The 2018 Kia Stinger ushers the Korean brand into new territory. A rear-wheel drive hatchback that straddles the compact and mid-size segments at a price that undercuts the BMW 3-Series, the Stinger appears to be an enthusiast’s dream.
It’s meant to be a grand touring car, Kia says, with continental styling, handling tuned by the former chief of BMW’s M brand, and considerable testing on Germany’s challenging Nurburgring racetrack.
We like the Stinger’s balance of style, handling, power, and even utility, though the grip and agility aren’t quite up to the standards set by the European rivals the Stinger emulates. Overall, we rate the Stinger a 7.6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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Under its long hood, a 2.0-liter turbo-4 or 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 power the Stinger. The 4-cylinder is rated at 255 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The V-6 comes in at an impressive 365 hp and 376 lb-ft in the Stinger GT.
The only transmission is an 8-speed automatic. It’s an in-house unit shared with the automaker’s K900 sedan and it includes a pair of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Kia says the V-6 will run up to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, and it feels every bit that strong. The V-6 delivers a rush of power and the 8-speed offers smooth, decisive shifts, though they aren’t as quick as you’ll get with better dual-clutch and automatic transmissions on the market.
All-wheel drive is available, but a mechanical limited slip differential on rear-drive models speaks to the sedan’s athletic mission. The V-6-powered GT has four-piston Brembo front brakes, as well as adaptive dampers. A drive select switch can change throttle response, shift patterns, and AWD and stability control settings. The GT’s rack-mounted electric power steering offers variable ratios as well.
Kia has tuned the basic dynamics correctly. On the road, the steering is direct, the handling is neutral, the car tracks nicely through corners, and the ride is smooth. On the track, however, the tires give up grip too easily, the car doesn’t change directions as quickly as its rivals, and the dampers feel a bit too soft.
Underneath, the Stinger rides on a 114.4-inch wheelbase, which stretches a little longer than rivals like the 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Lexus IS. Overall, it’s more than 190 inches long—a figure that again dwarfs its rivals and is closer to the Lexus GS. While it’s between compact and mid-size, the pricing is even lower than its compact luxury rivals.
Aside from price, the Stinger’s advantage versus those cars might be its shape, both in terms of looks and utility.
A long and chiseled hood reaches back into a raked windshield and athletic rear haunches that underscore the car’s rear-drive design. The look channels some European cars, particularly Maseratis and Alfa Romeos, but comes across not quite as a facsimile of something from the land of supercars.
The hatchback body style gives the Stinger more utility than the sedans it competes against. Front and back seats have plenty of leg room, although with any fastback rear passengers do with a little less head room. Rear cargo room, however, is half again as much as a sedan, and that expands considerably with the rear seats folded down.