[This article was first published on businesstimes.com.sg]
With little to fiddle with, Kia's engineers seem to have improved the Stinger by adding bells and whistles.
THE Kia Stinger is the kind of car you can understand in a single sentence: For S$213,999 you get something that turns heads like a Ford Mustang, has an interior like an Audi and drives like a BMW, and one of the better BMWs, at that.
That much has been true from the get-go, and now a mid-life revamp has honed the five-seater fastback to keep it sharp.
Among the changes is the mildest of cosmetic facelifts. There are apparently some new wheel designs and a slender brake light now stretches clear across the broad, muscular rear, but I couldn't tell you what's new about the front end if you held a knife to my throat.
The Stinger's looks were the last thing that needed fixing, anyway. If there's a better looking Korean car on the road, I haven't seen it.
The experience behind the wheel didn't need tweaking, either, since the Stinger shot out of Kia's womb fully-formed as a beautifully-sorted driver's car. No surprise there, because the man who did the sorting was Albert Biermann, who headed up BMW's high-performance M Division. After seeing how the Stinger prototypes looked, Mr Biermann immediately volunteered to work on the car.
He left it with lovely, feelsome steering, and turned it into something with composure to spare around corners. The feeling of poise you get from the Stinger is all the more remarkable considering the suspension does such a nice job of making a crummy bit of road feel like a carpeted one.
With precious little to fiddle around with, Kia's engineers seem to have turned their attention to increasing the car's content, which is industry talk for giving it more bells and whistles. That's something, because the Stinger was well-equipped to begin with, which means now it's loaded like a premium car.
It has an 8-inch touchscreen, for example, and one that works wirelessly with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a feature you usually have to pay BMW 5 Series money for.
New cabin materials make it feel more posh inside, and it now has a worthwhile suite of driver aids, such as cameras that show you what's in its blind spots, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. You can start the engine remotely with the key (which isn't great for the climate but does plenty for cabin temp on a hot day), and there's even an adjustable noise generator to give the engine a put-on growl (if BMW can get away with such artificiality, so can Kia).
Two things pierce the veil of perfection. On the highway there's a noticeable amount of rumble from the tyres, while the sound system is pretty second rate, at least to these ears. For a car designed to tackle long distances, both are surprising oversights.
The Stinger is otherwise so refined that it doesn't actually feel as fast as it is. The 2.0-litre turbo engine biffs it to 100km/h in only six seconds, but there's almost a calm instead of frantic quality to the way it picks up speed. For more excitement, there's the upcoming 3.3-litre, twin-turbo V6 version, which is apparently a hair's breadth from being approved for sale in Singapore.
When it slips into the showroom, it will do so just ahead of the Carnival, a large new Multi Purpose Vehicle that is just as sophisticated and well-equipped as the Stinger. The upcoming car is more expensive than the budget, value-for-money offerings that Kia is famous for here, but if it sells well in Singapore, that would at least in part be due to the Stinger's success. "I hope that it changes how people perceive Kia," Gregory Guillaume, the Stinger's designer, once told The Business Times about his hopes for the car. Given how it looks, feels and drives, if the Stinger doesn't do it, nothing will.
[Source article: The Business Times] © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction. Published 23 Apr 2021.