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2019 Kia Stinger Review

The 2019 Kia Stinger sets its sights on sleek style and well-tuned ride and handling, and scores a few direct hits against long-standing best-sellers.

With the 2019 Stinger, Kia swings for the fences. BMW, Audi, Benz? It takes on all of them on their home turf with grand-touring bona fides: supple ride quality, a powerful twin-turbo engine, and a lissome fastback body.

We enjoy its balance, and even if it’s not the most accomplished track car, it’s a raging bargain compared to its rivals. We give the 2019 Stinger a 7.0 out of 10.

The Stinger antes up into this expensive game with a chiseled, sleek set of body panels that pay homage to great grand tourers of the past. The Kia styling stamp’s applied with ducts and creases and scoops, but make no mistake, this is a classically inspired shape. The interior doesn’t reach for the same evocative look, but it’s polished and well-trimmed—and the Stinger is bigger than it appears in video or photos, with ample front-seat space and more than 40 cubic feet of cargo space under its liftback. If Kia could find more headroom in the back seat, it’d be great; it’d also be some kind of engineering hocus-pocus.

Base Stingers sport a 255-horsepower turbo-4; we’ve spent almost all our time in the grunt-delivering, 8-speed-shifted, 365-hp Stinger GT. Its twin-turbo V-6 can shoot the hatchback to 60 mph in about 4.7 seconds, with rear- or all-wheel-drive traction. The rush of power comes through shifts that aren’t cracklingly quick, but they’re smooth and decisive. Rear-drive cars get a limited-slip differential. With its independent suspension set slightly toward a softer tune, the Stinger GT delivers a beautifully composed ride and quick steering on everyday roads; on the track, a set of grippier tires and stiffer dampers would complement its capable brakes and good steering feel.

The 2019 Stinger hasn’t been crash-tested, and we’d advise against base models with either powertrain; they lack automatic emergency braking, which comes standard on all other trims. All Stingers do get a fine array of standard equipment, including leather upholstery and touchscreen infotainment. The best feature of all might well be Kia’s sterling warranty, which covers just about everything for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Only Jaguar comes close on that front—and Kia does it for significantly less, with Stinger base prices of about $34,000 and Stinger GT stickers that start with the number 4.

The 2019 Kia Stinger’s lissome body is a winner.

The 2019 Kia Stinger bears some of the fashion hallmarks of high-style Italian cars. Inspired by 1970s machines such as the Maserati Ghibli—or so Kia says—the Stinger’s an admirable shot at the same styling glory. Its striking sheet metal pairs with a cabin that’s at least the equal of its luxury-brand rivals.

We give it an 8, with two extra points for the exterior, one for its interior. 

The Stinger’s short front overhang, long hood, and soaring roofline give it the proportions no front-drive car can generate. It wears more than its fair share of ducts and creases and spoilers, and they can be a bit much, but the basic shape has it all right. Fastbacks are the new luxury profiles, and the Stinger’s is on-point.

It’s a bigger car that it seems in photos, though. With an overall length of 190.2 inches and a 114.4-inch wheelbase, it’s much longer than the semi-related Genesis G70 sport sedan, and much closer to cars such as the Lexus GS and Audi A5 Sportback.

Inside, large gauges ringed in metal, available nappa leather, and a thick leather-wrapped steering wheel speak to the Stinger’s luxury mission. Between those gauges sits a color screen that can be configured to display performance data like cornering G-forces and lap times. A trio of round climate controls rests below a big touchscreen that displays an infotainment interface that works well.

The 2019 Stinger’s ride and handling move Kia’s benchmarks higher, but track time isn’t its forte.

The 2019 Kia Stinger bears all the hallmarks of a car that wants to take German-car fans for a new thrill ride. The teardrop-shaped rear- or all-wheel-drive hatchback has been tuned by former BMW M chief engineer Albert Biermann, and it’s turned out with predictable handling and a smooth ride. Tire and transmission choices leave it in the second tier on the track, though.

We give it an 8 for 10 in performance.

Kia fits the entry-level Stinger with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that spins out 255 horsepower. Its output falls a bit shy of its competition, but it’s a fine base engine. We haven’t spent as much time with it as with other versions, so we’ll add to this review when we’ve had more seat time.

We’ve driven the Stinger GT and its 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 over hundreds of miles, and have lots of admiration for its smooth rush of thrust. It emits a refined howl as it slings the Stinger toward the next curve in the road. It can move the Stinger GT to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, and on to a 167-mph top speed. It’s strong down low, and the 8-speed automatic teamed with it knocks off smooth, quick shifts once it’s put into Sport mode. However, even then, the transmission gets confused by rapid-fire inputs on its paddle shift controls on a track, and it’s just not as quick to change gears as a good dual-clutch gearbox.

Rear-wheel drive is the standard configuration; Kia’s available all-wheel-drive system adds a limited-slip rear differential in GT models as well as a brake-based torque-vectoring system.

Shy on the track

The Stinger has four drive modes that adjust the throttle response, transmission mapping, the all-wheel-drive system, stability control, and damping. They are Eco, Smart (which learns your behavior), configurable Custom, and Sport. Due to those tires, even in Sport, the stability control is forced to intercede a bit too early, though it then gets the car back under control and lets the tail hang out in a turn. Sport doesn't make the throttle too touchy for the street, but it does hold gears longer.

