By on September 28, 2018

Kia Stinger Detroit Auto Show, Image KIA Motors

Hyundai has clearly committed itself to sporting models. While we’re positive the new N badge will attach itself to a handful of undeserving models in the years to come, go-fast versions of the overseas i30 and North American Veloster show it won’t be the norm. The brand seems to have hit upon something and intends to keep funneling high-performance models through its N sub-brand.

Now with a sporting model of its own, Kia wants in on the fun. But the Stinger GT looks to be in a safe place as the company’s premiere performance model for a while. Rather than focusing on lap times, the Korean brand intends to build smaller range of GT models with an emphasis on everyday performance. That could be a kinder way of saying “watered down,” or simply an admission that Kia wants fun-loving automobiles but knows it can’t step on Hyundai’s toes.

Kia is, after all, a value brand, and not many of its customers are interested in track day mayhem — or the associated expenses. But they would probably all appreciate the option to buy something that encourages you to misbehave slightly when the traffic clears up.

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 RWD - Image: Kia

“For Kia, it is not the decision to enter with high-performance cars,” Albert Biermann, head of Hyundai Motor Group’s performance development division, told Autocar in a recent interview. “We did it with Hyundai N but there’s a clear decision not to with Kia, and GT needs to be a reasonable package. With the Ceed GT now, the minute you go high-performance, you need to work at a race track, and then the costs go up and the business case gets very challenging. Doing that next step is not an easy step.”

The company chose to keep the 2.0-liter turbo out of Europe’s Ceed GT, despite its presence in the base Stinger. That was likely done to minimize cost and ensure it doesn’t get in the way of the hot hatches coming from Hyundai. But the Ceed GT isn’t a snooze fest, either. Its 1.6-liter unit, found in the Hyundai Elantra Sport, is good enough for 201 horsepower — more than enough to be enjoyable in a relatively light automobile.

Kia’s progress toward performance will be steady, with GT versions introduced on some if its models in the coming years. Biermann said the next big leap takes place with the next-generation Optima. “For the next Optima GT, you can expect an interesting powertrain and suspension at the next level,” he said. “It’ll be the next level of Kia driving performance.”

However, the brand says it wants to see improved dynamics across the board, which is something else Biermann has been working on. “You can accept a little compromise on ride comfort, especially in Europe, for some sportiness,” he explained.

That should manifest itself primarily through improved body control and heavier steering. But Kia doesn’t want to paint itself into a corner, either. “It can be the way the gearshift feels, the way you feel when you sit down in the cabin — it’s a wider philosophy that’s being introduced and there are many more things to follow,” said Biermann.

While the automaker did not conform a GT variant of the Soul, the performance head did say it would be the next model to benefit from that wider philosophy. Expect superior agility from the third-generation model, scheduled to debut next month.

[Images: Hyundai Motor Group]

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44 Comments on “Kia’s Future Will Be Sportier, but Let’s Not Kid Ourselves...”


  • avatar
    MrIcky

    I’ve got to admit, for me normally hot hatches aren’t my thing. However a “widebody” 250hp 6 speed manual Soul would tempt me because of the combination of nearly perfect size packaging combined with the potential zaniness. Don’t make it overly stiff and make some great color combos and rack options available for bikes/skis/etc. (i.e. don’t get all serious and print it’s nordschlief time, make it fun and quick).

    A lot of the same reasons that an SRT Renegade would intrigue me.

  • avatar
    ajla

    What kind of dummy would buy a “performance” Kia?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Ajla trolls himself.

      Well played, Sir.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      But seriously, how is the new Stinger? Compared to a Charger?

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        *Stinger Pros*
        -Performance (faster, better handling, brakes ‘harder’).
        -Initial fit/finish & build quality.
        -Rides pretty good for a car on 19s with low profile tires ( I do live in Florida).
        -Better fuel economy (I get 21 in the Kia and got a little over 18 in the Dodge).

        *Charger Pros*
        -A lot more interior volume.
        -uConnect is 10x better than the Kia infotainment system.
        -Although the Stinger rides well for what it is, the Charger is still smoother and quieter.

        *Push*
        -RWD. Good God RWD is wonderful and both these cars wear their driven wheels with pride.
        -Audio. I got the “base” stereo in both and they both suck. If you are an audiophile at all then get one of the optional units.
        -Cargo room. Despite being a liftback (and what the official specs say) there really isn’t any more usable “trunk” space with the Kia than in the Charger.
        -Dealership experience. It is not premium for either. Expect animal balloons and “Wheel-of-savings” and getting upsold on wheel locks with both brands.
        -Engine note. This surprised me the most. Anyone that reads my comments should know I love V8s and the 5.7L HEMI sounds pretty good. But Kia did a more than admirable job with the tuning here. No, it doesn’t sound the same as a pushrod V8, but it still has a nice tenor voice and avoids the Ecoboost-style vacuum wheeze.

        I’d say that if you’re looking in the Impala class and want something a bit more enthusiastic then go for the Charger. If you are looking for the closest thing to a four door pony car, then that’s the Stinger.

