Kia Stinger 2.0 T-GDI Gt-line BMW ri­val on test

Can Korea’s rear-wheel-drive ex­ec­u­tive saloon match its dearer Ger­man ri­vals?

Autocar - - CONTENTS - @Thedark­stormy1 MATT SAUN­DERS

The Kia Stinger may be many re­mark­able things: a brand­build­ing, vis­ually jaw-drop­ping rear-driven grand tourer the like of which we’ve never seen from any Korean car maker. If you’ve read that be­fore, it’s only be­cause we’ve been told it be­fore. A lot.

And yet, at one level, you knew it was go­ing to be a rule-breaker as well: a car priced to make a mock­ery of the value propo­si­tions of other rear-driven ex­ec­u­tive saloons mostly made in Ger­many. Wel­come to that level. This is the cheap­est Stinger of the bunch: the tur­bocharged 2.0-litre en­try-level model, which un­der­cuts a like-for-like BMW 430i Gran Coupé by al­most £8000, and even Volk­swa­gen’s like-for-like Ar­teon by a sim­i­larly hefty wedge.

So far, Kia has been care­ful to en­sure our early ex­pe­ri­ences of its am­bi­tious new de­sign hero have been de­liv­ered by the 365bhp twin-turbo V6 model, and those pre­lim­i­nary tastes have been promis­ing. But the greater af­ford­abil­ity of this Stinger could po­ten­tially bring it to many more own­ers, and al­low it to ex­er­cise a much wider and more pow­er­ful in­flu­ence on the re­cast­ing of Kia’s brand im­age, than the V6 model could reach. As­sum­ing it’s of suf­fi­ciently high cal­i­bre, of course – and in en­try-level, pas­sively damped, four-cylin­der form at that.

The 2.0-litre T-GDI Stinger will dif­fer in its Uk-mar­ket spec­i­fi­ca­tion from the form in which Amer­i­can and Euro­pean cus­tomers will get it as a re­sult of an ex­haust re­design nec­es­sary to pack­age the car’s cat­a­lysts along­side a right-hand-drive steer­ing col­umn. An un­avoid­able in­crease in back pres­sure is the rea­son why, else­where in the world, this ver­sion of the car de­vel­ops 252bhp but in right-hand­drive mar­kets only makes 244bhp.

But that’s still sig­nif­i­cantly more power than £32k buys in any other rear-driven ex­ec­u­tive op­tion.

At this price level, the Stinger’s cabin qual­ity would give you less

The Stinger makes more power than £32k buys in any other rear-driven ex­ec­u­tive op­tion

cause for com­plaint than it would had you spent up­wards of £40,000 on the car. It’s not that Kia’s cabin plas­tics in the car look or feel par­tic­u­larly cheap, more that its at­tempts to make this driv­ing en­vi­ron­ment seem rich, de­sir­able and ex­pen­sive as of­ten as not fall flat on their face.

The Stinger’s up­per dash­board and up­per door cards are made of moulded plas­tic that do an un­con­vinc­ing im­pres­sion of leather. Lower down, Kia’s use of tex­tured alu­minium is more ef­fec­tive, but de­fault­ing to glossy black trim around much of the cen­tre con­sole shows a lack of imag­i­na­tion and gives the Stinger’s cabin a slightly drab, mono­chrome am­bi­ence.

The car’s driv­ing po­si­tion is low and en­velop­ing, though. And on the road, that four-cylin­der engine does a very re­spectable job of mo­ti­vat­ing this, the light­est of Stinger of the lot, with a crisp and vig­or­ous kind of mid-range throt­tle re­sponse. It has an ap­petite for revs that you wouldn’t call ra­pa­cious but that does make it worth­while hold­ing onto a gear when you’re in the mood.

The car is brisk and peppy when pulling from 3000-5000rpm, but doesn’t al­ways feel hot-hatch fast. It de­serves a bet­ter trans­mis­sion than the eight-speed pro­pri­etary unit with which Kia cou­ples it, though. This gear­box doesn’t have a prop­erly locked-out pad­dleshift man­ual mode and isn’t quick or de­ci­sive enough about its down­shifts in au­to­matic.

But the Stinger’s ride and han­dling should re­main the most de­ci­sive fac­tors in at­tract­ing new buy­ers into the Kia fold. Even on 18in al­loy wheels and with stan­dard pas­sively damped sus­pen­sion, the Stinger has a pli­ant and sup­ple ride that copes with small bumps and large equally well.

It also han­dles with a skil­fully tuned blend of well-bal­anced grip, set­tled and de­pend­able body con­trol and keen­ish di­rec­tional agility. At times, the car could steer a lit­tle more pre­dictably, and at other times you’ll curse that slightly man­nered au­to­matic gear­box for not giv­ing you the sim­pler and more di­rect re­la­tion­ship with the car’s driven axle that you crave.

But there is cer­tainly the pace, poise and han­dling char­ac­ter of a very re­spectable ju­nior sport saloon here, and plenty to en­joy for keener driv­ers who are will­ing to ac­cept this car for what it is, and to ac­cept one or two com­pro­mises for a bar­gain price.

Stan­dard spec in­cludes 18in al­loys, leather up­hol­stery and a proper me­chan­i­cal lim­ited-slip diff for its driven rear axle

Lit­tle wrong with the 8.0in in­fo­tain­ment unit, or its nine-speaker stereo sys­tem, but nei­ther screams ‘pre­mium-brand con­tender’

The Stinger’s good looks, plus its com­mend­able pace, poise and han­dling, makes the grand tourer an in­trigu­ing pack­age

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