Inspired by the gran turismos of the 1970s, Kia’s first GT and rear-wheel drive car arrived in showrooms across Britain in 2018. An updated Kia Stinger was launched in its European specification last year.

A lightly refreshed exterior design includes new rear combination lamps that span the width of the car, creating a distinctive new light signature that mimics the shape of the subtle spoiler integrated into the boot lid.  New turn signals, each comprised of ten individual LED units, are arranged in a grid pattern, a motorsport-inspired design that reflects the appearance of a chequered flag.

Inside, some subtle visual and material enhancements create a more luxurious ambience. Changes include a metallic finish to sections of the steering wheel and a chrome bezel around the instrument cluster. The rearview mirror is now frameless, creating a modern look and enhancing rear visibility.

Depending on specification, the dashboard and doors are finished with new contrast stitching, while the centre console is finished in aluminium. The dash features the carmaker’s upgraded 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system, accented by new gloss black trim. A new mood lighting system allows drivers to select one of 64 colours to subtly alter the character of the cabin.

European-spec Stingers are available with Nappa leather upholstery in black or optional red. A suede package is also available for the first time, with the cabin trimmed in black suede with contrasting red stitching and red seatbelts.

Cocooned in a cockpit

Once seated in the eight-way power-adjustable leather heated and cooled driver seat, the eye is drawn to the horizontal sweep of the high-mounted, wing-shaped leather-clad dash which is divided by a tablet-style 10.25-inch touchscreen.  Its split-screen display allows users to control or monitor different vehicle features at the same time, customising the screen with a series of different widgets. The system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with a voice control system for a number of the car’s features, such as heating and ventilation, audio and navigation.

The upgraded model includes a 7-inch digital display within the instrument cluster. This full-colour display with vivid graphics for different driving modes delivers crystal-clear information to the driver between the speedometer and tachometer. It also features a ‘connected car’ Remote Engine Start system, which allows owners to start their car remotely using Stinger’s smart key.

Also prominent on the dash are five aeronautically inspired spoked circular air vents that give a reassuring click when turned off and on.

The rest of the cabin is cloaked in leather, from the door armrests and D-shaped heated steering wheel to the gear shifter. Touches of aluminium glint all around, adding to the luxurious feel of the cabin.

Dual automatic air-con is standard across the range. Another joy while driving is the head-up display showing speed, navigation instructions and audio, cruise control and blind-spot detection information. The GT S also has a 360-degree around-view monitor.

Beneath the touchscreen is a chrome panel housing a line of buttons flanked by two dials to control the audio. Further down is the HVAC panel and beneath that is a USB port and handy wireless phone charger.

There is surprisingly enough room in the front and back of the Stinger to feel comfortable. To rattle off some measurements, there is 974mm of headroom in the front and a little less – 939mm – in the rear. The respective figures for legroom are 1,083mm and 925mm, and for shoulder room, 1,433mm and 1,391mm. The boot capacity of this hatchback with the 60:40 split rear seats upright is generous, liberating 406 litres of luggage space, extending to 1,114 litres with the seats folded.

All about that bass

In the audio department, the GT S has an absolute knockout 15-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system with subwoofer, external amp and front centre speaker. It also features something Harman calls Clari-Fi, which restores the sound sometimes lost when digital music files are heavily compressed, and QuantumLogic Surround Sound, which redistributes signals from the original recording to deliver multi-dimensional playback.

Hitting the right note

Stinger is also the first Kia with an Active Sound system to enhance the engine note via the car’s audio rather than through an actuator that channels noise into the cabin. This system was engineered in Europe and is consistent with the type of engine. The net result is that a 3.3-litre engine authentically enhances the distinctive V6 engine note. Sound engineers paired the system with the multiple driving modes selector, enabling drivers to change the level of engine noise in the cabin. The sound does indeed become slightly louder and more aggressive in tone as you switch modes.

Advanced driver assistance systems

As we would expect of a car that comes with a forty-three grand price tag, the GT S boasts loads of ADAS equipment. Although it can’t drive itself … yet. Depending on market and vehicle specifications, some of the existing ADAS systems have been updated, including Intelligent Speed Limit Assist and Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control. The latter helps drive around curved sections of a highway, automatically reducing the vehicle’s speed to an appropriate level before entering the curve. It reverts to the original speed as the vehicle leaves the curve. Other ADAS technologies include rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, safe exit warning, lane following assist, highway driving assist, and rear occupant alert.

On the road

Four years on from its launch, the majority of Stinger customers have specified their car with Kia’s 3.3-litre T-GDi engine. The upgraded Stinger is offered exclusively with this engine, delivering swift acceleration and rapid responses to driver inputs. It provides drivers with a peak power of 370 ps at 6,000 rpm. Its twin turbochargers allow the engine to offer drivers its 510 Nm peak torque across a wide range of speeds (1,300 to 4,500 rpm), resulting in zippy performance everywhere.

Driving it certainly sets pulses racing, accelerating from 0 to 60mph in a heartbeat with shockingly good Brembo braking performance. Our road test on 19-inch wheels on a mixture of winding country roads, town traffic and motorways felt poised and engaged and returned a combined real-world mpg of, well, let’s not go there.  What really matters is that this comfortable, responsive and well-equipped grand tourer doesn’t disappoint. A dial on the centre console positioned just behind the gear shifter allows you to adjust the shocks and driving mode, choosing from either Eco, Comfort, Smart, Sport and Sport+. Before its release, Kia put right-hand drive versions of its Stinger through a further level of dynamic testing in the UK to optimise steering and suspension components.

On balance, what is not to like? The Stinger has the interior feel and quality we have come to expect from Kia. The fit and finish of the plush leather interior – together with a glut of toys to play with – make it a pleasure to drive.