2021 Kia Stinger review: Sports sedan is unlike anything on the road

This performance car was a massive change of direction for the brand and there is nothing quite like it on the road today.

The Kia Stinger was a huge change of direction for the South Korean brand, which had previously sold sensible and value packed passenger cars and SUVs. But the twin-turbo V6 performance sedan added some much needed spice to its range.

We sample the updated Stinger to see what its all about.

It changed how people think of Kia

Originally introduced back in 2017, the Kia Stinger reset expectations around a brand previously known for humble, well-equipped transport.

The Stinger GT was a declaration Kia could take on the performance-car establishment and even luxury car marques with an attractive, well-equipped sports sedan.

Anecdotally, the Stinger has transformed the way many enthusiasts think about Kia. It represents one of the bravest cars of the last decade, and we always appreciate a chance to drive one.

There are changes for 2021

A mild midlife update delivers subtle tweaks to the recipe this year.

Fresh LED tail-lights and starry 19-inch alloys not unlike those of BMW’s previous-generation M3 competition help trainspotters pick the new one.

The inclusion of a sports exhaust system sees power for the 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 climb by 2kW to 272kW, though peak torque remains unchanged at 510Nm.

Safety changes include the addition of pedestrian and cyclist detection for its auto emergency braking system, plus a nifty camera-based blind-spot monitoring feature that puts a live video feed in the driver’s dashboard.

The biggest change on the inside is a 10.25-inch touchscreen display that looks impressive while delivering handy features such as satnav and smartphone integration.

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It’s not cheap

Kia might be known for its value, but that doesn’t mean its cars come at a low cost.

Priced from $63,260 plus on-road costs — about $67,000 drive-away — the Stinger GT is hardly a bargain-basement machine. But it is packed with gear such as a powerful engine, electrically adjustable heated and cooled front seats trimmed in quality leather, a 15-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo, dual-zone climate control and more.

You get a good degree of driver aids including a 360-degree camera, active cruise control, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Performance kit includes a limited-slip differential, multi-mode suspension, Brembo brakes, Michelin tyres and more. None of that comes cheap.

It’s fun to drive

Properly quick in a straight line, the Stinger brings affordable twin-turbo punch to a broad range of customers. Multi-mode suspension helps the car adapt to different situations, as do a choice of driving modes ranging from mild to wild.

The Stinger will impress folks who are new to performance cars — it looks great, goes hard and offers the sort of rear-wheel-drive dynamics that made the Falcon and Commodore so popular.

Experienced drivers might be disappointed in an indecisive eight-speed automatic transmission and wayward traction control system that make it feel like a blunt instrument.

The Stinger still can’t match the precision of class leaders, which feels like a missed opportunity for this major update.

There’s nothing quite like it

Powerful rear-wheel-drive sports sedans are hard to come by, particularly under the $100,000 mark.

The Stinger arrived back in 2017, when V8 Aussie muscle cars were still available. That’s not the case anymore — the only affordable sedan remotely similar to the Stinger GT is Chrysler’s hulking Hemi-powered 300 SRT. It’s big on power but low on tech, unlike Kia’s contender.

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Audi’s S5 Sportback has a turbo V6 engine and similarly swoopy looks, but it costs twice as much at about $125,000 drive-away.

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