Kia Stinger (2018 - 2021) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Yes, it's a Kia. Yes, you might want one. No, this 'Gran Turismo' model isn't merely a copy of something German. This is the Kia Stinger. The looks don't lie. Here, we look at the original 2017-2021-era version of this car as a used buy.

Models

5DR HATCH (2.0 PETROL / 2.2 CRDI DIESEL / 3.3 V6 PETROL [GT-LINE, GT-LINE S])

History

Did you ever imagine that one day, Kia would bring you something like this? The company itself did. What we have here is their so-called 'Gran Turismo', the Stinger.

Even now, it still looks quite something. But prior to the Stinger's original launch back in late 2017, Kia had been laying the ground work for it for a long time, with this basic design first shown as a 'GT Concept' prototype at the Frankfurt Motor Show way back in 2011. It came with quite a development pedigree too. The stylist, Frenchman Gregory Guillaume, was responsible for the jaw-dropping first generation Audi TT. As for the guy who led development of this car's road dynamics, well for those, you can thank Albert Biermann, who until 2014 was Head of BMW's M Performance division.

Guillaume says his inspiration for this design lay in the Grand GT models he saw as a boy back in the early Seventies as they rushed past bombing down the Autoroute du Soleil to the South of France, cars like the original Giugiaro-designed Maserati Ghibli. What that translates into here is a very interesting look indeed, the stylised five-door hatch body shape closest in concept to sportier versions of mid-sized executive contenders like Audi's A5 Sportback and BMW's 4 Series Gran Coupe. Kia not surprisingly saw both these cars as close rivals, but also thought that what's on offer here could appeal to people tempted by sleeker premium sports saloons in this segment like Alfa Romeo's Giulia, Volkswagen's Arteon and Jaguar's XE.

The Stinger's a fraction larger than models of that sort and, as well as being more arresting to look at, is also better equipped and claimed to be more dynamically focused, especially in top 3.3-litre twin turbo V6 GT S flagship guise. Like all variants in the range, this one sold at the kind of premium price point that was new to Europeans considering the Kia brand, though it was less shocking to customers elsewhere in the world. Those people were already used to moderately expensive Kia saloons we never saw here, models like the K900 and Cadenza.

The Stinger sold in its original form in the UK from the beginning of 2018, initially with two four cylinder models available, a 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre CRDi diesel, though these were dropped at the end of 2019. The top V6 3.3-litre petrol flagship model was available from launch at 2018 and lasted until late 2021, when Kia gave it a light facelift and some cabin screen updates. At this point, the range was slimmed down to only that top V6 GT S petrol model. Here, we're looking at the pre-facelift range.

What You Get

German brands need to understand that you don't create a 'Gran Turismo' simply by switching to a five-door body shape from an existing saloon and adding a rear spoiler. Designer Gregory Guillaume seems to have appreciated that better than his counterparts at Audi and BMW and, as a result, the Stinger's longer, lower and quite differently proportioned from anything else in the segment.

Mounted between complex dark chrome headlamp units that feature LED beams on the top V6 model, there's a different interpretation of Kia's 'Tiger Nose' grille, with jewel-studded metallic effect finishing. Primary cooling though, is dealt with by the large lower grille and air intake, which is flanked by scoops that channel cooling air to the brakes.

Step round to the rear of the Stinger and you're also left in no doubt about the car's sporting intent, particularly on the top 3.3-litre V6 GT S version, which has twin exhausts poking potently out of each side of the aggressively-shaped rear diffuser.

Inside, you sit low on leather stitched figure-hugging sports seats, view a broad faux leather soft-touch-trimmed centre console and grasp a flat-bottomed three-spoke D-shaped wheel over which you can also view a head-up display. The 8-inch centre-dash touchscreen is one of the elements borrowed from cheaper Kia models, but it's been well integrated. There are definite hints of Porsche and Mercedes here - the stubby auto gear lever, the 'jet turbine'-style three chromed central round vents - but the cabin's much more than some kind of derivative Teutonic 'homage'. It has its own sense of style and quality too, with cool metal surfaces, stitched leather trim panels and beautifully damped switchgear.

