You’ll want to keep this quiet as it’s one of the best-kept secrets out there: the Kia Stinger is better than many of the high-end cars it competes with. Even ones with premium badges and matching high price tags. Kia has made a saloon that is faster, sharper, more entertaining and more cost-effective to run than the cars well-established manufacturers have been able to create.
The Stinger isn’t what you expect when you think Kia. It’s about as far from a tiny South Korean hatchback as a saloon car can be. Its side profile is long, flowing and far more exotic than its budget badge would suggest.
Scattered around the car are some of Kia’s trademark design cues, including triangular vents on the front bumper and a twin-notch grille. On the Stinger, rather than looking Kia-style functional, they’re elegant and premium looking. They perfectly match the Stinger’s quad chrome exhaust pipes, big wheels and, the car’s best detail, the wrap-around rear lights.
The Stinger isn’t what you expect when you think Kia.
What’s it like to drive?
The Kia Stinger’s raw mechanics promise a lot to people who love driving. It’s equipped with the car enthusiast holy grail – it’s powerful, has rear-wheel-drive and it comes with a limited-slip differential.
It lives up to its word too – the Kia Stinger puts its technical components to good use and delivers distinct feedback and behaves in a brilliantly predictable manner. It’s sprightly in a way most big cars simply can’t achieve. The controls are light and easy which, along with its impressive grunt, makes it feel smaller.
It’s certainly no sports car, though. Kia has prioritised comfort over all-out performance car stiffness, so it glides down roads smoothly. Thanks to being clear in how it behaves and reacts, you don’t yearn for it to be any sharper.
It lives up to its word too
While the Stinger’s exterior elevates Kia’s typical tropes and makes them appear premium, the same is not the case for the interior. The standard Kia switches, steering wheel and infotainment graphics are at odds with much of the Stinger’s upmarket finish.
The car’s quality is obvious in its smooth leather-clad dash, which is dominated by three chrome air vents. These details lend a retro theme to the interior, and the old-school style is emphasised by a deep rounded cowling for the dials and bright brushed aluminium trim on the centre console, the lower side of the dash and on the doors.
There are more elements to the Stinger’s interior that almost convince you it is a full-on proper premium car. The seats are big and comfy and they’re electrically adjusted, along with being heated and ventilated.
It’s spacious inside, too. Not only is it roomy up front, but the rear seats and legroom are big enough for adults on long journeys. Except for the middle seat, that is – it’s firm and the bolster is tall, rendering it only suitable for kids to use for short periods. The amount of standard equipment is impressive too: it has satnav, Bluetooth, a digital radio and Apple CarPlay – just like a high-end saloon. Sadly, there’s also a hard steering wheel, plasticy buttons and dated screen designs to remind you it isn’t all luxurious and it’s still a Kia.
It might look like a saloon car, but the Kia Stinger has a big hatchback-style boot. The huge lid opens up from the back of the roof and reveals an incredibly long and wide space. Lie them down flat and you can easily place three big suitcases next to one another and still get the parcel shelf to cover and hide them when the boot is closed.
It has to be said that the space isn’t very tall. Although that’s OK for folding pushchairs, prams and most shopping, it’s not suited to carrying dogs.
Again, unlike a normal saloon, the Stinger’s rear seats fold down, creating even more room and revealing a taller area for more awkward-shaped objects. Although they do open up the boot to make a usefully large space, they don’t quite fold flat and in line with the rest of the boot floor.
Running costs and reliability
The Stinger might be trying to shed many of the budget hallmarks usually associated with its Kia badge, but one aspect it thankfully doesn’t lose is its long warranty. Like all Kias, the Stinger comes with seven years.
There’s a theory that, because the Stinger is so different from Kia’s usual cars and that the company isn’t so practised in creating big saloons, you might need to worry about its reliability.
What we love
Don’t be put off by the Stinger’s badge. Although it’s an expensive car by the manufacturer’s usual standards, what you get for your money makes it a bargain. It’s big enough for families and it's luxurious enough to ferry around anyone you’re trying to impress.
Then, and this is the Stinger’s ace card, it’s a hoot when you’re on your own just enjoying the open road.
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If you like the Kia Stinger...
No other entry-level manufacturer makes a car like the Stinger. Instead, this Kia goes up against premium cars like:
It’s fair to say that each of the Stinger’s rivals betters the Kia in one or two areas – some are faster, more practical, more luxurious or more engaging to drive. But all are more expensive when you take into consideration power and equipment, and absolutely none come with such a long warranty.
Use our Help Me Choose tool if you still can't decide.
Town and country drivers
It’s easy to rationalise buying a Kia Stinger. It provides all the performance and equipment of a premium car, but it’s cheaper. It’s big and practical, too. Plus it comes with a long warranty. Thankfully, it’s not too sensible – it’s certainly not boring. It’s devilishly handsome and, even better, it’s properly exciting to drive.
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