KIA Stinger GT-S
Akin to a Pot Noodle at a Gordon Ramsey Restaurant or a fine Korean dish on it's own.
I half expect the abuse when I arrive in the KIA in a car park with the motley crew of German chrome glistening under a cloud. OK, so we can, and should get past the badge pretty quickly. Hyundai proved with the i30N that the Koreans shouldn’t be overlooked when competing in spaces they have no history in.
I do admire KIA for not attempting a tracing paper remake of the large saloons with lots of power that operate in this segment. A BMW M340i makes a shockingly good case for itself already from a driving perspective, and Mercedes and Audi will offer the hot but lite version of their own super saloon, albeit now with a diesel offering from Audi. There’s a separate article attempting to explain Audi’s current rationale of S badging, but in a snapshot, they haven’t got any.
There’s a distinct GT feel to the whole experience
Power is derived from 3.3 litre V6 and is good for 365 horsepower, a shade above the previous petrol S4, and the closest petrol rivals from its counterparts. Where they really play an ace card is in the delivery, the motor is punchy, although the gearbox is a little cumbersome compared to rivals. It’s also easy to tell you aren’t in a car with a storied history of prestige. They’ve had a good go at making it feel upmarket but they won’t be stealing away many lifelong Mercedes buyers.
Where this does count is in the price. Direct rivals with options are nearly twenty thousand pounds more, less if you compare bone stock models, but there are still five figures separating them. Sadly that overall cost difference is hard for KIA to take advantage of as the others come with very competitive finance and lease deals because of strong residual values. KIA falls into the same trap as Ford and Vauxhall did over a decade ago. Headline sale price rarely makes a difference to new car buyers as only a slender fraction stump up the cash out of pocket for their new car.
The Stinger GT S shouldn’t be overlooked lightly though. Yes, the gearbox could be better and it hasn’t got the kerb appeal of the German’s, but it’s different and in a world where white is the most popular colour and premium vehicles are no longer a niche market, standing out matters. A few weeks ago I was in a hot hatch, and when I stopped at a set of traffic light the two cars in front of me were a base model of the same car I was in. We went onto a national speed limit road in a line of all white, Euro boxes only differing by the trim level.
KIA has clearly spent money in the chassis department, it doesn’t quite feel perfect but they’re on the right road. There’s a distinct GT feel to the whole experience, almost putting it slightly out of segment and sitting in a space between an Audi A4 and Audi A6. Most of all though they have managed to tune in a factor of not giving a toss what you could have bought instead. The interior is a nice place to be, the functionality is spot on and the ride is pliant, attempting the trick of shapeshifting from big cruiser to little bruiser on a twisty section, it doesn't quite pull it off, but kudos for trying.
KIA know that the people who buy one of these really want one, as tests against rivals will pull punters to a competitor. For that I applaud them, it’s got a little bit of Saab feel to it. The HOT Aero editions of the disappeared Swede made their own argument and not a single word out of their PR department was hinted towards competition. This is what you buy if you don’t want what everyone else wants. If you like the track less beaten and you really couldn’t give a stuff about what impression you give to other road users or anyone for that matter. People may scoff, but if you want a pot noodle then no chef will change your mind, no matter how loud they shout at you. That’s what the GT-S does beautifully and hats off to them for it.