Comedians will tell you that timing can make or break an act. The arrival of the Stinger, just as the lights were turned off on the local production of certain well-loved Aussie legends, is testament to Kia’s impeccable timing.
The Stinger is no laughing matter though, the rear-wheel-drive performance car that doubles as family chariot. It is not only the fastest production Kia, it may also mark the end of the badge snobbery that tends to follow in Kia’s stead no matter the talents the South Korean manufacturer displays.
We were delighted to have the company of the V6 Stinger Si for the week. It not only turned heads but made for a truly enjoyable experience.
With its sleek profile, arresting headlight stack and funky vents that are both stylistic and functional, the Stinger is hard to ignore. It has a touch of the Audi A7 Sportsback about it too but more in a nod to style than creepy imitation. The signature Kia grille smiles pleasantly back at you but seems to give off a more determined edge than it does in the SUVs for instance.
Effort has made in the cabin to create a comfortable contemporary space that does lack for premium touches.
We liked the harmony of the centre stack where buttons are used effectively to complement touchscreen functionality. The dials for the climate control and audio systems lie below the 8.0-inch colour infotainment screen and are so much more effective than trying to navigate the screen each time you want to change them. Drinkholders are on the smallish side as the door bins, but probably not such that they will annoy.
The electrically-adjustable leather seats are set low in the cabin and are supportive and comfortable offering a slightly sporty feel. The sloping roof of the Stinger impedes headroom for very tall back seat passengers but there is plenty of space to stretch out the legs.
The kids had no problem settling in and loved the controllable air vents and storage in the pull-down middle seat compartment. There are two IsoFix fixings but fitting the top tether of the car seat can take a bit of manoeuvring.
Marketing promises that this hatch offers the practicality of a wagon is tainted a touch by a boot which is smaller than you would expect – a real disadvantage of rear drive cars. The boot is long and wide enough to deal with the schoolbags and the weekly shop but the lack of depth puts paid to carrying bulkier items.
There are no hooks or pockets either to stop things from sliding around.
All Stingers come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as satellite navigation with 10-year SUNA map updates. The 8.0-inch colour touchscreen also presents the view of the reverse camera with good picture quality and on-trend graphics. The system itself is simple enough to navigate through touch and works well with the dials and buttons for climate and volume control.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
There is no lusty V8 in this Stinger range but Australians have shown that we are not averse to a twin-turbo V6. It is the latter that lies at the heart of this Stinger Si with the 3.3-litre unit producing a healthy 272kW of power, and 510Nm of torque with a wide 1300 – 4500rpm band.
A smooth eight-speed auto transmission drives the rear wheels and for the most part performs to the car’s advantage.
The Si is well-equipped in terms of safety with a package that includes seven-airbags, lane-keep assist, rear parking sensors, rearview camera autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian-protecting pop-up bonnet. No blind spot alert or rear cross traffic alert though which are the preserve of the GT line and slightly disappointing given you are handing over close to $60,000.
While there is a natural temptation to compare the Stinger to Holden’s V8 Commodore, the reality is that Kia’s offering is far from a muscle car. In its defence though, it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a comfortable tourer with an exciting little bite.
It ambles along expertly on its Australian-tuned suspension, adept at going about its business but also willing and eager should you find opportunity to allow it to stretch. This Stinger is nicely balanced, the rear-wheel drive dynamics ensuring a settled feel unless you push it to the edge of its limits.
The ride can be a bit firm in places so make sure you opt for the personalised drive mode settings for the optimum experience.
While the steering may not offer much feedback, it feels nice in the hand is fairly quick to respond. There is no hesitation from standstill or when you need that extra boost of acceleration when overtaking, with the Brembo brakes highly effective if you have to stop suddenly.
Of course there will be some drivers who would prefer a manual option – there is nothing better to feel like you are really experiencing a car – but the automatic transmission works efficiently enough. There are paddles if you need more involvement but the system steps in to prevent you holding the gear for as long as you want.
Visibility is pretty good despite the low driving position with little touches enhancing the driving experience. We especially liked the organisation of the flat bottomed steering wheel and that the wiper and lights modes are highlighted on the instrument panel so you don’t have to crane the neck to see what setting you are on.
With a claimed sprint time of 0-100km in 4.9 seconds the Kia Stinger is certainly no pack horse. Fuel figures rise in support too with the official 10.2L/100km not easy to mimic. It does take standard unleaded though, which is an advantage.
The Stinger is backed by Kia’s industry-leading seven years unlimited kilometre warranty with free road side assist. Capped-price servicing also goes for the extended period. Service intervals are 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first.
What a coup this Stinger is for Kia and the brand certainly deserves the plaudits. It requires bravery to stray from the norm, to see your opportunity and chase it and that’s what the South Korean manufacturer has done here. In this Stinger, Kia has a car that takes it beyond its traditional value-for-money offerings to a more aspirational realm.
Kia Stinger Si pricing and specifications:
Price: from $55,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 3.3-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder petrol
Output: 272kW at 6000rpm and 510Nm from 1300 to 4500 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, RWD
Fuel: 10.2L/100km (ADR Combined)
Warranty: Seven years unlimited kilometres
Safety Rating: Five Star ANCAP
What we liked:
Luxury car leanings
Power on tap
What we didn’t:
Best driver aids only in top model