        • 0 avatar
          Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

          Great write-up, thanks ajla.

        • 0 avatar
          Ban-One

          how does the engine note in the kia sound with the fake engine noise turned all the way off?

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          If the factory sound system isn’t to your liking, you can improve it dramatically with just some aftermarket speakers. Most of the factory head units and amplifiers are actually pretty good. Modern doors also make pretty good speaker cabinets. Add some good 3 ways front and 2 ways back and it will be pretty good sounding.

        • 0 avatar
          Astigmatism

          I was honestly shocked how a car as big on the outside as the Stinger could be as small as it is on the inside. I test drove one of these, in blue, and it was basically the Tardis, but the exact opposite. It handled pretty well when pushed, but in traffic it just felt enormous and claustrophobic at the same time.

        • 0 avatar
          kushman1

          Owning a stinger I would say it sits lower than the charger in all ways. It’s almost like a long version of the subaru BRZ is the best comparison. The stinger is more worldly about the handling, where the charger is more american, taller. Both fun

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        In terms of size, the Charger (and 300C) are closer to the new K900 than to the Stinger.

        The Stinger is actually a little shorter than the Optima, which, w/ its FWD/transverse layout optimizes interior room.

      • 0 avatar
        kushman1

        Way better than a charger unless u want a hemi or high end horsepower. If you want all those FCA style packs clearly the charger is your choice. I bought a stinger and I love it. Well worth the money

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Even a 4 cyl turbo RWD Stinger Premium seems like it would be a heck of a lot more fun than a V6 Camry XSE to actually drive. (And their MSRPs are similar – not that you are going to pay MSRP.)

    • 0 avatar
      chrishs2000

      The problem with Kis is residual value, until I’m proven otherwise. Stingers are going for 20-30% off now and the leases are still terrible because even Kia finance doesn’t believe they will have decent residuals. If I’m going to buy something that will be worth a pittance in 5 years, it’ll be German.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Are you going to calculate that resale value from MSRP or from purchase price?

        In my world I calculate from actual out-the-door purchase price.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        They’re going to have to subsidize those leases if they want to sell some volume on these. Is Kia financial an arm of the company or a third party bank with their name?

        • 0 avatar
          ect

          It doesn’t matter. If the financial arm is white-labelled by a bank, the sponsor (Kia, in this case) still has the option of “supporting” some or all lease programs. As long as the bank is paid, they don’t much care where the money comes from.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            It does matter. If it was their own bank, they could afford to make no profit on the lease in order to sell cars. A third party bank will need to make a profit on the loan itself. This would require Kia to actually pay any difference between what the bank wants for the loan, and what they want to lease the car at.

        • 0 avatar
          chrishs2000

          GT2 residual this month is 47%. Even at $10k off these lease higher than a 3 series or C class. Hyundai/Kia premium vehicles have a long history of horrible depreciation.

          And they carry $6900 lease cash. The desperation is real.

          • 0 avatar
            brn

            So it’s an incredible deal used? Done.

            I do agree with FreedMike. The dealer experience is about as bad as they get.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            The lease cash is to ameliorate the difference in lease terms.

            The Q50 Red Sport used to lease about $200 less per month than the Stinger GT2; the lease cash has helped, but can still get a RS w/ lower monthly payments.

    • 0 avatar
      kushman1

      That’s what I did. If you have a decent trade in like around $10,000 and I paid in cash you could walk out with a 2.0 stinger in the 20’s which is a hell of a deal. You don’t need any of the automated tech packs as there’s no point with a car this connected to the road. I’d love to own a Gt2, but a 2.0 is all you need realistically as it’s real fast in sport mode. I don’t mean to keep commenting so much on here, but I don’t think people really realize how good this car is for the pricepoint + low demand. Go test drive a 2.0 and you’ll be shocked.

  • avatar
    Fred

    The Ceed (what ever that means) looks nice, but I bet it’s not as engaging as my 2007 A3 was. Considering Audi under rates the hp and it had a manual.

  • avatar
    MBella

    I do hope the Stinger does well. There was one driving around the Salt Lake City airport tarmac yesterday for some reason. With the sun setting behind it looked beautiful. If I currently wasn’t employed by a different automaker, I would have likely bought one already.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    The acceptable face of Hyundai until you see a Kia with peeling paint and bits and remember.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    As an enthusiast, I don’t believe H/K has done enough to differentiate what the two brands stand for. To me, they’re just different bodies built on shared chassis platforms with shared engines. Pick a price point, then decide which bodies and features you favor.

    To Jane Public, she doesn’t even know the brands are connected or anything about all the sharing. Kia seems to be stuck with the stigmas of (a) the crap they were before the H/K buyout/merger and (b) the dealers that feel more like a BHPH (EZ CREDIT FOR EVERYONE! GOT A JOB? GET A CAR!) lots than actual new-car dealers.

