The Mosquito Bite

2020 Kia Stinger 2.0T Review: Everything But the Horsepower


January 2, 2020 Cars By
Brand: Kia
Product: Stinger 2.0T
Release Date: 2020
Price: $33,090 ($37,480 as tested)
From: kia.com

Reviewers love the Kia Stinger GT. It gives off strong Porsche Panamera vibes, offers a potent 365-horsepower V6 engine and starts around $40,000, making it perhaps the ultimate luxury sports sedan on a budget.

That’s not the car we’re talking about here.

While I was supposed to get a Stinger GT, I instead received the four-cylinder base model, the 2.0T. One of my colleagues affectionately referred to it as “the mosquito bite.”

The 2.0-liter turbo puts out a reasonable 255 horsepower, though that doesn’t come at much of a cost savings versus the GT; Kia’s base model begins at $33,090, and my tester priced out to $37,480. That combination presents a far different value proposition than the Stinger GT; instead of undercutting its rarified competition, the base model competes directly with iconic sporty names like the Volkswagen GTI, the Subaru WRX STI and the Ford Mustang in EcoBoost form — and it’s as expensive, if not more, than those cars.

None of those aforementioned cars is a Porsche, but each possesses some defining feature, whether it’s laser-precise cornering or inveterate coolness, that makes it noteworthy and respected. After spending a week driving the base model Stinger around suburban Detroit, I don’t think I can say the same about the four-cylinder Stinger.

What We Like

Like the Telluride, the Stinger 2.0T is smooth and comfortable in normal driving. Consider it a grand tourer that’s maaaaaybe not so grand. The handling is light, nimble and balanced, the suspension is cushy by sports car standards, and the engine has some life to it. If you’re just popping around town or taking a Sunday cruise, the Stinger is a brilliant, civilized companion. Outside that operating range, though, the 2.0T is missing that bit of extra gusto.

If you simply want a sporty-looking car, the Stinger 2.0T might be perfect. It’s sleek, muscular, eye-catching — and not that toned-down from the spicier model. It’s sort of like someone fused a sports car, a muscle car, a hatchback and a sedan. But the Stinger avoids feeling too derivative; it strides right up to the line where owning it would make you look like an ass for trying too hard, but never crosses it.

Watch Out For

I didn’t like the eight-speed automatic transmission. It doesn’t shift with the same crispness you get from the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed found in many European cars. Whatever the driving mode, the Stinger 2.0T seemed to be one gear higher than needed, as if fearful that it wouldn’t meet its target fuel economy. It may be the first time that I have had a more enjoyable and intuitive experience shifting with paddles. At the risk of being slapped with an “OK boomer,” maybe the 2.0T should have a manual gearbox?

Speaking of boomer-like complaints: The Stinger is very low to the ground, which makes it hard to climb into. Entry and exit wasn’t a treat even for this 35-year-old yogi. That issue compounds if you’re parked on the street and have to enter from a curb.

And while one may accuse me of belaboring the point about sloping rooflines and obscured rear windows, the Stinger’s window is egregious. It points upward. My brother, who daily-drives a Stinger GT, told me you get used to it; still, I didn’t feel safe navigating through heavy traffic at night in the rain with all the headlight glare.

Other Options

The Stinger touches on a lot of segments, so there are many alternatives. Some were already mentioned. Want a sedan? The Subaru WRX starts at $27,495. Want a hatchback? The Volkswagen GTI checks in, with a bit less horsepower, at $27,595. Want a muscle car? The EcoBoost Mustang begins at $26,670. One other close approximation may be the Honda Accord; you can get a 252-hp 2.0T Sport with a six-speed manual for $31,060.

Verdict

Within the Kia realm, the GT is by far the better pick. The $6,310 difference is steep, but you score a substantially better value. Spend your money on that bigger engine, rather than the $3,000 Sun and Sound package and $495 paint that came on my test vehicle.

Compared to the competition: in this price range, you can find other well-appointed, sporty-looking cars with a better pedigree that are more fun to drive. It’s hard for me to offer a reason not to look elsewhere.

Bottom line: while the Telluride may redefine Kia as a value brand, the Stinger, in base spec, isn’t a great value.

Kia provided this product for review.

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Tyler Duffy is Gear Patrol's Motoring Staff Writer. He used to write about sports for The Big Lead and The Athletic. He has a black belt in toddler wrangling. He's based outside Detroit.

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