Call it cheeky or cavalier, but the 2020 Kia Stinger shoots high above the brand’s usual mainstream lineup to tackle entry-luxury sports sedans from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz—and actually competes. Yes, that’s right, the company that once marketed the dowdy and chintzy Rondo mini-minivan is now regularly mentioned alongside the A5 Sportback, 4-series Gran Coupe, and C-class sedan.
Unlike most of the other Kias in the showroom, the Stinger does come from luxury roots, sharing its platform with the also-excellent Genesis G70 sedan, but whereas that car is a regular three-box sedan, the Stinger cleverly hides a hatchback in its fast rear end, creating a huge cargo area for extra practicality. Two eager engines, an athletic chassis, and communicative steering make the Stinger a car we can enjoy every day—and we did during a 40,000 mile long-term test.
What’s New for 2020?
Kia’s Stinger made a splash when it launched for the 2018 model year—especially the speedy, V-6–powered GT models. So many buyers preferred the V-6 models, in fact, that Kia has rebranded and simplified the lineup of four-cylinder models for 2020 into one offering, called GT-Line.
The GT-Line retains the previous base engine—a turbocharged 2.0-liter making 255 horsepower—but adds racier styling that’s inspired by the GT V-6. There’s no longer a Premium trim with the four-cylinder; instead, the GT-Line will offer a Sun & Sound package that adds the Premium’s content and includes a sunroof, a larger 8.0-inch infotainment display, navigation, LED headlamps, and a Harman/Kardon stereo.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Even though the newly minted GT-Line has the looks of the V-6 models, we’d still go with one of the higher-powered models. Of those, the GT1 is the one to get. It keeps its price below the $50,000 mark but adds a sunroof, navigation, an 8.0-inch infotainment display, Harman/Kardon audio, automatic high-beam headlamps, a power-adjustable steering column, ventilated front seats, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and a driver-attention monitor.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Stinger has two available engines, both of which can be had with either rear- or all-wheel drive. The entry-level 2.0-liter powertrain does an adequate job relative to its rivals, but the powerful twin-turbo V-6 delivers scintillating performance that gets our enthusiast blood pumping.
The eight-speed automatic that comes in every Stinger was lightning quick and mostly well calibrated when left to shift for itself. We wish the paddle shifters offered sharper responses to driver inputs, however. Still, for drivers in single-minded pursuit of straight-line speed, the Stinger GT does not disappoint. The Stinger has mastered straight-line speed and returned solid numbers during our track testing.
It comports itself well in normal driving, but when pushed to the limit, it couldn’t quite match the composure of its more established competition. Likewise, we identified some protestations from the rear suspension—an unnerving side step when cornering hard on a bumpy road—while some fore-and-aft pitching accompanied our all-out acceleration and braking runs.
All GTs feature powerful Brembo brakes, which provided quick stops by any measure and fit in nicely within this class of high-performing sedans. Without the Brembos and rolling on less grippy all-season tires, in our testing a four-cylinder Stinger was not impressive—in this class or any other.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Whether you’re looking at the four-cylinder or the V-6, the Stinger is less efficient than similarly equipped competitors. The EPA’s fuel-economy ratings for each of the Stinger’s engines fall below those of comparable rivals, but the V-6 outperformed its ratings on our real-world test, and there is virtually no fuel-economy penalty for choosing all-wheel drive.
So far, only V-6–powered Stingers have made a trip on our highway test circuit. Both rear- and all-wheel-drive models outperformed their EPA ratings by a slight margin during our real-world test.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Stinger’s interior is well designed and attractive, but it can’t match the Audi A4 or the BMW 3-series for material quality or construction. Then again, the Kia costs considerably less than those two German sedans. The Stinger does, however, offer a significantly more comfortable rear seat than many cars in this class—and its advantage feels greater than its numbers would suggest.
While the Stinger’s interior is free of glaring errors and omissions, the overall effect is less polished than the efforts we’ve enjoyed from established luxury brands. The Stinger’s stated trunk volume would predict that it has by far the most cargo space in this set, but it only bested its rivals by a small margin in our real-world cargo tests.
With its wide hatchback opening and long wheelbase, we’d hoped the Stinger would do even better in these measurements. Its center console is on the large side for a car, which helps to compensate for the fact that the front-door pockets are the smallest of this bunch.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Kia’s infotainment system—called UVO—is used to good effect in the Stinger and consists of a touchscreen mixed with useful physical buttons. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability is standard, but the touchscreen’s response times were less than urgent, and we wish there were another USB port in the front row.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Stinger has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Otherwise, the Stinger has nearly every driver assist that we report on available as an option, but self-parking and automated rear braking aren’t on the menu. Key safety features include:
- Standard blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert
- Available forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Kia’s long powertrain warranty is practically legendary, and it easily outdoes every other car in this set for length of coverage. Unlike many of its premium-branded rivals, the Stinger offers no complimentary scheduled maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 10 years or 100,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance