UK drive: Kia’s Stinger GT-Line makes for a compelling alternative to traditional German rivals
What is it?
Kia launched the Stinger GT-S to much fanfare — becoming the South Korean manufacturer’s first serious effort at delivering a performance car to take on German opposition, doing so in quite some fashion.
For the Stinger GT-S to make business sense to Kia though, it has to offer more than just the lunacy version and that brings us to this — the Kia Stinger 2.0 GT-Line.
Designed to take on the middle-of-the-range offerings from the likes BMW, Audi and Mercedes, it brings the aggressive styling of the GT-S with a more frugal and affordable engine. But is it good enough to take on rival volume sellers?
The Stinger GT-Line is where the saloon will really be determined as a commercial success or failure. In an effort for it to be the former, it benefits from sleek looks, a good selection of petrol and diesel engines, plus some serious value on the equipment front.
If you’re familiar with the Kia range, you might be wondering why this has been introduced considering the Optima already exists. Well, it’s meant to be a step up — think of the Optima as more of a Mondeo rival — and take the South Korean brand to more ‘premium’ heights.
What’s under the bonnet?
Powering our test car is the least-potent of all the engine found in the Kia Stinger range. The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine sends 244bhp and 353Nm of torque to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The result is 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds with a top speed of 149mph possible. As for efficiency, Kia claims the Stinger can achieve 35.8mpg on the combined cycle in this form, with CO2 emissions totalling 181g/km.
Power delivery in the unit is impressive, with a wide band of torque and good top-end power giving it consistency across the rev range — although it’s slightly let down by a hesitant gearbox. There’s also a lot of manufactured, and somewhat off-putting, noise coming into the cabin when using Sport mode.
What’s it like to drive?
The recipe of this car sounds good — a rear-wheel-drive fastback with a petrol engine stuffed underneath the bonnet, and Kia has cooked it pretty well. When pressing on, the chassis proves engaging and playful — which can’t be said for some of its rivals.
Positives carry on beyond there, too. On the motorway, it settles to a cruise well and feels refined, with little distraction coming in to the cabin. Drop the driving mode into Comfort and the ride becomes pretty supple too.
It’s also quite handy around town, despite being a fairly large car. 360-degree cameras mean tighter spots become a lot easier to navigate, which aid with parking too.
How does it look?
The Kia Stinger is particularly striking in range-topping GT S form, and fortunately that’s carried out through the rest of the range.
Of course, it comes on smaller alloy wheels and the inclusion of LED lights detracts a little bit from the look — but it remains a looker, and is sure to turn heads.
There is of course that ever-present fact it’s a Kia though, which holds a reputation in the UK as something of a budget brand. That’s sure to hurt sales, but it’s unjustified from an objective perspective.
What’s it like inside?
Kia hasn’t slacked off when it comes to cabin quality for the Stinger, even in its lowest form, but it does lack a sense of luxury that rivals bring to the table.
Fit-and-finish is great across the board, and there’s no presence of hard plastics that you may have expected from a brand with its roots at the more affordable end of the motoring spectrum. That said, it feels a bit clinical — and not in the McLaren sense, but more the dentist waiting room-type definition.
What’s the spec like?
Despite being the entry point to the Stinger range, the GT-Line brings a fair amount of equipment to the fastback. Standard luxuries included 18-inch alloy wheels, heated seats and steering wheel, leather upholstery, and an eight-inch infotainment display with navigation and support for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
There’s also a good amount of safety equipment, with adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist all part of the package.
With the lack of badge appeal in this segment though, Kia has had to price aggressively — and with a £32,025 tag, it comes across as a well-valued package on paper.
Even in entry-level form, the Kia Stinger is a car that has all the credentials to take the fight to more premium rivals — but despite its great value, it’s going to remain a hard sell to existing owners from the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes.
There’s a ton of fun to be had behind the wheel, and equipment is in no shortage — plus it’s arguably one of, if not the, best looking car in its segment. That said, it just lacks that crucial sense of luxury buyers in this market will look for, and this could be a defining factor in how well it sells overall.