Australians love an underdog, but they also love an (ahem) four-tified whine. The 2017 Kia Stinger GT-Line on the one hand keeps the rear-wheel-drive dream alive for fans of large sedans, but it also comes with turbocharged four-cylinder availability.
While enthusiasts of the traditional – and abandoned – rear-drive Ford and Holden products have long loved drive going to the back wheels only, there is an old saying that reckons 2.0 litres is better reserved for milk bottles than cylinder displacement.
In reality the Kia’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder makes more torque than an outgoing V6-powered Commodore, while a two-pots-short-of-a-six-pack mill turned the Falcon EcoBoost into an excellent offering.
Could the Stinger GT-Line be a smarter choice than its headline-grabbing 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 range sibling? Given it also costs between $3000 and $4000 less than that engine option, this four-cylinder Kia could be the quiet achiever.
Vehicle Style: Large liftback
Price: $55,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 182kW/353Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.8 l/100km | Tested: 10.8 l/100km
The Stinger GT-Line costs $55,990 plus on-road costs, or $4000 less than the flagship Stinger GT with which it shares the vast majority of its equipment.
In fact, compared with the V6-engined GT, the four-cylinder GT-Line only misses Brembo brakes, a rear limited-slip differential (LSD), electrically adjustable steering column and Nappa leather. Put another way, the middle-specification V6-engined Si costs the same coin as this four-cylinder GT-Line, which adds a stack of extra kit.
This includes three-mode adaptive suspension, LED headlights (with auto-levelling, swivelling and auto high-beam functions), electrically adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation, wireless phone charging, electric sunroof, colour driver cluster and head-up display, suede rooflining, 15-speaker Harman Kardon audio, alloy pedals, 360-degree camera, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
The question is, would you prefer the extra equipment listed above but with a lesser 182kW of power and 353Nm of torque, or ditch it all for the allure of 272kW/510Nm?
- Standard Equipment: power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather trim with electrically adjustable and ventilated/heated front seats, active cruise control, auto on/off headlights/wipers, and keyless auto-entry with push button start.
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone connectivity, USB input, digital radio, satellite navigation and 15-speaker Harman Kardon audio.
- Cargo Volume: 406 litres.
Inside, there is an enormous step up from the Stinger S and Si model grades to this 2.0-litre-only Stinger GT-Line, and its V6-only Stinger GT near-twin.
Often with some models, throwing more equipment at a basic design adds chintz but not class. The Stinger GT-Line, though, feels a tad Lexus-like in its assembly quality.
The front seats are sumptuous and supportive, with plenty of adjustment, and even the addition of heating and ventilation comes via a duo of tactile toggle switches.
The centre storage box is lined in black velour trim, as is the glovebox, while the round dials inside the air vents, and to control the Drive Mode selector and climate control temperature, rotate with similar – and similarly tight – damping force.
Even the auto up/down power window switches are tightly damped, while soft-touch plastics – used for the upper door trims and dashboard – blend together nicely.
Only some of the navigation graphics on the 8.0-inch colour touchscreen, and the lack of proper voice control, betray the pricetag of this Kia. All functions – including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto mirroring and digital radio – are straightforward in operation, though, and the Harman Kardon system sounds sweet.
The South Korean-made Kia also comfortably bests the outgoing locally-made Holden for cabin quality, too, and unless the Commodore Sportwagon is picked, Stinger’s electric-liftback and 60:40 split-fold backrest practicality are unmatched.
That said, the 406-litre boot volume falls around 100L short overall, and the GT-Line can’t quite emulate the three-box family sedan formula in the back seat, either.
The rear bench is comfortable and supportive, and there’s room for three across it. Headroom is lacking, however, while legroom is decent but hardly expansive. Some will, of course, find this an adequate trade-off for the coupe-style design of this model, but even a front-wheel drive Kia Optima GT is ultimately roomier out back.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 182kW/353Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, RWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering, 11.2m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 750kg unbraked, 1500kg braked
Best not look to the rating here and surmise that the Stinger GT-Line is average to drive. In isolation it’s impressive, being both reasonably fast, yet mostly smooth.
Two points immediately count against it, however, the first being the pricetag. While the cabin design of the GT-Line feels worthy of a sub-$60,000 vehicle, the driving experience of this four-cylinder version feels closer to that of a sub-$50,000 model.
In some ways this Stinger is squeezed from both ends.
Although its front-drive Optima GT sibling isn’t as classy inside, its equipment is comparable and it’s priced from $44,490 (plus orc). It’s also 88kg lighter than this 1693kg GT-Line, and uses the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
The Kia tested here gets two extra gears inside its automatic transmission, with the eight-speed proving a mostly fluent partner with the engine. Equally, though, there is nothing supremely intuitive about the way it picks its ratios, and the alternative manual mode – via paddleshifters – defaults back to auto after a few seconds.
A six-speed Commodore auto soundly eclipses it, particularly in Sport mode.
Yet at the other end, the twin-turbo V6 isn’t a huge stretch in price. This turbo four sounds harsh when extended unless the sound actuator is turned on. It uses the speakers to muffle up a fake noise and sounds nicer as a result. But ultimately this drivetrain doesn’t quite deliver enough for the price.
Even placing the Holden aside, a $57,990 (plus orc) Volkswagen Passat 206TSI would dust this Kia aside for performance, refinement and also damping finesse.
Where the S and Si get fixed suspension, the GT-Line (and GT) add an adaptive chassis with Comfort, Smart and Sport modes that prove superior for two reasons: the top-spec system filters out the jiggly freeway ride of standard Stingers, while also resisting bodyroll to a greater degree through corners.
The system isn’t perfect, with a bit of bouncing in Comfort, some lumpiness in Sport, and some still-squidgy country backroad behaviour in the adaptive Smart mode. However, considering the 19-inch wheel and tyre package, it broadly does an impressive job of keeping occupants isolated from the road surface.
With impressively sharp and direct steering, the Stinger GT-Line cuts an equally pointy and planted path through bends that makes it fun to drive. Without an LSD and packing a merely decent torque-to-weight ratio, however, it fails to capitalise on the best the rear-wheel drive chassis can offer like the potent V6 can.
For only $4000 more, the V6 is absolutely worth the stretch. And in terms of being fun to drive, the Optima GT absolutely matches the Stinger GT-Line for $11,500 less.
ANCAP has not tested the Kia Stinger.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assistance and collision warning alert with autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Seven years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Kia’s capped-price servicing program includes annual or 15,000km intervals at a cost of $249/$434/$317/$617/$281 each until five years or 75,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
With Commodore gone, the Superb 206TSI is an equally practical and far roomier option, but its chassis is floaty and its interior quality isn’t quite a match for the Kia.
The Liberty 3.6R Premium is cheap, loaded and quick, but its dynamics are sub-par.
All of which leaves the Passat 206TSI as the nearest rival to the Stinger GT-Line. Its drivetrain and suspension are more polished, but it’s also nearing the price of the V6-engined Stinger GT and its handling is of the plain, point-and-shoot variety.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
On paper the Stinger GT-Line has potential. The four-cylinder is quick without being indulgent, yet an owner scores the indulgent cabin of a Stinger GT for $4000 less.
In reality, however, the GT-Line proves inferior to the GT on the road, particularly with its inability to harness the best of the rear-wheel drive chassis.
There is a place for this four-cylinder Kia in the lineup, but it feels like a sub-$50,000 competitor. After all, a 350Nm V6-engined Holden Calais V cost $48,750 (plus orc).
The upshot of this test? For the price, it would be best to either save thousands and choose the excellent Optima GT, or stretch to the terrific Stinger GT.
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