Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring


ROAD TEST: Kia’s Stinger is a true GT

If Kia can build on what they have achieved on this car, it’s going to be hard to ignore them


If you were to ask any person you know to draw up a list of their perceived top10 fastest road car manufacturers, the average list will in all probability have a heavy Italian, German and British flavour, with some French and American undertones.

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Even by extending the list by a dozen or two, odds would be great that there won’t be anything out of Korea in sight, simply because the Korean cars we know are not renowned for speed.

Maybe for solid engineering, good value for money or decent warranties, but certainly not speed.

But while the usual suspects continue to live up to their reputation, the Korean engineers haven’t been only building solid SUVs and sturdy hatchbacks.

After establishing their brands over decades, they have ever so gradually started to dip their toes into the performance game.

Hyundai was the first to show their hand as far back as 2008 with their first-ever rear-wheel drive sports coupe, the Genesis.

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The latter versions of Genesis featured a meneer under the bonnet.

Well, a meneer by Korean standards that is. Its 3.8-litre V6 powertrain produced a very respectable 260kW and zipped from 0 to 100km/h in an unKorean-like 5.9 seconds.

This model was discontinued and Hyundai’s current fastest car is the Genesis G90, which features a 5-litre V8 engine with 313kW to boot.

It is said to clock 5.3 seconds from 0 to 100km/h, but isn’t available in South Africa and isn’t actually a sports car at all, but a luxury sedan.

It has also been quite busy over at their neighbours Kia, which is minority-owned by Hyundai and, in turn, is a minority owner of Hyundai subsidiaries.

I’ll leave the exact mechanics of whatever that means to the clever Korean bean-counters that have to split dividends between shareholders.

Kia’s lofty ambitions were first showcased in the form of the GT Concept at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, which ultimately led to the birth of the award-winning Stinger, a rear-wheel drive four-door fastback.

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Only a few dozen were destined for the local market and Kia was generous enough to drop one off at The Citizen for a week.

Let’s get the numbers out of the way first which our Road Test Editor Mark Jones recorded during his test at Gerotek.

Kia claims the Stinger can clock 4.9 seconds over 0 to 100km/h which is probably achievable at sea level, as our test showed 5.37 seconds.

But that said, the Stinger is quite heavy as it wasn’t meant to be an all-out speed merchant.

Kia’s chief designer Gregory Guillame had this to say about the car: “The new Kia Stinger is a true gran turismo [GT], a car for spirited long-distance.

“It’s not about outright power, hard-edged dynamics and brutal styling all at the expense of luxury, comfort and grace. The Stinger has nothing to do with being the first to arrive at the destination – this car is all about the journey.”

Car manufacturers and their public relations people are crafty spin doctors, but Guillame’s summary is pretty much spot on.

But maybe he underplays the speed factor just a little, especially in the GT version offered in South Africa which is the big kahuna out of the three engines options in this vehicle.

As a buyer, one really has no reason to shy away from any dice, as the 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 engine produces 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque with a top speed of 270km/h.

Pretty damn decent for the people who build your little Picanto.

But while we can argue over the fractions of seconds which separates racers in the R860 000 price bracket, the Stinger holds the clear advantage in terms of space.

Four adults fit comfortably with plenty of legroom for the rear passengers, while the boot easily swallows up their luggage.

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First and foremost, the Stinger is a very comfortable ride with plenty of power when you need it through its eight-speed reardrive automatic transmission.

The gearbox is one of the few areas which hampers the car’s full potential, as it doesn’t offer the driver an all-out manual setting.

There are gear shifters at the back of the steering wheel which can be used at any given time, but you can’t necessarily hold the Stinger in a specific gear of tour choice for too long as the automatic system overrides the manual selection after a number of seconds.

The Stinger offers five driving modes: Personal, Eco, Sport, Comfort, and Smart.

Even the most fuel consumption-friendly mode Eco was more than adequate for daily commuting, but the Sport mode does make a huge difference ranging from the engine’s roar to the reaction of your passengers.

To enhance your driving experience, the Stinger features a Kia first called Dynamic Stability Damping Control.

While always reacting predictably to the driver’s inputs, depending on road conditions and driving style, the Stinger can be tuned to respond with more agility through corners as the system softens the front shocks and firms up the rear.

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Conversely, improved highspeed stability is achieved when the system stiffens the front shocks and softens the rear.

To keep the driver as comfortable as possible, the driver’s seat also features adjustable bolsters, lumbar support, seat cushion extension and a memory function, while the thick leather-wrapped steering wheel has a heating function.

Both front seats are also heated and ventilated if the draft through the standard-fit sunroof is either too hot or cold for your liking.

The Stinger also features a height-adjustable colour HeadUp Display that enables the driver to see key driving information reflected on the windshield glass, including speed, turn-byturn navigation, audio and cruise control settings, and Blind Spot Detection information.

A very advanced Harman Kardon audion system completes the comprehensive interior offering.

It delivers 720 watts through 15 speakers with subwoofers mounted underneath the driver and passenger’s seats for the first time ever in a Kia.

On the outside, the Stinger looks quite windgat sitting on 19-inch alloy wheels featuring striking Brembo brake calipers and four exhaust pipes, but with a touch of class nonetheless displayed in the signature Kia “tiger nose” grille which sits proudly between complex bi-functional LED projection headlamps.

And unlike some out-and-out racers, the Stinger’s safety features gives you enough peace of mind to step on it.

It sports an impressive list of safety specifications including seven airbags and blind spot detection, as well as Around View Monitoring System to help you park.

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On face value, the only reason people will turn a blind eye to the Stinger’s impressive offering is because of their perception of the brand.

But if Kia can build on what they have achieved in this impressive vehicle, it’s going to be impossible to ignore the ambitious Koreans forever.

What we like.

  • Very comfortable.
  • Loads of space for passengers and luggage.

What we do not like. 

  • Lack of navigation.
  • Not having the option of all-out manual transmission.

Verdict. 

A very competitively-priced vehicle which should break down any pre-conceived conceptions associated with the brand.

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Gerotek KIA Road Tests