New car review

Kia Stinger GT S review

Are UK buyers ready for a £40K Kia sports saloon? And should they be?

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Design
7.0
Comfort
8.0
Driving experience
8.0
Value for money
10
Safety
8.0

Summary

Does the Kia Stinger deserve to stand alongside similar cars from Audi and BMW? Yes, definitely. It’s not perfect, but it's more than a match for the German duo.

Summary

Does the Kia Stinger deserve to stand alongside similar cars from Audi and BMW? Yes, definitely. It’s not perfect, but it's more than a match for the German duo.
 

60-second summary

What is it?
The Kia Stinger is an executive five-door fastback hatch that takes the fight to Audi and BMW’s doorstep.

Key features

  • Strong performance
  • Outstanding level of standard equipment
  • Competitively refined

Our view
As 2017 turns into 2018, Kia offers a range of confident, competent vehicles that match European class leaders for comfort, technology, safety and efficiency. The new Stinger GT S sits at the top of the family tree, and is aimed squarely at two of the industry’s most aspirational brands – Audi and BMW.

The Kia Stinger GT S comes kitted out with a comprehensive level of kit, at a price that seems steep for a Kia but in reality undercuts the Bavarians by a third when they are similarly optioned up to the Kia’s level.

Kia has been keen to point out that it sees the Stinger as a ‘gran turismo’, and the driving experience backs that up. It’s rapid but refined, happy to be left in auto mode instead of flicking the gearshift paddles up and down to play racing cars.

Despite its push upmarket into posh-brand territory, Kia continues to work to the formula that has succeeded so well against mainstream hatchbacks and SUVs. It delivers a class-competitive performance in every way at a very attractive price.

Similar cars
Audi A5 & S5 Sportback, BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé, Mercedes-Benz CLA

Kia Stinger S overhead view
Despite its push upmarket into posh-brand territory, Kia continues to work to the formula that has succeeded so well

Full review

Introduction

Kia has come a long way in a short time. From its position less than a decade ago as Hyundai’s budget brand sibling, Kia has made meteoric progress. As 2017 turns into 2018, Kia now offers a range of confident, competent vehicles that match European class leaders for comfort, technology, safety and efficiency.

And the flagship for the Kia of 2018 is this, the all-new Stinger. It’s a mid-sized rear-wheel drive executive fastback, aimed squarely at the likes of the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé.

The Stinger, seen here in GT S specification with a 365hp 3.3-litre turbocharged petrol that is the only model available at launch, is clearly set to break down some barriers for Kia – the first of which will clearly be “Will people pay £40,000 for a Kia instead of an Audi or a BMW?”.

Of course, Kia already offers a top-spec Sorento SUV that costs more than £40K, but the family 4WD market is rather different to the executive market and there are plenty of mainstream competitors offering similar vehicles for similar money. This is different – Kia is not targeting Peugeot or Škoda here with a well-meaning but boring family wagon, but BMW and Audi with a sleek executive gran turismo.

 
 

So the Stinger treads new ground for Kia, but it still brings the brand’s hallmark of producing a car that gives you a lot of bang for your buck – to get an Audi S5 Sportback with similar performance and kit to the Kia will set you back about £58,000. A BMW 440i M Sport Gran Coupé runs up to about £56,500 once you add on all the extras that come standard in the Stinger.

That’s the theory anyway. What we need to find out now is whether the Kia Stinger justifies such comparisons.

Kia Stinger GT S (The Car Expert review 2017)
The Kia Stinger GT S is not shy about targeting the big-hitting German brands

Buying and owning a Kia Stinger GT S

To kick things off here in the UK, the Kia Stinger is launching with the top-spec GT S model trim. Lower-order models, with a smaller petrol or diesel engine will arrive in the first few months of 2018.

If you’re looking for an options list for the Stinger GT S, it’s essentially a colour chart. One colour is free (yellow, unfortunately) and the rest cost extra. That’s about it. Everything else that Kia could possibly cram into the GT S is included in the sticker price.

That may cause confusion for buyers of German cars, who are used to starting with the advertised price and steadily working upwards to add basic things like seat pockets and cupholders.

The Audi S5 Sportback needs nearly £10,000 of optional extras to come close to what the Kia includes as standard (although the S5 does have all-wheel drive rather than real-wheel drive). The BMW 440i M Sport Gran Coupé requires adding £11,000 of extra-cost features to more or less compare with the Stinger.

The AMG version of the unimpressive Mercedes-Benz CLA tots up to about £55K as well – once you add in all the extras that still don’t bring it up to the Kia’s level. The CLA 45 is more powerful and all-wheel drive, but if you really want a Mercedes-AMG for that money then you’re much better off buying an ex-demo version of the far more excellent C 63 saloon.

The Kia Stinger GT S comes kitted out with a comprehensive level of kit, including an array of safety systems and luxury features. The leather seats are electrically adjustable with memory function, heating (rear passengers, too) and ventilated cooling. The satnav and infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto without charging you extra, there’s a head-up display, a sunroof and much more. We were still finding extra gizmos after four hours of driving from Cornwall to London.

