History has shown us time and time again that talent and natural ability will only carry you so far. No matter your innate aptitude in any field, there always comes a point of reckoning; the ‘one shot’ moment from 8 Mile, if you like; when you must take to the stage under intense scrutiny and, unequivocally, show what you’re truly made of. And for one industrious Korean firm, that’s what the Kia Stinger GT represents. Let’s face it: The automotive world is chock-full of talented, underappreciated cars. Hell, it’s practically a cliché. What splits the very best from the rest is persistence, and in its 20-year vigil, Kia Motors South Africa has shown it has all the staying power in the world.
Looking at things with the benefit of hindsight, you could be forgiven for thinking that their ascent to success was all part of some perfectly choreographed master plan.
In fact, the journey from complete obscurity to wholesale brand acceptance, with a mere 310 units sold in that first year, was anything but. Two decades on, there are 75 Kia dealerships countrywide, retailing in excess of 16 335 units each year. Sheer numbers aside, the brand’s growth can perhaps be best exemplified by its evolution in design maturity as well as in purely quantitative terms, with a list of quality awards from JD Power and the like that is as long as your arm.
However, solid market share, industry insight and immense growth potential are nothing without the correct product. Both the Sorento SUV and the Grand Sedona people carrier bumped Kia into R700k territory and beyond, but now there is an offering that truly transforms the Kia proposition: a pukka sports sedan worthy of a halo title, but at a not-so halo price. Kia knows it faces an uphill battle to convince punters to part with big money for its products, and not just in a more-for-less sense. And if ever there was one to make you stand up and take notice, it’s the Stinger GT.
Compose yourself for these figures: Twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 driven through an eight-speed automatic to the rear wheels via limited-slip differential means there is a sting in the tail. 272 kW of power and 510 Nm of torque available from below 1 300 rpm ensures a 0–100 km/h sprint time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 270 km/h. Numbers that positively blow like-minded and like-priced five-door fastbacks from Europe into the weeds.
It simply erupts down the road and has a lovely V6 snarl with plenty of mid-range turbo wallop. Adaptive dampers give a bring-it-on enthusiasm in the corners, keeping the whole shooting match well balanced on the limit, and tunable settings to steering weight, throttle response and gearbox shift pattern (Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Eco and Smart) ensure the daily commute is no hardship when you’re out of low-flying GT mode. There is also a clear advantage in pure real estate terms. From nose to tail, there’s 4.8 m of acreage and a wheelbase of 2.9 m, which puts the interior space fore and aft closer to that of an Audi A6 than an A4, although the Kia’s sleek silhouette hardly suggests as much.
An admirably clean design, but still with plenty of sporting embellishments at a closer look, it’s as if it’s been inspired by powerful, elegant GTs. Although the biggest styling nod of all has to go to the 2011 Kia GT Concept, which undoubtedly set the template for this handsome fastback. Its signature tiger nose and low bonnet garners maximum attention up front, and 19-inch rims give it a serious road-hugging stance. And while it is a five-door – as in it has a rear hatch – a strong horizontal line across the rear tail lamps keeps the eye’s focus low down, where the quad tailpipes leave you in no doubt regarding the Stinger GT’s not-so-humble ambitions. After all, if you plan on making a statement, don’t be all shy about it.
The interior features three central air vents and the silver-finished lower dash and transmission tunnel have an elegant feel. The driver’s display has no trick virtual instrumentation, while the central screen has a split touchscreen and rotary-controlled functionality. Of course, all multimedia needs have been well covered.
The long-awaited arrival of the Stinger GT won’t harm Kia’s upmarket ambitions. Quite the opposite. This car is not some marketing creation; it’s a superb all-round package with distinctive design, strong performance and noteworthy practicality. And at just R859 995 all in, it could very well start making a dent in the sales columns of some of the more-fancied European carmakers’ niche models – especially when you remember that a comparable Audi S7 Sportback starts life at R1.3 million. But market conquest is not really the goal this time for Kia. The Stinger GT is no end point, but rather a vehicle (no pun intended) to show just how far the firm has come in South Africa in two decades. If this trajectory is only the beginning, we can’t wait to see what the next 20 years have in store.
3 342 cc, 6-cylinder, turbo petrol
272 kW @ 6 000 rpm,
510 Nm @ 1 300–2 200 rpm
0–100 km/h in 4.9 sec,
top speed 270 km/h
11.5 ℓ/100 km (claimed)