Ben Anderson profile picture Ben Anderson 4 years ago

The Kia Stinger is better than it has any right to be, and I want one.

Just yesterday I was discussing prices for a new Ford Mustang over the phone with my local dealership. Whilst I love my Optima and would happily recommend it to anyone, its still not a sports car and is powered by a low output Diesel (139hp, to be precise). I was missing “the fizz”, as James’ May would put it, out of my daily driving experience and I now have a case of fast-car blue-balls.

Call me paranoid but I feel Kia must have a bug in my room, as that same afternoon I received an email stating that, hey, want to test drive the Stinger? Because you absolutely can. To cut a story in half, the order enquiry I had open for the Mustang is now cancelled outright and I’ve opened a new savings account for one express purpose; to buy a Kia Stinger.

The tester model I had was a bright white GTS; the equivalent of a fully optioned out GT2 in the states and the UK’s only option for the V6. The key, amusingly, is shaped like a hand-held detonator, and whilst that may seem a trite gimmicky it is perfectly befitting for a car like this once you start it up. As with many cars on the market, both old and new, seeing it in the metal is a very different experience. I don’t care if the bonnet vents are fake and the lower wings are a tad fussy in pictures, the overall package is sublime when its presented to you close and personal.

Kia - The Kia Stinger is better than it has any right to be, and I want one. - Blog

Open the door, slip inside the excessive bolstering and it’s clear you’re in a GT car. Comfortable, surrounded by opulence and gadgets aplenty with subtle hints dotted around that, yes, this car is something special. Pull away and the Stinger in all areas feels meaty and dense. Nothing is hollow, and even the steering wheel has this rugged quality about it, as if Kia are fully aware that you intend to abuse the thing to within an inch of its life.

Put the car into sport mode, hover above 3000 rpm and pin the throttle. The engine can be described as savage yet smooth. Getting too, erm, the speed limit (yeah, lets go with that) is dealt with in an instant and a smile was splattered over my face equally as quickly. The whole car rocks onto its hind legs yet remains superbly stable, something the Mustang very much struggled with.

Once flowing through a few roundabouts and country lanes, the dynamic suspension really worked wonders to keep a 1.8 tonne car planted and free of complaints. The steering is direct, and the Auto is unobtrusive. The engine doesn’t feel all that turbo-charged to my “fizz” gland. Power builds as you rev with no sudden drop in torque as you find with any fast turbo engine in so many mid-range cars (the 3-series is of complaint to me, as the 328 and 340 feel dead up-top). I hit the red-line constantly, which would have been embarrassing if it had been a manual (which would ruin this car, all truth be told), but the engine feels like there is a lot more in it even at the red. It has a slight supercharger quality about it.

Kia - The Kia Stinger is better than it has any right to be, and I want one. - Blog

As a bonus extra for daily driving, the Stinger’s Eco mode is quite possibly the only genuine Eco mode I have ever used that works in reducing fuel consumption. Rather than just run the automatic a cog higher than normal and deaden the throttle response a little, the engine’s power band and character feel entirely different. The turbos don’t kick in until the halfway point on the tachometer (or you pin the throttle) and the entire affair becomes lethargic and wafty like a GT should be. On a flat section of motorway at 80mph the live mileage readout went off the scale. So, we’re talking 50mpg+ in a car capable of outrunning a BMW M2. A bone stock Stinger ran the quarter mile at Bahrain International Circuit in only 12.6s – that’s dangerously close to M4 territory (typically around 12.4s), never mind M2.

Is this car fun? Yes. Absolutely. Whilst the Mustang has a walloping V8 masterclass up front and a skittish behaviour giving you an adrenaline kick, the Kia is very clearly the better car overall. Heck, I’d still take the Stinger over the new 2018 Mustang and new British Spec Camaro V8 (called the 8AT here, for some reason). Whilst those two cars have their positive qualities, they cost around the same as the Kia (£41,000-ish) in their base configuration. Nearly £4000 more once some option boxes were ticked to bring it to the same on-paper specs, yet the build quality of both is subpar in comparison, making the Kia look like a Bentley.

This is Kia’s first attempt at a sports saloon. I can only imagine how good a second attempt will be.