Kia Stinger GT Sport review: a real buzz
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Kia Stinger GT Sport
- Grunty and fast
- Sharp transmission
- Can be subdued on demand
- Overly aggressive aesthetics
- Not much second row space
- Strange interior design
As far as bees go, I like bumblebees the most. They’re the teddy bears of the bee world, shouldn’t really be as nimble as they are, but do pack a nasty sting if you manage to annoy one. I’ve taken to comparing the Kia Stinger to a bumblebee, and not just because of the name.
Before we get into that, we should cover off what’s new about the Stinger. There’s a tiny bump in power for the range-topping GT Sport’s twin-turbo V6, from a new exhaust. The bi-modal electronic variable exhaust valve system improves flow and boosts power by 2kW to a peak of 274kW; torque of 510Nm is the same.
On the outside, the Stinger sports some flash new gear like updated 19-inch alloy wheels and semi-fake quad exhaust tips.
All this new kit makes for a proven performer that’s still a bit awkward to look at, like a bumblebee is.
The Kia Stinger is in its third year of production and still occupies a strange area of the market - one that doesn’t look like it’s going to be overpopulated anytime soon. The only thing that comes close from a price perspective is the Lexus IS sedan, but if you’re looking to match the Stinger’s performance, you’re going to have to spend over $100,000 on a 350 F Sport model.
As far as I’m concerned the Stinger’s performance is its highlight, and why you’d buy it over something else like that Lexus. The 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 is a joy, thanks to all 510Nm being available from around 1000rpm. Peak power of 274kW comes on a lot closer to redline at 6000rpm, which encourages and rewards a heavy right foot. The eight-speed automatic is sharp in Sport mode, but will calm down for Eco and Comfort.
Kia NZ only offers the rear-drive variant of the Stinger, unlike other markets where an all-wheel drive model is also available. This might come as a disappointment to some, but I believe that it only adds character - a nod to rear-drive sport sedans of days gone by. Like those old V8s, it’s rather hard to launch the Kia without some movement at the rear, but the limited slip differential keeps things predictable.
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Once the Stinger is moving, it’s not overly direct through corners, but the Brembo brakes have more than enough stopping power to correct any oversights, and the Michelin rubber has no trouble holding a line. Powering out of corners is where the real fun is had, and winding the big V6 up past 6000rpm never seems to get old.
When it’s time to drive like a normal person, the Stinger cruises nicely on the open road, with minimal road and engine noise. Both Eco and Comfort modes get rid of the excess engine noise pumped into the cabin.
So we know that the Stinger GT Sport provides bang for buck, but what’s it like to live with?
The interior is strange. Not in the way of the Honda e with its aquarium, but strange in the way that it’s trying to be something that it’s not. Kia mimics the layout of a European sedan, but it’s obvious from the materials used that it’s a cheaper alternative.
It isn’t a bad thing by any means, but in my eyes it misses the mark on the luxury front. Still, everything works exactly how it should, and the 10.25-inch LCD touchscreen infotainment display is very easy to navigate. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity comes as standard, with wireless charging.
Due to the coupe aesthetic of the Stinger, second row space can be restricted for larger passengers. If they aren’t a priority, and luggage space is, folding the rear seats down opens up 1114 litres of space to work with.
You’d be hard-pressed to find something that possesses similar performance to the Stinger in the same price range. For context, you’d need to spend at least $125,000 on a BMW M340i to get the same power. The only thing that comes close performance-wise at a similar price would be the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range RWD, but I can’t imagine Tesla buyers considering a Stinger, or vice versa.
KIA STINGER GT SPORT
ENGINE: 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic/RWD
0-100km/h: 4.9 seconds
PROS: Grunty, sharp transmission, can be subdued on demand
CONS: Overly aggressive aesthetics, not much second row space, strange interior