Kia isn’t a brand you usually associate with luxury and performance. With the South Korean brand inching to make its portfolio more desirable, a premium sports sedan should act as a perfect halo car to boost the brand’s appeal. The 2021 Kia Stinger GT largely succeeds in meeting my expectations in the aspects of luxury and performance. With a price tag of P3,235,000, it’s more accessible than a BMW M340i or a Lexus IS 350 F Sport, which are supposedly its competitors. Can this Korean sports sedan honed at the Nurburgring take on the finest from Germany and Japan? Let’s find out.
Upon delivery of this Hi Chroma Red unit to my home, neighbors were in awe with how the car looks. It’s really a drop-dead gorgeous-looking piece of art. From its long hood, wide shoulders, and that sleek fastback roofline, the Kia Stinger GT has all the right traits of an attractive car. In an age of giant grilles, the Stinger GT’s face is a welcome change. The exterior LED lighting elements also look good, and so do those 19-inch alloy wheels. Unfortunately, I’m quite disappointed that Kia opted to add fake vents at the hood. It’s already a gorgeous car in the first place, and the fakery just spoils its authenticity.
Open the doors of the Kia Stinger, and there’s a satisfying heftiness to the damped door handles, just like in a German luxury sedan. The doors also close with a solid thud, and just like the exterior, the interior is also a gorgeous place to stare at. Interior materials are top-notch, with generous amounts of soft-touch plastics and lashings of metallic details. The Harman Kardon speaker grilles also look gorgeous, plus they sound good too. The only interior part the spoils the ambiance is the airbag cover in the steering wheel. It’s basically the same plasticky part you find even in a Kia Stonic or a Soluto, and it’s certainly something that doesn’t deserve to be in a P3 million car.
Kia also happens to make one of my favorite infotainment systems in the industry. Regardless if it’s the Stinger GT or the humble Soluto, they share the same user-friendly interface that’s as responsive and smooth as your smartphone. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are offered as standard, and your music will sound great, too thanks to the 9-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
Despite its sporting intentions, the Kia Stinger GT is a practical sports sedan. Actually, with the amount of luxury it has, the Stinger GT is more of a grand tourer. The luxurious interior is good for four adults or five at a pinch, no thanks to the raised middle seat in order to accommodate the driveshaft tunnel. The sloping roofline eats into headspace too, though a 5 foot 10 adult like me is perfectly fine. However, since the Stinger GT’s wheelbase is quite long, there’s a good amount of legroom.
Having a fastback body style has also made the Kia Stinger GT quite a practical car at carrying cargo. Thanks to its hatchback tailgate, there’s no partition to deal with unlike in a sedan, which means you’re able to have as much as 1,158 liters of space with the rear seats folded. With those seats in place though, trunk space is at 406 liters, which is smaller than the Honda Accord’s spacious trunk.
Of course, you’re here to find out how the 2021 Kia Stinger GT drives, and I’m happy to report that it’s one fine sports sedan to hustle around. It’s not as hardcore as something like a Subaru WRX STI or a BMW M3. After all, with its luxury intentions, the Stinger GT is more of a grand tourer due to its added dose of refinement. The 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 gasoline engine produces 370 hp at 6,000 rpm and 510 Nm of torque from 1,300 to 4,500 rpm, and it’s one hell of an engine.
0-100 kph happens in just 4.9 seconds, and it has a top speed of 270 kph. With its wide torque band, the Stinger GT has a lot of usable power. Plant your foot down and acceleration is relentless. The twin turbos do a good job at mitigating turbo lag, and it’s almost completely absent once the vehicle is in Sport mode. In addition, the steering weights up, the suspension firms up, and the 8-speed automatic gearbox becomes more responsive to gear changes. From a luxurious grand tourer, it has now transformed into a track-ready machine.
Steering is extremely responsive in Sport mode, though I do wish it had a bit more feedback. It’s not numb by any measure but the WRX STI’s hydraulic steering feels a lot richer. The throaty V6 noise, unfortunately, isn’t exactly authentic. Sure it sounds good in Sport mode, but that’s largely due to it being synthesized engine noise playing through the speakers. Kia did this because the cabin is just too quiet without it, and it can disconnect you from the driving experience altogether.
The all-around Brembo brakes are also reassuringly good. The pedal feel is confidence-inspiring, and even if you hammer it down after going through winding roads, there’s no sign of brake fade at all. Also commendable is the Stinger GT’s 8-speed automatic, which is almost as good as the ZF-manufactured 8-speed automatic found in most BMWs.
Even in Comfort mode, the transmission eagerly downshifts to the correct gear. And because this has adaptive dampers, ride quality softens up once in Comfort mode. Actually, even with the suspension in Sport mode, it never feels too bouncy or unsettled. Additionally, refinement is also pretty good, though the Continental SportContact tires do let in a bit of road noise. This would normally be a complaint for me, but because this is a sports sedan, the sensation of speed is something I don’t want to be completely isolated from.
Take things in a leisurely manner, and you’ll be surprised how economical the Kia Stinger GT actually is. Over a week’s worth of use, with me probably driving the car in an enthusiastic manner 30 percent of the time, fuel economy stood at 8.4 km/l, which is impressive considering how much performance this car has. In addition, the Kia Stinger GT is equipped with a couple of advanced driver safety and convenience features, including blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, 360-degree camera, and even swiveling LED headlights.
With the way this car behaves, you can immediately tell it’s not a hardcore machine like a WRX STI or a BMW M3. Rather, it’s a grand tourer that has plenty of performance when you want it to enjoy at the track, but with the long-distance comfort you expect in a premium sedan. Further adding to this trait is its excellent driving position. The power-adjustable seats and steering have plenty of adjustment. One feature I hope more cars would have is its extendable seat cushions, which is a godsend for tall adults like me with long legs. This enables me to travel long distances without any feeling of soreness due to the excellent thigh support this feature provides.
So, going back to my first question. Can this Korean sports sedan honed at the Nurburgring take on the finest from Germany and Japan? Definitely. Sure, it does not have the same premium feel as its German and Japanese luxury car rivals, but that shouldn’t dismiss the Kia Stinger GT as simply a wannabe premium sports sedan. With its seductive styling and excellent blend of performance and long-distance comfort, there simply nothing quite like the Stinger GT at its price point. But if this car is so good, why aren’t there a lot of these on our roads? I do think it has to do with what badge this car is wearing.
For the same amount of money as this 2021 Kia Stinger GT, buyers can opt for an entry-level BMW 318i or an entry-level Lexus IS 300h hybrid. While these two don’t have the same performance as the Stinger GT, they are first and foremost true luxury cars. Buyers at a certain price point tend to be conscious of what badge their vehicles are wearing, and a Kia badge doesn’t have the same gravitas as having an L badge or a blue and white roundel at the front of your vehicle.
But if you look past the badge, you’re getting yourself a premium sports sedan with the same level of performance as a BMW M340i or a Lexus IS 350 F Sport, but for a lot less coin. If that’s what you’re truly after, then the 2021 Kia Stinger GT will give you plenty of excuses to drive this car every single day.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.