Road Tests

Drive Review: KIA Stinger (2019) but none of the venom

The apex of the KIA range (Sportage in desirability, Grand Sedona in price) has been eclipsed in both areas by the new 2019 KIA Stinger – new to SA we should say since the car was launched internationally some time ago.

As far as micro niches go, KIA’s picked out a pretty hard one to assert itself on, dominated by non-sloppy efforts in the form of Audi’s S5 and BMW’s 440i Gran Coupe. As the brand underdog to both, the Stinger is, to my eyes at least, the prettier – a sentiment shared by nearly all of Joburg’s road users who were initially vexed by the badge. After all, Stinger is a car of many firsts for the KIA brand, including first rear-wheel drive car.

Rear styling has cribbed from Maserati’s notebook but I’m perplexed by the apparent desperation to fit some of this aero garnish to our particular test car – none of it carbon fibre by the way – around the front wheel arches and sealed vents in the bonnet that can’t even drain the previous night’s rain.  The wheels themselves have this phoney centre locking nut design but there’s venerable hardware behind them with Brembo anchors.  Yet in the grand scheme, this is a beguiling car with sleek grand tourer proportions and acres of room.

I describe the driving position as very Lexus in its approach, from the minute the ‘easy-access’ seat slides you nearer the steering wheel. There’s not a road that would fatigue you in these seats, the switchgear differentiates itself sufficiently from lower grade KIAs and the toy count makes up a few kilograms in the 1970kg kerbweight. Heated steering wheel, heated/cooled seats, head-up display, parking cameras, blind spot monitoring, panoramic roof, wireless charging… Sure the dials don’t glow red with 3D animation when you put the engine into Sport mode and the centre screen’s monotones are depressing. But irrespective of these gripes, Stinger ends at a price where most mainstay German rivals, sparse with specification, start. But in turn, with a suite of autonomous features not offered by Stinger, their eventual specification ceiling is an echelon higher.

The problem with the 272kW, 510Nm, 3.3-litre V6 turbo engine is that a version of it, sans turbos, currently exists in the Grand Sedona. So it’s not fundamentally, nor does it act, like a high performance engine. It produces speed without the scintillating fire, or the barrage of artillery noises from the exhaust each time a new gear engages…rather softly. I find it efficient but ultimately flavourless. The entire experience anaesthetised, not helped by a traction control and stability system which refuses to fully switch off if you liberally exploit the rear-wheel drive chassis. Speed doesn’t enliven the Stinger in the same way as it does the German trio. So you tend to relax the reins and instead treat the Stinger like a deceptively quick sedan with a gait which majors on comfort, never realising the great potential of a chassis set up by ex-BMW M Division chief.

The Stinger doesn’t remind me of an Audi S5 or BMW 440i. Its biggest worry is the Volkswagen Arteon which undercuts it on price and does all the important things just as well as the KIA while being just a few metres off the Stinger’s pace in the real world. Neither brand will sell many, despite how good they are, but these are selfless cars, built for the greater good of the brand. Andrew Leopold

SPECIFICATION

  • R859 995
  • 3342cc, V6 twin-turbo petrol, RWD, 272kW, 510Nm
  • 10.5l/100km, 239g/km CO2
  • 0-100km/h in 4.9secs, 270km/h
  • 1970kg
  • Verdict: Easy to like. Korea’s take on a modern muscle car.
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