2022 Kia Stinger 2.5T review: A more compelling base engine
The lovable Stinger liftback gains a more powerful turbo-four engine that's a big improvement.
The Kia Stinger is one of my favorite new cars. With concept car looks, liftback practicality, great driving dynamics and lots of features at an affordable price, the Stinger is an underappreciated gem and it's made even better for 2022 with the addition of a new entry-level engine.
Replacing the old turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is a new 2.5-liter turbo-4, the same unit found in other Hyundai Motor Group products like the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Genesis GV70. It makes 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque -- up 45 hp and 51 lb-ft from the old 2.0T engine -- and 68 hp and 65 lb-ft less than the Stinger GT's twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6. The 2.5T is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and standard rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is a $2,200 option. (Annoyingly, AWD is the only way to get a heated steering wheel.)
This new engine really packs a punch, and makes the Stinger noticeably quicker than with the old 2.0-liter unit. Kia quotes a 0-to-60-mph time of 5.2 seconds, which is over half a second quicker than before and just half a second slower than the GT. The 2.5T feels more responsive than the old 2.0T, especially in the middle of the rev range and when passing at highway speeds and the 8-speed automatic is pretty quick to shift when left to its own devices. The new motor is also more fuel efficient than the 2.0T was: Its EPA highway figure of 32 mpg is 3 mpg better than before and I see over 35 mpg in real-world highway driving.
When you get the Stinger 2.5T onto a twisty road it doesn't disappoint. The electronic power steering is well tuned with good feedback and quick turn-in and the lack of the GT's adaptive dampers means it has more body roll, which I actually enjoy. It's apparent that the base Stinger has less weight over the front axle than the GT and it's more playful and easier to rotate. But while the 2.5T's 18-inch wheels provide a smooth ride, the all-season tires are prone to understeer and the brakes are quick to fade. But in the vast majority of situations the Stinger 2.5T GT Line is a damn fun sedan that makes a great case for sticking with the base engine.
The Stinger 2.5T also makes a case for turning on artificial engine noises, as controversial as that might be to enthusiasts. While the engine doesn't sound bad, per se, its soundtrack isn't very characterful or distinctive from either inside or outside the car -- a shame considering the Stinger's quad exhaust tips. But the Stinger comes standard with what Kia calls Active Sound Design, which can either be tied to drive mode or turned on separately. It pipes enhanced noise into the cabin that sounds throaty and awesome without seeming artificial. Get over your distaste for fake engine noises; learn to have some fun and the Stinger's soundtrack is genuinely enjoyable.
Styling changes were kept to a minimum for the 2022 model's facelift and that's fine by me -- the Stinger remains one of the best looking cars out there. There's a rad new full-width LED bar connecting the taillights and the standard LED headlight setup has a new design. The bumpers were slightly tweaked and the four-cylinder Stinger is only available in the single GT Line trim level, which has the same sportier bumper designs as the V6-powered GT. Kia also gave the Stinger some different wheel designs, larger exhaust tips and the brand's redesigned badge and I love the new Ascot Green color seen on my test car.
Inside, there's a new 10.3-inch touchscreen, replacing the old 7-inch unit, and it's running Kia's latest infotainment software that is a lot cleaner and nicer to use than before. Navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all included. For 2022 the Stinger's interior also gets a bigger 4.2-inch screen set between the gauges, a wireless phone charger and new gloss black and chrome trim pieces. With standard leather seats and an attractive design the Stinger's interior is a nice place to be, though some of the materials and finishes show its age when put up against Kia's latest offerings. At least the awesome T-shaped shifter remains.
At $37,135 to start (including destination), the Stinger 2.5T is a little more expensive than before, but it's still a hell of a bargain -- in order to get the V6-powered GT you have to pony up an extra $7,600. The 2.5T GT Line is packed with standard features like automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding mirrors, rear parking sensors, keyless entry, pushbutton start, heated front seats, a power driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter.
Every Stinger also comes standard with adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, lane centering, blind-spot monitoring, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert and rear-seat safe exit assist. My test car has the $2,300 Sun & Sound package that adds a power sunroof, an eight-way power adjustable passenger seat and a nice 15-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, bringing the total cost to a very reasonable $39,435.
Only around 60,000 Stingers have been sold since it first launched in 2017, which is a damn shame, as there's really no other car like it on sale. The Volkswagen Arteon is a lot less sporty and the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is a lot more expensive and neither are as cool as the Kia. With Kia's onslaught of electric vehicles it's unlikely the Stinger will get a direct replacment once this one dies off in the next couple years. But while the Stinger itself may not be long for this world, its spirit seems to be alive and well in the upcoming EV6.