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2018 Kia Stinger: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Kia Stinger, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Kia Stinger Review

The 2018 Kia Stinger is the most exciting Kia since … well, ever. Nothing is even close. And not only does it draw impressed glances from passers-by thanks to sleek proportions and attractive styling, it is genuinely great to drive. With powerful turbocharged 4- and 6-cylinder engines, plus a chassis tuned by a former BMW M division engineer, the Stinger legitimately rewards its driver as much or more than German sport sedans that cost considerably more. Seriously, this is a really cool car.

The thing is, though, it’s also a pretty practical and sensible car, too. Its larger exterior dimensions allow for generous back seat space, while its hatchback trunk is more versatile than a traditional sedan’s. It’s also a Kia, so it comes with a superb warranty. Now, you may raise an eyebrow at a Kia than can cross the $50,000 barrier, but a comparable Audi or BMW would be at least $10,000 more. Plus, you don’t need to pay anywhere near that. Even the base Stinger at around $31,000 is plenty of fun and still comes with more equipment and power than more humble luxury car competitors.

Really, regardless of trim or price point, we think the Stinger is a car worth a good, long look. It’s a strong alternative to a variety of different cars and greatly outdoes most competitors when it comes to both fun and practicality.

What’s New for 2018?

The Kia Stinger is an all-new model for 2018. See the 2018 Kia Stinger models for sale near you

What We Like

Precise and engaging to drive; GT engine outdoes pricier competitors’; generous standard features for the money; ample passenger and cargo space

What We Don’t

Steering can be nervous on certain highway surfaces; far-away touchscreen; no manual transmission available

How Much?

$31,900-$51,400

Fuel Economy

The base Kia Stinger is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Live every Stinger, an 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive (RWD) are standard, but all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional. Fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. AWD effectively lowers fuel economy by one mpg.

The Kia Stinger GT has a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 good for 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. Its fuel economy is 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined regardless of drivetrain. During a 1,400-mile road trip in a GT AWD, we achieved 26 mpg.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Kia Stinger is available in five trim levels: The 4-cylinder-powered base and Premium, and the V6-powered GT, GT1 and GT2. All can be optioned with all-wheel drive for an extra $2,200. There’s also a limited edition Atlantica model for 2018.

The base Stinger ($31,900) is very well-equipped. It comes standard with 18-inch wheels, a temporary spare tire, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, automatic headlights, LED running lights, heated power-folding mirrors, proximity entry and push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated 8-way power front seats (with 4-way driver lumbar), leather upholstery, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 7-in touchscreen, three USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, UVO eServices emergency communications, a 6-speaker sound system with satellite and HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a media player interface.

The Stinger Premium ($37,100) adds bi-LED headlights, a sunroof, a power-adjustable steering wheel, an electronic parking brake, driver memory functions, a 7-in color instrument cluster screen, an 8-in touchscreen interface, integrated navigation and a 15-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

The Stinger GT ($38,350) effectively reverts to the base equipment level, but adds the more powerful engine, 19-in wheels, launch control, variable ratio steering, a flat-bottomed sport steering wheel, different exterior trim and aluminum interior trim. Exceptions would include standard bi-LED headlights and a 9-speaker sound system.

The Stinger GT1 ($43,250) combines the Premium’s extras with those of the GT. It also adds an adaptive suspension and auto-dimming exterior mirrors.

Available on all of the above trim levels is the Advance Driver Assistance System package ($2,000). It includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and emergency automatic braking, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, lane-keeping assistance, lane-departure warning, a driver inattention warning system, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic warning, automatic highbeams and automatic wipers.

The Stinger GT2 ($49,200) includes the Advance Driver Assistance items, plus a limited-slip differential, an electronic shifter, a power hatchback, a 12-way power driver seat with adjustable side bolsters and thigh extension, 4-way passenger lumbar, ventilated front seats, premium Nappa leather and a head-up display.

The Stinger GT Limited Edition is just special yellow paint and the limited-slip differential. The limited-edition Stinger Atlantica adds to the GT2 AWD special dark-blue paint, Espresso Brown leather, suedecloth headliner, a surround-view parking camera, wireless phone charging and heated rear seats. Also included are 19-in wheels and exterior badging from the European-market Stinger that supplants the Kia badge with large "Stinger" script.

Safety

Every Stinger comes standard with front-side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and UVO eServices emergency communications (automatic collision notification, an emergency call button, stolen vehicle location). The Advance Driver Assistance System package adds forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and emergency automatic braking, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, lane-keeping assistance, lane-departure warning, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, and a driver inattention warning system.

The Stinger had not been crash tested by a third party at the time of this writing.

Behind the Wheel

Even the 4-cylinder Stinger should be plenty of fun, but the GT represents the Stinger at its absolute best. Its adaptive suspension, variable ratio steering (it’s ultra-quick), bigger wheels and limited-slip differential (GT2) combine with a gutsy 365-hp engine to create a car that’s highly proficient and precise, yet rewards its driver with plenty of feedback. Even the available all-wheel-drive system has been tuned to be rear-biased, allowing the Stinger to maintain the feel of a rear-drive car while still providing all-weather reassurance. That adaptive suspension also provides a surprisingly comfortable ride — anyone used to German sport sedans should feel right at home.

Now, that variable ratio steering does require more attention on the highway than what you might experience in those German sedans (we’d suspect that would still be the case with base Stinger’s steering, but we’d need to drive it more to be sure). As such, make sure to drive it for a while on the highway, especially if your area has grooved concrete road surfaces.

