JONI MITCHELL, it’s reasonable to assume, probably wasn’t thinking about returning her Kia long termer when she wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. Nevertheless, that line “don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” seems to have been my earworm ever since the Stinger went back.
Not that I took the car for granted. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t smile when I started it up, grinning at the thought that for this serendipitous six-month spell, I had a 272kW rear-driver in the garage and some twisty country roads within five minutes of my front door. That said, it’s possible to become blasé about some of the Stinger’s lesser-appreciated qualities.
The biggest surprise for me was how adept the Kia was as a refined GT car. Through a fluke of timing, the Stinger arrived just as the Aussie-built Commodore V8 was bowing out, so it was only natural that the GT would be seen as the inheritor of the mantle; the lucky country’s ball-tearing sedan of choice. It can bag up the rears with the best of ’em but, if anything, the Stinger GT does what Commodores of old used to do so well, namely click over big distances in effortless comfort but with plenty of potency in reserve.
Dial the dampers to their softest mode, switch the drive mode to Eco, flick the active cruise and lane-keep on, chuck your mobile onto the wireless charging pad, pull up a favourite playlist on Android Auto and then tune that perfect balance between climate control and seat heaters/coolers. Australia then becomes this gently scrolling Pantone palette of browns; a slowly morphing box-set of weathered geologies.
Thus engaged, I saw a tankful of fuel go past in a 600km round trip between Melbourne and the New South Wales border at a rate of little over 7L/100km, contributing to an overall fuel economy figure over six months of 9.9L/100km, bettering Kia’s combined figure of 10.2L/100km. If you’re concerned that the Stinger V6’s fuel thirst will be prohibitive, rest easy.
Because it seemed so well suited to loping cruises, I never really felt tempted to exercise it at a track day. Besides, I’d already seen one pair of rear tyres cremated in about two-minutes of overexcitement and was determined to demonstrate some kind of responsible adulting and return the car with some semblance of tread on the back tyres. Or at least no visible canvas. On the one occasion that I did decide to go berserk on a wet roundabout, the Stinger instantly threw a tyre pressure warning at me, quickly curtailing the oversteer antics.
All too often these long term tests read like a litany of petty gripes. We try to bring you our real-world experiences of cars once the showroom sheen wears off and that can manifest as the worst sort of nitpicking. In the case of the Stinger, here’s a car that’s big, comfortable, quick, practical and which needn’t cost a fortune to run. Best of all it’s likeable. You want to turn down the air con, dial up the heated seats, change drive modes or switch off the stability control? There are big buttons and switches in easy reach. You don’t like idle-stop? Kill it once in a menu and it never reintervenes. All these things get the big Kia onside. You feel it’s been designed by people like you.
As the Stinger departs, its place in the Enright garage has been replaced by something broader and brasher, which you’ll be able to read about next month. It’ll have some big boots to fill.