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HCOTY 2017 Nominee: Kia’s 2018 Stinger

Robby DeGraff December 18, 2017 Featured, Hooniversal Car of the Year 15 Comments

When the topic of “Hooniverse Car of the Year” started to float across our team of editors’ feed on Slack this weekend, one brand immediately came to my mind for nomination: Kia. No joke.

This brand, has completely taken the spotlight this past year and shaken up the new car scene. Ever since I’ve been into cars, not once have I told myself “Oh I really want to drive that Kia,” or “Mmmhmm I would totally buy that Kia.” It’s not really a sad realization, but rather just there hasn’t been a model in their lineup for as long as I can remember that’s screamed “Robby look at me, look!”

That has now changed, with this machine called the Stinger, and it’s brilliant. In conversations with friends and other obsessed car geeks about this intriguing sports sedan, there’s been this collective mutual shock of just how Kia came out of nowhere with the Stinger.

365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged six-cylinder engine (even the base model has a turbocharged four-cylinder!), a limited slip differential, optional Brembo brakes and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. Don’t overlook its gorgeous exterior and high-end interior too. I first saw the car in concept car form at last year’s Greater Milwaukee Auto Show, and my jaw dropped. At the same time though, I said quietly to myself, “Gosh I hope people buy this car….” My fingers are still crossed and I’m cheering for the Korean underdog, hoping the Stinger will steal the concrete, shortsighted hearts of potential BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Audi buyers.

When I got into to work this morning, I was going over  my monthly calendar and I see that I’m slated to shoot photos of the Stinger in a few weeks. I cannot wait to get up-close and personal with this new sport sedan. I applaud Kia heavily. Way to go, for taking a balls-out of approach of creating this enthralling, gorgeous automobile that I’m eager to get behind the wheel of and experience. I don’t think I’ve ever been this truthfully excited to drive a four-door car in a long time. From a more serious enthusiast standpoint, I’m also stoked to see if and how the tuner market grabs onto the Stinger, throwing whatever mods they can at it.

The fact that the company that sells boxes to the masses (the Soul), put Amantis out on showroom floors, gave birth to the Rondo and the ill-loved, face-plaming Borrego SUV, and countless, horrendously-cheap compacts during the 1990s I used to laugh at…. is selling this? That’s incredible and worthy of a HCOTY trophy.

Get ready to vote, we’ll post a poll in the next coming weeks to see what vehicle claims our almighty 2017 Hoonvierse Car of the Year award.

  • Maymar

    It’s completely separate from my interest in the Stinger, but the Rondo is actually a pretty decent little people mover – my mother-in-law has one, and it’s perfectly pleasant. I know it’ll never happen, but we get the second generation in Canada, and I assume the turbo motor in the Soul would swap in easy enough.

  • crank_case

    How did Kia do it, gee all they had to work with is the backing of a massive case rich industrial empire and the best poached engineers. I’m not sure I’d call a 4 series rival that’s a bit on the porky side exactly the greatest thing for enthusiasts to get excited about.

    C’mon the Alfa renaissance is more impressive when you think about it.

    • Zentropy

      Alfa’s renaissance isn’t so much impressive as it is overdue. They’ve been wallowing in a state of unreliable mediocrity for decades, and is finally showing signs of life since receiving a massive cash infusion from (ironically) Fiat-Chrysler. The Giulia is interesting, no doubt. But the 8C was made in such limited numbers as to be insignificant, the 4C was an impractical toy, and the 124 Spider is a Mazda MX-5 with a swapped-in engine originally developed by Hyundai.

      Truth is, neither the Stinger or Giulia will interest me until they offer a manual transmission in the States. But with respect to their brand development, I’d say Kia’s climb is far more impressive than Alfa Romeo’s return to relevance.

      • crank_case

        Even if you just focus on the Giulia…

        Giulia > Stinger in my book, it’s lighter and more interesting. It was more than a cash injection though, Alfa Romeos after the 75 were all developed under the FIat in house design umbrella and ended up being just an extension of the Fiat line, almost too neatly, where now Alfa Romeo has been granted a measure of independence again, they are almost like a startup company. FCA invested 8 Million but that has to stretch across an entire line of cars, not just the Giulia. Already the Stelvio SUV is getting praised as Porsche Macan beater.

        • Zentropy

          I completely agree with Giulia>Stinger. I’d much rather own the AR. However, Alfa is only now making the type of cars I expected out of the company 30 years ago. The thing that impresses me about KIA is how quickly it went from making cars that no one even noticed, to cars that are now not just competitive, but desirable.

          In short, Alfa Romeo is finally doing what I expected they should have long ago, while KIA is surprising me with compelling product that I didn’t yet expect. That is much more impressive to me.

