IAIN ROBERTSON

Cutting the engine capacity on its high-performance Stinger, from 3.3-litres to 2.0-litres, while also lopping off a pair of cylinders, reports Iain Robertson, neither diminishes the overall quality, nor the outstanding driveability, of a truly fine machine.

When you buy a house, you invest in your future. Acquiring motorcars is either just buying, or renting, whether in cash, by private lease, or fancy PCP. However, this terminology can be corrupted readily by a series of personal expectations that tosses a fast-depreciating status into the weeds. It is a darned good reason for most carmakers to offer customisation programmes; the more personal touches are applied, the less is the impact of the buying process…the less we think about its reduced value at trade-in time, which can be a shocking revelation.

Were you to invest in a handmade rosewood desk for your home office, or study, from, let’s say, Norfolk-based Bill Cleyndert & Co, you would be sure to be impressed by the depth of its expertly polished surfaces, the quality of its tenon joints and the myriad little features that would make it bespoke to your needs, both as a valued item of high-quality furniture and as something that would appreciate in value in years to come.

By the same token, were you to invest in a pair of bespoke Gaziano & Girling shoes, the Kettering-based footwear innovator that produces for both gentlemen and ladies, you would expect to receive shoes produced from the finest aniline hide, lined beautifully that would fit like a glove but always look impressively new. These things are personal and high-priced accordingly, even though they are appreciated by their brand-conscious owners.

Kia, a South Korean car manufacturer, has learned that, as long as elements of a bespoke, consumer-pleasing nature can be incorporated within its designs, it too can assist in indulging quality fantasies. In fact, there is scarcely a better way of ‘concealing’ residual values. Take the latest Stinger five-door hatchback as a prime example. There are innumerable details that merge together in the car’s far-from-ordinary outline that make you want to stop, stare and linger, to run your hands across their surfaces. The sheer reward provided by tactility cannot be understated.

On a recent driving exercise, while sitting at breakfast and looking pensively at a beautiful blue example of the car parked on the hotel’s patio outside and illuminated by early-morning sunshine, I was able to reach the conclusion that the styling of the Stinger is quite possibly one of the most integrated and complete exercises ever carried out in the motor industry. There are no odd panel gaps, or awkward links between adjacent sections of bodywork. In fact, one of the most perfect aspects is the shut-line that runs from the upper edge of the hatchback down to the drop-line of the rear passenger door. It is in perfect, uninterrupted and harmonious balance.

Later in the day, I spent time looking at the rear haunches and how they come together in the most attractive tail-end of the car, with its hint of Kamm tail, ringed virtually by the upper duck-tail spoiler that delineates the ‘pop-out’ lamp units, with the aero-effect lower rear bumper. It verges on being exotic and certainly not appropriate on a car in the Kia’s price range. Of course, the back-ends of cars are invariably the sections designed last by their automotive artists, when the budget has already been squandered on grille outline, LED lamp signatures and evermore electronic gubbins. Styled by the remarkable Gregory Guillaume, a Frenchman impressed by the classic grand tourers of his youth, he was determined that a long nose and a body stretched across an even longer wheelbase were the signature elements of classical elegance, which is described as such because it simply never ages.

While the halo version of the Stinger, powered by a 3.3-litre V6 engine that develops supercar performance, was first to make the headlines, it is the ‘lower order’ 2.0-litre that, at 244bhp, could all too easily be swamped by its 365bhp big brother…except it isn’t.

While the 3.3 lops 1.1-seconds off the 2.0-litre’s 0-60mph time of 5.8s, in real world motoring, it is so negligible that the extra histrionics and slight, torque squirming of the rear-driven axle are just unnecessary fripperies. Turbocharged for its extra urge, the 2.0-litre still tops 150mph (18mph less than the 3.3), largely due to its aerodynamically pure body profile and underpinnings, but, while accessible, it is impossible, let alone illegal, to reach deeply into its potential. If it also possessed a symphonic exhaust tone, like its V6 stablemate, it would be markedly more alluring. More to the point, its Official Combined fuel figure of 35.8mpg and 181g/km CO2 are significantly more cost-effective. The tax bill is also lower: £800 in year one, followed by £140 annually thereafter, while the 3.3 will demand £1,200 of your hard-earneds in year one, £450 annually for an interminable five years and £140 thereafter. Prices start at £31,995, a saving of £9,145 off the 3.3-litre GTS, which makes the 2.0T conspicuously cost-effective

Again, unusually, there are very few trim differences between the range topper and the entry-level Stingers. The same high-quality dashboard moulding, clad in soft leather-type material, matched by sculpted, electrically adjustable leather-bound seats, carries the same clear instrumentation and centre-stack. The steering column adjustment is also electric and the amount of space on offer is substantial. You might have acquired the opposite end of the engine scale but there is no short-changing of driver-pleasing cabin features.

Driving the Stinger is where the rub lies. If anything, despite the thrills available from the 3.3-litre model, the 2.0-litre is certainly not short on performance and, if anything, it feels wieldier at the helm, more capable of tackling tight twisties, than its more potent brother, a benefit of marginally reduced nose-heaviness and less rearward torque bias. Grip levels are outstanding and the poise of the car is as beautifully balanced as its exterior design.

Compared with its key rivals in the market, you might fairly describe the Kia Stinger as the top-line BMW 5-Series, sold at bottom-end 3-Series prices. Personally, I believe that the 2.0-litre Stinger (a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel variant will follow soon, carrying a £1,900 premium) offers phenomenal value for money in a hotly-contested segment of the large car market in the UK. Is it worth the investment? You’d better believe that it is!

Conclusion:    Protected by Kia’s fantastic seven years (100,000-miles) warranty, which is transferrable to the next owner of the car, the Stinger’s suitability for either private, or business, use is abundantly clear. Kia has slam-dunked its opposition into a stony silence. The car looks and is a major step in the right direction and might be the most important car that the company launches in 2018.