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Motors

Kia's sports car has a real sting

Thursday, 29th November, 2018 8:52am

I guess the Kia Stinger shouldn’t have been so unexpected.

I mean, Kia has been making sporty cars almost since its inception. The Korean giant even once made a version of the 1980s, wedge-shaped, Lotus Elan sports car, and sister firm Hyundai has for years had big, rear-wheel drive, saloons and coupes in its global (if not European) lineup.

Even so, the Stinger did manage to feel as if it kind of came out of nowhere. A big, low-slung, distinctly sporting saloon (actually it’s a fastback, with a big, practical, 406 litre boot) that aims right down the throat of the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

It even has rear-wheel drive, for proper handling balance, and has been worked on by the genius that is Albert Biermann, who has left his old job at BMW’s M-Division to take the Hyundai/Kia shilling as their handling and dynamics guru.

It even came with a proper engine — a twin-turbo V6 with 370hp (same as a BMW M2) which proved both powerful and eerily refined. It was fun, big fun, but obviously a little limited in an Irish context with a big, emissions-heavy petrol engine (how does 225g/km grab you?). Kia, being no fool, has a more acceptable version up its sleeve, though. The Stinger diesel.

Using the same 2.2 litre four-cylinder engine that you’ll find in the Kia Sorento SUV, the Stinger GT diesel manages to pack a punch that’s impressive, even when you compare it to the mighty V6 version.

The headline 200hp power output is arguably only fine (it’s still 10hp to the good compared to a BMW 320d, mind) but the 440nm of torque on offer is much more interesting. After all — you boast about power, but you actually drive on the torque. Well, most of the time anyway.

Probably the best news is that the Stinger’s styling is untouched by the switch to the black pump. The same snake-like face. The same sharply sloped rear end.

Yes, you can find a few hints and throwbacks to other, lesser Kias (the Optima most obviously) but the Stinger has amazing proportions. It’s low, it’s very, very wide, and quite long too.

It’s also really rather gorgeous, and one of those cars that, as soon as you’ve clapped eyes on it, you simply cannot wait to drive.

Wait we must, though, as there’s an interior to be inspected first. Again, the diesel version gets the same cabin as the V6, so while there’s a bit of a mish-mash going on in here, the overall effect is very impressive.

The mish-mash comes from having bits and pieces taken from regular, cheaper Kias and plonked into what is otherwise a bespoke cabin.

The overall design is an obvious homage to that of the Merc C-Class (three round air vents in the middle, broad centre console, big free-standing screen) and for the most part, quality levels are little short of excellent. The occasional cheap switch grates even more because of that, but Kia had thrown in a trump card by swathing the entire cabin in rich, deep, red leather. We’re suckers for red leather…

Space is actually pretty good. There’s slightly more rear legroom than you’ll find in the German competition, and although headroom in the back is compromised a little by that sloping rear roofline, all but the tallest of passengers will be able to get comfy. Up front, the seats are brilliant, there’s legroom to burn, and you pretty much never want to get out.

Will the driving experience do the same? Well, almost but not quite. If you’re expecting the Stinger diesel to be as good to drive as the V6 version, it’s not.

It’s almost as good, but falls a touch short, and most of that is down to the engine and the way it delivers its power. The 2.2 diesel is a fine engine in a Sorento, but here in the Stinger its low-down punch just isn’t sharp enough for the Stinger’s chassis. Whereas you can use the V6’s grunt to help turn and steer the car on the throttle, the diesel is much less adjustable. Does that really matter? Well, to most of us probably not — after all, most of us don’t drive like the Stig on our way to work, and the fact is that the Stinger diesel does the job most of us would need it to do really well.

It owns the outside lane, with that aggressive front styling doing a better job of clearing people out of your way than blue lights. It’s better than the V6 in this role, too, simply because it’s so much less thirsty.

Any other complaints? Well the ride quality could definitely be better, but that’s about it. The price tag of €52,995 represents a saving of almost €14,000 compared to the V6 version, and is around €400 cheaper than a BMW 320d M-Sport automatic, which will be less well-equipped as standard than the Kia.

Plus the Kia comes with the same, expansive, seven-year warranty as does the humblest Ceed hatchback, so it’s almost certainly going to be very reliable.

Not a perfect car, then, but equally neither is the V6. The Stinger represents Kia’s first try at a German-bothering sports saloon, and while certainly not un-flawed, it gets so close to the bull’s eye that Munich should really be worried.

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