There’s a new fast car on the streets. It is the Stinger, a rear-wheel-drive four-door lift-back from Kia. Despite the name Stinger, which suggests antagonism or defence, its French designer Gregory Guillaume explains: “The Stinger has nothing to do with being the first to arrive.” However, with a top speed of 168mph and a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds, it has that potential.
I tried to live with this sentiment as I pulled aside to let a car overtake. Oh dear. Another Audi – an oldish Q5 RS diesel in a hurry. Curiously, he must have got lost, because a few miles later he undertook at a set of traffic lights – against the lane markings. Happy days.
I’d settled into Mr Sensible. It was, after all, a damp, cold Sunday. A powerful rear-wheel-drive car can be a handful, even with traction control stuff. The Audi had all-wheel-drive which gives more confidence.
Anyway, what’s the hurry? More and more cars like this Kia are about the occasional rush of blood to the head, the thrill of rapid acceleration, rather than getting anywhere much more quickly. There are two “slower” Stingers which have the same looks but less poke.
Guillaume again: “This car is all about the journey. It’s about passion.” He was inspired by cars he saw when growing up in the 1970s. Maybe Maseratis, with their long bonnets and purposeful stance. I’m passionate, too, Gregory. Your modern grand tourer impressed me.
It is quick. After a few try-ons I realised it was not going to twist in a knot when setting off. The back flicks and then the electronics shrug it back into shape. There is a “sport” setting for the brave.
There are Brembo competition brakes all-round – assessed in the lap after lap of testing Kia carried out on Germany’s demanding Nurburgring. Lap time? Not stated. It seems to be avoiding a show-down with its German rivals, adding that “it’s not a hard-edged sports car created to be brutally fast at the expense of comfort”.
We can say it’s faster than any Kia to date. Let’s leave speed out of this. The car is extremely easy to drive, with a sweet eight-speed automatic gearbox, good visibility (a bit tight at the rear) and a remarkably absorbent suspension – I ran it in “comfort” setting.
The interior is mostly lovely, with soft Nappa leather and easily managed controls. The cabin width is two or three inches wider than a family hatchback – providing elbow space and a large drop-box between them. The instrumentation panel lacks the panache of a Jag or a German but does the job. The rear seats have plenty of leg-room and a central armrest with a “ski-hatch” to the boot. The rear seats fold flat, extending the long cargo floor.
The body shape is cool, with not too much clutter - black vents on the bonnet, vents behind the front and rear wheel arches. The red metallic paint is rich and luscious. The result is elegant enough to be a Jaguar or something expensive and German – except when seen from the rear. It’s a bit fussy, not as sexy as the front.
At £40,495 this is the brand’s flagship. Like every Kia it has a seven-year warranty, or 100,000 miles. The specification brings 19-inch wheels, a large sunroof, four heated seats, cool air setting for the front seats, a heated steering wheel (how soft I am getting), adaptive cruise control, the usual power seats, mirrors, a comprehensive audio/phone/sat nav integration, a 15-speaker Harmon Kardon premium system and so on.
At 190 inches (4.8m) long it sits between the Audi A5/BMW 4 series and the A6/BMW 5. It’s longer than a Jaguar XE, shorter than an XF. It was designed at Kia’s centre in Frankfurt, and Albert Biermann, a former head of BMW’s famous M division, has been closely involved in its development and testing as chief of Kia’s high performance division. It is built in South Korea.
I haven’t track-tested the Stonker, sorry spellcheck got in there, but colleagues have reported on decent handling at high speed. On the roads I tried I couldn’t fault it. The steering is nicely judged and the car’s balance is sure and enjoyable.
When parking, the combination of the rear view camera and the overhead view made it almost foolproof. Self-dipping headlamps are also in the kit.
It is less money than its continental peers, too. Then it comes back to that problem – breaking into the Prestige Gang. Kia has not much form. It is known for its sensible small and once cheap family cars and SUVs. It has been working on the Stinger all decade and has decided now is the time to strike.
If you like the general look and feel then one of the four-cylinder petrol or diesel models will be a cheaper option, available in two trims. My trips in the V6 delivered 28/29mpg whatever the route. This is uncannily identical to the official economy of 28.5mpg (and 225g CO2). For the record, urban consumption is listed as 20.8mpg and extra urban as 36.2mpg.
Verdict: Exciting, calm, comfortable, capable.