You should never underestimate the power of a brand. There’s a reason why we’re drawn like moths to a flame towards designer labels. They matter. Should they? Perhaps not, but they most certainly do. Brand imagery is a powerful tool in the automotive universe, too. Cars are a sign of prestige to a certain degree, with a strong whiff of keeping up with the Joneses about them. Driving the latest German saloon is a status symbol and people like status symbols. There is a drawback to this, though. It means that people are myopic in their choices and ignore other options. It means cars like the Kia Stinger GT S get missed.
I don’t often talk about price, but with the Kia Stinger GT S it is front and centre in the debate about whether or not you should consider one. £43,380, whilst a lot of money, represents extraordinary value for what you get. A 3.3-litre V6 produces 361bhp and propels it from standstill to 60 in 4.7secs. That’s very respectable.
Then there’s the list of standard features. 19” wheels. LED headlights. Brembo brakes. A panoramic sunroof. Heated and air-conditioned front seats. Heated rear seats and steering wheel. Harman Kardon audio. Premium Nappa leather upholstery. You can start the car from the key fob to warm it up on those cold winter mornings. 360-degree parking cameras. A plethora of safety features.
I configured a German rival that features all of this and the cost came to £61,995. So, what’s the catch? Or is the power of brand worth £18,615?
What’s the Kia Stinger GT S like to drive?
First, we must evaluate the Kia Stinger GT S as a car in its own right. Being rear wheel drive, it can get rather lively on a damp November B-road. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as the traction control keeps everything in check, but it can get the pulse racing. It’s always good to feel alive though, and besides, you can change the drive setting to suit your mood. Lugging the family around? You’ll want comfort. Looking for thrills? Sport is the option. Feeling brave? Sport+ turns everything up to 11 and disables the traction control.
Rather than off-the-line acceleration, where the Kia Stinger GT S really delivers is in the mid-range. On the motorway it’s a superb machine. It picks up speed effortlessly and covers ground with consummate ease. With the creature comforts like air-conditioned seats, you’ll arrive from a long journey in a relaxed state.
On B-roads it can be good fun, too. The steering is a bit vague and devoid of feeling, but this is made up for by a brilliant chassis. You can feel the road beneath you which adds involvement to any drive. When you really start to lean on it, it does start to show its weight. It is, after all, a family saloon. Once it goes, however, you get the impression that it would take some catching.
Another minor note of discontent: it would be nice to hear more from the V6. It never really makes its presence felt in the way that the performance, or the quad exhaust, suggests it should. You’ll have saved £18,615 though (you’re welcome), so feel free to spend some of the change on an aftermarket exhaust.
What about everyday driving in the Kia Stinger GT S?
For everyday use, there’s very little to fault in the Kia Stinger GT S. The ride modes make a difference; pop it into comfort and it deals with potholes and speedbumps well. It’s also packed with clever safety features. For example, when you indicate, the centre of the binnacle shows you the wing mirror camera from that direction to assist with checking your blind spot. It’s incredibly useful for commuting when you encounter cyclists.
The interior makes it a really nice place to be. The seats and steering wheel are incredibly adjustable, so you can find your comfort sweet spot. There are also other well thought out touches like sounds of nature, where you can choose from rain forests to oceans to help you relax. To add to the ambience, you can set the ambient lighting to whatever you want. You can also adjust the height the boot opens to and how many times the indicator clicks when you use it: none, once, three, five or seven times. Everything is covered.
The Harman Kardon audio deserves a separate mention because it’s really good. Link up your phone and enjoy your favourite tunes in exceptional quality. And yes, that comes as standard.
Some negatives, then. The brakes can be a bit grabby at low speeds. This renders the auto stop/start function very jerky. The revs rise, then the brake releases, meaning you lurch forward. It’s easy to turn off, though. The lane keep assist is a bit confused. To be fair, this is something no manufacturer has mastered, but the Kia Stinger GT S wrestles the steering wheel in your hands at times. Again, however, this is very easy to turn off.
It being a family saloon, the Kia Stinger GT S provides ample room for the family. The hatchback tailgate makes getting things in and out of the boot incredibly easy. We got all the stuff for one toddler and a baby in there without any drama.
There’s also a surprising amount of room in the rear. The sloping headline gives the impression that it will pinch more space than it does. I’m 6ft 2” and was perfectly happy back there. Having heated seats in the rear is a bonus. The panoramic roof adds to the sensation of space as well.
The one major downside is how often you’ll be visiting the petrol station. The Kia Stinger GT S is equipped with a 60-litre tank and a thirsty V6. I achieved 24mpg during my week with it. That included some more spirited driving, but also a couple of trudges round the M25. It’s fair to say that could be better, but that’s the compromise you’ll have to make for the performance.
When I first saw the Kia Stinger GT S, and when I first got in it, all I could ask myself is why don’t you see more of these on the road? The overall package is exceptional. It’s filled with well thought out, intelligent tech. It’s fast and it looks great.
I thought I must be missing something. There are some rough edges here, sure. The steering, lane keep assist and grabby brakes are irritations. But the rest of the car delivers in spades. It’s attractive, comfortable, elegant, fast…
I kept coming back to badge snobbery. It’s the only reasonable explanation. £43,000 doesn’t buy you much German saloon these days, but it buys you a mightily impressive Korean one. And that, really, is the catch. It comes with a Kia badge. You’d do well to ask yourself; so what?
The electric revolution is upon us and with it, an opportunity for manufacturers like Kia to make their mark in a different way. Perhaps the Kia Stinger GT S will go down as one of the great forgotten cars. The Kia EV6, for example, has arrived to great fanfare and presents a bigger opportunity to Kia in stealing a march in the European EV market. If a seven-year warranty, £43,000 price point and a lavish array of standard features won’t win people round to their combustion engine saloons, then nothing will. Kia’s focus will, understandably, shift.
The Kia Stinger GT S, therefore, will be a historical testament to badge snobbery. It’s one of the finest cars no one will buy. There is no catch and the value of brand is, evidently, £18,615 in the automotive world. At least we’ve answered that question in this review, even if no one was asking.
Related article: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review