Why the Kia Stinger is Business Insider’s 2018 Car of the Year

Hi, Bob Aldons, The Car Guy, giving you the inside goss on American magazine Business Insider’s car of the year.

Seems that the various gongs are coming out earlier and earlier – you’d normally wait for the end of the year or early in the new year to see the COTY’s but the digital world has changed things a lot. I like the Kia Stinger and arguably it would have to be my favourite car in 2018.

So let’s see what Matthew Debord, Benjamin Zhang of Business Insider have to say.

The Kia Stinger is Business Insider's 2018 Car of the Year.

Kia Stinger is Business Insider’s 2018 Car of the Year.

  • The Kia Stinger has taken home the big trophy of Business Insider‘s Car of the Year for 2018.
  • It bested some serious competition, including the Tesla Model 3, the Lamborghini Huracán Performante, the Ferrari 812 Superfast, the Lincoln Navigator, and the Jaguar I-Pace.
  • In all, the Kia Stinger beat out 14 other finalists.
  • Business Insider concluded that it’s the best car South Korea has ever produced – a triumph after many years of Kia working to establish itself in the US and other global markets.
  • In Australia, the four-cylinder base model of the Kia Stinger starts at $45,990, with the V6 version raising the price to $48,990 plus on-roads.

The Kia Stinger is Business Insider‘s Car of the Year for 2018!

This is the fifth time we’ve presented the big trophy, and the Stinger joins an illustrious company.

Even at a distance, the Stinger has road presence.

Even at a distance, the Stinger has road presence.

Past winners were the Corvette Stingray in 2014, the Volvo XC90 in 2015, the Acura NSX in 2016, and the Porsche Panamera in 2017.

But as soon as senior correspondent Matt DeBord drove the Kia Stinger in the Bay Area at the beginning of 2018, he knew it was something special.

On return to Business Insider‘s New York office from the West Coast, he could barely contain his enthusiasm.

Senior Reporter Ben Zhang got his crack on the East Coast a few months later and was also blown away.

Real competition certainly arrived.

The Tesla Model 3 is stupendous, and it’s hard to argue against the Aston Martin DB11 Volante, the Ferrari 812 Superfast, and the Lamborghini Huracán Performante.

Zhang and DeBord passed many a weekend morning or afternoon at our suburban New Jersey test centre debating the merits of various contenders.

(This was also the first year when we had two all-electric vehicles in the running – the Jaguar I-Pace and the Model 3 – perhaps a sign of things to come.)

Kia Stinger

Sure, we can complain about the plastic fake hood vents. But that’s about all we can complain about

Our methodology is based on a handful of simple questions.
  • Is there a strong business case for the vehicle? We are a business website, after all.
  • Did our reviewers agree that the vehicle should be included? We have to come to a consensus, even though we might disagree on some particulars.
  • Was the vehicle objectively excellent? There has to be a wow factor of some sort.
  • Did the vehicle stand out from the sea of competition, particularly when it comes to technology? A Car of the Year finalist has to be special, and we’re also a technology website.
  • Can we strongly recommend buying or leasing the car? We demand to know whether we’d buy the vehicle ourselves if we had the resources.

To be eligible, all models must be new or have been substantially updated within the past year.

The Kia Stinger is the best car South Korea has ever produced.

Kia Stinger

It’s cool when your car has an identity that can be spelt out.

Designed by Peter Schreyer, the sports sedan is intended to evoke the great European grand-touring cars of the past, such as the Lamborghini Miura or the Ferrari Daytona.

This means the Stinger has notably more panache and a unique sort of sleek prowess that’s lacking in similar offerings from Mercedes, BMW, Audi, and Lexus.

Those brands produce wonderful, spirited four-doors, but they do so at a higher price tag than Kia, and in recent years their core vehicles have bulked up.

They have opted for aggressive, while the Stinger goes for style.

Kia Stinger

Sleek front end, meet sleek rear end. Also, note the ferocious quad exhaust pipes

In the end, the Stinger put its elegant nose in front and kept it there for an entire year.

We sampled close to 70 vehicles in 2018, so this victory for Kia is particularly notable.

The competition was intense. But the Kia Stinger was up for it.

It’s fair to say that we’ve admired our previous Car of the Year winners.

But when it came to Stinger, we fell in love.

Here’s the low-down:

The Kia Stinger was the undisputed star of the 2017 auto-show circuit, so we were psyched to get our hands on the grand-touring-inspired sports sedan.

