Our first taste of Kiaâ€™s exciting new executive car
Kia is most well-known for making well-built, good-value hatchbacks such as the Ceeâ€™d and Picanto, models with an industry-beating seven-year warranty and lots of equipment for real-world prices. Thatâ€™s not enough for the ambitious South Korean firm, though. Now, it wants to take on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
This is a bold plan, but itâ€™s got a bold car to try and do it with: the striking Stinger GT. Less of a four-door saloon and more of a low, wide executive GT, it looks fantastic, every inch the rival to European Audis and BMWs, which is why it felt fitting that our first opportunity to sample it came at Germanyâ€™s challenging NÃ¼rburgring racetrack.
Kia Stinger GTÂ
Price: Â£42,000 (tbc)
Engine: 3.3-litre, V6, twin-turbocharged petrol
Power: 365bhp at 6000rpm
Torque: 376lb ft at 1300-4500rpm
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Kerbweight: 1725kg (tbc)
Top speed: 168mph
CO2/tax band: tbc
Although there will be diesels, Kia gave us the top-line model for a first taste: the 370bhp twin-turbo V6 petrol with rear-wheel drive and the on-paper potential that could make it a rival to the Audi S4.
It feels the business inside, with a low-set driving position within a luxurious cabin that sets new standards for Kia. But this doesn’t mean itâ€™s quite up to German brand standards; Audi owners will still be able to pick fault. More convincing is the space on offer in the rear and through the hatchback-style boot.
Although itâ€™s a heavy car, the 3.3-litre engine made light work of the NÃ¼rburgring inclines, and although it was slightly contrived, it still sounded decent â€“ even if it is lacking the sports exhaust they get in the US (it wonâ€™t past EU noise regulations, apparently).
Within Kiaâ€™s remit of building an easygoing, relaxing car to drive, handling isnâ€™t bad, either. Itâ€™s well balanced and despite and ability to chew up long distances without fuss, it still feels poised through corners. The ride seemed to have a few holes in its repertoire, but otherwise the Stinger GT performed surprisingly well.
We now look forward to getting it out on the road to find out more. This was a late development car; the finished EU-spec models will arrive in the autumn.
Kia has clearly built a car with potential and promise, one that could provide an intriguing alternative to an Audi A4 or BMW 440i. For Kia, this ambitious step up into a challenging car sector dominated by German brands looks like it could bear fruit â€“ and that really would be quite the achievement.