We’ve loved the Kia Stinger ever since it arrived in Australia and made it our car of the year back in 2017.
It’s made for people who love driving a large performance sedan in an age of SUVs which have practicality and efficiency at the top of their checklist.
The Stinger packs a seriously hefty 272kW and 510Nm from a twin turbo 3.3-litre V6, which is all sent to the rear wheels and will see it cover 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds.
Given its capabilities, its $60,990 plus on roads price tag for the top spec GT variant is a relative bargain.
And yet, while all those things are true, this time around we were left wanting a bit more.
It’s not that the Stinger isn’t still excellent because it is: it’s slick, quick, lightweight and fun, with good grip — if a little tame with the back-end shenanigans.
But after piloting some hot hatches such as the Renault Megane RS around recently, which are in the same ballpark price-wise — or in the case of the Ford Fiesta ST, a lot less — we just felt the Stinger lacked a bit of mongrel.
Despite having different drive modes, they don’t tend to change the car’s characteristics all that much — with the exception of the very cool seat bolstering, which will give you a tight cuddle in sport mode and relax in other modes.
The transmission is also lazy when left to its own devices when going hard, though the paddle shifters offer precise changes once you make the switch.
But the main issue — which has long plagued the Stinger — is the sound, or lack thereof.
The exhaust lacks any real note of any kind, feeling very distant no matter how hard you bury your right foot.
For those who grew up with Aussie-made V8s, the Stinger’s soundtrack will likely feel rather impotent.
But there’s positive news.
It’s a simple fix, which Kia is on top of, currently offering an exhaust option made by a third party for $3315 including fitment which, so we’re told, completely transforms the character of the car.
Even better, an updated Stinger range will arrive in Australia before the end of the year with — praise be — a factory-fitted bi-modal exhaust.
Also, the Stinger’s chilled out cabin makes it feel more like a premium European car — which is hard to get too upset about.
It’s comfortable despite the 19-inch wheels and it’s also well equipped.
You’re not just forking out for the performance: you get a head-up display, cooled and heated seats, heated steering wheel and more in GT guise.
And though it may look like a sedan, it’s actually a liftback (industry speak for a sedan-shaped hatchback), meaning despite the limited 406 litres on paper (to the top of the back seats), the long cargo area means you can fit a whole lot in there.
It makes a mockery out of family car buyers’ obsessions with SUVs and you can also see why Kia felt comfortable dropping the Optima from its line-up and having the Stinger as its sole large sedan offering.
The engine claims 10.2L/100km fuel economy, which is about right if you take it easy or head on a road trip … but if you want to have some fun you’ll be in the teens in no time.
Also, the Stinger’s 10,000km service intervals undo its family-friendly credentials somewhat.
The Stinger continues to offer extraordinary performance for the money. If you want a premium Euro sedan and can handle a Kia badge on the bonnet, you’ll love this — as likely will boofhead V8 types, if they wait a few months for the updated version’s new exhaust.
2020 KIA STINGER GT SPECIFICATIONS
- Price $60,990
- Engine 3.3-litre V6 petrol
- Outputs 272kW/510Nm
- Transmission Eight-speed automatic, RWD
- Fuel economy 10.2L/100km