This is a stunning set of wheels.

Kia Stinger

Plenty of room for two people’s luggage, for a long weekend

It’s easily one our favourite sedans on the road today, looks-wise.

The Stinger is aggressive, elegant, stylish, and sleek. One of our test cars looked brilliant in “Hichroma Red”.

The fascia is bold without being burly or overbearing.

In keeping with a major trend, the Stinger is a fastback four-door with a smoothly sloping roofline and a hatch.

The proportions on this car are masterful: balanced and suave, long and low.

Sure, we can complain about the plastic fake hood vents. But that’s about all we can complain about.

Our top-of-the-line all-wheel-drive GT2 stickered at $US52,000 ($72,020)— a steal for a car this good.

We did our best to squeeze some turbo lag out of this sucker and failed.

 

The base model has a 2.0-litre, 255-horsepower (190KW) four-cylinder engine and can be had for $US32,000.

Some sharp-looking wheels, plus big discs and red Brembo callipers provide abundant stopping power.

We drove two different trim levels of the Stinger: the all-wheel-drive GT2 and the rear-wheel-drive GT2.

OK, the “Stinger” name is offbeat in a world of M’s, AMGs, RSs, and numbers.

But we welcomed it. It’s cool when your car has an identity that can be spelt out!

The trunk affords 23 cubic feet (651 litres) of cargo space, which is on par with most compact crossover SUVs.

Plenty of room for two people’s luggage, for a long weekend.

In addition to the aforementioned twin-scroll turbo 2.0-litre, the Stinger has a glorious 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6.

Let’s slip inside the somewhat austere black interior – but it’s really nice

It makes a tasty 365 horsepower (272KW) with 376 pound-feet (509Nm) of yummy torque.

We did our best to squeeze some turbo lag out of this sucker and failed.

Let’s slip inside the somewhat austere black interior (in our book, that’s a good thing, though fans of German or Japanese luxury marques may be disappointed).

The leather-wrapped steering feels fantastic — not too thick, not too thin. The plastic at the centre isn’t quite up to snuff, but that’s a minor issue.

The instrument cluster is actually refreshingly straightforward, and there’s a head-up display providing core info.

The rear seats are comfy, though they aren’t heated and cooled, as the fronts are on the top GT2 trim.

The motor’s power is piped through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Sure, there are paddle shifters so you can go manual, but we found that it was best to just let the auto handle the duty.

Kia Stinger

The rear seats are comfy, though they aren’t heated and cooled, as the fronts are on the top GT2 trim.

As an aside, the Stinger has the first joystick-style shifter that we’ve actually liked.

The Stinger provides multiple drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart, or Custom.

Smart tweaks the dynamics based on your driving style, while Custom lets you do the tweaking yourself.

Sport maximises all the Stinger has to offer, but in our testing it also clobbered the already marginal fuel economy. That’s the price you pay.

Official mile-per-gallon amounts are 19 (12.4 litres per 100km) city, 25 highway, and 21 combined.

We suspect we were getting more like 20 mpg, given that we were engaging in spirited Sport-mode piloting.

Comfort and Eco should help one to better sip the petrol, and on balance they don’t detract hugely from performance – we stepped on it in both and were rewarded with plenty of pep.

But Sport is where the steering is most taut, the braking is most responsive, and the suspension is trimmest.

Kia Stinger

The motor’s power is piped through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

 

Some reviews of the Stinger have complained about body roll when the car is pushed, but we didn’t find much of that, though we were driving on public roads rather than a track.

It has dedicated ports for 12-volt and USB charging, along with USB and Aux ports for media input. More automakers should provide this option.

The infotainment system, UVO, is responsive and simple to use. It covers all the bases and is managed through a touchscreen in the centre of the dash.

Navigation helped Matt find his way around the Bay Area, from the city to Silicon Valley and even over to Fremont, while Bluetooth device pairing was a snap.

Ben Zhang had no trouble dealing with New Jersey.

Our testers came with a Harman Kardon premium audio system and SiriusXM satellite radio, which sounded superb.

As with most modern infotainment systems, UVO adds a suite of apps.

In a world in which car companies are moving everything to touchscreens, the ergonomic brilliance of Kia’s central console is a welcome throwback. Buttons and knobs can be better!

