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Car reviews - Kia - Stinger - 200Si

Our Opinion

We like
Design, interior, handling, comfort, performance, safety, value, uniqueness, boldness, character, charm
Room for improvement
Coupe-like roofline limits entry/egress, no manual availability

Gallery

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Kia logo9 Mar 2018

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

Overview

HERE’S the deal. The Kia Stinger is closely related to the upcoming Genesis G70 sedan, Hyundai’s long-awaited BMW 3 Series rival. Which makes the 200Si as tested a four-pot rear-drive liftback in the mould of the BMW 4 Series.

That’s a huge call for a Kia, but ultimately a red-letter moment for the brand.

And, as a latter-day Holden VF Commodore or Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo, South Korea now owns that space. The Stinger is that accomplished.

Price and equipment

Kia’s march upmarket shouldn’t be a surprise judging by the number of top-of-the-line Sorento and Sportage SUVs plying our streets.

But the CK-series Stinger is really something completely different. And quite special.

Think of this quiet and comfortable sports sedan as a four-door Ford Mustang with a liftback (and better quality) a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe rival or an alternative to an Audi A5 Sportback.

If that sounds like a stretch, consider that much of the Kia’s platform components will also underpin the Genesis G70, Hyundai’s upcoming assault on the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. South Korea is ready, willing and able.

Said to have been inspired by the famous Coke-bottle shape, the long-nose/cab-backward silhouette was penned in Germany, with the Nurburgring also central to the Stinger’s chassis tuning.

Front mid-mounted rear-wheel drive, a 182kW/353Nm 2.0-litre direct-injection four-pot turbo-petrol engine, eight-speed auto, multi-link rear suspension. The mid-range 200Si as tested here from $52,990 plus on-roads certainly reads like a no-holds barred dynamic machine.

Even the cheapest Stinger includes active-bonnet pedestrian protection, a pair of Isofix child-seat points, seven airbags, a powered driver’s seat, cruise control, 12V power outlets, USB charging points, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, auto headlights, electric-folding door mirrors, rear parking sensors, keyless auto-entry and start, dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera and 18-inch alloy wheels.

However, we advise potential buyers to ignore the base S because it lacks autonomous emergency braking and forward collision alert – two safety items that ought to be standard in a $45,990 grand tourer. As a consequence, it manages only a three-star ANCAP crash-test rating.

The $7000 premium the Si also scores lane-keep assistance, driver attention alert, adaptive cruise control, and front parking sensors (upping the ANCAP score to a full five stars), as well as auto wipers, sports leather seats (instead of vinyl), a luggage net and an inch-larger (to eight inches) touchscreen.

For another $3000 on top of that, the GT-Line ushers in three-mode adaptive suspension, a 360-degree camera, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, auto-levelling LED headlights, auto high-beam, a driver’s electric lumbar and side/thigh bolster support with memory, electrically adjustable passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, wireless phone charging, sunroof, TFT-LCD digital colour instrumentation, a head-up display, suede rooflining, alloy pedals, aluminium console and door trim inserts and 19-inch alloys.

There are also corresponding 272kW/510Nm twin-turbo V6 versions of each model grade, with a limited-slip differential, higher-performance Brembo brakes and variable-ratio steering. Dubbed the 330 (for 3.3-litre), it adds $3000 to the S and Si, or $4000 to the 200GT-Line’s price, to create the 330GT.

Fitted exclusively with Nappa leather, the latter is expected to be the best seller of the lot – even at a tenner under $60K.

Oh, and each carries Kia’s industry-leading seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Interior

The Stinger’s interior is a stylish mix of Mercedes, Volkswagen and… Kia. And suffers not an iota for it as a result.

Firstly, the design and execution is excellent, with careful attention to detail spent on the little things such as trim and materials. Yes, some of the lower-sited plastics are more Korea than Germany, but then there is none of the off-gas smell that blighted earlier efforts from this company.

The driving position is first class, aided by endless adjustability of the wheel and seat. The front seats have a large plushness to them that – for one passenger at least – revealed a lack of lower-lumbar support, but they remain inviting and comfortable places for most users. And what a boon to find a front left-hand-side seat-height lifter! Go Kia!Some observers might find the very Kia-like design of the analogue instrumentation and centre touchscreen out of step with the Stinger’s bold ambition but in all honesty there is nothing wrong with the clarity of every single switch and control, so what’s wrong with the fact that some may be shared with models such as the excellent Sorento?A pleasingly small leather-clad three-spoke wheel – complete with nifty paddle shifters in lieu of any manual gearbox – helps with imbuing a sports sedan feel, as does the low-slung driving position.

Rear-seat accommodation is pretty much first class – great squab angle, sufficient kneeroom, ample ventilation all regular amenities like armrests, phone chargers and cupholders are present, the lack of road noise intrusion is genuinely a shock and there is a quality feel to all materials. Clearly Kia’s thought about stuff back here.

Further back is the large, long and surprisingly deep tailgate area, which offers very useful real-world practicality that goes well beyond a regular sedan’s. The decision to go for five rather than four doors really adds to the usability, and desirability.

Foibles are few – rear-vision is terrible for the driver when reversing taller folks have to duck their heads getting in and out of the back seat the radio volume knob is a big stretch away for the driver (but that’s what the spoke-mounted toggle alternative is for) middle-rear occupants must contend with a fat transmission tunnel and the keyless entry button requires two pokes at the handle, which is slightly annoying.

