One of the Stinger’s greatest assets is the styling; the designers at Kia knocked it out of the park with this one.
Kia has been pulling out all the stops recently, delivering to market a set of very competitive vehicles in most of the hottest segments. This success has helped the brand immensely, reaching a point where it can compete with the best. Kia also has had the advantage of watching its close sibling, Hyundai, and by learning from Hyundai’s mistakes it seems that Kia has been able to invest where they’re going to be the most successful. The Kia Stinger might seem like a bit of a departure from their usual strategy, but it’s perfectly timed and positioned to help take the brand to the next level.
Every brand needs a halo car; that one vehicle that you don’t need, but you check it out while you’re at the dealer shopping compact CUVs, and it reaffirms that the brand really does know how to make some inspirational machinery. Of course the opposite is also true; a halo car that fails to deliver can really distract from a brand’s otherwise solid offerings. I spent a week with the latest, and most affordable, iteration, a 2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line to see if it has what it takes to be a true halo car.
One of the Stinger’s greatest assets is the styling; the designers at Kia knocked it out of the park with this one. My tester came finished in an upscale “Thunder Grey” and sporting more conservative 18” wheels. These subtle traits really transform the Stinger’s character into that of a much more refined and elegant sport sedan. Everything is well proportioned; there isn’t one feature that overshadows the rest, rather everything including its wide rear hips, side vents, and quad exhaust tips work in harmony to create a glamorous sophistication.
The interior is a very similar story. The materials used are not top shelf, but they’re very well put together, and the overall layout once again delivers a touch of unexpected sophistication. For example, the dashboard features three moderately sized air vents right dead center on a slight curvature. They’re well finished and immediately took my mind to early 2000s Ferraris that used a very similar layout. The rest of the dash is clean, but does have a lot more actual buttons compared to most other current cars – a definite plus. There is a touchscreen; it’s simple but good, and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
From a practicality standpoint the interior scores well. It has adequate storage up front, great seats that are both comfortable for long periods and supportive enough for spirited driving, and plenty of legroom for rear passengers. The rear hatch is unique, and while the Stinger doesn’t have a big deep trunk like other sport sedans, it does have a long but somewhat narrow cargo area. The good news is that folding the split rear seat frees up even more space, and the Stinger excels at handling odd-shaped and bulky cargo.
The biggest difference between the GT-Line and the pricier Stinger GT (reviewed here) and GT Limited is the fact that the GT-Line does not get the 3.3L twin-turbo V6. Rather, the GT-Line gets a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder making 255 horsepower, and 260 lb-ft. of torque from 1,400 to 4,000RPM. It might seem like the 2.0L is a far cry from the powerhouse six, but believe me, the four is more than enough for the Stinger. Due to the improved weight balance, it does wonders to the way the car handles and feels on the road.
Of course, if it’s straight-line performance you want, the V6 should be your choice, but for a daily driver this example offers plenty of pull for brisk acceleration without breaking a sweat. Power delivery is surprisingly smooth and refined, and unlike similar 2.0T setups, there is little engine noise heard in the cabin. The eight speed automatic does a great job keeping pace, and makes an excellent dance partner should you choose to use the steering wheel mounted paddles to shift on your own.
The chassis on the Stinger is yet another high point, and with the light four-cylinder up front it feels better balanced, more poised, and more responsive than the V6. It truly is a delight to drive, and it’s hard to find a situation where the Stinger GT-Line doesn’t feel at home. Whether you’re carving back roads, or on a long and tiring commute, it’s the right tool for the job. This car feels well mannered and under control through the corners with very predictable handling and very limited lean; it simply goes where you point it.
The steering could benefit from more road feel, but it is well weighted and sharp to respond, not to mention the turning radius is surprisingly tight. The ride quality is what you’d expect from a sports sedan that skews a bit towards the more sporty side, so it does get slightly harsh on the roughest city streets. Thanks to the standard all-wheel-drive system on Canadian Stinger models, this is a sports sedan that you can easily enjoy all year around with confidence.
I only have two minor critiques after spending a week and over 600km behind the wheel of the Stinger GT-Line. Firstly, tire and road noise in the cabin of the highway could be lessened, but it’s not a significant issue like it is in some cars. Secondly, when the stability control intervenes, the car basically shuts off all power to the wheels for what feels like too much time. Realistically, it’s only a second or two, but when you’re pulling out into traffic and need to get moving it’s definitely not a good feeling.
Another area where the 2.0L exercises its muscle against the big V6 is when it comes to fuel consumption. Despite being literally right off the production line with 16km on the odometer when I picked it up, the 2.0L easily returned a 10.3L/100km average for my weekly commute. Better yet, on a highway run out of town, the car averaged 8.8L/100km; seriously impressive for an AWD sedan that’s as quick as this Stinger. It’s worth nothing that premium fuel is recommended for both the four-cylinder and V6 models.
The Stinger GT-Line is the entry point of the Stinger line up and the MSRP of $39,995 is the price, outside of premium paint colors. If you want more, you’re stepping up to the V6 GT model at $44,995 or the fully loaded GT Limited at $49,995. The GT-Line comes with enough equipment to deliver all the modern conveniences such as heated leather seats and steering wheel, a great sound system, full LED lighting, wireless charging pad, blind spot detection, rear view camera and more.
You do need to be OK with some exclusions though. Notables include the Brembo brakes, sunroof, cooled seats, adaptive cruise control, driver’s seat memory function, the 360 degree view camera and the active driver assist package, all of which are available on the higher trim models. Personally, the only option I missed was the seat memory function, which should be standard on anything at this price point.
The 2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line is probably one of my biggest surprises for the year. With the four-cylinder I anticipated this car to feel a lot more like a sportier Optima (reviewed here) than a true halo sports sedan, but the Stinger GT-Line is everything it needs to be to carry the Kia brand to new heights. In my opinion, this is the best sub $40,000 sports sedan you can buy in 2019. It’s Kia’s time-tested value for dollar strategy, very well executed in a category that is ripe for something new.