Styling is always a matter of opinion, but overall the Stinger looks good from a distance with a few jarring details close up. The long wheelbase and short overhangs are great, and the big wheels and sporty bumpers of the GT S model suit the look of the car. Some of the details jar a bit and look overdone, although Kia is certainly in good company there (step forward BMW and Mercedes-Benz).

Running costs might be a mixed bag. The Kia will probably be cheaper to insure than an Audi, BMW or Mercedes, but fuel economy on the big 3.3-litre V6 isn’t especially clever. Kia claims 28.5 mpg on the combined lab test cycle, which will probably mean 20-25 mpg for most owners. By comparison, Audi claims about 36 mpg for the S5 Sportback, BMW reckons about 42mpg for the 440i and Mercedes expects just under 39 mpg for the CLA 45.

Kia is bullish about predicted residual values, and initial calculations from industry analysts cap hpi sound positive, but inevitably we’ll have to wait and see. Many manufacturers have claimed market-leading residual estimates when launching a new car, only for the actual figures in three years’ time to be wide of the mark. Good cars tend to retain their values well, so if the car builds a solid reputation over the next few years then the used car values should take care of themselves.

The Kia Stinger has yet to be crash tested by Euro NCAP, but having a full complement of accident avoidance technology included as standard is very promising.

Inside the Kia Stinger GT S

Kia Stinger GTS dashboard (The Car Expert)
Dashboard heavily inspired by Mercedes-Benz and Audi designs

Slide into the driver’s seat, and it has a rather familiar look. It seems that Kia’s designers have taken rather a lot of inspiration from various Mercedes and Audi models when sketching out the Stinger’s cabin, as there are numerous details which look just like those in an E-Class or an A7. Altogether, it feels thoroughly modern and properly screwed together, with no rattles or buzzing noises evident from any of the cars we drove for a few hundred miles in total.

It’s a very comfortable seating position, with everything falling to hand easily. The head-up display projects very clearly, although a little more vertical range would be better. The dials are conventionally analogue, rather than an all-singing digital screen like the latest Audis, but the gauges are clear and the central infotainment touchscreen is easy enough to navigate.

It does feel a bit dark with black headlining and mainly black plastics everywhere, especially if you choose black leather upholstery. The red or grey leathers do brighten things up a bit, which is worth considering.

Like many modern cars, the view out the rear window is limited and over-the-shoulder three-quarter view is not a lot better.

The back seat is great for legroom but starts to get a bit tight on headroom if you’re approaching six feet tall. There are three seat belts, but – like most cars – the middle seat occupant definitely draws the short straw.

Driving the Kia Stinger GT S

Kia Stinger GTS on the road (The Car Expert)
The steering has reasonable weight, if not feel, and there is minimal roll through corners.

Unsurprisingly, a 365hp rear-wheel drive car like the Stinger GT S packs a solid punch. From a standing start, you’ll be hitting 60mph in less than five seconds and handing over your licence a few seconds after that.

Kia has been keen to point out that it sees the Stinger as a ‘gran turismo’, and the driving experience backs that up. The engine may be powerful, but the eight-speed automatic gearbox softens things a bit. It’s happier left in auto mode, rather than flicking the paddles up and down to play racing cars on a B-road.

The steering has reasonable weight, if not a lot of feel, and there is minimal rolling through corners. At a reasonable road pace, it feels well balanced and responsive – it’s not the last word in feedback and feel, but it’s good fun.

Ride is pretty good, too. Bumps and potholes are dealt with about as well as you would expect for a car on sports suspension with 19-inch wheels – and generally better than most Audis do on similar set-ups. The Stinger has quite a long wheelbase, which no doubt helps here.

Big magazines who have driven the Kia Stinger around the Nürburgring racetrack in Germany have reported that it is very impressive there as well, although that won’t be too relevant for the average buyer.

Summary

So, does the Kia Stinger deserve to stand alongside similar cars from Audi and BMW? Yes, definitely. It’s not perfect, but neither are they by any stretch of the imagination.

There are other worthwhile cars in this segment that are worth considering – the Alfa Romeo Giulia has been much praised, the Lexus IS is similarly comfortable and well equipped, and the Jaguar XE will hold its own on a B-road. All have strong and weak points, but

Despite its push upmarket into posh-brand territory, Kia continues to work to the formula that has succeeded so well against mainstream hatchbacks and SUVs. It delivers a class-competitive performance in every way at a very attractive price.

Kia Stinger GTS review 2017 (The Car Expert)
Kia continues to work to the formula that has succeeded so well in recent years

Design
7.0
Comfort
8.0
Driving experience
8.0
Value for money
10
Safety
8.0

Summary

Does the Kia Stinger deserve to stand alongside similar cars from Audi and BMW? Yes, definitely. It’s not perfect, but it's more than a match for the German duo.
Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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