Korean automaker Kia is the all-you-can-eat buffet of the auto industry: It meets your basic needs and you get a lot for your money. But you don’t go there expecting to be wowed.
The buffet just got a sizzle station. The new Kia Stinger aims to replicate or exceed the performance of famed rear-drive European sports sedans, and earn staid Kia some needed rally points. Pras Subramanian and I think Kia succeeded, as you’ll see in the video above. This screamer provides track-level thrills, with the exotic looks of something that might ordinarily be Swedish and unpronounceable. Listen for the engine roar Pras and I have to shout over.
The value proposition is still there—just two notches higher than Kia typically aims. The Stinger starts at about $32,000, three grand cheaper than the entry-lever BMW 3 series. Yet the Stinger is nearly as big as the next model up in BMW’s lineup, the 5 series—which starts about $20,000 above the Stinger. The Stinger nestles into the same narrow niche between the Audi A4 and A6, the Mercedes C Class and E Class and the Cadillac ATS and CTS. So it’s a mid-sized sedan priced like the compacts in its class.
In Car and Driver’s tests, the Stinger, equipped with the 365-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 Pras and I tested, beat every competing sports sedan on straight acceleration, with a blistering 0-to-60 time of 4.4 seconds. If you could compute a speed-per-dollar ratio, it would be even more impressive. Car and Driver dinged the Stinger for imprecise handling on aggressive turns, something most drivers will never notice.
So where did Kia cut corners in order to pack a ton of wallop amid the metal? The plasticky interior is somewhat wan, especially compared with the refinement of the European luxury makes. Pras complained about the lack of contrast stitching in the Stinger’s cabin. Awww. Neither of us cared for the touchscreen that protrudes out of the center stack, as if glued on, rather than integrated into the dash. But we didn’t notice any of this when the pedal was down and unsecured objects were flying through the cabin.
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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman