The Kia Stinger is a significant new product for the Korean brand, and quite a statement for design. Conceived at Kia’s European design center under the direction of Gregory Guillaume, the front-engine, rear-drive car enters a wholly new segment, directly competing in the sports sedan category against established rivals such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class.
The Stinger is an evolution of the Kia GT Concept (though it shares its name with another two-door sports car concept from 2014), a car that was lauded at its debut for its design refinement when it was shown at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show. The production car continues the fastback typology of its concept precursor, with a flowing roofline and a kamm-tail rear end that apes the larger Audi A7, and its body volumes and surfaces (as well as its beautiful Ceramic Silver debut color) made it stand out as one of the key new cars at the 2017 NAIAS.
Though the Kia Stinger is wonderfully proportioned, and a continuation of Kia’s design-led ethos initiated under Peter Schreyer, the production car features some design details that are a bit out of step with the premium segment competition. There are numerous elements that were added on in an effort to play into the ‘sportier’ theme, as evidenced by the vents on the hood – the single most out-of-sync addendum – as well as the non-functional bodyside vent on the front fender and in the rear bumper corners.
Curious, I asked Gregory Guillaume if the decision to add the vents was marketing led or if it was a design approach, and I felt he was slightly offended by the question: “It was 100% our descision!” he said.
That’s a shame, as these small but insincere details distance the Stinger’s design from its arguably more elegant competition. While hood mounted air vents are perfectly appropriate on a vehicle with a V8 or a thundering V12 under the hood, there’s no requirement for them on a car with a four- or six-cylinder powerplant.
In other areas, it’s hard to argue with the design teams’ direction. The tiger nose grille and chromed-dotted insert is a lovely premium detail within the not overly aggressive front end; the taillamps that bleed over onto the rear fender in a single refined strip is a very pleasing continuation of the taut yet organic bodyside surfacing; and the long hood, short rear deck and overhang treatments are true GT.
The interior is a welcoming sports-inspired environment, which is well laid out. There’s contrast-colored stitching on the seats and door panels and a thin chrome band running the width of the layered IP and incorporating the multimedia functions at its center. Jet turbine-inspired registers beneath the screen also elevate perceived quality, even if some of the materials are evidently cheaper than on premium rear-drive sedans.
Overall the Kia Stinger is an ideal flagship for the brand and very well executed one at that, carrying forth all of the company’s known design elements. And as a sports sedan on a rear-drive platform, it’s a project that design VP Peter Schreyer has wanted to do for years.