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The Kia Stinger took the South Korean maker into premium brand executive territory for the very first time. Now, it's been updated. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Yes, it's a Kia. Yes, you might want one. No, this 'Gran Turismo' model isn't merely a copy of something German. Welcome to the Kia Stinger, now usefully improved. The looks don't lie.
Back in 2017, we were offered a very different kind of Kia. The Stinger was a five-door performance GT that took on the German premium brands in the luxury sports Gran Turismo market. Since then, it's worked well as a rare but desirable halo model for the Korean brand and a respactable 10,000 global units have been sold. Enough to justify a facelift, which has brought us some useful updates. You get a smarter look of course, a slightly rortier engine note and a more up-to-date cabin with upgraded media connectivity. There are a few extra safety features too, though the range now is centred only on the top 3.3-litre V6-powered GT S variant.
With this revised Stinger model, the only engine choice is the flagship unit used in the original GT S version of this model, a potent twin-turbo 361bhp 3.3-litre V6 T-GDi powerplant. This now develops a fractionally higher output of 361bhp with 510Nm of torque, thanks to a new variable exhaust system that uses a butterfly valve to improve or soften the engine sound depending on drive mode. As a result, in the 'Sport' or 'Sport+' driving settings, the engine emits an exciting growl. 62mph from rest is dispatched in 4.7 seconds, so this is still the fastest-accelerating Kia ever sold in Europe. The top speed is 167mph. A little disappointingly, British customers still can't have the 4WD version of this model - that's still restricted to left hand drive markets - so an eight-speed automatic gearbox still drives the rear wheels, with five different shift and throttle programmes and the option of full manual control using the steering wheel-mounted paddles. The GT S has variable gear ratio steering and electronic suspension which can be set to one of five modes. As before, Kia has standardised a limited slip differential across the range for our market and this, in concert with a torque vectoring system that lightly brakes the inside front wheel at speed through fast corners, means that the Stinger is quite adept at overcoming its rather portly 1.8-tonne body weight and hurling itself from bend to bend, should you be inclined to drive it in such a fashion. As before, this car is almost everything you wouldn't expect a Kia to be.
As before, this model is a 'Gran Turismo'-style five-door sports hatch aimed at the quickest versions of slinky premium-badged models like Audi's A5 Sportback and BMW's 4 Series Gran Coupe, plus also perhaps, four-door saloons with coupe-like rear styling like sportier variants of Volkswagen's Arteon. Kia reckons that this GT model's styling 'evokes memories of the classic age of grand tourers'. Whatever your perspective on that, it's difficult to argue that this remains one of the most strikingly styled Kia models we've seen to date. Visual changes to this revised model include re-designed LED headlights and tail lamps stretched across the full width of the car, with 'chequered flag' graphics. It certainly feels very opulent inside, where improvements include a larger 10.25-inch centre stack split-screen infotainment monitor and a 7-inch digital display for the instrument binnacle. Upgraded materials also feature, with chrome added to the steering wheel and the instrument binnacle surround, plus there's contrast stitching for the dashboard and doors and the option of opulent suede finishing to complement the standard leather upholstery. Rear seat space is acceptable by class standards, with adequate legroom for even taller adults. Despite the coupe-like roofline, you shouldn't struggle for headroom either. And there's a decently-sixed 406-litre boot - though that's 74-litres less than you'd get in an Audi A5 Sportback.
Because the previous entry-level 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel variants have been discontinued, this Stinger now sits quite a lot further up-market, though the asking price of around £42,600 for the single GT S V6 petrol model now offered isn't a lot different from what it was before. If you consider that a comparably-performing Audi S5 Sportback costs around £50,000, that'll put things in perspective. You get quite a lot of kit for the money as well, including Nappa leather upholstery in 'Saturn Black' or optional red. Plus a now-bigger 10.25-inch centre stack split-screen infotainment display with Bluetooth multi-connection that enables users to connect up to two mobile devices at the same time - maybe one for hands-free phone use and one for multimedia. This infotainment set-up offers 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring and a voice control system that can enable you to alter things like climate, audio and navigation settings. As an option, a suede package is also available for the first time, with the cabin trimmed in Saturn Black suede with contrasting red stitching and red seatbelts. New camera safety features now feature as standard, including a Blind Spot View Monitor, Lane Following Assist, Highway Driving Assist, Rear Occupants Alert and Safe Exit Warning. Already, the Stinger featured Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Speed Limit Information and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
The efficiency figures recorded here aren't bad but they still illustrate that this South Korean brand has a little way to match its German competitors in this regard. Let's get to the WLTP figures. For the 3.3-litre T-GDi GT S model, the only one now on offer, you're looking at 28.0mpg and 229g/km. As with all Kias, the Stinger is covered by a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty that's longer than any other car in the same class. If the car is sold through a Kia Used Approved Dealership when less than 18 months old or with less than 18,000 miles on the clock, the warranty will be topped up to match that of a new model. Servicing should be affordable and the various pre-paid servicing packages you can buy will further help manage costs in this regard, with 'Care-3' or 'Care-3 Plus' packages offering retail customers fixed-cost, inflation-proof servicing for either three or five years.
Think of everything you expect a Kia to be. Bet you're not thinking of anything like this. But then that's just the point. The Stinger has been designed to get you thinking differently. It's arguably more stylish than rival Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and Volkswagen Arteon models. It's certainly much better value, will be better equipped and will probably offer you a lot more performance for your money. True, efficiency figures aren't quite up to Teutonic standards. And the boot is a little smaller than rival trunks. But otherwise, this design is impressively hard to fault. With this revised model, we're disappointed that lower-order models have been deleted from the range. And that you still can't have 4WD in the top V6 GT S. But otherwise, we still like the Stinger very much. Its upgraded cabin certainly feels now more appropriate to its exalted price point. This is the South Korean maker laying claim to be a world-class car manufacturer. And with a Stinger in your driveway, that claim would seem to be very credible indeed.