In good company
THE GOOD
  • Strong turbo V6
  • Legitimate rear-drive-biased dynamics
  • Great value
THE BAD
  • Lacks brand cachet – for now

While there are no changes for its fourth year on the market, the 2021 Kia Stinger remains a surprisingly swift, well-priced, and dynamically gifted alternative to the default European sport sedans.

It wows with striking looks, hatchback utility, and, for those so inclined, neck-snapping neon orange paint.

Styling: 9/10

The Kia Stinger is a looker that’s long, lean, and wide, with a fastback roofline that hides a functional hatch. Lead designer Peter Schreyer and his team nailed it. Festooned with contrasting vents and scoops, and hunkered down over very stylish 19-inch alloys, this Kia signals its sport sedan bona fides in no uncertain terms. And on its own terms, as the design does not cloy to any overseas norms; the Stinger has its own thing going on. Opt for this Neon Orange model that adds $1,500 to the price of the top spec GT Limited and you’ve got a serious attention grabber. We love it.

Safety 8.5

As with all top-tier Kia vehicles, this Stinger GT Limited comes fully specced. Safety systems include blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, forward collision mitigation, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, front and rear park assist, adaptive cruise control, and a head-up display. The latter displays blind-spot info right in the driver’s line of sight – so smart and so obvious.

This GT Limited also gets rain-sensing wipers, a surround-view camera, and steering-responsive LED headlights. Sensible ergonomics with plenty of well-marked button and rotary controls for HVAC and infotainment functions count as important safety features in our books.

The Kia Stinger garnered a five-star safety rating from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Practicality: 8.5/10

The Stinger’s commodious hatch (660 L behind the 60/40 second row and 1,158 L with said row folded flat) puts this sport sedan in a small group of similarly talented premium haulers, including the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. I can fit an upright bass in the back of this sleek sedan.

Storage in the front cabin is adequate if not generous. The centre console has two cupholders, a front tray with wireless charging pad, and a covered bin. The door pockets are small and shallow, although the glove box is a decent size.

User Friendliness: 8.5/10

The Kia Stinger gets high marks for logical ergonomics and easy familiarity. Its plethora of well-marked buttons and rotary controllers being a hallmark of the Hyundai/Kia/Genesis ethos. The eight-inch dash-top touchscreen interface is clear and intuitive, and below are both volume and tuning knobs. We like the clear, easy-to-read backlit gauge cluster. HVAC functions are accessed via rotary knobs for temperature and a row of buttons for fan speed and mode. On wintry mornings, the glove-friendly toggles for seat heat (and ventilation) and button for steering-wheel heat were greatly appreciated.

Those playing with the Stinger’s driver-assist technologies will be impressed with its smooth operation with regards to both adaptive speed control and its lane-keeping abilities.

With rearward visibility compromised due to the Stingers sloping roofline and large C-pillar, the surround-view camera is a welcome feature.

Features: 8.5/10

This being the top-of-the-heap Stinger, the 2021 Kia Stinger GT Limited Neon Orange is not wanting for much. Soft-touch surfaces abound, and the superbly contoured front seats are both heated and ventilated. Rear outboard passengers get seat heat as well, and of course the steering wheel is heated. The interior design is not as dramatic as the car’s exterior, nor the cabins found in the Europeans the Stinger is gunning for, yet there is a simple, cohesive, and well-constructed feel to this cabin, all bolstered by an excellent sporty driving position.

The GT Limited serves up navigation, comprehensive head-up display, wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 360-degree camera, sunroof, and proximity key with push-button start. The audio system gets an A+ from this musician: powerful, clear, and naturally balanced. It would be nice, however, to have more than one USB port in the front row.

Power: 9/10

The 3.3L twin-turbocharged V6 under the Stinger’s hood is rated at 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, but the way this engine fires our orange tester down the roads suggests Kia might be understating the horse count a bit. This car is quick, and made all the more engaging by the V6’s smooth and largely lag-free delivery. It doesn’t run out of revs either, pulling strongly to 6,500 rpm.

The V6 is hooked to Kia’s own eight-speed automatic gearbox that performs admirably, shifting smoothly when cruising and upping its game in sport mode, where gears are held longer and downshifts arrive earlier when decelerating. Response to shift paddle inputs is good, although not quite up there with ZF’s omnipresent eight-speed (BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Maserati, Dodge, and the list goes on).

Comfort: 7.5/10

The Stinger is slung low, but once ensconced, passengers in both the front and back enjoy ample room and well-contoured seats. The front leather buckets are exceptionally good, getting kudos for both comfort and snug support. The front seats are heated and ventilated and the rear seats get heat. The Stinger’s wheelbase is longer than most vehicles in the premium sport sedan segment, which leads to generous rear-seat legroom.

Except for some extra road surface information transmitted by the low-profile 19-inch tires, the all-wheel-drive Stinger delivers a refined, well-controlled ride totally in keeping with its mission.

Driving Feel: 8.5/10

Within the first few metres of driving the Stinger, you can tell this car is sorted. The compact, flat-bottomed steering wheel directs the GT’s fetching nose with accuracy and urgency, and the rest of the chassis is right in step, displaying a cohesive, rear-drive feel that makes bending into corners a joy. Sure, the Stinger isn’t as buttoned down as the most focused from Europe, but for those not intent on pushing to the ragged edge, this sedan’s compliance/handling compromise is immensely satisfying.

Driving position is low, and the snug seat gives one a connection to the proceedings, especially in sport mode when the side bolsters cinch in for extra support. The powertrain plays along, providing a seamless and eye-widening urge when pressing on. That 3.3L twin-turbo V6 kicks out a lovely snarl, too. Braking duties, meanwhile, are ably handled by Brembo (four-piston front, two-piston rear).

Fuel Economy: 7/10

You won’t be buying this swift, sexy sedan for its fuel economy. It asks for (but does not require) premium fuel  and official numbers are 13.6 L/100 km city, 9.6 highway, and 11.8 combined. I saw 13.4 L/100 km for my wintry test week.

Value: 9/10

The all-in price of $51,995 for our top-trim Neon Orange tester is quite a bargain, when considering the Stinger GT Limited’s level of equipment, build quality, legitimate sport sedan moves, and impressive turn of speed. Pass on the Neon Orange $1,500 upgrade and it gets even more financially enticing. The icing on the cake is Kia’s five-year/100,000-km comprehensive warranty.

The Verdict

Sport sedans might not be big sellers, but they do put a face on the automaker’s technical and performance fronts. These are brand ambassadors, if you will, and in this case the swoopy Stinger presents itself as a thoroughly engineered piece that dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s.

About the only item it’s lacking is the brand cachet of it European rivals, which in this segment can be a big deal. However, while counting all the money saved by purchasing the Stinger, one can reflect on the extent of this sedan’s European pedigree: ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer oversaw its styling, and ex-BMW M division suspension guru Albert Biermann sorted the underpinnings. Good company indeed.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 3.3L   Model Tested 2021 Kia Stinger GT Limited Neon Orange
Engine Cylinders Twin-turbo V6   Base Price $51,995
Peak Horsepower 365 hp @ 6,000 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 376 lb-ft @ 1,300–4,500 rpm   Destination Fee $1,795
Fuel Economy 13.6/9.6/11.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $53,890
Cargo Space 660 / 1,158 L seats up/down  
Optional Equipment
None