At risk of puncturing the suspense, the new news is this really is a very agreeable car. The old news is it labours under a terrible name. No, not KIA, you fools. Stinger. What were they thinking of, calling a car Stinger? Anyway, they were stuck with KIA. They actually chose Stinger. The KIA badge does OK on stuff like the Soul and Sportage. But this slinky-looking rear-drive hatch-cum-coupe is diving into colder, choppier waters. The BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe is the main rival, or the Audi A5. No pressure, then.
This is the twin-turbo V6 one, knocking on 275km/h from a 276kW V6. Poor little me. It looks great. The long, low proportions set the cabin well rearward, and from the back you notice a voluptuous swell over the rear wheels. It’s longer than a 4-Series, with more wheelbase, and this means it’s got decent room for four despite the laid-back seats. Though the engine is fundamentally an existing job, the chassis is largely new. The front suspension is entirely bespoke, the rear heartily modified from a Genesis. Adaptive dampers are standard on the V6.
A big proviso. No actual road test here. We were confined to track-testing it. At the Nurburgring, ground zero for irrelevant road-car stopwatch tomfoolery. OK, let’s make of this what we can. Its blind tightening corners, bumps and dips and crests do make a good job of imitating an interesting hilly road. The Stinger’s great talent is how natural it feels. You sit low, and address the wheel and pedals straight-ahead. Thai’s good for the articulation of your arms and legs. Then its reactions are reassuring and predictable. Big saloons with ‘sporty’ bent sometimes give you initial sog followed by a sudden twitch. Instead the Stinger is progressive. It will react to trimming the line by throttle. Traction out of bends is stout, helped by an LSD, and the ESP does its work subtly.
It’s not razor-sharp but it’s game and dignified and doesn’t feel out of its depth even under this provocation. At 1730kg, the Stinger isn’t a light car, because the body is almost all steel and it’s longer than direct competitors. But it manages the mass well in undulating comers. At wide-open throttle it doesn’t hang about: 5.1 secs 0-100km/h, says KIA. The engine lags a bit until you’ve got some revs up, then it hits its stride with a nice warble. The transmission shifts slickly, but the paddles won’t entirely override it. Inside, KIA has gone for lots of hardware switches – the climate, stereo and seat heaters all have their own buttons (rivals do some or all of that on screens). I prefer the KIA approach. You can do common things by sense of touch alone. A head-up display is augmented by a configurable TFT between the real dials. Some IS speakers of Harman Kardon audio goodness are on the options list.
KIA SA has a model under fairly stringent usage but nevertheless it’s a positive indication, as was revealing it to the public at the Festival of Motoring at Kyalami earlier this month. In this territory KIA has to carry a badge discount compared with the Germans so KI A’s hope must be for the Stinger to cause people to take the rest of its range more seriously.