2022 Kia Stinger Test Drive Review

The refreshed 2022 Kia Stinger continues to live up to its performance sedan hype.

8.3 /10
Overall Score

When the Kia Stinger was introduced in 2017, the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) sports sedan was as eye-opening as it was refreshing. Combining German-tuned performance with Kia’s award-winning design, the Stinger was a defining moment in the automaker’s steady march toward offering upscale products. The Kia Stinger receives a mild refresh for 2022 to offer more power, particularly with the base engine, and it also gets updated design flourishes and technology features.

Look and Feel

8/ 10

Remove the badge and what do you see? The question is old hat, but it still begs repetition because what we’re looking at is a $55,185 Kia. That’s the MSRP ($1,045 destination included) of the 2022 Kia Stinger GT2 we had for a week-long test drive. To be fair, yes, this particular Stinger is a fully-loaded all-wheel-drive (AWD) model outfitted with every option, with the sole exception of the newly added Scorpion special edition package. For perspective, the base RWD Stinger GT-Line starts at $37,135. But do the Stinger’s styling and materials look and feel less drab the lower the price point and the fairer the complexion? Absolutely not.

The Stinger’s minimalist design is purposeful, which is appreciated. The vehicle isn’t looking to hide behind errant sheet metal zigs and zags. Its liftback profile is decidedly long and lean, and every duct and crevice—apart from the two fake hood “vents”—is real. From the front fascia openings to the side vents behind the front wheels, the Stinger is aerodynamically sound, with a 0.30 coefficient of drag.

The Kia Stinger GT model was dropped for 2022, leaving the Stinger with three variants: GT-Line, GT1, and GT2. Not much distinguishes the trim levels exterior-wise. The GT-Line features a different lighting setup and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; GT models get more LEDs and 19-inch alloys. The sleek sedan is outfitted with updated performance-oriented wheel designs across all trim levels and continues to look great in every available color. Of the seven paint colors, three will cost you an extra $495. They would be Snow White Pearl, Ceramic Silver, and HiChroma Red.

Along with the new wheels, 2022 exterior changes also include standard LED headlights and taillights. GT trims are upgraded to full LEDs, including fog lights and turn signals. Plus, the exhaust tips are now slightly larger for a more aggressive appearance.

Available on GT2 models only, the aforementioned Scorpion package ($1,295) adds dark-colored details. This includes a black fender garnish, dark exhaust tips, a rear spoiler, exclusive 19-inch wheels, and carbon fiber interior trim. The Stinger Scorpion also is limited to Snow White Pearl, Aurora Black, and Ceramic Silver exterior colors. Interior color options are limited to black or red.

Most significant, however, is that the 2022 Stinger is embellished with Kia’s new logo. Gone is the encircled “KIA” that’s been the automaker’s mainstay emblem. Moving forward, the name will remain in all caps but presented in a gothy, italicized font. Consider it the only excessive embellishment (okay, plus the fake hood vents) on the vehicle. Some might consider the branding illegible (Kui? Kin? NIN?), but if Kia is going to overhaul its lineup and marketing approach, it can stylize its name all it wants.

On the inside, the cabin is comfortable and sufficient. You’re not going to be blown away with high-end, unblemished leather as you’d find in a Rolls-Royce, but what you do find are quality, craftsmanship, and a thoughtful eye to detail. And the cabin is luxury-level quiet.

The driver’s seat offers enough bolstering and cushioning to make long trips easy on the body. The standard flat-bottom steering wheel features the new Kia logo and GT branding in brushed chrome. With a substantial and premium feel, its mounted controls are intuitive and easy to use while driving. And if you have the optional heated steering wheel (AWD models only), note that the entire wheel warms up, not just the sides where your hands rest (which is what some automakers offer).

Overall, controls are laid out well. There is appreciated redundancy for volume, climate, phone, audio, and navigation settings. You can manage them via the steering wheel, voice activation, dedicated buttons and knobs, or the new 10.25-inch touchscreen. Though, having separate buttons for “map” and “navigation” might be too redundant.

