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Here at Roadshow, we’re big fans of the Kia Stinger. We gave this shapely hatchback our 2018 Shift Award for Vehicle of the Year, and after spending a year with, we walked away .
What makes the Stinger so special? For starters, look at it. Then pop the hood and you’ll find — in the case of GT models, anyway — a potent, turbocharged, six-cylinder engine. Even in its fully loaded GT2 spec, the Stinger represents one hell of a bargain at around $52,000. But even when you peel away the options, there’s a lot to like about Kia’s performance GT.
Less expensive, not cheaper
The car tested here is still a Stinger GT, meaning it’s powered by the 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V6, and not the 2.0-liter I4 of lesser models. But this one lacks many of the creature comforts found in our long-term GT2 tester. That also means it carries a price tag of $41,915, including destination.
The downgrade in trim level isn’t immediately noticeable from the outside. You still get 19-inch wheels and LED lights, and that sexy Stinger shape. But inside, the buttery-soft Nappa leather is replaced by a cheaper hide, though it’s easy to forgive when dyed in my test car’s lovely shade of dark red.
A standard Stinger GT also ditches the shift-by-wire transmission lever for a more traditional handle, even though the gearbox itself is identical. This seems like a weird bit of cost-cutting, but honestly, I prefer the standard gear-shifter — it’s far less confusing for most ordinary folks. The standard GT also does without a sunroof, meaning there’s more headroom to accommodate my 6-foot, 4-inch frame.
Even in this base GT spec, the Stinger’s cabin is still a lovely place in which to spend time. The seats are incredibly comfortable, heated and power-adjustable, and the hatchback area is just as large — it’s just manually operated here. I would never hesitate to throw a bag in the back and go for a multiday road trip in this comfy hatch.
Smaller screen, same tech
Kia’s well-liked UVO software handles infotainment duties here, though it’s housed in a 7-inch touchscreen, rather than the 8-inch display found on 2.0T Premium, GTS, GT1 and GT2 models. The smaller display makes the system ever so slightly harder to use, though with standard and , I find it plenty functional.
The base GT comes with a head-up display, just like its upper-crust siblings, though unfortunately, a lot of driver-assistance tech doesn’t make the cut. If you want adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, lane-departure warning or forward collision avoidance, you have to opt for a higher trim level — or get a 2.0-liter Stinger in Premium guise. Thankfully, niceties like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are still standard.
Where the standard GT doesn’t skimp is in performance. It has the same, 365-horsepower V6 as the GT1 and GT2, complemented by 376 pound-feet of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
What I really like about this Stinger is that, unlike our long-termer, it uses rear-wheel drive. This car just feels a little bit more enthusiastic out on the road, with slightly more communicative steering. All Stinger models are incredible grand tourers, but the RWD version feels like the real sports car of the lineup.
The GT’s suspension nails the balance between stiffness and comfort, and when you put the drive mode selector into Sport, it firms up the dampers enough to mitigate any floaty tendencies while cornering. However, the Stinger’s brakes continue to be a weak point. Day to day, the Brembo stoppers are just fine, but if you plan to push your Stinger every so often, these brakes are quick to fade.
A hell of a bargain
To me, the base-level GT is the real sweet spot of the Stinger range — if you’re looking for a performance car, that is. It offers an excellent driving experience without sacrificing comfort or amenities, and even if you select a more generously spec’d trim level, the Kia still represents a bargain over cars such as the Audi A7 or Porsche Panamera.
With cars like that Panamera, you’re paying more than double the price of the Stinger — $86,300 for those of you playing at home — for the badge, the build quality and, admittedly, nicer materials. But you’re also getting 35 fewer horsepower and a lot less standard equipment, and the story is much the same with the Audi A7, though, admittedly that pill is easier to swallow with a starting price of $69,000.
The Kia Stinger in its most basic form — that is, with rear-wheel drive and the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine — starts at just $32,900. And even for that money, you’re still getting a well-equipped vehicle that looks and feels much more expensive than it is. That’s why the Stinger is so great. No matter which one you buy, it’s a solid performance value.
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