          • crank_case

            Alfa is making what people expect of the name alright, but given that Lancia is now dead, 30 years of false starts, and Fiats own lineup being badly in need of a refresh (the Punto is really showing its age, and the likeable Panda is getting a kicking from the likes of the Hyundai i10/Kia Picanto even in native Italy), it really is surprising. No one who made the great cars in Arese is still around, Alfa as we knew it had ceased to exist, most of us had given up hope.

            If there’s a car to really get excited about from the Kia/Hyundai group, it would be the Hyundai i30N (assuming the US gets it), that thing is a Golf GTI killer if its priced right. Journos in the UK are raving about it being as good to drive as the old Renaultsport megane, only y’know, stuff works and has a big warranty.

            • Zentropy

              Hey, I’m glad AR is back, too. Again, if they would only offer the Giulia’s manual transmission to U.S. customers, then maybe I can eventually pick up one on the used market.

              • crank_case

                I still disagree about the manual, though it is odd that US drivers aren’t given the option given that it’s only available in LHD cars and Americans are (against stereotype) less accepting of autos in sports saloons – e.g. US market M5.

                Seriously though, from what I’ve read, the manual is only so-so, but the ZF 8 speed is incredible and better implemented than in other cars using that gearbox. I think it’s getting like how no-one buys a manual Mercedes, because mercedes don’t make good manual boxes. A good auto is better than a mediocre manual.

                I love three pedals in the right sort of car as much as the next guy, but I’d totally have the auto over the manual in that car even if it was an option in RHD markets.

    • Maymar

      I suppose part of it is just pricing – you can get into a V6 Stinger for about the same money as a base Giulia. On top of that, Alfa’s put all their eggs into the Quadrifoglio basket, instead of promoting how great their common model is (the Car and Driver review I could find of a 2.0 was underwhelmed because Alfa chose to send them the Lusso).
      Plus, if nothing else, the Stinger is a bold move from a manufacturer of traditionally dull cars (even if they still own the rights to the M100 Elan), suggesting that enthusiast cars have a glimmer of hope. The Alfa is sort of the equivalent of that classic rock reunion album that has a really exciting single (which doesn’t last much beyond its initial rotation), and then the rest of the album is good, but unessential.

      • crank_case

        I guess they’re priced differently in the US, here in Ireland, the Giulia comes in pretty keenly priced (relatively speaking compared to the competition, it’s still way more expensive than the US).

        It depends how you interpret things though, to me the V6 stinger says the opposite, that there’s not a market for true enthusiast cars, but for softer compromises that people can pretend is a sports car. The original concept was a compact, two door coupe, like a GT86 with a turbo.

        http://www.kia.com/eu/-/media/eu/add-ons/images-box/enlarge/gt4-large/gt4_sitecore_gallery_4_1230x820.jpg

        What we’ve ended up with is another easy to live with luxury “4 door coupe” pretty much like what Audi/BMW does already. I’m sure it’s very nice, but it’s ended up in that “nice daily driver” sort of space rather than “man I’d love to absolutely grab that by the scruff the neck and attack the canyons” sort of car.

        • Zentropy

          In Ireland you have many, many more flavors of the Giulia, with something like 8 or 9 different engine specs including diesel, which is I think the base engine. Here in the U.S., we only get two engines and automatic-only. It’d be great if we got the whole lineup, but I understand that’s not practical from an import perspective.

          • crank_case

            Many engines but auto only in RHD markets (Ireland, UK, Japan, South Africa, Australia), not enough return on investment for such a small slice of the world, which makes the lack of manual in the US all the more strange.

        • Alff

          I believe that a primary reason the sports car market has waned is that sporting and not so sporting sedan performance has become so good that there is less of a perceived need.

          • crank_case

            There’s always been saloons that spank the two seaters, but also saloons that were small, light, RWD, low frills and chuckable (at least from Europe and Japan. e.g. Ford Escort MK1/2, Datsun 510, Original Alfa Giulia), but some people just care about the numbers and not the driving. Whatever the numbers of the Kia, it’s still a GT car and not the sports car we’d hoped. A very nice GT car of course. It still puts four doors and interior equipment above pure driving fun. That’s pretty much the point I’m making, what started as a cheap nimble coupe, became a me-too exec saloon, it says the opposite of whats claimed – that enthusiasts are being embraced. It’s more about taking the brand upmarket to 3 series territory, which is what everyone is going for, because that’s where the margins are.

            Preaching to the choir here, but sports cars about the subjective experience more than just speed. If anything, as technology progresses, a purist sports car will be the slowest thing on the road.

            Renault bringing Alpine back with a properly light car that puts driving over a plush interior gives me hope though.

            • Alff

              You get the traditional purpose and nature of a traditional sports car, as do I and most of the people here. The heart of the market does not. If it did, Miata would have had more credible competition in nearly 30 years.
              However, my point is simply that the average new sedan offers such solid acceleration and handling that there’s less justification for sacrificing comfort and capacity than ever before.