Last October, I went on one of the most memorable and surreal work trips to date. We headed Stateside to the Mojave Desert in California. As well as being home to the Mojave green rattlesnake, a highly venomous and prevalent resident, the desert also houses a purpose-built hot weather proving ground belonging to Kia and Hyundai, which along with the usual test tracks, such as a high-speed ring, handling and dynamic course and rutted road, it also uniquely features a section that wouldnít look out of place at NASA. When developing new Kia and Hyundais, individual components and parts of the new cars, such as headlights, bumpers and dashboards, are placed in what are essentially NASA style greenhouses and baked for six months to see how they are likely to fare in the sun over their lifespan. After six months, these impressive greenhouses in the Mojave sun deliver the equivalent of twenty years of use in the sunniest of climates. Impressive stuff.
From my much loved, very much missed Optima Sportswagon I ran last year, I was already totally sold on Kia. Witnessing first-hand the lengths Kia (and Hyundai) go to, to ensure the durability of every aspect of the cars only reinforced by beliefs. I had been a passenger in the high-powered V6 petrol Stinger GT-S at V-Max on the high-speed ring at the Mojave proving ground and had spent almost 1,000 miles driving the 2.0-litre petrol Stinger for a work assignment, but the diesel version had eluded me. Every conversation I had with Ian about ëhisí Stinger was hugely positive and invoked a grin of Cheshire cat-like proportions. He promised he would give me a go in the car, but I wasnít sure that it would be that easy to steal it away. All manner of tactics were employed to prise the keys from our Editorís grasp and in the final few weeks, I was successful.
Swapover day at a car park in Milton Keynes just a few weeks ago, I drove away a very happy boy, still somewhat in a state of disbelief that I was actually in his Stinger. Itís not a car for shrinking violets and has huge road presence. Everywhere I went, I could feel eyes on me, or rather the car, and everyone has questions about it. From the security guy at Vauxhallís Luton plant who kept me talking about the car so long that rush hour came and went, to Farha who works in the filling station down the road from me, who never missed an opportunity to ask ìhowís the car going?î
It was pleasing to see the little bug bears I had with the Optima addressed in the Stinger. I could never seem to get good fuel economy from that 1.7-litre diesel engine, and the automatic gearbox just baffled me with its behaviour and traits. The Stinger, with its larger 2.2-litre unit and extra 58 horses consistently returned around the 50mpg mark on runs, with the worst figure coming out as 40.1mpg after a spirited B-road drive after a day of camera car duty.
And with a list price of £37,725, or £38,370 with the pearl white paintwork, itís a real bargain. The list of standard equipment is lengthy, and the red leather upholstery a good choice if you like to stand out. Otherwise thereís the option of grey or black leather, but I think they are both a bit ordinary. The perception that the Stinger is a driverís car is reinforced by the low-slung driving position, where you need to bow your head to get in and out. The space inside is more reminiscent of a sporting coupÈ than luxury saloon, with head and rear legroom at a premium for taller occupants. But even this canít fail to wipe the smile off my face when driving. Itís easy to get a comfortable driving position, all of the controls are clearly labelled and logically arranged, and thereís a whole host of different switches and gadgets to play with to satisfy any eager button presser. But above all else, who else would have thought that Kia could nail its first executive car with the first attempt. Rivals deserve to be worried!
Date arrived 24th May 2018
Fuel economy 48.7 (combined) 44.8 mpg (on test)
Once again, the Kia badge has impressed and reaffirmed my thoughts that I would spend my own money on one.
It’s lovely to see something different to body colour, but I don’t think the dark-chrome effect exactly works on the Stinger.