The Kia Stinger is a lot of unexpected things: It's a gorgeous performance car meant to compete with the best German sedans; it's a bargain by comparison; it laid the groundwork for Kia to shock the market with the Telluride three-row SUV; and it is a hatchback.
True story. The Stinger is a five-door hatchback, like the Volkswagen Golf and Hyundai Veloster, but in a sleek, nearly fastback form like the Audi A7. Those winning traits conspire to make the Kia Stinger The Car Connection's Best Hatchback To Buy 2020.
Launched for 2018, the Stinger proved what Kia drivers have known for the past decade: Kia makes quality cars, backed by an industry-changing warranty, and is far removed from the budget stigma associated with the South Korean's arrival in North America in 1992. Like the Telluride, the Stinger is Kia's luxury-leaning proof that it can compete with any brand.
Even in its third model year, the Stinger is a real swell looker. The long hood and short front overhang lead to side skirts down the body into the rear where the curving, coupe-like roofline tapers into the spoiler. The Stinger's hatchback versatility shines with the rear seats folded down where it provides nearly 41 cubic feet of cargo space, which is as large as many crossover SUVs. Inside, the center stack is split by three jet-like circular vents, yes, just like Mercedes-Benz, and the spartan black-on-chrome trim panels present the cabin as a driver's car.
We'd skip the base 255-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 on the GT-Line and make the $6,000 jump to about $40,000 for the GT's 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 mated to an 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive. A manual transmission isn't offered, but all-wheel drive is, for another $2,200 that also comes with a limited-slip rear differential and brake-based torque-vectoring, which is better for inclement weather than track driving. Brembo brakes and 19-inch wheels (18 inchers are standard) wrapped in Pilot Sport tires justify the GT price jump. It hits 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds, but is best suited for grand touring applications on the long and winding road that beating the sting out of it on the track.
And this is a car you'll enjoy indulging in, with firm leather-wrapped front seats across the board. The Stinger comes well-equipped with power features and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, but active safety technology is not standard until the highest GT1 and GT2 trims. Since the NHTSA hasn't crashed its gorgeous sheet metal, it doesn't get a safety rating, thought the IIHS awarded the Stinger its highest honor when equipped with automatic emergency braking.
With so much value baked into a great package, we urge Kia to include automatic emergency braking as standard so we can tout its safety virtues as well.