The Stinger GT-Line is equipped with leather seats (heated in the front) and gloss-black materials. GT1 and GT2 changes the interior look with brushed aluminum surfaces. The GT2 also upgrades the seats with Nappa leather. Upholstery colors for all leather types are beige, black, and a dark red. Oh, and multi-color ambient LEDs for the instrument panel and front doors are new for GT models because nothing says “premium cabin” like mood lighting.

Performance

8/ 10

For 2022, the Stinger engines receive a welcomed boost. The previously standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder has been swapped for a 2.5-liter variant. The outgoing engine offered 255 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, which was okay on its own. But for what the Stinger was supposed to accomplish, and compared to the more powerful V6, its output left a lot to be desired. The new engine, which is featured in the GT-Line, produces 300 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. These figures more closely align with the performance the Stinger was engineered for.

GT models keep the same 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 as in previous years but a little retuning found three extra hp for 2022. The powertrain now produces 368 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, which is robust enough for a 4.7-second zero-to-60 mph time, according to Kia. The V6 is also outfitted with a new electronic variable exhaust system which adjusts by drive modes.

All Kia Stinger models are equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission. For manual shifting, paddle shifters are standard across the lineup. RWD is standard, while AWD plus torque vectoring available for all trim levels. Even with more power, fuel economy didn’t falter. Instead, it increased.

EPA-estimated ratings for the 2022 Stinger GT-Line RWD are 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined, which is a three-mpg bump during highway driving. For AWD variants, fuel economy remained the same year-over-year at 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. Stinger GTs, even with the carryover engine, also saw a change. The RWD model added plus-one in the city for 18 mpg while highway and combined mpg stayed put at 25 and 20, respectively. AWD variants, however, saw a minus-one decrease on the highway with a return of 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined. During our time with the GT2 AWD, our mileage exceeded the EPA estimates. We averaged 20.2 mpg city and 26.2 mpg highway. Kia recommends premium fuel for the Stinger.

For GT-Line models, Kia considers muscle cars the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Charger, and Ford Mustang its direct competitors. And with the new engine, that’s a reasonable group of peers. Kia compares the GT1 and GT2 trims, which feature the larger V6 engine, with the Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 4 Series, Genesis G70, and Infiniti Q50. The Germans are also fair game because Hyundai-Kia’s head of R&D is Albert Biermann, formerly vice president of engineering for BMW M. His resume is definitely exhibited in how the Stinger performs.

Remember, there was nothing like the Stinger when it joined the Kia lineup. And the vehicle’s driving manners have only improved since its first year. The debut model was fun, but early production cars were prone to rattles. The suspension was good, but that old four-cylinder did have a bit of turbo lag before the engine spooled into full thrust. With most of the growing pains out of the way, the 2022 Stinger is a legitimate contender.

There are five selectable drive modes (Custom, Smart, Eco, Comfort, and Sport), and the new active exhaust is a definite plus for GT models. In Sport, the V6 emanates a deep throatier growl than before with the opposite effect when traveling in Comfort mode. The engine is subdued, almost set to mute, which is sad. It’s still a V6, after all. Can’t we get a soothing purr at least? Nevertheless, if you want more Stinger noises, select Sport mode and use the paddle shifters. Your ears will thank you.

Changing the drive modes not only adjusts the engine note but also the throttle response, gearing, steering wheel “weight,” and even the seat bolsters. For example, in Sport, the bolsters to give you a snug hug, the steering wheel feel is tightened, gear ratios are set higher—and fuel economy worsens. Because sportiness and speed! In contrast, Comfort mode eases up on all of that. Not to say the Kia Stinger will feel like driving a couch. There remains some semblance of stiffness to the suspension and handling, but it’s on the chill side of lazy.

Ride quality is composed, regardless of drive mode. The Stinger is never jarring, offering the proper amount of give on bumpy lanes—even when you inadvertently hit a speed bump at 25+ mph. If there is anything lackluster, the red-caliper Brembo brakes on the GT didn’t provide the expected stopping power. Our AWD test car sported 225/40R19-sized Michelin Primacy Tour A/S all-season grand touring tires. During hard braking, the Stinger seemed to take longer than necessary to reach a complete stop. This wasn’t concerning in terms of safety, but it was noticeable enough, especially when equipped with ostensibly high-performance brakes.

Form and Function

7/ 10

Touchpoints on the Kia Stinger are of the premium variety with buttons, knobs, and switches within easy reach. Ergonomics are generally good. The steering wheel isn’t too slender and its sporty flat-bottomed shape provides great grip. It certainly doesn’t feel cheap in your hands.

Front-seat occupants have a multitude of ways to get comfy in those standard leather seats. GT-Line and GT1 trims feature a 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with four-way power lumbar support. Leveling up to the GT2 will fetch you a 16-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, four-way air-cell lumbar support, two-way adjustable side bolsters, and a seat extension. Basically, everything but a built-in massage.

For front passengers, standard seat adjustment is a six-way manual lever. An eight-way power-adjustable seat with height adjustment is an option on GT-Line trims but standard on the GT1. Upper-echelon GT2 vehicles give front-seat riders 12 ways of power-adjustable comfort plus lumbar support. The GT2 also comes standard with a two-profile memory system for the driver’s seat, steering wheel, and outside mirrors. Heated front seats are standard across the board while heated rear seats and ventilated front seats are reserved for GT2 trims.

If you’re relegated to the back, however, it could be a tight fit. The Stinger has seating for five, but that middle rear seat is punishment for the friend you didn’t want tagging along or for the brat, we mean runt, of your brood. But you do get cushy headrests. Although there’s no tilt feature, they welcom your head like a medium-firmness pillow.

One caveat that we did find surprising was the positioning of the infotainment system. It’s the same 10.25-inch display in all Kia Stingers, and it was a literal reach to use.

The touchscreen sits atop the three-vent HVAC cluster and isn’t flush with the dash. Instead, it’s placed a smidge back in what amounts to a sunken throne. It doesn’t look out of place but because it’s not angled toward the driver, the widescreen becomes a hindrance. We had to tap an icon multiple times before the command registered, and that’s even while parked.

According to Kia, the reason the Stinger doesn’t offer a true driver’s cockpit is that not only is the infotainment technology shared across multiple vehicles but, in the case of the Stinger, it is also shared with right-hand drive variants. When inquiring about a commander control knob option similar to those used in luxury vehicles, Kia sided with keeping things simple. Adding another technology component would only lead to more complexity. Hmm, but isn’t unnecessary complexity a requisite for premium brands? Jokes aside, the angled screen or commander knob is a cost-benefit issue. And with the Stinger’s niche market, the scale isn’t there to warrant either.

Touchscreen annoyances aside, the Kia Stinger does offer useable rear cargo hold with 23.3 cubic feet. Although a four-door, the Stinger’s liftgate not only gives the vehicle a coupe-like look but also adds to that trunk space, which increases to 40 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. GT2 models also feature a smart trunk system. The power liftgate will unlock and automatically open after sensing your presence. No need to do a jig or shake your foot beneath the rear bumper either. Just loiter. But it is a three-second timer, which can feel like a lifetime if you’re carrying heavy items.

Tech Level

8/ 10

Replacing the 7- and 8-inch touchscreens of the previous model year, the 2022 Kia Stinger now features a 10.25-inch infotainment display in all models as well as wireless smartphone charging. Also standard is navigation with Uvo link, Uvo eServices remote commands, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, multi-device Bluetooth connectivity, and split-screen functionality.

The touchscreen icons and layout can be customized in almost every way except for their color, which is a permanent pink-and-purple gradient. The user interface theme was actually part of a software update in April for Kia vehicles that have the Gen5 navigation system. Why the color change? Kia said it was more “fresh and modern.” So, if you prefer neutral colors like white, sorry, that’s too old school. At least the icons are still easy to read.

Another screen that’s now larger is the TFT center cluster. Previously 3.5-inches, the color display is now a standard 4.2 inches on GT-Line and GT1 models. GT2 variants receive a carryover 7-inch TFT display that also projects a blind-spot live video feed that is activated when using the turn signal. The top-of-the-line GT2 also features a customizable head-up display as standard. Note that even at its brightest setting of 20, drivers using polarized sunglasses won’t be able to read the data except during overcast days.

Standard audio comes in the form of a 9-speaker system for GT-Line and GT1 trims but GT2 models are upgraded to a 15-speaker system that includes a 12-channel external amp as well as Harman Kardon 720-watt surround sound technology. The premium audio can be added to GT-Line models as part of the Sun & Sound package, which also adds a sunroof and power-adjustable front passenger seat. Interestingly, the sound upgrade is not available for the GT1.

Safety

10/ 10

Kia has expanded its standard safety offerings on the Stinger, particularly its Drive Wise suite of driver aids. Nearly a dozen technologies are either all-new or updated for 2022. Previously, only blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a rearview camera, and rear parking assist were standard across the lineup with nearly twice as many safety features available only to GT1 and GT2 models. The new Kia Stinger is less stingy on safety.

In addition to rear parking assist and a backup camera, 2022 Stinger models add lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and high-beam assist to the GT-Line’s standard safety list. There are also updates to existing technologies such as blind-spot monitoring plus collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert plus collision avoidance, forward-collision avoidance plus pedestrian/cyclist detection and junction-turning assist, and navigation-based adaptive cruise control.

All-new systems — all of which are standard — include lane follow assist (which keeps the vehicle in the center of the lane), safe exit warning (which alerts of approaching traffic before opening a door), and highway driving assist (which will automatically adjust vehicle speed to within legal limits). Still only for Stinger GT2 models, however, are forward parking assist, a head-up display, and a 360-degree surround view.

With all the added safety tech, including standard LED lighting, the 2022 Kia Stinger unsurprisingly is named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The 2021 model was named a Top Safety Pick without the “plus” designation. With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Stinger maintained its previous rating of five stars, which is the agency’s highest crash test safety score.

Cost-Effectiveness

9/ 10

The 2022 Kia Stinger is just a mid-cycle refresh, but the new standard features, particularly on the tech side, do increase its base MSRP. Now starting at $36,090, the entry GT-Line experiences the largest price jump of the lineup at $3,000. The new Stinger GT1, however, is more value-oriented, starting at $43,690—a savings of $1,800 over the previous model year. Additionally, the top-of-the-food-chain GT2 sees only a moderate increase of $900 to start at $50,390. AWD is a $2,200 add-on, regardless of trim level. Destination is $1,045. Both AWD and the destination fee remain unchanged from 2021.

Take away the badge and the Kia Stinger wouldn’t be shunned by the Autobahn elites. The BMW 430i Gran Coupe RWD starts at $45,200 and offers a 2.0-liter turbo-four that produces 255 hp. The Audi A5 Sportback is equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, has 201 hp, and starts at $43,500. The Stinger’s standard 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is more powerful than both and costs several thousand dollars less.

How about the V6 models? The comparable BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe features a twin-turbo 3.0-liter 6-cylinder. With 382 hp, the AWD 4 Series reaches 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. That’s quicker than the Stinger, but it will also siphon your pockets faster, too as the Bimmer starts at $58,200. The Audi S5 Sportback, with its 3.0-liter inline-six and 349 hp, has a $54,900 starting price. It also has a smaller 10.1-inch infotainment screen. A GT2 AWD Scorpion with all the bells and whistles, including the extra-cost paint job, won’t sting you beyond $55,280.

The Kia Stinger has the bones to compete in the realm of performance four-doors. It offers German engineering and luxury sensibilities without the premium pricing or, if thinking long term, the maintenance costs. Unfortunately, the rumor mill is circulating that 2022 may be the last year for the Stinger. The vehicle isn’t a top seller,2022 Kia Stinger but that was never its purpose. Consider the Stinger a showcase model of what the brand is capable of and where it wants to go. Kia is still climbing uphill for recognition as a premium product. But if the South Korean automaker lives up to the hype of its new marketing focus and brand messaging, that hill is likely to plateau.

Updated by Beverly Braga

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