Kia has defied convention to launch a rear-drive sports car in Australia at a time when the world seems focussed on churning out front-drive drudgery. Here’s our look at the mid-spec V6 version of the Kia Stinger.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you’ve probably heard a lot about the Kia Stinger already. Much of that press coverage has been devoted to the range-topping Stinger GT. For a long time, we thought the GT would be sole V6 Stinger that Kia was building, so when it was announced that the range would be fleshed out by equally powerful 330S and 330Si models, our interest was more than piqued.
The departure of the Aussie-built Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore rear-drive sedans leaves a big hole in the market and the Stinger looks set to capitalise heavily on this otherwise unfulfilled demand. With a 272kW twin-turbocharged V6 driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and priced from $55,990 (or $4K less than the GT), the 330Si’s key point of difference to the GT is that it runs on steel springs rather than adaptive dampers.
- It’s really quick. We persuaded it to 100km/h in just 4.9 seconds, helped by a launch control system. Don’t worry about Commodore SS-Vs outdragging you away from the lights. That isn’t going to happen.
- The interior is a lot more mature and of better quality than we expected. We were worried that all the budget had been ploughed into the go-faster bits and that the cabin would be an afterthought. It’s actually a really pleasant environment.
- There’s stacks of space inside. Okay, so it’s not as broad across the rear bench as a Commodore, but it’s hardly pinched in the back. The seats are generously proportioned and comfortable for long-distance cruising.
- Ride quality and engine refinement are extremely good. If you really put a premium on a comfy ride, ignore the GT and go for this one.
- The steering isn’t bad for an electrically assisted variable ratio setup. It feels particularly slick at low speeds.
- You won’t need to pack light. Even with the rear seats in place, the Stinger’s liftback gives you access to 406 litres. The rear seats fold almost flat and then you’ve got up to 1114 litres to play with.
- How many other cars can you think of that can get to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds and come with a seven-year factory warranty?
- If you’re expecting something a bit rorty, you might be disappointed by the Stinger 330Si’s meek engine and exhaust.
- The exterior styling divides opinion. While it’s undoubtedly an assertive-looking car, some of the detailing is a little contrived and the lines can look bulky around the rear three-quarter.
- Get a bit overenthusiastic with the throttle and you’ll realise this big, heavy car has quite the appetite for its very soft rear tyres. Switch the stability control off with caution!
- The transmission has a penchant for changing gear of its own accord. In order to assume full manual control of the gearbox, you need to switch off some key electronic safety programs. Not ideal.
- There are some ergonomic glitches inside. The starter button is hidden around the back of the steering wheel, right where the watch clasp on your left hand will scratch the leather on the steering wheel when you’re groping for it in the dark. Likewise, the gear shifter is the wrong way round for performance gear changing and working with the weight shifts of the vehicle. Pressing it forward should always change down, not up.
- The rear seats do feel quite claustrophobic given the car’s rising window line and dark headlining.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
Although we position the Stinger as a natural Holden Commodore successor, Kia developed the car with quite a different set of rivals in mind. They regard it as a (virtually) half price Audi S5 Sportback or BMW 440i Gran Coupe. Judged on that basis, it’s a soar-away success. Even as an alternative to the now-departed V8 Commodore, it’ll put smiles on plenty of faces. And is the 330Si the range’s sweet spot versus the GT? Let’s just say that you might find it hard to pay four grand more for a car that’s heavier and doesn’t ride as well.