Kia crafts the Stinger for high-strength steel and fits it with a strut front and five-link independent rear suspension, all in the name of great handling. Stinger GTs add on adjustable dampers, Brembo brakes with 13.8-inch front and 13.4-inch rear disc brakes, and staggered 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, 225/40s up front and 255/35s out back.

Even with its dampers set on Sport, the 2019 Stinger GT rides well. The handling engineers nailed the basics—it’s a neutral car, with a balanced feel that allows experienced drivers to play with the throttle and steer the car. Our issue: Kia touts the Stinger as a track car, but its narrow tires give up their grip easily, the dampers aren’t quite firm enough to keep the car flat, and the Stinger weighs too much to feel truly nimble. To truly live up to its potential on the track—if that’s even necessary for a luxury-sport hatchback—the Stinger would need wider and grippier tires and stiffer tuning. There’s plenty of room left for that in its excellent chassis.

Comfort & Quality
Copious storage space couples with cozy front seats in the 2019 Kia Stinger.

Kia has learned a great deal from selling its more expensive sedans, the Cadenza and K900. It knows how to fit a quiet, soothing cabin with great front seats and lots of storage space.

The 2019 Stinger gets our nod for exactly that. It’s a 7 out of 10 for comfort and quality.

The base Stinger’s seats have enough support and comfort; drivers get 12-way adjustment and four-way lumbar. On the top models, Kia fits the Stinger with 16-way adjustment, heating and cooling, and lumbar support. All Stingers have leather upholstery, while top versions can be wrapped in high-grade nappa leather.
The back seat allows 6-footers to sit behind 6-footers, but the Stinger’s fastback roofline dictates less headroom than taller passengers will want for long trips. But that same roofline drapes over the rear end and grants it more cargo space than a sedan—23.3 cubic feet behind the second row, or 40.9 cubic feet behind the front seats. That’s practical enough to make the Stinger a compact-crossover alternative, at least in our enthusiast-addled reality.

Kia punches above the Stinger’s price class with its suavely trimmed interior. It’s high quality almost across the board, with lots of soft-touch trim and leather, and only a few passages of less expensive plastic. The metal trim on the wing-shaped dash is a particularly nice touch.

The 2019 Stinger hasn’t been crash-tested, but active safety technology has spread to more trim levels.

Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the 2019 Kia Stinger, so we don’t assign a safety score.

Kia fits each Stinger with the usual mandatory gear, and this year, it’s made blind-spot monitors standard across the board. Some models can be fitted with a surround-view camera system and a head-up display.

However, the most critical safety technology—automatic emergency braking—isn’t offered on the base Stinger or the Stinger GT. That makes us scratch our heads, since the feature comes standard on all other trims, bundled with adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights, and active lane control.

We’ll update this section when crash-test data becomes available.

Kia packs the 2019 Stinger with lots of features and a sterling warranty.

Kia sells the 2019 Stinger five different ways. Turbo-4 cars come in base or Premium trim, while V-6s get GT, GT1, or GT2 badges.

We call the Stinger family a 9 for features. Base cars miss out on one necessary feature, but otherwise, it’s hard to fault the Stinger here. 

All Stingers come with power features, power front seats, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, cruise control, shift paddles, and at least 18-inch wheels. They also get fine audio systems with at least a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display, AM/FM/XM/HD radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and Bluetooth with audio streaming.

Every Stinger also gets a strong warranty good for 5 years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, and 10 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain coverage.

Stinger Premium hatchbacks add a sunroof, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, digital gauges, LED headlights, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, and a 720-watt, 15-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. These turbo-4 Stingers come with rear- or all-wheel drive, and it’s the AWD Stinger Premium that we pick as the value of the lineup.

On the V-6 side, the Stinger GT gets the base car’s equipment and adds some aluminum interior trim, three more speakers, and 19-inch wheels; rear-drive models get a limited-slip differential. The GT1 gets digital gauges, the bigger touchscreen with navigation and Harmon Kardon audio, and LED turn signals.

At the top, the spendy GT2 adds a head-up display, nappa leather, cooled front multi-adjustable seats, and a handsfree liftgate. Its price can soar to more than $50,000.

Stinger options include wireless smartphone charging, heated rear seats, and surround-view cameras.

Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking come standard on Premium, GT1, and GT2 models, but aren’t offered on others. If these were standard on all Stingers, it would earn a perfect 10 here.

Fuel Economy
Turbo-4 Stingers get good fuel economy; V-6s drop the ball.

The 2019 Kia Stinger gets a pass for fuel economy, to an extent. It’s an enthusiast machine, not a high-economy gas-sipper.

We give it a 5 for gas mileage based on the turbo-4 model, but it’s downhill from there, gearheads.

The EPA says the rear-drive Stinger with the 2.0-liter turbo-4 checks in at 22 mpg city, 29 highway, 25 combined. The ratings fall to 21/29/24 mpg when all-wheel drive’s added.

In the Stinger GT, the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 generates figures of 19/25/21 mpg with rear-wheel drive, or just 18/25/21 mpg with all-wheel drive—numbers you’d see on some bigger crossover SUVs.


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