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2018 Kia Stinger 2.0T AWD

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 1/26/2018 SCOTT OLDHAM

2018 Kia Stinger 2.0T AWD
NACA ducts. It needs a couple of NACA ducts. Three would be too many, too 1969 Shelby Mustang. But the two fake black vents on the hood of the 2018 Kia Stinger just don’t cut it and instead imbue this sports sedan with a pretender vibe. But it’s no pretender. The Kia’s hood decoration is just a small gaffe in an otherwise sweet visual and dynamics package that has put the new Korea-built Stinger in the conversation with some of Germany’s best and brightest sporty four-doors. 

More Will Get the Four

We’ve tested a couple of 2018 Stingers before, first a rear-drive example and then another with all-wheel drive. Both cars were top-of-the-line GT models powered by a 365-hp twin-turbo 3.3-liter V-6 and with $50,000 sticker prices. All Stingers share a rear-wheel-drive chassis with the Genesis G70; our test car’s all-wheel-drive system added $2200 to its sticker price and a claimed 181 pounds to its curb weight, which still totaled only 3845 pounds on our scales.

This time, our test vehicle represents the Stinger that most people will pay monthly for, and it has a sticker price of $37,000. Under its hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that also does duty, albeit mounted sideways, in the less expensive, front-wheel-drive Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata family sedans.

Related Video: 2018 Kia Stinger Quick Drive (Provided by Consumer Reports)

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The four-cylinder is rated at 255 horsepower, and its torque peak of 260 lb-ft hits at just 1400 rpm. It isn’t quite as smooth as some other turbocharged 2.0-liters out there and it doesn’t rev as high, topping out at a 6500-rpm redline, but the double-overhead-cam engine gets the job done, with a flat torque curve and a nice kick just over six grand.

The powertrain’s shortcoming is the eight-speed automatic transmission, which Hyundai/Kia designed and builds in house. It’s geared well for this package and its performance is satisfying around town, but play Lewis Hamilton on your favorite twisty road and the eight-speed is lethargic. Flicking the paddle shifters delivers an eventual gearchange, but they could be snappier.

2018 Kia Stinger 2.0T AWD© James Lipman 2018 Kia Stinger 2.0T AWD

It Has the Moves

At the test track, using the car’s launch-control system, the base-engine Stinger managed a zero-to-60-mph time of 6.1 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 14.7 seconds at 95 mph. That’s about 1.5 seconds slower than the all-wheel-drive Stinger GT in both tests yet 0.7 second quicker than the Optima Turbo with the same powerplant.

On the street, the 2.0-liter Stinger is responsive and quick. The four-cylinder does get a little raspy at the top of its rev range, but it’s no deal killer. And although our testing and evaluation was done on 91-octane premium fuel, Kia says the turbo four can get by drinking cheaper regular.

Unfortunately, it’s thirsty. The engine’s stop/start system is one of the smoothest around, so we rarely deactivated the feature. Still, we averaged just 19 mpg during two weeks of testing and mixed driving around Los Angeles; its EPA combined estimate is 24 mpg.

2018 Kia Stinger 2.0T AWD© James Lipman 2018 Kia Stinger 2.0T AWD

Despite the transmission’s tuning issues, the Stinger 2.0T is fun. The big hatchback feels smaller and lighter than it is, and with 52.1 percent of its weight over the front tires, it’s well balanced and offers sharp turn-in. At the adhesion limits of its 18-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE97AS-02 all-season tires the Stinger does understeer, but it’s mild and easily corrected, and the stability control intervenes with a soft touch. The car also produced 0.88 g of grip on the skidpad, which bettered the performance of the last Alfa Romeo Giulia we tested (a 2.0T AWD model).

Someone at BMW should ask Kia how to tune steering. The Stinger’s electrically assisted system offers linear response and plenty of feedback and feel. At higher speeds the Stinger takes a stern set. It’s calm and cool even as it’s hitting the top-speed limiter at 132 mph. Its large four-wheel disc brakes—the front rotors are 12.6 inches and the rears measure 12.4 inches—are easy to modulate and resist fade when you’re hammering the Stinger down a fast and tight mountain road. At the track, it came to a halt from 70 mph in 182 feet.

2018 Kia Stinger 2.0T AWD© James Lipman 2018 Kia Stinger 2.0T AWD

Size and Space

The Stinger looks larger than a BMW 4-series Gran Coupe, and it’s longer by about seven inches. The car has presence, and all Stingers get four oversize chrome exhaust tips, which makes the rear view of the base model almost indistinguishable from that of the V-6–powered GT.

Its 114.4-inch wheelbase is long for the class as well, so there’s plenty of rear-seat space. The driving position is low, like you’ll find in a Porsche Panamera, and the ergonomics are right for a performance sedan. There are big white-on-black analog gauges, a three-spoke steering wheel with just the right girth, and a T-handle gear selector with positive action.

There’s also a Sport driving mode that adds weight to the Kia’s steering, quickens throttle response, and remaps the transmission to hold gears longer, but the alterations are subtle and unnecessary. We found ourselves quite happily leaving the car in the default Comfort mode most of the time. Higher-spec models also get adaptive dampers.

The interior is comfortable and the ride tuning spot-on, but quite a bit of road noise infiltrates the cabin. You can’t really feel the road surface change as much as you can hear it. Concrete sings, old asphalt buzzes, and L.A.’s 405 freeway sounds a lot like the intro to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”

Our test example, a base 2.0T model with the $2000 Drive Wise package of driver-assistance features, also had an unexpected mix of equipment and options. There were heated seats and a heated steering wheel but no navigation system, no sunroof, and no power liftgate, which was a bit of a disappointment in a car costing $37,000. The Kia’s 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen also seems small for that price point (other trims get an 8.0-inch screen), and onboard Wi-Fi is not available.

The 2018 Stinger 2.0T isn’t perfect, but its strong performance, style, and spaciousness is a compelling combination. Sure, we prefer the Stinger GT with its additional power and features, but the four-cylinder Stinger remains a driver’s car, and with a base price just under $33,000 (with rear-wheel drive), its value is undeniable. There’s plenty of time in its life cycle for Kia to fix those hood vents, too.

Specifications

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback 

PRICE AS TESTED: $37,000 (base price: $35,000)

ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 122 cu in, 1998 cc

Power: 255 hp @ 6200 rpm

Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 1400 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:

Wheelbase: 114.4 in

Length: 190.2 in

Width: 73.6 in Height: 55.1 in

Passenger volume: 96 cu ft

Cargo volume: 23 cu ft

Curb weight: 3845 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS:

Zero to 60 mph: 6.1 sec

Zero to 100 mph: 16.2 sec

Zero to 120 mph: 25.2 sec

Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.4 sec

Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.5 sec

Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.5 sec

Standing ¼-mile: 14.7 sec @ 95 mph

Top speed (governor limited): 132 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 182 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.88 g

*stability-control-inhibited

C/D FUEL ECONOMY:

Observed: 19 mpg

EPA FUEL ECONOMY:

Combined/city/highway: 24/21/29 mpg

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