IAIN ROBERTSON

Kia Cars, part of the South Korean Hyundai Group, could be said to have addressed the zeitgeist with any of its most recent models, states Iain Robertson, but car-naming psychology could form a stumbling-block, as the new Stinger makes its mark.

Model names in the car scene are highly subjective. Some are amazingly apposite. Others raise questions that do not need to be asked. Yet, all are subjected to immense scrutiny by automotive legal eagles that are keen to sue first and get details later. It is a minefield out there.

Can success be wrapped-up in a car’s name? The powers of marketing would insist upon it. Yet, in a methodology subscribed to long before the arrival of the world-wide-web, a number of commercially focused enterprises started to scoop up and register place names, number/letter combinations and even artificially constructed names, as an opportunistic and tangential trademark means to earning a crust.

Kia’s Stinger, to me, sounds like an unique name, unlikely to have been registered by other carmakers, or their avaricious branding agents. You can form your own opinion of how prestigious it sounds and reads…I know what I think about it, which might not be worthy of repetition here. However, Kia has clearly (I hope) done its homework, as its most up-market model ever will either float, or fall, dependent on how the consumer greets it.

Kia has certainly loaded the dice. It is a large car that targets the mid-range executive sector. It seats up to five people in comfort. It not only possesses a bespoke external appearance but it feels of exceptionally high, tactile quality inside too. Described as a Grand Tourer redolent of a refined era of the motorcar industry, in which many potential ‘tourists’ might like to have staked a claim, it is inferred that its ‘lesser’ variants are biased more towards sublime comfort than outright sporting competence. However, a 365bhp V6 offering might tip that preconception onto its lid.

While that model is sure to garner the most attention, it is the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol and, for as long as diesel is given house-room in our increasingly strange automotive environment, the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel versions that will build a sales impetus, especially with prices starting from a value-loaded £31,995. It is worth noting that the range-topper is listed at £40,495, in a line-up of just five models in GT line, GT line S and GT S trims.

While performance should not be the precursor, it is and while the marginally pricier diesel (by £1,600) is the slowest, with a still meaty 197bhp at its disposal, we are looking at a 0-60mph sprint in 7.3s and a top speed of 143mph. However, it is the 147g/km CO2 rating and 50.4mpg on the Official Combined fuel cycle that grab a few headlines.

The petrol alternative reels off 244bhp, a most respectable 5.8s, 149mph, 181g/km and 35.8mpg, although it is the V6 that will turn heads and change perceptions. It uses its 365bhp to very good effect, dispatching the 0-60mph blast in a supercar-taunting 4.7s, before stopping the clocks at an immodest 168mph, emitting 225g/km from its quad tailpipes (twins on the diesel), while gagging on the unleaded at a rate of 28.5mpg. Fortunately, the GT S version does feature adjustable electronic suspension damping and Brembo uprated brakes. For the money, it does appear to be a compelling proposition.

Perhaps slightly more intriguing is that Stinger heralds a return to rear-wheel-drive for Kia, all three engines driving through the latest, quick-shifting, eight-speed automatic transmission, with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. This layout almost dictates its long bonnet, abbreviated frontal overhang, long wheelbase and a cabin thrust backwards along the platform. The result is undoubtedly elegant, even though Stinger seems to object to the rationale of lesser models in the company’s extensive range, focusing instead on desirability, design and technological advancement.

All versions are packed with electronic goodies and up-to-the-moment connectivity. A sublime ride quality results on the 18-inch diameter stock alloys but the GT S gains an extra inch and grippier rubber more suited to its high-performance potential. Standard hide clads the interior, with more pliant Nappa for the GT S, in a choice of black, grey, or red. Seat heating and eight-way adjustability is featured on all versions, although ventilation enhances the GT line S and GT S levels.

At every sight and touch point, the blend of natural materials and metals enhances the luxury appeal. A high-end, 15-speaker Harmon Kardon hi-fi is fitted to the upper trim levels, while the base level makes do with a 9-speaker system and under-seat bass response speaker. In all cases, the sound quality is optimised and the touch-screen in the dash-centre enables refinement of sound, sat-nav and heating/ventilation controls, while also acting as a reversing screen and providing 360-degree surround vision. Apart from the TFT instrument panel, there is also a configurable head-up display.

Six years of development has resulted in Stinger and Kia avoids stinginess by providing the same seven years, 100,000-miles warranty applied to all of its cars. Kia is being exceptionally confident with its newcomer and it intends to impress, a factor that I am 100% certain it will achieve with consummate ease.

Conclusion:    Is the world ready for a Stinger? Is the impecunious UK car acquirer ready to invest in one of the most expensive and prestigious new cars to arrive from South Korea? Can the Kia brand carry off a classier intent, without being scoffed at for carrying a model name that is more ‘Toyland’ than truly prestigious? Time will tell on all counts. However, offering a value proposition to a sector unfamiliar with it, is an intriguing trait. Yet, it is worth bearing in mind that Kia is a carmaker that has made very few errors of judgement in the past decade. I believe, as it does, that it will make its mark, daft name, or not.