The Kia Stinger is among the best cars we've driven so far this year -- here are its best features

Matthew DeBord/BISo good.

  • The Kia Stinger is the best car the South Korean automaker has ever produced.
  • We’ve driven it on two coasts and have been blown away.
  • The sports sedan is packed with appealing features for a relatively low price, given that it’s going up against Audis and BMWs.

When the Kia Stinger was revealed in 2017, nobody saw the BMW/Audi fighter coming from the South Korean automaker.

That said, the car – in its magnificent sleekness – was a welcome surprise. The auto world collectively salivated over the opportunity to get behind the wheel.

For us, that happened in early 2018. We spent a few days driving around the Bay Area in a $US52,000 Stinger GT2; we then recreated that experience a couple of months later on the East Coast.

In both cases, we were way impressed. Actually, that’s an understatement. We were way more than way impressed. We haven’t stopped talking about the car for six months. I’m having a tough time remembering a vehicle that was this surprising when revealed and that vaporized expectations so thoroughly when launched. For enthusiasts and auto journalists, the Stinger is treated like no other.

The car is simply splendid. It has some standout features that are worth highlighting:

Behold, the mighty Stinger!

Matthew DeBord/BI

Our West Coast tester arrived in “Hichroma Red.” We sampled the top-of-the-line GT2, which came with every imaginable option and all-wheel drive. The sticker price was $US52,300. The base four-cylinder trim level starts at $US31,900, however, so you get all of this useful beauty for a lot less.

Let’s start with the obvious: This is an absolutely stunning set of wheels. Kia design chief Peter Schreyer intended it to evoke the great European grand-touring cars of the past. Easily my favourite sedan on the road today, looks-wise.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Schreyer owns a Stinger, and he told me that he was stopped by the German police so they could get a closer look!

On the East Coast, I had people honking horns at me to ask if I was driving a Kia.

Yeah, this car can gather attention, to be sure.

In keeping with a major trend, the Stinger is a fastback four-door with a smoothly sloping roofline and a hatch. If you haven’t noticed already, the proportions on this car are masterful: balanced and suave, long and low.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Small complaint: Those vents on the hood are fake. Still, the overall front-end design is aggressive without being threatening.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The interior is comfortable, functional, fairly minimalist, ergonomic — and not too sporty. It has a grownup feel.

Matthew DeBord/BI

While not exactly capacious, the back seats can accommodate adults.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Hatch space is pretty good. One could easily get a long weekend’s worth of luggage in here. And note those quad exhaust pipes!

Matthew DeBord/BI

The perforated, leather-wrapped steering wheel is terrific. What’s more, the instrument cluster is straightforward, uncluttered, and analogue. Those gauges mean business!

Matthew DeBord/BI

What we have here is an impeccable 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 making 365 horsepower with 376 pound-feet of torque. I did my best to squeeze some turbo-lag out of this sucker and failed.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Performance-wise, the Stinger is an absolute joy. Our all-wheel-drive tester was stable and composed at all speeds, but with a rear-wheel bias that made the car feel ever-so-slightly-slippy when pushed.

The rear-wheel-drive version should be quite a lot of fun – we’ll be testing it later this year.

The 0-60mph run passes in about 4.5 seconds. Yep, the Stinger is QUICK.

The power is piped through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Sure, there are paddle shifters so you can go manual, but I found that it was best to just let the auto handle the duty. As an aside, the Stinger has the first joystick-style shifter that I’ve actually liked.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The Stinger provides multiple drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart, Custom. Smart tweaks the dynamics based on your driving style, while Custom lets you do the tweaking yourself.

Sport maximizes all the Stinger has to offer, but in my testing it also clobbered the already marginal fuel economy. That’s the price you pay. Official MPGs are 19 city/25 highway/21 combined. In the Bay Area, I suspect I was getting more like 20 mpg, given that I was engaging in spirited Sport-mode piloting.

Comfort and Eco should help one to better sip the petrol, and on balance they don’t detract hugely from performance – I stepped on it in both and was rewarded with plenty of pep. But Sport is where the steering is most taut, the braking most responsive, and the suspension trimmest. Some reviews of the Stinger have complained about body roll when the car is pushed, but I didn’t find much of that, although I was driving on public roads rather than a track.

The infotainment system — UVO — is responsive and simple to use. It covers all the bases and is managed through this touchscreen in the center of the dash.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Our tester came with a Harman Kardon premium audio system and SiriusXM satellite radio, which sounded superb. Navigation helped me find my way around the Bay, from the city to Silicon Valley and even over to Fremont, and Bluetooth device pairing was a snap.

On the East Coast, the system also performed flawlessly.

And the coolest feature of all? Yep, it’s the Kia badge!

Matthew DeBord/BI

That’s right, the Stinger is a KIA! A halo car is supposed to, you know, create a shiny glowing halo around a brand, and the Stinger more than achieves that goal for Kia.

The carmaker should be rightly proud to have its badge on a car this good.

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