Starting with a sleek, bold design, the 2018 Kia Stinger offers a powerful and practical alternative to competitors at a bargain price. But track performance is only middling, while it lacks a manual transmission option and the pedigree of its German rivals.

Best Value

Pricing for the 2018 Stinger begins at $32,800 for the rear-wheel-drive 2.0L model, which is powered by a 255-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and climbs to $52,300 for the GT2 trim with all-wheel drive, which is equipped with a 365-hp, 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6.

The typical power features are present, as well as 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry with push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats (power driver's and passenger), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, steering wheel paddle shifters, Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a seven-inch touchscreen. Standard active safety features include a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors.

Blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning are standard on the GT2 and optional on all other models.

We'd opt for the Stinger GT1 model, which adds a sunroof, LED headlights and taillights, 19-inch alloy wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires, a launch control system, dynamic torque vectoring control, Brembo brakes, high-performance dampers, LED interior lighting, an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, a Harman Kardon sound system, and a flat-bottom steering wheel. We'd also choose all-wheel for all-season driving, and toss in a number of optional safety features. Here's how we'd build it:

  • Model:2018 Kia Stinger GT1
  • Engine: 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6
  • Output:365 hp / 376 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain:All-wheel drive
  • MPG:19 City / 25 Hwy
  • Options: All-wheel drive ($2,200), Kia Drive Wise Package ($2,000, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with lane change assist, driver attention warning, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers)
  • Base Price:$44,150 (including the $900 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$48,350

Performance

Kia Stinger

A pair of engines are offered, with base models equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder generating 255 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, while the GT trims come equipped with a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 rated at 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. Both are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Prodigious power from the twin-turbo V6 along with a supremely quiet, comfortable ride and predictable handling are the hallmarks of Kia's Stinger. GT models also up the ante with standard Brembo brakes, adjustable dampers, and staggered 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires. While all-wheel drive is available, rear-drive models feature a standard mechanical limited slip differential for increased grip and performance. The steering is direct and handling is neutral, while the comfortable ride lends itself to long stretches of relaxed cruising and, on the street, the Stinger rotates willing through corners with the brakes providing strong stopping power.

But despite the hype from Kia, the GT isn't up to snuff on the track, where it weighs too much, the dampers aren't firm enough, and the tires surrender grip too easily so that the stability control is forced to intercede a bit too early – even in Sport mode.

The Stinger also lacks a manual transmission option and, although fine for a base engine, the 2.0-liter isn't nearly as strong as the V6, and falls short of turbo-fours from BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and even Chevrolet. Finally, even though the 2.0-liter four offers decent fuel economy, returning an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 combined, GT FWD and AWD models lower those numbers to 19/25/21 mpg (city/highway/combined) – with both engines requiring premium fuel.

Style

The Stinger telegraphs its sporty intentions with a bold, aggressive, and attractive design headlined by its long, chiseled hood, steeply raked windshield, chromed gills, short overhangs, plethora of ducts and spoilers, athletic rear haunches, and sloping profile. Those various bits, along with wheel air curtains, a belly pan, rear diffuser, and ducktail spoiler help the Stinger slip through the air with 0.30 coefficient of drag.

The slippery sheetmetal is wrapped around a class-above interior combining sportiness and practicality, with leather upholstery (Nappa on GTs), soft-touch surfaces, large gauges ringed in metal, and a central tablet-sized touchscreen capable of displaying everything from infotainment to cornering G-forces. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, while the rear seats offer enough room for six-footers to sit behind six-footers. In addition, the hatchback body's versatility offers up 23.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats that expands to 40.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

But all is not perfect, as the cabin's shortcomings lie with a smattering of cheap plastic trim pieces and tight rear head room. Passengers over six feet may have to slouch back there in order to avoid contact with the roof. And while it was not always present, driving over rough pavement occasionally caused a creaking noise around the rear hatch area.

The Best and Worst Things

We're attracted to the Stinger's sleek design, class-above cabin, and overall value proposition, but are turned off by its mediocre on-track performance.

Right For? Wrong For?

Kia Stinger

Style-conscious buyers will appreciate the bold, aggressive design and richly-detailed interiors offered by the entire Stinger lineup.

Its lackluster on-track manners, however, could prove to be a turn off for hardcore enthusiasts.

The Bottom Line

Although it lacks the pedigree of rivals and disappoints with ordinary track manners and no manual transmission option, the 2018 Kia Stinger's value proposition, along with a sleek design, good on-road handling, and beautifully-trimmed interior, make it a top pick in its class.