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The Good: Affordable Price | Impressive Performance | Snappy Rear-Wheel Drive

 

The Bad: Halogen Headlights | Limited Rear-Seat Headroom | Can Be Thirsty

 

When the key to a car looks like something out of a Die Hard film, we know we’re in for a good time. The highly anticipated car of the year, Kia Stinger, has been seen all over the YouTube showcasing some of its unbelievable performance. Something Kia has never attempted before. Glad they finally came to their senses and came out with something that took the world by storm.

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Unfortunately, all the hype has been built around they inspiring 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6, 365-horsepower and rear-wheel drive insanity. Little does the world know, there is an entry. 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbo-four engine – for the more money conscious consumer. With 255-horsepower on tap and 260lb-ft of torque at our disposal, the smaller, less talked about engine is still quite the party piece to the Stingers agenda.

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Even with a turbo-four, activate launch control, which is easier than any German saloon, and the Stinger will pull from a dead stop to 60 mph in a dramatic, wheel screeching, 6-seconds flat. Connected to an 8-speed automatic, developed by Kia engineers, the Stinger responds well to its playful transmission, especially in SPORT mode. There is a small drawback to Kia’s newest piece of technology – the 8-speed transmission is a fine soul for getting the job done, its smooth and eagerly upshifts in a crisp mannerism; however, when left in Comfort, Eco, or SMART mode – the  transmission can find itself being somewhat dimwitted and slow when it comes to downshifts.

 

The Stinger’s electrically boosted steering is surprisingly very well entuned for being an ordinary lower range sedan. It carries a form of precision and excitement to its driving style. It has a playful engagement and pleasant feedback – even more so once SPORT mode is engaged. The Stinger carries itself even better than expected with a capable chassis and pleasing road mannerisms. The suspension copes with the rough ruts and provides a pleasant comfortable setting. But then comes in the cream of the crop – while the Stinger offers an All-Wheel Drive option for $2200, we were happy ours sacrificed the four-wheel drive for rear-wheel drive. Even on this small, little engine that’s no bigger than a milk jug, it provided enough low-end torque at 1400 rpms that we can rip the Stinger sideways, getting the rear end to pop out and slide through the corners like as we’re a professional racing driver.

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In its entry-level form, the Stinger carries a sharp presence that still looks appropriate to what Kia was trying to accomplishing. Set on 18-inch wheels, quad-tip exhaust system and the Stinger distinctive taillights, no one would be the wiser that this one costs nearly $20,000 less than the GT. This Stinger starts at $31,900 and carries all the premium qualities one would expect from a 30-grand sedan. Full of rich, inviting leather, power-controlled seats, heated front seats, soft touch premium materials and Apple & Android connectivity – the Stinger made for an exciting place to be. Our tester did add in a $2000 Driver Assist Package that includes all the autonomous safety features of the modern world.

 

Supporting the GT name essentially, the Stinger proved its essence to the Gran Turismo heritage. It’s quiet, comfortable and refined. The interior provides a balance of sporty control with a leisure comfortability that can allow us the sit back, relax and enjoy the drive. When the roads get twisty and the SPORT mode is engaged, the seats provide that supportiveness we like. Even with not being the more powerful GT V-6 with large Brembo’s, the standard brakes here work very well when trying to come to a dead stop from 70 mph.

Around town, the Stinger likes to drink its fuel like a GT car too. Averaging just short of 20 mpg in the city, our Stinger guzzled its fuel like an 10-year old drinking Kool-Aid on a summer afternoon. However, after running our 250 mile highway loop, the Stinger impressively surpassed its EPA rated 30 mpg highway with a return of 33.6 miles to the gallon.

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Being that the Stinger is more of a fastback design with a hatchback trunk, it carries a large amount of cargo capacity – add that with the folding rear seats and a trip to IKEA might actually be doable. Rear occupants that didn’t call shotgun will be at somewhat of a disadvantage, especially being over six-feet tall. While legroom and supportive thigh seats are more than sufficient, the sloping roofline does encroach on the head room – best to leave the taller passengers to the front.

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The Kia Stinger fits into a strange part of the market right now – while the professionals of the car industry would say it’s a BMW & Audi fighter – it’s going to be a tough sale to pull those consumers away from their brand loyalty. However, the way we see it, it barks more up the tree of the Nissan Maxima and perhaps the new Buick Regal GT – but those are all front-wheel drive sedans that, while support sporting attributes, just don’t compare to the rear-wheel drive fun of the Kia Stinger. And thus, the only conclusion, if you want a fun-to-drive, comfortable family car that’s rear-wheel drive and under $40,000 – I think the evidence is pretty clear.

Vehicle Specifications:
2018 Kia Stinger 2.0T RWD: $31,900
As Tested (including Options & Destination): $34,800
Performance Specs:
2.0-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder – 255-Horsepower, 8-Speed Automatic Transmission – 0-60MPH: ±6.0 seconds
EPA MPG: 21/29/24 (City/Highway/Combined) – SSB Average:  25 MPG’s – Fuel Range: ±350 Miles