The sharp end of the arrow

by Andy Bryenton

If progress is an arrow moving forward, then the collaboration between the best minds in Germany and South Korea, which has rolled onto Kiwi roads as the Kia Stinger is the sharp end of it. This car generates arguments from the deliberately pointed — is it faster than a big Aussie-built V8, for instance — to the abstract, with people musing over the global nature of the partnership that created it.

Since the Stinger broke cover as a concept car it has gone from a design exercise, which caused ripples of consternation to a finished product, which has the best of Europe and America shivering in their boots. Yes, it can mix it up with the big displacement warriors downunder and win.

Putting aside the over 360 horsepower generated by the Stinger’s turbo-fed v6, and putting aside the fact that yes, it really is a contender with Mustangs and M cars, there’s something else about the Kia Stinger which has to be addressed.

The elephant in the room is how it looks. Because the photographs don’t do it justice. Not to the outside, which is willfully, joyfully happy to advertise its turn of speed by looking like a speed violation while standing still. And not to the cockpit, with its lack of carbonfibre gimmicks, faux wood panelling, or cheap and scratchy plastics in favour of stitched leather, brushed aluminium and retro-futuristic controls.

Many modern cars come from a prototype that hits the auto shows as exuberant as a 1970s American muscle car — all wide arches, sinister vents and rakish menace. Then the beige men in beige cardigans decide it would be cheaper if it looked like a bag of tapioca with 14 inch alloys.

Not so the new Kia. From the outside it’s as striking as Ford’s Mustang, and currently rare enough to turn heads with chiropractical force. There’s a bit of the M series BMWs crafted by Stinger cocreator Albert Biermann in there, but there are hints of Aston and Jaguar and other real, old-school grand tourers as well.

From the inside, low and snug in wrap-around seats, the stubby shifter and elegant silver switchgear sit amid a landscape of black on black. There’s room in the back seats for real people too. You may think that none of this matters, when the raw figures on paper put the Stinger well ahead of its price bracket competitors.

But I rather think that looking the part is most of the point.

In a sea of resale value silver Europeans at twice the price, Kia’s latest is pure rock and roll, and that’s exactly what Kiwis starved of a performance four-door from the big two are looking for.