    H/K needs to clarify what each brand stands for.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Hyundai/Kia aren’t in a Chevrolet/Buick relationship unfortunately (because they’d probably be a bit more disciplined if they were about who builds what.)

      They are in relationship like the old Ford/Mazda relationship where they would share engineering resources and see what each company can make from it – although it was Hyundai that bailed Kia out of bankruptcy…

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Yep, much more like the Ford/Mazda relationship (Ford actually owned a similar % of Mazda as Hyundai does Kia).

        Kia is the more youthful and “sporty” brand (notwithstanding Hyundai having the N performance division).

        Putting aside the N variants, Kias generally are tuned a little more sportier than the corresponding Hyundai models and in some cases, offer more power (see Sportage vs. Tucson and the Sorento vs. the new Santa Fe).

        In addition, not accurate to say that Kia is the more value oriented/cheaper brand as Hyundai doesn’t have a trim level that corresponds to the Kia’s SX-L.

        Neither do the Japanese (except for Mazda which has gone w/ higher-grade interiors as a whole).

        Probably the closest correlation to Kia’s SX-L trim is Ford’s Vignale over in Europe.

        There likely isn’t room for both Hyundai and Kia to have a performance brand (the “GT” trim is more like a “sport” trim than anything particularly performance oriented).

        Having said that, Kia needs to add a sport trim to the Stinger GT which adds some suspension upgrades – the current suspension tuning is a little soft (which I suppose is nice for a Grand Tourer).

      • 0 avatar
        eggsalad

        Thanks, Dan – that helped.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      I’d imagined it closer to what the VW group do, same platforms and engines but many different frocks. Hyundai as Skoda is in Europe with the sensible shoes cars (but with N/VRS sports versions) and Kia as SEAT as the youthful brand (albeit VW dropped the ball in neglecting a sports sedan/fastback for SEAT, instead using a rebadged small Skoda)

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Hyundai is rapidly becoming my favorite car company. The Kia brand looks like it’s going in the right direction as well. I think Ford, Nissan, Honda, and other makes that have not only given up on the enthusiast but decided to laugh in our faces are going to be really envious in a couple years.

  • avatar
    mzr

    All these Kia “performance” buyers are going to be in for a surprise when these pieces of junk need work. And they will. My Sedona is a terrible vehicle.

  • avatar
    Alex S

    Not so sports car, not so luxury, not so cheap
    Is that not called mediocrity????
    Besides de G70 undercuts the Stinger. Bad strategy in my opinion

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Those parameters are more befitting something like the Q50 (albeit, Infiniti has been aggressive w/ incentives/discounts).

      The Stinger wasn’t developed to be a “sports sedan” (that’s for the G70).

      But yeah, the US spec GT2 Stinger, should have been priced like its Canadian counterpart (and have kept all the amenities like 360 degree cam).

  • avatar
    kushman1

    So I own a stinger 2.0 awd and I love it. I suggest anyone who’s got a $10,000 trade in and a deal at your local kia dealer to get into one priced down into the camry 20’s price range. You would be crazy to pay that much money for the stinger gt2 and I’d wait till they hit the pre owned market. Contrary to popular belief you don’t need the v6, as this twin turbo 4 with super gas is all you need mated to the 8 speed. The stinger is close in size to the 5 series so it’s long. I’m sure the v6 is beyond fun, but you truly don’t need it. Anyone considering buying one should go test drive it and see how great a car it is. Throw in a 10 year warranty on a performance car and you have an amazing deal that no one else is smart enough to take advantage of. Check out the kia stinger forum and you’ll get a real view about the car. They hired the right people for this project.

    As for this article:

    -Huyndai’s ownership in KIA dropped now to a low percent to where it’s more of partnership than a part of Huyndai, so there really isn’t toe stepping.

    -that said, I think Huyndai screwed up royally in separating genesis into a brand vs moving kia upmarket as it sunk Huyndai’s brand value and Genesis has stalled out.

    -Despite the same chassis that the stinger uses with Genesis the stinger IMO looks amazing and is just more fun than the bland looking genesis versions. If Kia made a short stinger to compete with the 3 series segment and a long stinger to replace k900, they could have a 3 car lineup that would do more damage to the luxury segment than Genesis is doing right now.

    -Almost of of kia’s models per segment are substantially better than Huyndai’s. So Huyndai now has two weak brands, while Kia is being successful with one large range.

    -I’m bias because I own a stinger, but if I was a betting man, I’d put all my money on kia before Huyndai in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Stinger is a damn fine looking car and pretty fast. Whether it’s as good as an Infiniti or Audi right now doesn’t matter. Just remember how far they’ve come in the last 5-7 years and project that into the future.

  • avatar
    gtem

    ““You can accept a little compromise on ride comfort, especially in Europe, for some sportiness,” he explained.”

    Just when Kia gets out of the woods on poor ride quality in the last 3 years or so on their cars, they’re going back (albeit with better handling to go with it). I’ve praised a base LX-FE Optima rental I had on here before, I thought the ride handling balance with the base 205/65R16 tires was nothing short of superb.

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