By Jonathan Crouch
Yes, it's a Kia. Yes, you might want one. No, this 'Gran Turismo' model isn't merely a copy of something German. This is the Kia Stinger. The looks don't lie. Here, we look at the final updated 2021--2022-era version of this car as a used buy.
5dr Hatch (3.3 V6 petrol [GT-Line S])
Back in 2017, we were offered a very different kind of Kia. The Stinger was a five-door performance GT that took on the German premium brands in the luxury sports Gran Turismo market. In the four years following this model's launch, it worked well as a rare but desirable halo model for the Korean brand and a respectable 10,000 global units of the original version were sold. Enough to justify a facelift in 2021, which brought us the car we look at here, a model with some useful updates.
It featured a slightly smarter look, a few minor handling tweaks, much improved media connectivity and a big safety upgrade. And this updated version became an even rarer sight because the range was centred only on what had previously been the very top variant, the priciest, most powerful V6 petrol-engined GT S derivative. That was never likely to sell in any significant numbers - and so it proved, the end result being the end of Stinger sales for UK customers in the Autumn of 2022, this car effectively replaced by Kia's even faster 577bhp all-electric EV6 GT. The Stinger though, will be a car we'll remember, so let's take one last look at this updated 2021-2023-era Stinger as a used buy.
What You Get
The Stinger is a 'Gran Turismo'-style five-door sports hatch that was aimed at the quickest versions of slinky premium-badged models like Audi's A5 Sportback and BMW's 4 Series Gran Coupe. With this post-'21-plate facelift model, not much changed at the front where, as before, the bonnet sported fake vents and the Stinger's 'Tiger Nose' grille sat between LED headlights. But in this updated design, the turn signals below those lamps were composed of ten individual LED units arranged in a chequered flag-like grid pattern.
From the side, if you remember the original Stinger, you'll recognise this improved version by its restyled 19-inch alloy wheels with their Brembo brake callipers. And, at the rear, redesigned combination LED tail lamps stretch across the full width of the car, with a more distinctive light signature mimicking the shape of the subtle spoiler integrated into the boot lid.
It certainly feels very opulent inside, where as part of this facelift, a proper level of screen tech finally arrived for Stinger folk. If you happen to be familiar with the restricted 8-inch centre monitor of the original model, you'll welcome the updated model's much more impressive 10.25-inch centre stack infotainment screen, which resides just above three rather unique jet engine-style centre vents. The chrome-bezeled instrument cluster remains defiantly analogue, but the two gauges are separated by a clear 7-inch screen that delivers most of what you need to know. And you view it all through a chunky flat-bottomed leather-stitched three-spoke wheel.
There were no changes to cabin architecture in this updated model, but the dash and doors gained smarter contrast stitching, the centre console was finished in aluminium, there was a metallic finish to sections of the steering wheel, a frameless rear view mirror was added and buyers got a 64-colour mood lighting system. It's not especially easy to get in the low-slung back seat, but once you do, rear seat space is acceptable by class standards, with adequate legroom for even taller adults. Out back, the powered tailgate is of the sort you can access with a wave of your foot below the bumper. And once it's raised, there's a 406-litre boot. If you flatten the 60:40-split rear bench, you'll free up a modest 1,114-litres of total capacity.
What You Pay
Prices for this 2021-2023-era Stinger start at around £32,900 (around £36,000 retail) for a '21-plate 3.3 V6 variant. Prices rise to around £36,800 (around £40,000 retail) for one of the very last mid-2023-plate models. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.
What to Look For
We had quite a lot of trouble finding anyone with a bad word to say about this Stinger, though there were a few issues. We came across complaints about a rattling sound during running which appears to come from the sunroof - or more specifically the sunroof frame, which would have to be replaced by a dealer. Some owners complained about brakes, which apparently tend to wear out quickly. In a few cases, owners noticed noises as they turned the wheels and a rattling from the brake pedal. In both cases, that designates braking issues and you'll need to get the brakes checked by specialist. We heard of a few issues with fuel smells. This could be down to a fuel leak in the fuel lines or from the fuel injector - but it could just as easily be a faulty seal on the petrol cap. Otherwise, it's just the usual stuff. Give the electrical systems a thorough test and make sure the central screen has had all its necessary map updates. Check the alloys for scuffs. The interior for child damage. And insist on a fully stamped-up service history.
(approx based on a 2021 Stinger V6 GT S ex VAT) A pollen filter costs in the £9 bracket. For a front brake disc, you're looking at paying in the £88 bracket, with a rear disc also costing from around £88. A pair of front brake pads are around £35, while a pair of rear pads sit in the £41 bracket for a set. A wiper blade can cost anything from £4 upwards.
On the Road
With this revised Stinger model, the only variant still available was the GT S model we always most liked, fitted out with a growly potent twin-turbo 3.3-litre T-GDi petrol V6. Due to emissions updates, this unit's 361bhp output was a fraction less than before, but it still sounded great and the performance figures were little different, 62mph dispatched in just 4.7s on the way to 168mph if you were quick with the smooth 8-speed automatic transmission's steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters.
As in the original model, the V6 powertrain offers a lusty 510Nm of torque, starts pulling from just 1,500 revs and really gets into its sweet spot between 3,000 and 4,000rpm, clearing its throat with the aid of a mildly contrived audio system soundtrack that broadcasts responses to your right foot if you switch into one of the sporty driving modes. As is usual with set-ups of this kind, there are two dynamic settings on offer, 'Sport' and 'Sport +', though to use the second of these, you'll need to be feeling a little brave. That's because 'Sport+' restricts stability control assistance, which means it's quite easy to get the rear end squirming playfully about with a quick deliberate jab on the throttle.
That reminds you of the Stinger's proper old-school rear wheel-driven configuration. The original Stinger was the first Kia ever propelled from the back axle - well it was for the UK anyway. Left hand drive markets always had the Stinger GT S with all-wheel drive, a format this facelift version continued with for reasons that Kia vaguely explained away by citing 'differences in packaging'. We've always felt though, that drive from the rear rather suits this Stinger's old-school feel, originally developed by a team led by ex-BMW M car engineer Albert Biermann. Thankfully, not much changed with that as part of the facelift, apart from a slight re-tuning of the adaptive dampers, a subtle revision to the surprisingly responsive power steering and a switch from Continental Sport Contact 5 tyres to Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber.
To compensate for the lack of AWD, the brand continued with this revised model to standardise a limited slip differential across the range for our market and this, in concert with a torque vectoring system that lightly brakes the inside front wheel at speed through fast corners, means that in this form the Stinger remains impressively adept at overcoming its rather portly 1,890kg body weight and hurling itself from bend to bend, should you be inclined to drive it in such a fashion. Ultimately, this is a GT rather than a super sports saloon - a poor man's BMW M5 if you like. The Stinger is that good: was - and still is. It's still almost everything you wouldn't expect a Kia to be.
Think of everything you expect a Kia to be. Bet you're not thinking of anything like this. But then that's just the point. The Stinger was designed to get you thinking differently.
With this revised model, we were disappointed that lower-order variants had been deleted from the range. And that you still couldn't have 4WD in this top V6 GT S version that remained. This revised model's upgraded cabin and much improved ADAS drive assist technology certainly felt more appropriate for the required and quite exalted price point. But otherwise, things were much as before. In driving it, we continued to like the Stinger very much and much regret its passing. This car saw Kia laying claim to be a world-class manufacturer. Its replacement, the EV6 GT, picked up where this model left off, but there's still nothing quite like a Stinger. And maybe there won't ever be.