What's on offer in the rear can't match the palatial standards of a rival Volkswagen Arteon, but it certainly out-classes competitors from Audi and BMW and if you take a seat in a rival Jaguar XE after trying one of these, you'll feel like you're in a supermini. Out back, if you avoid entry-level trim, you get a powered tailgate and once it raises, a shallow but quite spacious-looking 406-litre cargo area is revealed.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

We had quite a lot of trouble finding anyone with a bad word to say about this Stinger, though there were a few issues. With some early 2018-era cars, we came across a number of complaints regarding the electrical system. These were mainly due to the front wiring harness becoming damaged, leading to short-circuiting and in some isolated cases to potential fires. This was very rare though and Kia addressed the issue through a recall in late 2018. We also came across complaints about a rattling sound during running which appears to come from the sunroof - or more specifically the sunroof frame, which would have to be replaced by a dealer.

Some owners complained about brakes, which apparently tend to wear out quickly, especially on the top V6 GT S. In a few cases, owners noticed noises as they turned the wheels and a rattling from the brake pedal. In both cases, that designates braking issues and you'll need to get the brakes checked by specialist. We heard of a few issues with fuel smells from petrol models. This could be down to a fuel leak in the fuel lines or from the fuel injector - but it could just as easily be a faulty seal on the petrol cap. Otherwise, it's just the usual stuff. Give the electrical systems a thorough test and make sure the central screen has had all its necessary map updates. Check the alloys for scuffs. The interior for child damage. And insist on a fully stamped-up service history.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2019 Stinger V6 GT S ex VAT) A pollen filter costs in the £9 bracket. For a front brake disc, you're looking at paying in the £88 bracket, with a rear disc also costing from around £88. A pair of front brake pads are around £35, while a pair of rear pads sit in the £41 bracket for a set. A wiper blade can cost anything from £4 upwards.

On the Road

From launch, Kia called the Stinger a 'game-changer'. It was certainly very different from anything we'd previously seen from the brand. It was the company's very first rear-driven car and the first one truly able to take on premium European bands in terms of drive dynamics. Kia poached Albert Biermann, the former Head of BMW's M Performance division, to perfect these and the work that he and his team put into this car at the testing Nurburgring Nordschleife racetrack is immediately evident in this Stinger's impressively accomplished blend of high speed stability and crisp directional responsiveness. Adaptive suspension is standard on the top V6 variant and all derivatives get a drive modes system that enables you to alter steering feel, throttle response and changes from the standard 8-speed auto transmission, all to suit the way you want to drive. The resulting package is good enough to be considered alongside anything you could experience in a rival German premium brand model.

Three engines were initially on offer, a 197bhp 2.2-litre CRDi diesel unit and two petrol options, a 244bhp 2.0 T-GDi variant and the 365bhp 3.3-litre twin turbo V6 you'll find in the T-GDi GT S flagship model. We're not especially enamoured of the diesel, which is torquey, but rather betrays its SUV origins in terms of refinement. Much better if you're looking further down the range is the 2.0-litre petrol unit which storms to 60mph in under 6 seconds and feels as urgent as you'd want a GT model to be. If you can stretch up to the top V6 though, by all means do so, because a much greater measure of aural drama awaits - and of course, you get greater reserves of performance too, with 62mph flashing by in 4.7s en route to 168mph.

You'll pay for that at the pumps of course - 28.5mpg being the quoted combined cycle figure, along with an unremarkable 225g/km of CO2. Still, the Stinger's proper 'Gran Turismo' experience makes up for it. Think of this Kia being a kind of Porsche Panamera for the relatively well-heeled common man and you'll be closest to understanding the objective being targeted here. Like that model, it's a car in which you feel you could cross continents. But also like a Panamera, there's enough dynamic feedback here to keep you aware that much more than that is possible.

Overall

It's probably evident by now that we like the Stinger very much. It's certainly not the kind of car you would expect from this ambitious Korean brand, but in many ways it's the sort of model only Kia could have made. The styling's unconstrained by the need to reference other premium designs in the brand's portfolio because at the time of this car's original launch, there weren't any. In the same way, the drive dynamics have been individually judged, giving this car a fluid, rewarding feel that fits perfectly with its 'Gran Turismo' billing. Once you've tried it, you'll feel a hint of compromise in most European rivals.

Designer Gregory Guillaume reckoned the Stinger would signal a 'paradigm shift' in the way that customers perceive the brand and that could well be true. It certainly represented a brave move on Kia's part, from its cartoonish name, to the swagger in its styling, to its defiantly old-school European-style rear-driven platform. But no matter how good it is, executive buyers will have to get past that badge on the boot lid.

We have a feeling that the sweet spot in the range might lie with the temptingly priced 2.0-litre petrol model rather than this V6 GT S variant, but either way, you'll get yourself an automobile that fundamentally feels like it's been created by people who like cars. A lot. That's a rarity in today's market. And it deserves your attention.

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