Yet all are so minor in the scheme of things that Kia’s engineers and product planners ought to be proud of themselves.

Engine and transmission

Most of the attention has been lavished on the 330GT twin-turbo V6 flagship, and that is a thunderous performer with a sub-5.0 second 0-100km/h time.

But the 200Si, with its sweet-spinning and punchy 182kW/353Nm 2.0-litre ‘Theta II’ four-cylinder turbo, is certainly no slouch, needing just 1.1s more to hit the metric tonne.

Tipping the natty little T-bar lever into D, initial take-off is brisk rather than ballistic, but after that and when the tacho is rising, power comes on forcefully, for very rapid point-to-point acceleration. That the in-house eight-speed auto is so slick and unobtrusive is proof of Kia’s exemplary engineering capabilities.

There’s a Drive Select mode that, from the default Comfort to Sport, boosts throttle response and extends the gear ratios out a bit more before shifting up, and locks out top unless the right paddle is pulled. Here the 200Si feels deceptively strong, hunkering down decisively as the speedometer needle soars instantly. There’s autobahn breeding in the Stinger’s relaxed insouciance.

Alternatively, there’s Eco to help eek out better mileage (we averaged under 9.0L/100km over a wide range of suburban and fast rural driving), and Smart, which we couldn’t really detect what happened even after 1500km behind the wheel of our 200Si.

Here’s what Kia’s press blurb says about the latter: “Smart Mode monitors your driving style and switches constantly through Sport, Comfort and Eco to provide the optimum balance between performance, fuel economy, and smooth operation.” Kia has been very generous with the sound-deadening material, as evident under the bonnet and the body is said to be ultra-stiff, meaning that the whole powertrain is uncommonly quiet and refined.

Ride and handling

The Stinger may have been tested and tuned at the Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit, but the more impressive feat is just how quiet, comfortable and relaxed the standard wheel/tyre set-up is (wearing Continental 225/45R18 ContiSport Contact 5 tyres), adding to the 200Si’s sweetness and light.

Where other similar-sized vehicles thrum and drone, this Kia is muted bumps are smothered rather than felt and, yet, the dynamic character is still very much in line with that of a sports sedan. And, remember, the 200Si does not offer adaptive dampers.

Kia reckons local roads and tastes have been factored in during the CK’s development and we’re inclined to accept this.

With such a strong bodyshell and plenty of sound deadening as well, the Stinger walks that fine line of involving the driver without disturbing the occupants.

Setting off in Comfort mode, steering feel is quite moderate in weight but fluid in response, for quite eager and balanced handling that remains steadfast and planted even as speeds rise. Potholes do not upset cornering lines there’s no rack rattle coming from the steering column the stability/traction systems are extremely measured in their interference and overall composure is assured.

Turn the knob to Sport and the helm becomes noticeably heavier at slower velocities, but isn’t really any sharper or agile at higher ones. And in Eco it’s all a bit lighter and easy to twirl while parking. After a while we chose the fifth mode (Custom) and selected normal steering with stronger powertrain response.

To put all that in perspective, dynamically the Stinger doesn’t quite connect the driver to the road in the way that the super-tactile Jaguar XE does, but at the same time there’s similar steering deftness, road-holding and feedback characteristics to a VF Commodore SS. Or in other words, a welcome familiarity and calm.

Finally, the brakes are also up to the task, with the four-wheelventilated discs – 320mm at the front, 314mm at the rear – providing fast and reassuring response.

All up, the Stinger 200Si is a balanced, involving, refined and calming grand tourer. Bravo, Kia.

Safety and servicing

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has given the Stinger a five-star rating in Si and GT/GT-Line guises. The base S’ lack of AEB sees that slip to just three stars, so avoid.

Kia’s warranty is a for seven years/unlimited kilometres. The first 14 services are capped to seven years or 105,000kms, whichever comes first.

Stinger service intervals are at every 12 months or 10,000km, which is 5000km fewer than other (non-turbo-petrol) Kias.

Verdict

The Stinger 200Si is not only Kia’s best car on sale to date, but also a worthy successor to the lamented Holden VF Calais V and Ford Falcon G6E turbos.

What’s most surprising – disarming even – is the fact that the 200Si has character and charm as well as dynamic muscle and luxury sedan refinement – a rare combination that even premium brands struggle to achieve.

Faults are few. Just steer clear of the base S without AEB.

So, if you want a large, comfortable, practical and good looking grand tourer for your family, put brand misconceptions aside, forget about the compromises that every SUV invariably forces, and enjoy what the gifted Stinger has to offer.

Fast, formidable and refined, the handsome 200Si is a gem. Love it!

Rivals

2017 Holden VF II Calais V MY17 from $50,750, plus on-road costs
If you can still find a recently discontinued VFII Calais in either sedan or Sportwagon guise, snap it up! With comfort, style and grace, this is simply one of the most suitable cars for Australia, period, and one of the best too. What a loss its demise is.

Ford Mustang Fastback EcoBoost from $48,490, plus on-road costs
Here’s another sports-focused grand tourer with rear-drive and a four-pot turbo. The Mustang certainly has the image and attitude, and it’s dynamically keen too. If only Ford made a four-door version and called it Falcon! Hang on…

Infiniti Q50 2.0t GT from $54,900, plus on-road costs
The rear-drive Q50 is one of today’s great disappointments – descended from the famous Nissan/Prince Skyline, it has the dynamic sports sedan heritage to really put Japan back on the map, but the Infiniti is too soft and not sporty at all. A wasted opportunity.

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