Monday 19 August 2019

KIA's 'halo' car - the Stinger - debuts here, but is it different enough to woo buyers?

First Irish drive: Kia Stinger GT

Kia Stinger GT
Kia Stinger GT
Kia Stinger GT
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

I can think of far less pleasant things to do on a chilly Monday morning than to drive a new KIA flagship car to Kinnegad and back.

But pleasant drive and all as it was this week, it didn't stop me from asking the one question few people can really answer - for now anyway.

Who is going to buy a €66,000 V6 3.3-litre KIA petrol (370bhp version tested) Stinger GT? Or a 2.2-litre diesel (200bhp, from around €53,000)? Both with 8spd auto, by the way.

No disrespect to the brand and its excellent line-up, but this is BMW, Merc, Jaguar, Lexus territory, isn't it?

Well, yes, and no, according to KIA's more global view of things (as opposed to my parochial outlook).

They say this is a car that will be snapped up in markets such as the US, where it has received rave reviews. People are not as glued to the traditional marques over there.

Here? They see people looking for something different from the largely German auto-hold on motors of this nature.

Still a tall order, but times are changing and both KIA and Hyundai have not just the technology to make performance-type cars, but also the key personnel with the know-how to make an impact.

For now, KIA are describing the Stinger as being more a grand tourer (GT) than an out-and-out performance car.

And they reckon they'll be registering as many as 60/70 in Ireland next year - through 15 authorised dealers.

There are a few cars around now, but they will only have proper numbers for sale by March.

They will all be rear-wheel drive; no all-wheel drive. And there are two trim levels - GT Line and GT.

So what's the Stinger like?

It's a big, long car (the side profile reminds me of the Volkswagen Arteon).

There is a lot of spec, decent rear-seat room (three adults at a push) and a rounded, as opposed to dramatic, front. I expected more visual bite across the grille.

Leather abounds in a fresh cabin that is upmarket without straining too hard to be premium. One step at a time.

I expected a more sonorous tone from the V6 petrol, but its acceleration in a straight line was impressive.

Not so impressive was the tendency to hang the tail out a bit under less than severe provocation, though over a variety of roads the chassis showed a nice blend of pliancy and resistance.

On the M4 it cruised along smoothly, but over any sort of rough surfaces on side roads there was discernible tyre noise.

I liked the driving position and the feeling of being in something with a bit of real power.

You're spoilt for spec with a big spread of equipment, extending to Brembo brakes on the GT version, while 17in wheels are standard on GT Line.

I enjoyed it without being thrilled. It is that sort of car, I suppose. It is, as they say, more of a cruiser with muscle under the bonnet.

You'd have to say KIA are being ambitious and more luck to them. Now they have the wherewithal to do stuff, why not let it show?

The Stinger is a car, they say, for those who want something different. But is it different enough to steal Ford Mustang buyers? Hard to see.

It didn't have me in raptures and yet it powered on well and quickly evolved into a thoroughly decent performance.

You could certainly have fun with the petrol. Let's see how the diesel goes when it gets here next year as it is the one for our market surely.

As a 'halo' car for the marque, it certainly makes a huge statement. Whether it is different enough to woo Irish buyers remains to be seen.

Indo Motoring

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