IF you’re reading this review, we want you to do something for us. Take all your pre-conceived opinions of the Kia brand, put them in a box, and tie a ribbon around it. Suspend them for a moment and consider the 2018 Kia Stinger GT.
It's no game changer, but...
While you’re doing all that, remember this is a first up effort and then realise that what’s on offer here is a car that’s got the power and performance you secretly need in a family sedan, and it looks the part too.
It’s powered by a 272kW V6 twin turbo that’s capable of a 0-100km/h time of 4.9 seconds. Only available in rear wheel drive as an 8-speed auto in Australia (with manual paddle shifters), the Kia Stinger GT also comes in AWD overseas.
It pushes out some 510Nm of torque, and has a claimed fuel economy of 10.2-litres/100km from the 3.3-litre engine. We managed an excellent 8.2-litres/100km driving to Nowra from the NSW Central Coast, which was super impressive.
Drag the Stinger GT back to Sydney and suburbia, and we were still impressed by the fuel economy, hovering in the mid-10s for the most part. Push it hard though, and that quickly jumps to 12.5-litres/100km. Still good when driving hard.
Unlike the 3-star ANCAP rated 200 S model of the 2018 Kia Stinger that we tested in early January, the GT has a 5-star ANCAP rating, and is fully loaded with a host of safety and driving enhancements.
These include ABS, electronic stability control, launch control, vehicle stability management, hill start assist, emergency stop signalling, and front and rear parking sensors.
There’s also a 360-degree camera view, auto dimming rear vision mirror, autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warning, and the only slightly annoying active lane keep assist.
We’re still not quite comfortable with the concept of the steering wheel moving itself constantly to keep you in the centre of the lane, but it’s the way to a safer future, and importantly, you can switch it off and go old school.
Other safety and driving add-ons include blind spot detection (more on that one shortly), rear cross traffic alert, driver attention alert, daytime LED running lights and the team favourite, dynamic bending lights that follow you around corners.
Because the Stinger GT is a five door liftback, not unlike what the new Commodore from Holden and the Ford flagship Mondeo sedan offer, there is a definite blind spot in the rear C-pillars, but while it’s very noticeable, it’s not catastrophic to deal with.
One of the things we don’t like about the overall Kia Stinger GT experience is the active sound enhancement system for the engine. Yes, it’s a modern day performance car, we get it, but the fake engine noise being shoved into the cabin is garbage.
It’s one of the worst we’ve ever heard. That said, it should be noted here that we were in a launch version of the car, and if you order one today, it can be shipped with an optional proper bi-modal exhaust system which should vastly improve the sound.
There are a multitude of steering settings, including Smart (where you let the car choose the best settings for how you drive), Eco, Comfort, Sport and Custom, yes an actual custom mode that lets you choose how you want it to perform.
This is, what we’d call, mission critical. You see, you can set the engine and transmission how you’d like it, set the steering how you’d like, and alter the suspension to where you would like it to sit as well.
Critical here because the steering is average in comfort. Vague at best. Critical because the suspension is hard and horrid in sport mode, especially on some of Australia’s less quality country roads, where it feels awful and sounds worse in terms of road noise.
But play, actually play, and you can create a really good package all by yourself. For us, perfection was found in Sport for the engine and transmission, Sport for the steering, and Comfort for the suspension.
The Continental rubber on which the Stinger rides is also average for road noise, and if it was up to us, we’d sneak some Michelin Super Pilots on there, but that’s a minor thing. But like we said, we’d swap rubber to make it quieter.
Inside there are lots of nice touches. The front seats, and even the rear seats, despite a lack of rear headroom if you’re tall, are super comfortable. The electric front seats also get adjustable bolsters (up and down), which is a really nice touch.
They look good too, and if you’ve been in an Optima GT, you know the styling, as it’s virtually the same, just the seats are better here. The dash is extremely well laid out, with hints of brushed aluminium everywhere.
A great infotainment system that is super easy to use is also on hand, and the floating 8-inch colour LCD touch screen combines important vehicle information with controls for the sound system.
Bluetooth phone connectivity was just seamless and the SatNav is one of the better 3D systems we’ve seen but the maps were old, which is very disappointing. The voice command system is excellent, and you can even read emails and texts on-screen.
There’s also wireless charging, a full colour heads-up display, vented and heated front seats, a centrally located dial for selecting performance modes, and one of the best harmon/kardon sound systems we’ve ever heard.
The turbine style air vents add a touch of unique inside the car, like the bronzed chrome highlights outside, that set it apart from normal shiny chrome bits on the outside of the car, and it’s these style points that add to the pizzazz of the Stinger.
Here too though there are little issues, like the fact your wedding ring will surely scratch the leather steering wheel because it’s too soft, and the brushed steel that features across the cabin is also super soft, and scratches when you look at it.
Does all this add character to your car, little nicks in the metal on the gear shift, and the console plate, marks on the steering wheel and elsewhere in the super soft leather and metal. No actually we don’t think it does.
Overall though, the Stinger is Kia’s first real attempt at a high performance car and from that perspective, it’s exceptionally good. It’s just not great. But they will get there. We’ve already seen the optional switch in exhaust for example.
Other changes will come as the model evolves and there’s no doubt the brand is genuinely committed to competing with the likes of BMW and Mazda, as well as shaking the cage at Ford and Holden in the battle for family sedan supremacy.
For that reason alone, the Kia Stinger should definitely be on your list of potential cars if you want something with power and performance, that’s big enough to cater for the whole family.
The 2018 Kia Stinger comes in a range of colours, which ironically does not include the Ceramic Grey launch colour of our test car, including Silky Silver, Ceramic Silver, Sunset Yellow, Hichroma Red and Micro Blue.
It also comes in Deep Chroma Blue, Aurora Black and Snow White Pearl. It comes with a 7-year warranty and hits the road at $59,990 plus on-roads, or around $65,900 drive-away. The interior is available in black or red leather.
Our road test vehicle was provided by Kia Australia. To find out more about the Kia Stinger GT, visit your local Kia dealer.