Kia is an extremely ambitious car maker and is keen to lift its image in Australia above that of being sensible and affordable. So is importing the five-door Stinger hatchback, a family car that will sell in the $45,990 to $59,990 price range.
In European sedan terms Kia Stinger is more Jaguar than Bimmer, Benz or Audi in that it’s low slung and sporting. Like the Jag the Stinger loses some interior space particularly in height. So it may not work as a full-on family car if the kids are in their hulking teen years. It may also prove difficult at the other end of the scale, as access to children’s seats in the rear could be a struggle.
Fortuitously for Kia Australia its Stinger arrives at the time Holden is about to close the doors on its factories and import the next generation Commodore from Germany. Stinger and Commodore are similar in size and both are aimed at the keen driver.
We’ve yet to be able to test them back to back as the Holden’s not due till early 2018, probably in February.
Both are offered with four or six-cylinder engines. Stinger is driven by its rear wheels, whereas Commodore is a front driver in some models, and features the added traction of all-wheel-drive in its sporty variants.
Kia Stinger will come with a choice of two petrol engines, a turbo-petrol 2.0-litre four cylinder (182kW and 353Nm from 1400 to 4000 rpm) or a twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 (272kW, and 510Nm from 1300 to 4500 revs), both drive the rear wheels through Kia’s in-house eight-speed automatic.
Kia Australia’s seriousness is shown by the fact that each of the engines will be available in three specifications: Stinger S, Stinger Si and Stinger GT-Line for the four-cylinder. And S, Si and GT for the V6.
Equipment levels are high:
Kia Stinger S has eight-way adjustment on the driver’s seat and artificial leather is used. The front seat passenger can manually adjust their seat six ways.
Cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls is standard, along with 3.5-inch mono instrument cluster, two 12-Volt power outlets and two USB charging points.
The entertainment system has six speakers and a 7-inch touchscreen. Satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth compatibility and music streaming.
Kia Stinger Si adds 19-inch alloys on 3.3-litre models, with 225/40R profile front tyres and wider 255/35R19 rears. Advanced smart cruised control.
The entertainment system features an 8.0-inch touchscreen and nine speakers, including two under-seat woofers with active sound design.
Autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, driver attention alert, front parking sensors, and automatic wipers are handy added feature on the safety side.
Kia Stinger GT and GT-line (GT means six cylinders, GT-Line is the four-cylinder) have electrochromic door mirrors, LED headlights with auto levelling, and a powered sunroof.
The seating has Nappa leather appointed with GT logos, lumbar support, powered bolster adjuster and thigh extender. There is a two-position seat memory with easy access and a flat bottomed steering wheel. The instrument cluster is larger, with a 7.0-inch colour screen. There is wireless phone charging capability.
The entertainment system features a premium 15-speaker Harman/Kardon system (eight speakers, four tweeters, centre speaker and two subwoofers powered by an external amplifier).
Safety is further improved by a 360-degree camera view, blind spot detection, dynamic bending headlights, high beam assist and colour head-up display (HUD).
Specific to the 3.3-litre cars is a set of Brembo brakes and a mechanical limited slip differential as well as variable gear steering ratio.
With safety a primary concern in the eyes of many drivers these days, even the Stinger S has a full suite of active and passive safety items. ABS brakes with emergency brakeforce distribution and brake assist, electronic stability control and traction control, vehicle stability management, active bonnet pedestrian protection and three child restraint points (two with IsoFix connection).
Front seats are fine in support and comfort on even the lower cost models, with the adjustable bolsters on the GT providing welcome extra side support.
There’s adequate space in the rear seats if I sit my 1.8-metre frame behind myself, but Stinger is not in the stretch out class.
Headroom will prove marginal for tall people in models with a sunroof, this applies to both front and rear seats.
Kia Australia has long been an exponent of tuning cars to suit Australian conditions and drivers’ tastes. We certainly like the work that’s been done. Interestingly, the suspension setup is unique to Australia, however we understand the Kia in the UK likes what they see and may try and poach some ‘our’ ideas.
Stinger’s handling is sharp, with quick turn in, good steering feel and the ability to change direction of asked to do so. Though Stinger is aimed at the grand tourer market it behaved in a pretty sporting manner on the track at Wakefield Park, near Goulburn.
However the standard tyres had to be replaced as initial testing showed they wore out too fast during harsh track driving. This big Kia is obviously a grand tourer not a track day car.
Ride comfort is fine and the big Kia wasn’t overly troubled by rough Australian roads in the region of Canberra and areas of NSW surrounding the country’s capital. There’s some coarse-chip induced rumble but we’ve heard worse.
Engine response from both turbocharged engines is pretty good, with a minimum of lag. The big spread of torque from very low engine speeds is addictive.
Engaging launch control on the twin-turbo V6 is simple and the blast from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds is great fun.
Kia’s bid to pull itself up into a higher class with the Stinger deserves to succeed. Styling is a big factor and keen drivers will love its feel and competence. Backed by a seven-year warranty Stinger definitely deserves to be added to your short list.
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Kia dealer for drive-away prices.