2018 Kia Stinger

Meet the car that’s creating plenty of buzz in the sport-sedan class

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

Grand-touring sedans with punch and optional all-wheel-drive tend to come from Germany- or Japan-based luxury automakers, but the latest contender is from, wait for it, Kia from Korea.

This Hyundai division is really living up to its “The Power to Surprise” slogan with the new Stinger. The hatchback sedan is the third large-size passenger car in the automaker’s stable and is sold alongside the Cadenza and K900. If it’s true that traditional four-door sedans are on life support due to an outbreak of utility-vehicle fever, Kia never got the memo.

The rear-wheel-drive Stinger begins with a decently sized four-door vehicle that has loads of space between the front and rear wheels. As a result, the car tends to soak up the bumps while providing plenty of legroom for rear-seat passengers.

The rest of the Stinger’s shape falls into line with Kia’s other sedans, meaning that the design is easy on the eyes, but won’t likely cause palms to sweat and hearts to palpitate. The only visual cues as to the Stinger’s sporty leanings are the air extractors positioned on the trailing edges of the front fenders, and dual exhaust outlets encased in bodywork below the bumper.

The interior fares much better, owing to a dashboard and control panel that have a decidedly European look (think Audi or Mercedes-Benz), with large, propeller-style air vents that are topped by a tablet-style touch-screen. The sport-style bucket seats with serious side bolstering also get a thumbs-up.

From a practical standpoint, the Stinger’s gaping hatch opening makes the cargo area especially stowage-accessible. When the split-rear seatback folded flat, cargo volume is about double.

But what prospective Stinger buyers really want to know is what makes this car get up and go. The starting point is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 255 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. That’s similar output to the Honda Accord’s optional turbo 2.0 and will be enough for most buyers.

The Kia four-cylinder also gets the Stinger’s best fuel economy numbers of 22 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway.

For committed sport-sedan drivers, the Stinger GT is the nothing-less-will-do choice. It comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6 that puts out 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. Kia claims the GT is good for a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.9 seconds, which is quite swift for a 4,000-pound sedan. The Stinger has a Launch Control mode that reduces wheel spin and maximizes torque for quickest possible starts.

The GT’s performance equipment also includes Brembo-brand brakes that are larger than the standard brakes, 19-inch wheels (18s are standard) and a GT-exclusive grille.

Regardless of selection, an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is standard on all cars, and all-wheel-drive can be had with either powerplant. The system maintains a 20:80 front-to-rear torque bias in normal road conditions, but can shift power to the front if tire slip is detected. The AWD system also has yaw control, which shifts more torque to the outside rear wheel when cornering, adding stability.

The Stinger starts at $32,800, including shipping charges, and gets you the usual basic content plus dual-zone climate control, leather seating surfaces, heated and power-adjustable front seats and a heated steering wheel.

The Stinger Premium adds navigation, power sunroof, power-adjustable steering wheel and an electronic parking brake.

The GT is topped up with fancier interior and exterior trim, sporty flat-bottom steering wheel and a nine-speaker audio system. Across-the-lineup options include active-safety technologies that can be specified even for the most basic trim level.

Creating a practical and well-equipped sport sedan for the masses was Kia’s obvious goal, thus virtually guaranteeing a warm reception for this game-changing four-door.

What you should know: 2018 Kia Stinger

Type: Four-door, rear- /all-wheel-drive mid-size sedan

Engines (h.p.): 2.0-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged (255)
3.3-liter DOHC V-6, twin-turbocharged (365)

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Market position: A dedicated, performance-oriented sports sedan that’s also relatively affordable is an anomaly. The Kia Stinger is destined to shake up the automotive world, putting higher-end competitors on notice.

Points:
• Solid design is typical Kia, but begs for a more exotic shape.
• Interior style and finishings should really excite buyers.
• Base turbo four-cylinder is more than adequate for most tasks, but the twin-turbo V-6 is the must-have ingredient for the enthusiast buyer.
• All active-safety tech is optional. That this car will be a huge hit for Kia goes without saying.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (opt.); lane-departure warning (opt.)

MPG (city/hwy): 22/29(2.0, RWD)

Base price (incl. destination): $32,800

By Comparison:

BMW 3-Series
Base price: $35,900
A solid car with a sporty cachet, but serious performance gets very pricey.

Lexus IS
Base price: $39,200
Base turbo I-4 sedan is fairly tame, but optional 311-h.p. V-6 adds to the fun.

Acura TLX
Base price: $34,000
Updated 2018 model includes lots of standard stuff. AWD V-6 model works best.