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Kia’s Stinger – At $35K, A Proportional Response

Car Reviews

Kia’s Stinger – At $35K, A Proportional Response

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: the Koreans are coming. Of course they’ve been here, formally launching – if, in retrospect, ‘launch’ is the word – Hyundai’s modest Excel in the States some thirty years ago. And while the first decade for Hyundai and, later, Kia, was a roller coaster ride, with more downs than ups, the last ten years have generated vastly improved products, and in the guise of Hyundai’s Genesis brand and Kia’s Stinger, a couple of nice surprises.

The Stinger, notably, got the fan boys swooning with its long, seductive media tease – in V6-equipped, GT guise – before its showroom debut. Boasting a twin-turbo V6 and 365 horsepower, this was the $50K alternative to BMW’s mighty M3 or Benz’s C-Class AMG. And while those are ambitious role models for any young brand, the Stinger GT made a compelling argument, even for those (like myself) that can’t yet envision spending $50K in a Kia showroom. But as noted in our look at the Stinger GT this summer, the 4-cylinder Stinger – offered in the low $30s with 255 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque – is one very viable alternative to the millions of Accords and Camrys sitting at that same price point. So I drove one.

In the walk up to the ‘base’ Stinger there’s little to differentiate it from the more expressive/expensive GT, a good thing for someone spending $35K – less so for someone spending $50K. We like the Stinger’s 18-inch rubber, while wishing the Kia occupied a footprint closer to a 3 Series than a 5 Series; this is one long piece of sheetmetal, stretching 190 inches on a 114.4-inch wheelbase. And with a height of 55 inches, the Kia’s length and height deliver a stunning silhouette, along with just enough greenhouse to make outward visibility a distinct possibility.

Despite referenced on Kia’s website as a sedan, the Stinger – regardless of what sits under the hood – is a hatchback, and the hatch is a big ‘un, easily able to swallow your bike or snowboards. Kia rates cargo capacity at just over 23 cubic feet, but that’s with the backseat up – and the backseat folds. I’m not sure I’d sleep back there, but I have an adventure-oriented son-in-law that would crash under the hatch faster than you can say ‘Yeti cooler’.

Inside, in our test vehicle’s $37K (with AWD) window sticker the emphasis is on comfort and functionality and not – notably – soft surfaces or lavish detailing. Plastics are hard, but not brittle, while the perforated leather seating provides what you hope it would – comfortable seating. Color choices, both exterior and interior, are limited – and while subjectively the Micro Blue exterior on our test Stinger was younger than my psychographic, you shouldn’t have a problem; everyone’s is younger than my psychographic.

Behind the wheel, the 255 horses propel the Stinger’s 3,900 pounds (with all-wheel drive) quite nicely. And since that weight is almost 300 pounds lighter than the V6-equipped Stinger GT, you can correctly assume the 4-cylinder is lighter in feel, albeit slower in acceleration and top end. We’d liken it to the difference between the late George H.W. Bush and #43, George W. Bush: the base 4-cylinder is a little kinder, a little gentler and – obviously – a little slower, but not so slow as to not be capable or entertaining.

If I was a product planner on the Kia team, I’d ditch the fake plastic intakes on the Stinger’s hood, give the 4-cylinder platform the same braking and handling tweaks that the GT receives (but keep the 18-inch rubber), and imbue the 2.0 liter four with a real 300 horsepower. Make sure the rear-wheel drive window sticker stays under $35K, and then do something decidedly different with a car platform: advertise it.

David Boldt

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, Chicago's Midwest Automotive Media Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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