There’s a lot of German in the Kia Stinger – the design, the dialed-in road manners, the feel of EVERYTHING – but there’s nothing German about the 2022 price: $50,495 to start, that for a four-door hatchback with high-end design cues, track-ready manners, standard all-wheel drive, a 368-horsepower direct-injection turbocharged V-6 and a slick eight-speed automatic gearbox. With paddle shifters, of course.
The Stinger’s tapered hind quarters owe plenty to Mercedes-Benz’s so-called four-door “coupes.” Pick one. The CLA, the E-Class, and most of all the CLS. The backside droop is a signature Merc design affectation, and it’s something quite similar to what Audi does with the S7 Sportback, the RS 7 Sportback, and the A5 Sportback.
No one should be surprised. Kia, and its parent, Hyundai Motor, have recruited a small army of German car company veterans to its ranks of designers and engineers. The Stinger looks as German as a Korean car can be, and it’s a similar story with, in particular, Hyundai’s nascent Genesis luxury brand.
Except, a CLS starts at $84,100, an E-Class Coupe $81,900, and even a C-Class Coupe begins at a mind-blowing (for what you get) $51,900.
Speaking of pricing, take note of the big $4,500 bump Kia has delivered to the Stinger for 2022. The 2021 version began at $44,995.
Yes, 19-inch alloy wheels are standard, the rear combination lamps glow nicely. True, the aggressive quad exhaust tips are scary-good, and you get three more horses under the hood. The cabin is a bit different, too: a new cluster housing with high-gloss black and chrome finishes, a frameless rearview mirror, the excellent 10.25-inch navigation screen, the dimpled aluminum console bits, some interesting cabin lighting, and pretty nice red stitching (the Elite model).
But the essence of this hot hatch hasn’t really changed much since 2019; you just pay more for it. But nothing like the sting – pun intended — of a comparable German hot-shot automobile that will cost you more to maintain and, as the research shows, prove to be less reliable.
Nonetheless, branding matters and the Kia brand – even with that slick new logo – is not nearly as strong as Merc’s and Audi’s. And that means the Stinger’s resale value plunges the second you drive off the lot.
But if you look at the Stinger as a 10-year purchase, residual value is nothing of note. And by God, the Stinger is a revelation from behind the wheel.
Nudge the throttle, and this thing comes alive. It just ghosts away, quickly, without slamming you about. The AWD sends power to the wheels where it’s needed without any obvious imbalances. None. The Brembo brakes never heat up and they haul you down from speed with precision and grace. And yes, you can dial up various responses from the electronic suspension control.
Naturally, the electronic safety aids are numerous and seamless:
- Advanced Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Junction Turning
- Safe Exit Warning
- Navigation-Based Advanced Smart Cruise Control
- Lane Following Assist
- Blind Spot Collision Avoidance
- Blind-Spot View Monitor (GT Elite trim)
As for the gizmos, the big screen is sharp and is capable of splitting – to deliver more information in one place. In my test, I found that infotainment responses were maddeningly slow, and that Bluetooth audio dropped off from time to time, for no obvious reason at all. The whole Apple CarPlay/Android Auto thing is there, of course. And if you want it, there’s remote engine start.
I urge Kia to do more with its seats. The padding is thin, so they feel hard over a long drive. The side bolstering is fine for a Kia Forte, but terrible for such a capable performance car. And I observed an odd “clunking” when I put the grearbox into reverse.
This car is quite the looker – it attracts parking lot crowds — and behaves like a tamed beast in everyday driving. When unleashed, it snarls like a German sedan that costs tens of thousands more, however.
Frankly, I’m quite turned off by overpriced German cars that are lovely and exciting when new, but grow expensive and irritating as they age. If I were buying German, I wouldn’t; I’d lease. If I were looking for a 10-year midsize performance hatchback, something of the anti-snob variety and slightly unconventional, I just might buy a Stinger.