2018 Kia Stinger Review

2018 Kia Stinger - Don't look now, but the Stinger just might be your next sports sedan.


The Kia Stinger is a new entry for 2018. It's a 4-door compact-to-midsize hatchback aimed directly at the Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. Riding a 114.4-inch wheelbase, the Stinger is sits squarely between compact entry-level competitors like the 3-Series and midsize-competitors like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Stinger shares some chassis and engine components with the Genesis G70.

Offered in five trim levels, Base, Premium, GT, GT1, and GT2, the Stinger is priced starting as low as $31,900. The base and Premium come standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 255 horsepower. GT trims get a twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6 that makes 365 horsepower. Both engines mate to an 8-speed automatic transmission. All trims are available with either rear- or all-wheel-drive.

The base Stinger includes 18-inch wheels, heated and power-folding mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, heated and power-adjustable front seats, rearview camera, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay-Android Auto support. Premium trim adds LED headlights, sunroof, power-adjustable steering wheel, universal garage door opener, 8-inch touchscreen, and a 15-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

Stinger GT builds on the base and includes 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, adaptive suspension dampers, launch control system, variable steering ratio, and aluminum pedals and scuff plates. The GT1 trim apes the Premium and adds additional performance features. GT2 trim adds limited-slip differential, hands-free trunklid, head-up display, premium leather upholstery, and upgraded front seats with ventilation. Also included on the GT2 are adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and intervention, driver attention monitor, automatic high-beams, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. These features are available as options on lesser trim levels.

Though the Kia Stinger's turbo 2.0-liter four provides solid acceleration and adequate passing punch, the real star of this new model is the twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6 found in the GT variants. It provides outstanding acceleration and great passing response. When needed, it can accelerate the Stinger from 0-60 MPH in less than 5 seconds. That makes the Stinger GT faster than a BMW 340 and Lexus IS-F. Both engines work well with the automatic transmission. In addition to smooth operation, the transmission's steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters kick off quick and precise gear changes that make drivers feel like a pro.

Under hard acceleration, Stinger's all-wheel-drive system works well to distribute power to the wheels with the best traction. In addition, the available limited-slip differential is an enthusiast's dream, helping put the power down. It should be noted that with rear- or all-wheel drive, owners should swap out the standard performance tires for a set of snow tires in the winter.

The Kia Stinger GT with all-wheel drive is EPA rated at 19 MPG city, 25 MPG highway, and 21 MPG overall. As you might expect, those numbers trail compact luxury-sedan competitors a bit but are slightly better than many midsize competitors. Like most vehicles in the class, the Stinger requires premium-grade fuel. In routine suburban commuting, expect to average about 22 MPG overall, perhaps as high as 25 MPG if you have a light throttle foot and throw in a bit of relaxed highway cruising. Stinger's 15.9-gallon fuel tank gives it an estimated range of about 324 miles per fill up.

After acceleration, handling is paramount for a sports sedan owner and Kia engineers have done a yeoman's job of crafting a vehicle that's capable on twisty roads and still compliant enough to live with in daily driving. Ultimate road holding increases as you climb the trim ladder, but even the base model imparts a sporty feel behind the wheel.

In general, the suspension adeptly soaks up pavement imperfections to provide a firm but cushioned ride. On badly broken roads, there's no pitching or bobbing and the highway ride is quite serene. Also on the plus side, GT models can be had with an adjustable suspension that can further tailor the ride quality to driver tastes. It should be noted that the GT also comes with summer touring tires that must be swapped out for winter driving.

Steering feel is appropriately firm and imparts good feedback. Highway tracking is straight and true and the Singer is unaffected by crosswinds. Brakes have ample stopping power and the pedal is very easy to modulate. Interior noise levels are appropriate for the class, but there's a bit more road noise on roads than the class norm.

On the inside, Stinger's driver-orientated cockpit certainly looks right at home in a sports sedan. Materials seem a cut above and are certainly price appropriate. Drivers face two large dials that surround a central information screen. The steering wheel has a meaty feel and a flat bottom -- a design that's become the norm in performance cars. The center console sports a large touch-screen display up top and buttons and knobs for climate control. Ancillary controls fall close to hand and about the only downside is a volume knob that's located on the center console below the shifter.

Kia's UVO infotainment system is near the top of the class in terms of usability and overall design. It also supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play. A nice touch are blind-spot icons in the head-up display. This is becoming more common, but is a very nice feature.

Front seats are firmly bolstered and have good adjustments fore and aft. Taller drivers may want a bit more head room, but most will find that the front seats are very comfortable. Rear seats are among the roomiest in the class, though that just means they offer adequate comfort for adults. The low roofline makes entry and exit a bit difficult and contributes to worse than average overall outward visibility.

With a cargo capacity of 23 cubic feet, Stinger has the largest trunk capacity in the class. The lift over is a bit high, but there's ample room for plenty of stuff and the rear seats fold to increase cargo capacity. Interior storage is perhaps a bit below average with just a few open and covered bins throughout.

As a new entry competing against some of the most established vehicles in the market, Stinger can hold its head up high. Overall, it might lack the ultimate polish of a true luxury brand, but it more than makes up for that with usability, a fine infotainment system and reasonable pricing. Even though the GT brings a hefty price bump it is definitely the model to have. If you don't mind a little less performance and don't need a lot of passenger space, the 4-cylinder models are very attractively priced. All at once, Stinger is a force to be reckoned with in entry-level luxury sedan field.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.