Object of desire: 2018 Kia Stinger launched
HURTLING down the straight pushing 200km/h, the Kia Stinger was breaking barriers.
Not only did the fastback sedan brake and bank into Wakefield race track's turn one with rail-like prowess, it navigated new territory in the process.
Australia's fastest growing mainstream brand has forged a reputation from a bargain basement past into stylish value-packed family cars, but now it can add performance to the menu.
Lauded as this year's most-anticipated new car, Stinger lives up to the hype. Starting from $45,990 plus on-roads for a turbocharged four-cylinder, the range tops out with the V6-engined GT just shy of $60,000. All models come with strong equipment levels and styling which rivals the high-end Europeans.
Keen to ensure it's no sheep in wolf's clothing, V6 power can slingshot the Stinger from standstill to 100kmh in 4.9 seconds using launch control. The turbo four-potter achieves the same feat in six seconds.
Not only does it accelerate, but track and road testing proves it can also handle a bend.
All that, from a Kia which is poised to slot nicely into a rear-wheel drive hole vacated by the Australian-made Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore (cue raised pierced eyebrows from the nation's bogans).
Some badge snobbery exists, but a seven-year warranty combined with slick designs has the tide turning.
Before its arrival there have been 100 orders. About a third of buyers are trading in an Audi or Mercedes, another third are Ford, Holden or Toyota owners and the remainder are Kia drivers trading up.
Long bonnet, short front overhang, expansive cabin, fastback rear styling with sizable overhang at the rear...it has all the hallmarks of a fine grand tourer.
Seven external metallic colours are available including metal (not available in GT-Line or GT), yellow, silver, red, ceramic grey, an electric blue and deep blue, while exclusive to GT-Line and GT will be black and pearl white - both of the latter attract a $695 premium, while only the deep blue costs extra coin across the other models.
Inside, the S grades have faux black leather trim, whereas Si models get the real stuff in the same hue. GT-Line buyers have a choice of black or red leather trim, although the racy red is not available in combination with yellow, red or micro blue. The range-topping GT gets the same interior colour choices but in the top-notch Nappa leather.
Backed by an industry-benchmark seven-year warranty and capped-price servicing, there is ample peace of mind behind the brand.
That warranty is transferable if the car is sold and if you maintain dealer servicing the car is also covered by roadside assist.
Intervals for both models are annual or 10,000km...that's a step up from 7500km for turbo engines, but it will mean more regular maintenance trips for many given the average car travels 15,000km each year.
Running on Continental tyres will offer good all-round performance, and they will also handle high pressure which will translate to longevity without compromising ride quality.
Fuel consumption in the V6 is thirsty at more than 10 litres for every 100km, it's the trade-off for all those horses under the bonnet. The four-cylinder is more respectable at below nine litres/100km. Both will run on ordinary unleaded, and the less expensive E10.
The S models' six-speaker sound system with seven-inch touchscreen display has sat nav and digital radio along with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, as well as full Bluetooth compatibility for music streaming and phone calls. Also standard is cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, 3.5-inch mono instrument cluster, 18-inch alloys, sports seats, keyless entry with push-button start, quad exhaust pipes, dusk-sensing headlights, steering wheel paddle shifters, dual zone air con and fake leather trim.
Stepping up to the Si means a nine-speaker system with eight-inch screen, rain-sensing wipers, 19-inch alloys and real leather.
The big banger GT and GT-Line grades have a 720-watt eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with 15-speaker Harman-Kardon surround-sound audio system, flat-bottom steering wheel, LED headlights with auto levelling, powered sunroof, suede finishes on the interior roof and pillars, as well as wireless phone charging pad for Qi enabled devices.
A sports exhaust will soon be an option on the V6 derivatives (and later on the four cylinder versions). Expect it to cost less than $3000 dealer fitted.
Crash testing is yet to be undertaken, but the base model S has seven airbags, anti-lock braking with emergency brakeforce distribution and brake assist, electronic stability control and traction control, vehicle stability management, hill assist, rear-view camera with parking guidelines, active hood pedestrian protection, rear parking sensors, LED daylight running lights and three child-restraint points (two Isofix).
You need to step up into the Si mode to get some of the more modern kit, including autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning to help avoid or lessen a frontal accident, lane-keeping assist which can keep you from wandering outside the lane, driver attention alert that analyses your driving and tells you when to take a break, front parking sensors, as well as radar cruise control which maintains the Stinger a safe distance from vehicles in front.
It's the GT variants which get all the boxes ticked, adding a 360-degree camera view, blind spot detection to stop you cutting off other vehicles in traffic, headlights which corner with the steering, high beam assist and head-up display that projects your speed just below the driver's eyeline on the windscreen.
Charging in the Australian market, Kia has become the nation's fastest growing mainstream brand through strong value and great looking passenger cars and SUVs. Surprisingly, it also makes an impressive grand tourer with a sporting bent. Don't expect raw edge-of-your-seat performance. It's certainly quick and adept, which will allow the driver to have an enjoyable squirt when the going gets twisty, yet then do the school and grocery run without passengers needing a kidney belt. We'd go for the mid-spec Si for the ride and value proposition. Looks, fun and value. You really can have it all.
AT A GLANCE
2018 KIA STINGER
PRICES 200S $45,990, 200Si $52,990, GT-Line $55,990; 330S $48,990, 330Si $55,990, GT $59,990.
ENGINES 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 182kW/353Nm; 3.3-litre bi-turbo V6 petrol 272kW/510Nm.
TRANSMISSION Eight-speed automatic.
0-100KMH 6.0 seconds; 4.9 seconds (with launch control).
SAFETY Not tested, seven airbags.
THIRST 8.8litres/100km (combined average); 10.2L/100km.
TOWING 1500kg, tow ball 75kg.
SPARE Space saver, restricted to 80kmh.
WARRANTY Seven years, unlimited kilometres.
SERVICING Capped price, still to be finalised, intervals are annual or every 10,000km.