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road test

2022 Kia Stinger GT Elite.Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

You’ll need more bucks to get your buzz from a Kia Stinger in 2022. The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Canadian Car of the Year in 2019, it has been refreshed and the cheapest model now costs more than $50,000.

That’s not to say the luxurious, grand-touring fastback isn’t worth the money. The Stinger was, and remains, a good-value, mid-priced performance ride. But now you’ll have to fork over at least another $6,000 for the pleasure of driving one because Kia has dropped the entry-level GT model from the lineup in Canada.

The base model for 2022 is the GT Limited, and it has been improved with three extra horsepower – a boost to 368 from 365 – a larger infotainment screen and several new options. However, the biggest addition to the car is a next-generation suite of Level 2 autonomy features.

These include highway-driving assist, blind-spot assistance (with video of the next lane projected into the instrument cluster), lane-keeping assist and advanced forward-collision avoidance.

We tried them out on the GT Elite tester that Kia lent us. On the highway, the automation functioned reliably, staying between the lane lines without zig-zagging the way some cars with advanced driver assistance systems do.

But the Stinger is really a driver’s car, so the autonomous functions may not be that important to most buyers. For those who like to really drive a car, it is a smooth operator. Power from its twin-turbo engine is transferred through an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The result is a seductive, sophisticated and powerful ride.

The GT Elite gets limited slip differential to improve handling, which is very sure-footed and entertaining. In Sport mode, the automatic shifts late and aggressively, but you can make it even more fun by using the paddle shifters to fine-tune your approach to and exit from corners. It turns twisty, undulating tarmac into a roller coaster that could be called “The Sting.”

It has a sweet side, too. This particular test drive offered the opportunity to take a road trip with my 92-year-old mother, who has been a notoriously bad passenger – but enthusiastic driver – for as long as I can recall.

First, getting into the Stinger’s passenger seat was easy despite her compromised mobility. The drop is not too far, and the opening is wide enough to accommodate legs that don’t bend so well any more. Likewise, the hatch easily swallowed up her walker and luggage.

As mom settled in, the suede dash (optional on the GT Elite) and clean design caught her attention immediately. The adjustable, ventilated comfort of the passenger seat was a revelation, and stayed that way for the duration of our three-hour trip.

Once we hit the road, the Stinger’s appeal really hit home. My mother actually said, “I’m enjoying being a passenger.” She was delighted by the car’s grand touring qualities, as we cruised along smoothly and quietly in mild-mannered Comfort or even Eco mode.

This car was a breakthrough vehicle for Kia when it was launched here in 2017. In addition to being the AJAC Canadian Car of the Year in 2019, it received numerous other accolades from auto journalists, as well as global design awards.

While the 2022 refresh doesn’t make any substantial changes, discontinuing the GT model does move the car into a new price bracket. Nonetheless, if the Stinger can please both a lover of performance like me, and convert a stalwart right-seat critic like my mom, it’s a car that can keep peace in the family. And that’s worth a few extra dollars.

Tech specs

2022 Kia Stinger

Base price/as tested: $50,495/$55,495

Engine: 3.3-litre, twin-turbo six cylinder

Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 kilometres): 13.7 city/9.6 highway

Alternatives: Genesis G70; BMW 3 Series; Audi A4

Looks

The Stinger looks particularly sharp in California Red.Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

A sexy beast, this Stinger looks particularly sharp in California Red, one of the seven available colours. Its sleek and streamlined curves are all grand-touring car, and they culminate in a shapely rear that disguises the fact that this car is a hatchback. It conveys a sense of speed and excitement that will turn heads.

Interior

The front seats are very comfortable and supportive.Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

The GT Elite tester came with the upgraded suede package that includes red stitching and seatbelts. The deep grey suede dash and seat inserts are beautifully understated and, for $300, this option is worth the money. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive, and the driver’s seat rib bolsters are adjustable and automatically squeeze you when you shift to Sport mode. Head space in the rear is compromised by the low roofline, but knee room is ample.

Performance

The extra three horsepower added in the 2022 refresh is hardly enough to remark on. The car is powerful enough to be a bit thrilling when you stomp on the gas, and really delivers in the corners, where the all-wheel drive and electronic suspension control make it feel taut and planted.

Technology

The refresh has added a suite of driver-assistance systems that make driving the 2022 Stinger quite relaxing on a long highway trip. Perhaps too relaxing, however, as in our tester it was possible to put the car on autopilot and just sit there, without having to adjust the wheel, for long stretches of time. In-car connectivity is simple and the Stinger has wireless charging. Controls are intuitive and car setup menus offer easy navigation.

Cargo

The hatch door has a customizable opening speed and height.Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

That the Stinger is a hatchback is neither obvious nor particularly relevant. However, while buyers might only rarely take advantage of the long flat space created by the low sloping roofline and 60/40 split rear seats, it is quite spacious, offering 1,158 litres with rear seats folded and 660 litres behind them. The hatch door itself has a customizable opening speed and height and can be set to open automatically on approach with the key.

Verdict

Bumping the price of the base Stinger by $6,000 isn’t quite a buzz-kill, but it takes the car over the $50,000 mental-price-point barrier. It remains a delightful car to drive with sweet power, comfort and style that make it a favourite with drivers and passengers alike.

Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

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