Road test: Float like a butterfly, sting like a… Kia!

The Kia Stinger GT S

IT’S unusual these days for a test car to start a conversation in a filling station kiosk queue but that’s exactly what happened with the Kia Stinger.

And once the woman behind had started, the guy in front soon joined in. Not only that, but
wherever we went people were attracted to it. A guy in an Astra VXR kept overtaking and slowing down so he could get another look and pedestrians actually ignored the tasty Mercedes Benz CLS500 in front to point at the Stinger instead.

While it was outside our son’s house, a passing Transit driver was so keen to get a closer look he almost drove into it, maybe not quite the attention desired. And that was without the car sporting the bright yellow paint that comes as standard but instead wearing a plain grey (extra cost) finish that looks equally striking on the Ford Focus RS that has just gone out of production.

Of course, what people want to know is whether or not the grey Stinger is the GT S version like the car they saw on Top Gear. It is and the fact that it draws so much attention shows what a good job the Kia press team, recently voted the best in the UK by motoring journalists, is doing with this car.

When first launched, everyone assumed the Stinger would be some sort of loss leader to get Kia noticed and draw showroom footfall but it could actually be about to make some serious money for the Korean sibling to better-known Hyundai.

The Stinger is intended to take on the German GT executive models and even though the GT S comes in at a smidgeon over £40,000 list price and therefore attracts penalty road tax for six years many people will think it a price worth paying. And, of course, when the penalty expires the car will still be in warranty if it’s done fewer than 100,000 miles. Fat chance of that though, it’s too much fun to leave parked for very long!

With its 168 mph top speed and 4.7 second 0-60 mph time the Stinger GT S is a true performance car. There’s a 3.3 litre V6 under the bonnet (us old timers would have preferred an in-line six or V8) that lets fly with a delightful growl when you tickle the loud pedal; you don’t floor it because the result would startle everyone within a couple of miles.

You have to wonder how Kia can create such a competent car for the money. They used to say the same about the first Lexus in the late 90s, with rivals from Germany taking them apart to work it out.

We’ve also chuckled in the past about car makers using ambitious model names but Kia’s first car in the UK was the Pride, a reworked Mazda 121 past its sell-by date, and that pride was not misplaced judging by the aptly-monikered Stinger. Its Pride definitely hasn’t gone before a fall!

Inside the Kia Stinger GT S

There’s more to the Stinger than speed, though. It got five stars for safety and as an executive car it comes well equipped with front and rear heated seats, all the driving aids anyone has ever wished for, a touch screen fronting a sat-nav that’s adequate rather than outstanding, great sound system, and clear instrumentation.

What’s better, though, is the five mode drive system that lets you choose just how brutal or sedate you want to be when delivering power to the rear wheels.

Yes, that’s right, it’s got rear drive and is the first Kia to get it. It might seem to be a literally backward step but it’s what the car needs. You can rip into the power without some massive wrestling match with the torque steer that front drive would give. It also makes the car civilised yet more edgy than a 4×4 system would make it.

Stinger gets an eight speed automatic gearbox as standard, a cracking unit that lets you make best use of the car although there are paddle shifts for those who think they know better.

For us it was best in the comfort drive mode (you can go as extreme as Sport+) which doesn’t dull the performance but offers the best combination of response, ride, and handling.

Without resorting to Economy mode we also managed to average 30 mpg, rising to 34 mpg on a longer run and that’s without sparing the horses all the time. But, do you know what? When you have a car like this you find there’s no need to rush!

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Kia Stinger 3.3 T-GDIV6 GT S

Does it fit your ego…
0-60 mph: 4.7 secs
Top speed: 168 mph
Bhp: 365 @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 510 Nm @ 1300 – 4500 rpm

…and your wallet…
Price: £40,495
Combined: 28.5mpg
CO2 emissions: 225 g/km

Best bits: eye-wateringly brilliant!



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