Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
Taking aim at the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and Audi A5 Sportback, the 5-door 2019 Kia Stinger liftback comes to the fight with a choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, two turbocharged engines at 255 and 365 horsepower, respectively, a sport-tuned suspension, and steering so precise it will make you think twice about spending more on a pricey European car.
You'll Like The 2019 Kia Stinger If...
If you place the love of driving above impressing people with a flashy badge, the 2019 Kia Stinger is for you. From its aggressive stance to its potent engines and precise steering, this is one sports sedan whose looks match its moves. Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty is another bonus.
You May Not Like The 2019 Kia Stinger If...
While the entry-level Stinger looks like a bargain, once you move to the high-performance trims the price tag quickly moves into Audi, BMW and Lexus territory. For some, spending premium money on a family sedan nameplate may seem like the height of illogical behavior.
For 2019, the Kia Stinger sedan gains 18-inch wheels, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic detection plus a new optional Sun and Sound package. The Premium and GT1 get the Advanced Driver Assist System, ventilated front seats and wireless charging, while the GT gains a limited-slip rear differential. The GT2 adds a heated rear seat and 360-degree monitor.
With clear hints of Mercedes-Benz design, the 2019 Kia Stinger’s interior is as handsome as it is functional. The overall layout is familiar as it appears in Kia’s other models (Forte, Sedona, Optima, etc.), but there’s an upgraded look and feel to the surfaces and switchgear. Stylish touches include exposed speaker grilles and large round S-Class-like center vents. There are some glitches, however, like the sleek metallic finish on the infotainment buttons that makes reading the lettering difficult. There’s good legroom front and rear, although tall passengers may want to ride up front. Lift the wide hatch and there’s 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats.
The 2019 Stinger offers classic rear-drive proportions, with a long hood and short rear deck, the latter part of its useful liftback design. While the design incorporates many of the cues we’ve come to expect from Kia, such as the "tiger-nose" grille treatment, it’s not like any Kia before it. The silhouette could be mistaken for an Audi A5 Sportback, for example, or maybe a BMW 4 Series Gran Sport. Yet the surface details are notably different. In fact, some think maybe the exterior is trying a bit too hard, and if you think its various vents, winglets and elongated taillights all come across as fussy, rather than sporty, you’re not alone.
From the moment you pull away from a stop, it’s obvious that the 2019 Kia Stinger is something special. From the growl of the 365-horsepower V6, to the sharp steering, to the bite of the suspension, this Kia means business. Best of all, it’s not an illusion: this is as legit a sports sedan as you could hope for. The engine pours out power seamlessly, and the 8-speed automatic transmission snaps off shifts quickly and smoothly. In corners, there’s just enough suspension travel to keep the Stinger from being upset when it encounters bumps, but not so much that it leans too far. Different driving modes range from Smart, Eco, Comfort and Sport; the last of those would seem like the default, but we thought it made the steering unnecessarily heavy. Instead, switch to Custom and program the steering to Comfort and you’ll find just the right balance. Dial it back from those extremes and just cruise, and you can appreciate the upscale interior accommodations, comfortable seats and quiet cabin. Yet even when relaxed, the Stinger provides just enough feedback through the steering wheel and suspension to remind you that at a moment’s notice it’s ready to play.
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on the base Stinger model with rear-wheel drive is a reasonable $33,895, including the $995 destination charge. Still, we suggest at least stepping up to the Premium model, which at just over $40,000 offers upscale items like LED headlights, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, seat memory, and more. The base V6 GT starts at about $40,000 and ranges up to just shy of $51,000 for the GT2. All-wheel drive adds about $2,200 to any model. That’s a lot for a brand normally associated with lower prices, but considering the Stinger is as capable as an Audi A5 Sportback or a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe costing thousands more, it starts to look like a bargain. Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price tool to see what others in your area are paying for their 2019 Kia Stinger. Initial resale values for the Stinger are not bad, slightly better than the V6-powered Nissan Maxima, far better than the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe but on par with the all-wheel-drive Audi A5 Sportback.OK, so what’s next?I’m interested in the newest version of this car. What’s for sale near me?I’m interested in this car, and I’d like to trade in my current car while I’m at it.Then again, maybe I should be thinking about a used car.
True to its role as an alternative to premium European brands, even the base Kia Stinger comes nicely equipped. Consider leather upholstery that includes the steering wheel and shift knob, push-button ignition and keyless entry, power driver and passenger seats, dual-zone climate control, and a 7-inch touch-screen audio system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The base engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder driving the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddles for manual shifting. On the safety side, in addition to multiple airbags and the usual array of stability controls, the Stinger comes with front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and a cool Brake Fade Compensation, which increases brake boost when it detects the brakes overheating.
The most notable options are all-wheel drive and the V6 engine, which is available in GT models. Like most modern cars, options are divided into trim levels for the most part; as you work up from the base model through Premium, GT, GT1 and GT2, you get more stuff. At the top, the GT2 gets a standard limited-slip differential, launch-control system, 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, black chrome trim and high-gloss hood vents. Inside, there’s soft Nappa leather on the 16-way driver’s seat, and other exclusive trim. We’re particularly fond of the 720-watt Harman Kardon audio system, which is standard on Premium and GT models and optional on the base car. Standard on Premium, GT1 and GT2 trims is a driver-assist package that bundles forward-collision avoidance and warning, smart cruise control and lane-keep assist.
CHASSIS DYNAMICSWe don’t know where they learned it, but Kia engineers obviously did their chassis dynamics homework because the Stinger’s setup absolutely nails it. Feeling every bit like a European sports sedan, the Stinger is built for curves, and maybe even a few laps around the Nürburgring. LIFTBACK BODYWhile most sedans suffer from an ability to be versatile, the 2019 Kia Stinger’s liftback design allows SUV-like cargo hauling without the SUV. The sleek Stinger body helps create a long and wide liftback that, with the seats folded down, opens up to reveal nearly 40 cubic feet of cargo space.
Under the Hood
The 2019 Stinger and Stinger Premium trims are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine good for 255 ponies. While more than capable of moving the Stinger at a satisfactory pace, this engine doesn’t sound all that refined, and it lacks the smoothness of the GT’s more potent twin-turbo V6. With 365 horsepower on tap, the GT delivers the kind of acceleration and passing power expected of a sports sedan and does it all with grace, smoothness and a melodious exhaust note. An 8-speed automatic is standard regardless of engine choice and while a manual would have been appreciated, we have no arguments with the automatic’s rapid shifts, especially when using the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Fuel economy for both engines is good, but not great, separated by a mere four mpg in highway driving. All Kia Stingers are available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive (RWD, AWD).2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4255 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm260 lb-ft of torque @ 1,400-4,000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg (RWD), 21/29 mpg (AWD)3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6365 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm376 lb-ft of torque @ 1,300-4,500 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/25 mpg (RWD), 18/25 mpg (AWD)
In a world overrun by SUVs, a car like the 2019 Kia Stinger is a welcome change of pace. While some might still think of Kia as a builder of quality family transportation, the Stinger is set to change hearts and minds, one thrilling mile after another. Taking aim at the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and Audi A5 Sportback, the 5-door Kia Stinger liftback comes to the fight with a choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, two turbocharged engines, a sport-tuned suspension and steering so precise it will make you think twice about spending more on a pricey European make. On the flip side, the Stinger lacks the upscale vibe of a BMW or Audi, and its long-term reliability and resale remain untested.