The interior is a handsome, well-made space that cossets you with ample equipment and surprising amount of noise isolation. Are the materials as premium as those you’d find in an Audi or Mercedes? No, but there’s still a massive price difference here, and honestly, there’s not much of a drop off (if anything) from luxury brands like Acura or Infiniti. We also like the easy-to-use touchscreen interface and its wealth of features, though we wish it was easier to reach.

Space up front is excellent, with a lower, hunkered driving position that’s more like a Mustang or Camaro than a sport sedan. That definitely adds to the cool factor. Adding to the practicality factor is a back seat more akin to an Audi A7 than an A5 Sportback. Comparable to both is the hatchback trunk that boasts 23.3 cu ft. with the back seat raised (a typical sedan has between 13 and 16) and 40.9 with it lowered (a wagon typically has between 50 and 60).

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Buick Regal Sportback Comparable in price and in trunk design, the new Regal Sportback lines up well with the base Stinger in most respects (even the Regal GS can’t match the GT’s power). Another good choice for those seeking a more budget-friendly alternative to European luxury models.

 2018 Audi A5 and S5 Sportback As for European luxury models, the A5 and S5 Sportback are effectively the targets the Stinger is intended to hit. They line up well in terms of body style and performance. Read our Stinger First Drive to know more about how it stacks up with these Audis.  

 2018 Dodge Charger Perhaps something like an Acura TLX or Infiniti Q50 would be a more logical "competitor," but with its rear-wheel-drive, high-powered engine, flashy styling and budget pricing, the Charger sure seems like more of a spiritual equal to the Stinger.

 Used Audi A7 With its sleek proportions, comparable size and hatchback trunk, the A7 is arguably the car that inspired the Stinger. It’s far more expensive, however, so considering a used or certified pre-owned one would probably be in order.

Autotrader’s Advice

If you’re just looking for a cool, fun-to-drive car with lots of space and equipment, you really don’t need anything more than the base Stinger. It’s quite the bargain. The GT1 is probably the smartest bet among the V6-powered models. Sure, if you’ve got the cash for GT2, go for it, but GT1’s adaptive suspension and ample extra niceties make it a good compromise. Find a Kia Stinger for sale

What It’s Like to Own a 2018 Kia Stinger

If you told us a decade ago that Kia, of all brands, would be building one of the most competitive sport sedans on the market, we probably would have laughed at you. Kia is a brand best known for building small, economical, affordable cars and SUVs and Kia still certainly makes those kinds of cars, but the brand has been going through a renaissance in the last few years, our favorite product of which is the Stinger. Specifically, the Kia Stinger GT, which is powered by a twin-turbo V6 making 365 horsepower and achieves a 0-to-60 mph time of under five seconds.

To see if the Kia Stinger GT is really as great as it seems to be on paper and in the showroom, we spent a year with one to find out what it’s like to live with a luxury sport sedan from Kia. Ours is the top-of-the-line GT2 model, which includes the aforementioned V6 and just about every feature you can put on a Stinger, including the Kia Drive Wise package that gives you driver-assistance tech like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, forward-collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist and more. Other perks include Nappa leather seating and a head-up display. One thing we didn’t opt for is all-wheel drive, which is available on every Stinger as a $2,200 upgrade. The total price of our Stinger is $50,100.

The first thing about the Stinger we need to talk about is its performance. The Stinger GT has the chops to match or outrun luxury sport sedans that cost significantly more money. This is a Kia that’s competing with the likes of the Audi A5 Sportback, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and the Lexus GS350 F-Sport. From its straight-line acceleration to its exceptional handling to its impressive drifting abilities, the Stinger GT will put a smile on the faces of even the pickiest enthusiasts and most ardent German sport sedan fanboys.

But even when you’re not drifting or doing burnouts, the Stinger GT is a just plain fun car to drive every day. Even in Eco mode, which is usually a punishment for wanting to have fun, the Stinger still had more than enough punch, albeit a bit restrained to save fuel. On the topic of fuel economy, we found it to come pretty close to the EPA’s estimate of 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in combined driving. However, it’s hard not to get a little lead-footed in this car, which doesn’t help with fuel economy.

The performance of the Stinger GT is great, but what about its everyday practicality? Can a car this fun behind the wheel also be a daily commuter you can actually live with? Rob was amazed by the Stinger’s generous cargo space both with the seats folded up and folded down. He was even able to fit a 3-burner grill from Home Depot in the Stinger with the back seats folded down with no problem. When you think of a 365-hp performance car, you probably wouldn’t think it’s also good for Home Depot runs, but here we are.

As practical as the Stinger is by virtue of being a midsize sedan (or is it a hatchback? We’re still not sure) we’re not sure we’d recommend it as a family car. The back seat isn’t quite as roomy as you might expect and in terms of practicality, the Stinger can’t beat the more family-oriented midsize sedans like the Honda Accord, the Toyota Camry and the Nissan Altima. A Stinger would be a good second car for a family to have in the garage parked next to a minivan or crossover.

We aren’t the only ones who think the Stinger GT is a great-looking car. Our editor Brian says that with the exceptions of a McLaren 570S and a 1959 Studebaker, the Stinger GT has attracted more attention than any other car he’s driven. People love the car and always want to talk to the driver about it in a parking lot, but the shock of Kia building such a cool sport sedan is already wearing off. That’s good because it means more potential Stinger owners, but not-so-good because that makes it less cool to be in on the secret of what a great car it is.

So, after spending a year with the Stinger GT, we can confidently say that this Kia sedan is worth every penny of $50 grand. That still feels weird to say given Kia’s reputation as a budget brand, but the Stinger GT is here to silence the naysayers and even embarrass some of its much more expensive competitors from luxury brands. If you’re looking for a serious sport sedan and you aren’t a snob about what badges are on your car, the Kia Stinger GT is a fantastic buy. Find a Kia Stinger for sale

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