Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: January 15, 2020
Spending $50,000 on a Kia, no matter how good it may be, is a bit of an absurd proposition. On the one hand, the new Stinger has got the performance credentials to raise eyebrows all across the room, and it casts a net of intrigue on every kind of automotive enthusiast. Drive a Stinger up to a local grocery store or even your independent mechanic shop, and everyone is interested if it actually lives up to the hype. Turns out, the Stinger is exceedingly good value if you’re looking for attention, but that will quickly dissipate as the Stinger becomes old news. What we’re looking for instead is long-lasting substance.
To answer that question, we spent a week with the 2019 Kia Stinger 20th Anniversary Edition, a bit of an odd special edition as the Stinger has only been out for one year. What they’re celebrating instead is Kia’s 20th year in Canada, and only 150 units are being produced for our market. Kia takes the top-of-the-tree GT Limited model and adds unique 19-inch wheels, red Nappa leather interior, red stitched floor mats, carbon fibre inserts, and a ghastly shade of Ghost Grey paint - very similar to Audi’s Nardo Grey. All in all, the 20th Anniversary Edition will set you back a cool $51,495, just $1,500 more than the GT Limited.
Swanked out from head to toe, the Stinger looks more European than Korean - Eurasian is the accepted colloquial term is it not? Sporting mid-size sedan proportions, the Stinger splits the difference between a Genesis G70 and G80, and shares underpinnings with the two as well. A four-cylinder engine is standard fare but we tested the more powerful Stinger with a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 instead. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is the same engine that powers the entire Genesis lineup.
Now onto the big question: is the Stinger any fun to drive? Yes it is. In fact, the Stinger reminds me of what the Volkswagen Arteon should have been: a sleekly styled, well-built, European-esque sedan oozing with tight handling and V6 drizzle. Instead, the Arteon is run by an underpowered four-cylinder engine, and wears the skin and bones of an Audi A5 Sportback but without the Sport. Side effects also include the swollen $50,000 price tag, which is a difficult pill to swallow for entry-level brands like Kia and Volkswagen.
In comparison, the Stinger’s V6 performance puts itself on a high pedestal, with linear thrust, a smooth transmission, and a willing chassis that defaults to understeer like the G70 but behaves predictably. The Stinger will similarly keep pace but feels heavy off the line even with its impressive output of 365 hp and 376 lb-ft. The tuning of the Stinger’s 8-speed gearbox is more polished than the Genesis variants, with smooth and gentle shifts even when taking the helm via the paddle shifters. The Stinger still bows its head to the choreographed performance of the 8-speed ZF in the BMW 4 Series, but that doesn’t stop this Kia from showing off its athletic moves.
There’s a whiff of BMW in its well-weighted steering and front-end response, perhaps a nod to the engineer that helped design it: ex-BMW M Division Chief, Albert Biermann. There are five selectable driving modes on tap as well that allow you to tailor the suspension, steering, driving response, and traction, though we didn’t find a noticeable difference between them, not enough anyways to warrant a brief sojourn outside of Comfort Mode. Still, the Stinger is more flexible and comfortable than we initially thought. Daily driving is where the Stinger excels as a usable and effective commuting tool. With hatchback practicality, a drumload of torque for on-ramp acceleration, and cozy seats for a small family, the Stinger makes the business case as an underappreciated alternative to small SUVs and wagons. It only requires regular 87-octane fuel as well, whereas every other turbocharged European rival commands premium 91-octane.
The interior is nicely appointed and convincingly luxurious for the segment. Even the leather-wrapped keyfob that eerily reminds us of an old MP3 player is a premium touch. Well-crafted switchgear floods the cabin, much like what you would find in the upscale Genesis, and there is solid feedback from every dial and vent. The front seats are bolstered and comfortable, offering a low, sporty driving position much like a BMW 4 Series. The soft Nappa leather is persuasive and outward visibility isn’t bad, though the massive B-pillars hinder blind spots, and the view out the bunker-like rear windshield is absolutely terrible for a hatchback. Rear seat headroom is decent - better than a 4 Series at least. The hatchback trunk on the other hand is a major plus, and offers competitive levels of cargo room.
I wouldn’t call the Kia Stinger a game changer. Its performance credentials are impressive but it comes off more as a grand touring sedan than a dedicated track car - that’s not a bad thing at all for those seeking a daily driver. But if brand image means anything to you, then a Stinger would be far down on the shopping list. In the bigger picture, Kia’s flagship performance sedan should still worry certain European manufacturers and make them realize that resting on your laurels only gives smaller automakers the time, chance, and opportunity to steal the gold. While the Stinger hasn’t robbed them, they’ve sure as hell put them on notice.
Model: 2019 Kia Stinger 20th Anniversary Edition
Paint Type: Ghost Gray
Base Price: $51,495
Price as Tested: $51,495
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,830 / 1,870 / 1,400
Curb weight (kg): 1,889
Engine: 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6
Horsepower: 365 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 376 lb-ft @ 1,300 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 13.3
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 13.6 / 9.6 / 11.8