Kia Stinger

Dedicated ports for 12-volt and USB charging, along with USB and Aux ports for media input.

  

Kia and its South Korean cousin Hyundai have achieved exactly the right balance with vehicle controls: Everything feels as if it’s in exactly the right place.

The key fob for the Stinger is thoroughly cool. It’s actually fun to lock and unlock the car.

Some history

In 1993, Kia arrived in America with its compact Sephia sedan and soon followed with the Sportage compact SUV.

The cars were simple, affordable, and utterly underwhelming.

Over the next quarter century, Kia and its corporate cousin Hyundai have not only steadily improved their product offerings but also worked to chip away at any negative misconceptions the buying public may have held about Korean cars.

These days, Kia makes good cars and SUVs and stands behind them with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

It’s no longer a risk to own its vehicles; it’s proved it can satisfy and delight American customers.

But the Stinger takes things to a whole new level, and that’s why we’ve named it our 2018 Car of the Year.

This is easily the best car Kia has ever made, but more than that it’s among the best cars of its type that we’ve driven.

The comparison that jumped immediately to mind was the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, a 505-horsepower beast that was a finalist for Business Insider‘s 2017 Car of the Year.

Obviously, the Stinger GT2 that we tested, at 365 horsepower, gives up a lot of ponies to the Giulia Quadrifoglio.

But it has a similar light, sporty, vigorous feel, and arguably the horsepower is just right while the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s is excessive.

Plus, the Giulia Quad is almost $US80,000, and you have to spend that much to get the twin-turbo V6 because the non-Quads give you only a 280-horsepower four-cylinder, at prices that compare to the Stinger GTs’ (the Stinger can also be had with a smaller four-banger).

Sticker-wise, you might stack the Stinger GT2 up against the Audi S4, and the specs are similar.

But the S4, while a nice ride, lacks the flair and panache of the Stinger.

Yes, you could buy the S4 and be happy. But we’d rather buy the Stinger and be thrilled.

(We also thought about the Stinger going up against the Acura TLX A-Spec, a previous Business Insider Car of the Year contender, but the Acura just doesn’t have that juicy Stinger twin-turbo V6 going for it.)

It’s an endlessly fun car, a literal joy to drive.

It fires up with a pleasing snarl (OK, an augmented one, but still) and growls cheerfully when pushed. It’s flat-out fast.

The zero-to-60mp/h (96.6km/h) time is supposed to be 4.7 seconds, but we thought it was notably quicker than that.

And you have to watch yourself at cruising velocities, as the Stinger taps out the legal speed limit in a hurry but with such poise and relative quiet that one can easily overlook the speedometer.

As it turned out, the weather in the Bay Area while Matt DeBord was driving varied between lovely and rainy, so he had the chance to vindicate the AWD system.

We wouldn’t pay the extra thousands for it, but it performed capably.

Generally speaking, torque vectoring favours the rear wheels and sends grab to the front only if you need it.

We found the paddle shifters to be a bit ticky-tacky, so we mostly skipped them.

As a result, in Sport mode while letting the eight-speed auto shift gears, some firm downshifts could be felt – that may bother some drivers, but we consider it in the spirit of what Sport mode should be all about.

The brakes are nice, beefy Brembos, and they keep the Stinger in check.

We gave them a workout on the twisting roads around Deer Creek and the mean streets of the island of Manhattan.

But where we genuinely enjoyed the Stinger the most was on the highway: It’s supposed to be a gran Turismo, a touring car, designed to recall a time when well-heeled European couples saddled up their elegant GTs and set their sights on beachfront enclaves.

The Stinger is a car that craves a weekend trip to someplace nice.

Some reviewers have also complained that the interior isn’t really all that luxurious. It isn’t.

So what? Do you want to rub the leather all day or drive the car?

We looked forward to savouring the Stinger’s beauty – and having it envelop us when we slipped inside.

It was lovely.

The audio system sounds great.

The seats are fine, heated and cooled (so was the steering wheel).

We can live without race-car bolstering and open-grain wood trim.

Matt declared that he would buy this car tomorrow without hesitation if he were in the market for a sporty four-door.

Ben shared that sentiment.

We’d skip the AWD to get the price down closer to $US40,000 and laugh at all the Audis and BMWs because our car would be just so, so, so much hipper.

A brilliant risk for Kia, and one that should be brilliantly rewarded.

This story first appeared in Business Insider. Read it here