Do not adjust your set. That really is a Kia. In Classic & Sports Car.
No, the world hasn’t gone mad, though it might seem so to those of us for whom the Kia Pride – the licence-built version of the Mazda 121 that signalled the South Korean brand’s arrival on our shores in 1991 – is an all too recent memory.
Kia sold just shy of 1800 cars here that year – which is how many Stingers it aims to shift annually in the UK, though very few of those are likely to be this flagship GT S version.
Not many, then, but it wasn’t really made for us. It’s a statement car aimed squarely at the US market – hence the name which, like the looks, feels a bit shouty and brash for British tastes.
Yet this car is a significant step for the car maker best known for cheap ’n’ cheerless hatchbacks and budget SUVs.
This four-door coupé is the first Kia created purely for people who love driving.
Just look at the spec: a twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 up front, powering the rear wheels only (no four-wheel-drive safety net here) via an eight-speed paddle-shift auto, with four drive modes that include the option of disabling the nannying electronic intrusion completely.
Hell, Kia even poached former BMW M man Albert Biermann to hone the Stinger’s chassis at the ubiquitous Nordschleife. So is it a cut-price M5? Er, no. But that’s not what it’s trying to be.
This is a fast, hugely well-equipped coupé that will spend the majority of its life as a comfortable and capable mile-eater, but one that with a turn of a rotary dial becomes a tyre-smoking muscle car, capable of defying its near-two-tonne heft to make swift and entertaining progress along a favourite back-road.
It’s not without its flaws – most notably the transmission, which is frustratingly reluctant to reward the enthusiastic driver and always keen to return to its (admittedly smooth) default fully automatic mode.
For all the luxury – a prestige German with a similar spec level would be nearly double the Stinger’s £40k – the cabin can’t quite hide its cut-price origins, either
And we’re not wild about the false air vents or brass-effect chrome, though this is a handsome car that gets plenty of attention – mainly from confused-looking people mouthing: “Is that really a Kia?”
So not a class benchmark, or a high-water mark in the history of the automobile.
We’re not suggesting that this is the BMW 3.0 CSL or 911 Carrera RS of the future.
As a stealthily capable, boldly styled and bloody quick millennial interpretation of the GT concept, it’s undoubtedly going to win a loyal band of supporters – not least as a used buy, when it’s likely to fast become a serious performance bargain.
Images: Will Williams
- Engine 3342cc twin-turbo V6; 365bhp @ 6000rpm; 376lb ft @ 1300-4500rpm
- Transmission eight-speed auto, RWD
- 0-60mph 4.7 secs
- Top speed 168mph
- Mpg 29.4
- Price £40,535