There aren’t many car companies that have gone through a brand transformation quite as extensive as Kia’s over the past 30 years. A range once filled with anonymous hatchbacks and saloons has been replaced with swathes of stylish and desirable new metal.
The all-new Stinger has played a significant role in helping the Korean brand update its image and it’s the latest car to join the Auto Express test fleet.
Another reason why we’re putting the Stinger through its paces is because this is Kia’s first real attempt at taking on the established German car makers. So, I’ll be running the Stinger for six months to see if it’s cut out for life in the executive company car park.
We headed down to Beadles Kia in Croydon to meet sales executive Phil Smith to collect our car. While the 365bhp 3.3-litre V6 Stinger GT S sounds and looks appealing, we’ve opted for the more sensible 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol model instead. There’s still plenty of punch, however, with 244bhp and 353Nm of torque.
The range is made up of two trims: GT-Line and GT-Line S. Neither will leave you wanting for more kit, but our range-topping model has a roster of standard equipment you wouldn’t find on equivalent models from Audi, BMW or Mercedes. It includes a full leather cabin, heated and cooled front seats, an electrically adjustable steering wheel, a head-up display and a 360-degree camera system. Then there’s a 15-speaker Harman Kardon stereo set-up, an eight-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, adaptive cruise control, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
All that (and more) will set you back £35,525 or £400 per month on a three-year PCP deal with a deposit of £8,850. It’s so well kitted out there isn’t a single optional extra fitted to our car, aside from the £645 premium paint. Spec a BMW 420i Gran Coupe to a similar level and the price will be north of £40,000.
So far so good then, and it’s not as if you have to make any compromises when it comes to style. Okay, the Kia badge on the nose doesn’t carry the same prestige as a BMW’s, but our pearl white Stinger with bronze exterior detailing is already attracting plenty of attention. And once people find out it’s a Kia, they invariably want to know more.
While I may have only just picked up the keys to the Stinger, there are one or two things that are beginning to bug me. Every time you climb in and switch on the ignition you’re greeted with a welcoming chime. And as far as I can see there is no way to switch it off in the car’s settings.
There’s another annoying bong when you open and close the boot. Of course, it’s an automatic tailgate, but every time you open it two sharp beeps erupt from the car. And when you close it, the Stinger blasts out the same beeps again. I understand it’s a safety feature, but it’s already beginning to grate.
There’s plenty to like from behind the wheel, though. So far the Stinger has spent most of its time in the confines of London’s congested and potholed roads, but the supple ride and brilliant stop-and-go adaptive cruise control quickly take the pain out of commuting into the centre of the capital.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox works its way seamlessly through the ratios, while the engine produces a nice rasp from the exhaust as you extend it beyond 5,000rpm.
I’m yet to really test the Stinger’s rear-drive chassis, but I’ve high hopes given it was partly developed by former BMW M Division engineering boss Albert Beirmann; he’s partly responsible for the Hyundai i30 N, which is a fabulous hot hatch. Has Kia combined desirability, sharp driving dynamics and affordability into one package? The initial signs look pretty good.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.