Performance at a reasonable price. The Kia Stinger ushered in a new era for the Korean automaker, as this sportback sedan delivers a great balance of performance, luxury, and wallet friendliness. The issue with this sort of balancing act is that it comes with compromise at nearly every turn.

The 2020 Kia Stinger offers solid performance and a great ride, but it lacks the power to compete with the performance variants of true luxury options. At the same time, it's a whole lot cheaper than those models.

Incredible looks, but could be cleaner. The Stinger is a stunner from virtually every angle. What really sets it apart is its long hood that combines with a short front overhang, a swoopy roof, and rear glass that shoots almost to the edge of the trunk. This gives it a legit sport-luxury style that rivals German metal nicely.

While we give Kia a hat tip for trying to sport up its sportback sedan with spoilers, vents, and other aesthetic add-ons, they seem almost pasted on as an afterthought. There's little cohesion between the body and some of these add-ons that include faux hood vents and odd dark-chrome front wheel vents. Want to see how to do this the right way? Look to the BMW M3 or Mercedes-Benz AMG C 43.

Inside, the Stinger regains its footing with an interior that can easily rival anything from Audi, BMW, or Mercedes. It boasts a clean design with tasteful black and silver trim, optional Nappa leather, and more. It also boasts tidy control layouts that puts pricier rivals to shame.

Kia Stinger

Great performance, but needs tweaking to compete. The Stinger’s base 2.0-liter turbocharged engine cranks out a respectable 255 horsepower, but the real fun comes in the optional 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 in the GT and higher trims.

The boosted V6 pumps out 365 hp and sends it through an eight-speed automatic transmission before heading to the rear or all four wheels. This results in a shocking 4.7-second 0-60 time, which is just 0.2 seconds behind the AMG C 43.

Where the Stinger falls flat is when buyers seek a budget competitor to the BMW M340i or the Mercedes AMG C 63. Respectively, these sedans deliver 382 hp and 469 to 503 hp. This power sprints the M340i and C 63 to 60 mph in as few as 4.1 and 3.8 seconds, respectively. The Stinger is only a few factory modifications away from hanging with them, so why not offer it?

The Stinger also lacks the agility of its German rivals. Its fully independent suspension delivers a great ride and can hang in the corners for a while. Unfortunately, higher speeds result in a little bit of body roll, and its relatively narrow rubber can't maintain its grip.

Well-equipped and passenger-friendly cabin. Inside, the Stinger comes standard with the tech goodies buyers expect, including a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

Moving up to the GT1 trim adds in automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and an upgraded audio system. At just $46,435, the Stinger GT1 is still a great value, especially considering its potent V6.

The Stinger GT1’s pricing loses its luster a bit for those who don’t care about the high-performing V6 engine. The standard BMW 3-Series starts from $41,745 and matches all the Stinger GT1’s standard goodies except Android Auto, plus it adds standard safety gear like forward collision warning and lane departure warning.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class rings in at $42,395 and includes Android Auto and a 10.3-inch infotainment screen. The Jaguar XE adds even more value at $40,895 with all the same standard tech gear as the C-Class.

The Stinger’s cabin also shows off impressive space with 42.6 inches of front legroom and 36.4 inches of rear legroom. This easily beats the 3-Series (42/35.2 inches), C-Class (41.7/35.2 inches), and XE (41.5/35 inches).

The Stinger’s rear liftback opens to reveal a 23.3-cubic-foot trunk, which beats the 3-Series by 6.3 cubic feet, the C-Class by 10.7, and the XE by 11.2.

Final thoughts. Is the 2020 Kia Stinger a true luxury car? No. Is it a legit sports sedan? Also, no. But it’s not trying to be. It’s trying to deliver an affordable, middle-of-the-road option to expensive luxury sports sedans – and it hits that target spot on.

Buyers looking for more a legit track burner will want to head to BMW or Mercedes to pick up an M or AMG model, but they’d better bring a heavy wallet with them. Those who feel the Stinger’s looks are too forced will also prefer its German rivals.

Shoppers who don’t care about the V6 engine and just want the latest tech will find more value in the base 3-Series, C-Class, and XE.

Check prices for the 2020 Kia Stinger »