The 2.0-litre T-GDI Stinger will differ in its UK-market specification from the form in which US and European customers will get it as a result of an exhaust redesign necessary to package the car’s catalysts alongside a right-hand-drive steering column. An unavoidable increase in back pressure is the reason why, elsewhere in the world, this version of the car develops 252bhp but in right-hand-drive markets only makes 244bhp.
But that’s still significantly more power than £32,000 buys in any other rear-driven executive option. And it comes packaged with the Stinger’s evident good looks, let’s not forget, as well as a standard specification offering that includes an eight-speed automatic gearbox, an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, head-up display, 18in alloy wheels, leather upholstery and a proper mechanical limited-slip differential for its driven rear axle.
At this price level, the Stinger’s cabin quality would certainly give you less cause for complaint than it would had you spent upwards of £40,000 on the car. It’s not that Kia’s cabin plastics look or feel particularly cheap; more that its attempts to make this driving environment seem desirable and expensive as often as not fall flat on their face.
The Stinger’s upper dashboard and upper doorcards are made of moulded plastic that do an unconvincing impression of leather. Lower down, Kia’s use of textured aluminium is more effective, but defaulting to glossy black trim around much of the centre console shows a lack of imagination and gives the Stinger’s cabin a slightly drab, monochrome ambience.
There’s little wrong with the way the car’s 8.0in infotainment system works or the audio quality of its nine-speaker stereo system – but neither is at the level you’d expect of a true premium-brand contender.
The car’s driving position is low and enveloping, though. And, on the road, that four-cylinder engine does a very respectable job of motivating this, the lightest of Stinger, with a crisp and vigorous kind of mid-range thrust. That engine also has an appetite for revs that you wouldn’t call rapacious but that does make it worthwhile holding onto a gear when you’re in the mood.
The Stinger is brisk and peppy when pulling from 3000-5000rpm, but doesn’t always feel hot-hatch fast. It deserves a better transmission than the eight-speed proprietary unit with which Kia couples it, truth be told. This gearbox doesn’t have a properly locked-out paddleshift manual mode and isn’t quick or decisive enough about its downshifts in automatic mode.