On paper, the Q3 2017 arrival of the Kia Stinger looked like mana from Heaven for Aussie petrolheads hurting from loss of their beloved, locally produced large sedans. Of all nations and of all place, Korea’s Kia had sprung a performance flagship five-door, suitably large in stature, available with a big turbo six-cylinder heartbeat and, importantly, rear-wheel drive.
For the most part, its half-decade on local terra firma has been a solid if unremarkable success. Both in terms of a modest sales success for Kia in a perilously dwindled mainstream large-car segment and in establishing a bit of a cult following that’s sure to bloom in future.
It’s a good car. It’s an exciting car, at least in its larger-engine choice. And with Chrysler putting the 300SRT to pasture it’s the last thing standing as a genuinely affordable four- or five-door rear-driven sport sedan. But it’s not quite the new messiah many had foreseen.
In October 2017, within a month or so of Holden shutting its Elisabeth plant in SA, the Stinger hit local showrooms in a choice of two turbocharged engines, each offering three variant trim levels depending on buyer budget and taste.
The heroic choice is the twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6. Plying 272kW and 510Nm through an eight-speed auto the form guide suggests it’ll hit 100km/h form a standstill in 4.9 seconds, traction loss notwithstanding. Sub-five performance if properly heady by most reasonable measure.
The sixes kicked off with base 330S at $48,990, offering all of the thrills – Brembo brakes, LSD – if trimming the frills, such as fake leather trim and AEB. It was a seven-grand set-up to the ($56k) mid-grade 330Si, which added leather, AEB, active cruise and 19s as perhaps the sweet value spot in the entire 2017 line-up.
The top dog GT sixer, at a tenner under $60k, stacked features such as active dampers, nappa leather, 360-degree cameras, a head-up display and 15-speaker premium sound. A bi-model exhaust ($2500) could be optioned on any V6 version.
A trio of 2.0-litre turbocharged four versions, offering a still-healthy 182kW and 353Nm, largely mirrored the six-pot line-up in spec, kicking off at a wallet-friendly $45,990 for the 200S. The four-pot Si was also three-grand cheaper that it V6 twin, while the 200 GT-Line, at $55,990, loses little to the GT in features (though isn’t identical) for those buyers where 6.0sec 0-100km.h performance was perfectly adequate, thanks.
Execution and design inside are quite sound an typically Kia but the big drawcard is the five-door liftback format that brings almost wagon-like practicality, if without quite so much luggage space (406 litres). In GT/GT-Line trim, the Stinger feels downright opulent.
The spirited clip of either engine choice is married with fine on-road character. The Stinger is comfortable and refined, underpinned by a ride and (locally fine-tuned) handling package intended to be measured against the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The three effective grades also bring slightly different suspension and steering tunings.
The Stinger got a mild facelift in late 2020 (for MY21) found in the current new range, including new wheels, new LED lights, a range-wide upgrade to high-spec 10.25-inch infotainment and broader safety for a breed that now started from just under $50k. A new quad-tip bi-model exhaust was added to all V6 versions for an academic two-kilowatt power hike.
Trainspotters after something a little different can search out one of a number of special editions launched locally to date, including the two-litre Rafa Edition (MY18) and the six-powered Carbon Edition and Night Sky Edition (MY20-21) variants.
The doomsayers are suggesting that Stinger’s days are numbered, a once compelling concept that arrived on the stage too late and one that might soon be retired due to a lack of sales interest globally. In the US, where it was debuted and largely targeted at, the Stinger hasn’t nearly risen to its makers hopes for popularity and buyer acceptance.
For now, the Stinger continues its steady course on the Aussie new car market.