I know we’ve covered the 2018 Kia Stinger plenty. We’ve had a First Drive of the all-wheel drive one, we’ve had a full review, we’ve covered how it has beaten Mustangs on the dragstrip, the process of buying one, and even written about the freaking key. This car is covered. Even so, the nice press car elves dropped a 365 horsepower Stinger GT off at my house, so I have things to say about it, dammit.
But, look, I’m not a cruel man, no matter what my liar high school shop teacher said in that stupid arraignment. So I’m not going to draw this out. I just want to point out five good things, and one bad thing. That’s reasonable, right? Of course it is. Off we go.
1. It’s not an SUV
This is obvious, I know, but I think it’s becoming a big deal now when a carmaker has the balls to release something that’s not an SUV or crossover, and when that happens, it deserves some positive feedback.
So, Kia, thanks for not shoving another boring-ass crossover or SUV down our throats!
2. It has a real name
Again, obvious, but worthy of praise. “Stinger” is a good name, and it’s not just a string of alphanumeric characters that could be a droid name in a Star Wars movie. So, again, I’m positively reinforcing decisions like this in the hopes that more carmakers will follow suit. So, good carmaker! Good!
3. It’s a four-door hatchback
Man, I’m on a roll with the obvious shit here, but, again, it’s something I want to be absolutely sure gets the positive recognition it deserves.
I think a large four-door hatchback is possibly one of the best (non-wagon) designs you can have for a general-use family car, and is woefully underrepresented in the American carscape. This will do almost everything that most people use SUVs for—it has great cargo room, for example—but (I think) looks way better and drives in a much more engaging way.
Really, the Stinger sort of reminds me of a modernized version of one of these:
Yes, a Merkur Scorpio! A premium, sporty five-door family car! These were amazing cars back in their day, and were woefully unappreciated in America. I hope the Stinger has better luck.
4. The drive modes are distinctive, and the sport one feels amazing
In many cars, I can barely feel the difference in drive modes. I’ve found the Stinger does a good job differentiating the various modes. Eco, for example, introduces enough annoying hesitation into the throttle response that you feel like you just have to be doing something good for the environment for this to be so annoying.
At the other extreme, the Sport mode feels fantastic, and every response is tightened up. It’s like injecting the car with a steroid-cocaine cocktail.
5. Lots of good lighting details
As you probably already know, the Stinger won our first ever Markie award in 2017 for Excellence In Marker Lamp Design. I’m happy to say the other lighting design is top-notch, with an especially nice turn indicator that mimics the distinctive grille pattern via an array of LEDs.
It’s all very good and very clear that real thought and care was put into the lighting design.
AND NOW THE BAD THING
1. The rear seat belt latch is awful, just awful with booster seats
Seriously, Kia, did you even try to use a booster seat in the back? They’re not full-on child seats, so they don’t need the LATCH mounts, they’re just boosters. In case you forgot, there’s Otto sitting in his up there. It’s for kids too big for child seats but still too small for regular seat belts. That’s millions of kids!
In most cars, Otto can belt himself in. But not in the Stinger, because the rear seat belt latch receiver is crammed way low in the seat and is completely inaccessible when a booster seat is in place. See:
I have to come in and shove everything to the side and wrestle it in. The middle belt socket is much easier to reach, and it’s so tempting I tried to use it, but it will not accept the side shoulder belt latches.
This sucks, and the rest of the car is so good Kia should fix it. Think of the children! Literally!