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Kia Stinger 2.0 review: Korea's answer to BMW
IT is often said that youth is wasted on the young, but maybe the flip side of that idea is that wealth is wasted on the mature. But here comes the Kia Stinger to strike a jolly balance between the two.
It's an exciting car that isn't expensive (though that is not the same as being cheap), and you can glean both attributes, respectively, by just looking at the thing and from the fact that it's a Kia.
The badge might be Korean, but the car was designed in Europe by Europeans, although the Stinger mostly looks like someone took, well, a stinger missile and added wheels.
That someone was Frenchman Gregory Guillaume, who heads Kia's design centre in Germany, though his actual source of inspiration was the Maserati Ghibli coupe from the late 1960s.
As with the majority of the shapely "grand tourers" of the era, the Stinger has a seductive body with a low, flowing roof, and elongated proportions with a wide stance to give it plenty of presence on the road. Dark chrome on the front grille and wing mirrors add a touch of menace, helping to convey the idea that this isn't a car to be messed with.
The rear flares out gently, giving the body the subtlest hint of a Coke-bottle shape, which in turn lets you know that the engine powers the rear wheels. It's built on the classic front engine/rear drive layout that helped build BMW's pedigree, in other words.
In spite of that, the pricing is very un-BMW. Two models are on sale in Singapore, with the range kicking off at S$166,999 including COE for the 2.0 GT Line model.
The money buys you so much car that you're left scratching your head as to how Kia can turn a profit on these things.
For starters, the Stinger is a pretty big machine. It's substantially longer than BMW's 4 Series Gran Coupe, a key rival, and slightly wider. Its size is masked somewhat by how low-slung it is, but the substantial length creates an illusion of space inside even though the low roofline eats into rear headroom.
It's more practical than the average sports car, with room for five adults in a pinch, though tall people will find it grim in the back. The boot holds 406 litres of stuff, which isn't huge but should be enough for a weekend getaway for two adult couples.
Even the 2.0 model gets plenty of equipment, such as 18 inch wheels, a keyless entry and engine start system, a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat (8-way for the passenger's) with built in ventilator fans, a fancy 8 inch touchscreen system that can mirror your iPhone through Apple CarPlay, and the list goes on.
And as dramatic to look at as the exterior is, the cabin is just as stirring. The materials inside are surprisingly posh, with soft plastics on the dashboard and metallic buttons that you don't normally see at this price level.
There's a fighter jet theme to the driver's area, thanks to a Head-Up Display that shows your speed, and a joystick style gear lever within easy reach. Even the air-con vents are styled like jet turbines.
All of that suggests that the Stinger is a bit of a flyer. The thing is, while the car's wild looks promise a wild ride, the 2.0 GT Line feels like a fairly tame car. Its turbo engine is lively when it revs, and it sings a sweet tune, but these days 0 to 100km/h in 6 seconds feels brisk rather than fast.
The Stinger's poise through corners is superlative, too, and it can dance through them with as much balance and coordination as the best K-pop band member.
But its agility is matched by reassuring stability, and that tends to lessen the drama of driving the thing, so it ends up being one of those cars that requires you to keep a constant eye on the speedo or risk being relieved of your licence.
The main weakness in the Kia's game is the gearbox, which lacks smoothness and can sometimes feel indecisive about which of its 8 gears to give you. Just as well there are steering wheel paddles that let you take command.
Overall, the Stinger 2.0 feels much more like a cruiser than a bruiser. If you want a Stinger with some sting, there's the 3.3L GT to think about. Its V6 twin-turbo offers much more punch, and it comes with serious driver kit such as a launch control programme for perfect getaways, adaptive suspension, a quicker steering rack, and bigger brakes.
It even has a limited slip differential, which lets the rear tyres grip better so you can launch yourself out of corners in a manner befitting the car's name.
The 3.3L V6 costs S$206,999 with COE, which might seem pricey for a car with a Korean nameplate, but in objective terms it offers an enormous amount of equipment and performance for the money.
And while the price starts at S$166,999, the cabin feels like something from a car priced at a quarter of a million.
The bottom line is that buying the Kia means you'll end up with the best-looking car in the car park, and one that's lovely to sit in and uplifting to drive. In spite of the name, given what you get for your money, its price shouldn't sting.
Kia Stinger 2.0L GT Line
Engine 1,998cc, 16V, turbo in-line four
Power 247hp at 6,200rpm
Torque 353Nm at 1,400rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 240km/h
0-100km/h 6.0 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.9L/100km
Price S$166,999 including COE
Agent Cycle & Carriage Kia