving as Ford's Falcon and Holden's home-made Commodore exited stage left. Busting perceptions of what a Kia could be, here was a luxurious, dynamic and gorgeous family car that could house a twin-turbo V6 to launch it from rest to 100km/h in less than five seconds.
There's another version that's less than $50,000 drive-away. The entry-level 200S with a turbo four-cylinder is a cheaper and more economical choice, still with rear-wheel drive and killer looks - but does it have the power to excite?
IAIN: Grand tourers like the Stinger ram home how nonsensical our SUV obsession is.
JULES: Why's that? Loads of SUVs look great these days.
IAIN: None costing $50,000 will turn heads like this. It's a proper car so it will handle and steer better than an SUV. Plus you'd be proud to get into something this gorgeous.
JULES: If it didn't have a Kia badge on it I'd swear it was something German costing twice as much.
IAIN: That rear end's a peach ... quad exhaust pipes, lip spoiler, sleek roofline and those rear lights extending to the sides. Cracking design.
JULES: I like the brake vents, bonnet vents and the way the chrome strip runs from the windscreen pillar to the top of the boot lid.
IAIN: It's a classy curvy design. But the bonnet vents are fake.
JULES: It's stunning, but the front end looks as if it has a moustache. What are the rivals for the Stinger?
IAIN: If we ignore SUVs, only the Holden Commodore and Skoda Superb. Both fine cars but the Stinger trumps them for visual flair.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: For entry-level, this doesn't feel low-rent.
IAIN: It's fake leather where other Stingers get proper animal hide. Even so, seats are deep, wide and very comfy.
JULES: Lovely padded headrests too. Why don't more cars have these rather than the normal solid bricks?
IAIN: Fair point. Full electric driver's seat means I score a good seating position.
JULES: No power for the passenger seat. That's stingy.
IAIN: The seven-inch screen's a bit small but well positioned and the silver buttons and heater controls below have a soft touch. There's a quality feel here.
JULES: The circular air vents look as if they're straight out of a Mercedes or Audi.
IAIN: "Inspired by" Mercedes, you may say. The gear lever feels classily German too.
JULES: I like how simple the auto gear shift is. Park is operated on a separate button, so it's simple to flick into reverse, neutral or drive. Makes for fast manoeuvring.
IAIN: The centre console is wide enough for two mobile phones, cups and other storage. It feels well thought out.
JULES: The Stinger's a proper large car and you sit low. I feel like an executive in here.
IAIN: Kia's Australian team has given the car a local suspension tune and they've managed a decent blend of ride comfort and handling.
JULES: It cruises well, absorbs the bumps and it's quiet at speed. This Stinger's a good thing, isn't it?
IAIN: It's hard to fault. Radar cruise control made the commute a breeze, while the audio quality and Apple CarPlay covered the infotainment. It is a tad thirsty by modern standards though - we averaged 9.6L/100km.
JULES: You get noticed in a Stinger. More so than in an everyday Benz or Audi. It's not a car for the shy.
IAIN: People just don't know what it is. It's got serious presence so it's all eyes on you.
JULES: I'm not a big fan of these types of boots under a liftback. They look as if they should hold more than they actually do and the rear window is so huge it heats everything up, including the groceries.
IAIN: A wagon is more practical. The Skoda Superb five-door would suit those with more to lug around.
JULES: It's a big car, it feels heavy so if it's only a four-cylinder it's impressively fast.
IAIN: The figures are strong - 182kW and 353Nm and 0-100kmh in six seconds - but I'd feel I owned the pussycat Stinger. For just $3000 more you get the same car with 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6.
JULES: But do you really need it?
IAIN: No, but need and want are different things. Having 272kW and 510Nm and a 0-100kmh time of 4.9 seconds justifies the $3K extra. But then Kia gives you Brembo brakes and a limited-slip differential for that money too. No brainer.
JULES: You'll use a lot more fuel and rear tyres.
IAIN: Guilty. Anyway, the four-cylinder's a charming unit with ample shove. For a big car the Stinger grips well, feels planted and safe but could use a dash more steering feel and a louder exhaust note.
JULES: The Kia logo on the steering wheel feels wrong too. Sorry, but a Stinger needs a better badge than a Picanto or Rio.
IAIN: Spot on. As Ford does with the Mustang, put the model badge on the wheel. A Stinger script would look more special.
JULES: Plenty of room for our two kids' seats in the back but no room for an extra adult between them.
IAIN: For an adult, toe and legroom are fine but headroom is tight due to the sloping roof. The centre seat is rubbish for adults as you sit way too high.
JULES: There's plenty of active safety kit, five-star safety rating and the seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty is amazing.
IAIN: In isolation the Stinger 200S is a family car bargain flush with style and class. For $3000 more you get the ballistic V6 though. Stuff economy, that's my pick.
JULES: It'd be a tough choice between this and the Skoda wagon but the Stinger smashes it for style. Details win me over. The Stinger's leather key, all ergonomic like a cool cigarette lighter, is the best I've held. Well done, Kia.
AT A GLANCE: KIA STINGER 200S
PRICE From $46,990 plus on-road costs
WARRANTY/SERVICING 7 years/unlimited km; $1000 for 3 years/30,000km
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 182kW/353Nm
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, emergency stop signal, adaptive cruise control, rear park sensors, rear camera, lane keep assist, driver attention alert