The Kia Stinger Must Evolve, Maybe With Electrification, To Survive

The sport sedan is getting a facelift, but that might not be enough to save it.

Linhbergh LLC/Kia

The Kia Stinger is one of the most underappreciated enthusiast cars on the market today. The 365-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive sedan is one of the most fun cars to drive under $40,000, but auto aficionados simply aren't biting on the Korean automaker's line. And while a facelift is still scheduled to improve the four-door's complexion, it might not be enough to save the Stinger as we know it from the scrap bin.

News of Kia's confirmed facelift comes courtesy of a Top Gear interview with the automaker's design boss, Karim Habib. During the interview, the ex-BMW, Mercedes, and Infiniti designer let slip that the Stinger will have few changes in the near future, something which has been rumored for quite some time despite the platform only being three years old.

“It’s coming pretty soon,” said Habib. “We just wanted to strengthen a few things. If you think about the lighting—on a car that is a halo car for us—we want to make sure that we have the best technology when it comes to lighting. And, of course, it is the symbol of sportiness so what we’ve done in terms of design is try to amplify that.”

Habib's explanation seems fairly straightforward: the automaker wants to double-down on the already-sporty look of the Stinger to make it more attractive to its customers, likely through a mid-cycle refresh. The design head specifically focuses on the lightning, meaning that the changes we see could potentially reflect redesigned headlight and taillight housings, as well as subtle sporty tweaks to the bumpers.

Past the facelift, the model's future seems to be riddled with uncertainty. Can the Stinger's twin-turbo V6 withstand the test of time while other automakers are shifting their power delivery towards hybrid and full electrification?

“I definitely hope that the spirit of the Stinger stays at the core of what Kia is as we change as a brand,” said Habib. He later added, "As the technology goes towards EVs and as the world and its appetite for these types of cars changes, the concept probably has to evolve as well.”

It seems like the Stinger of today may be headed the way of the manual transmission: dead because new car buyers aren't interested. Habib mentions that the Stinger is the recipe for any successful car. It's "sporty, affordable, beautiful"— so why is nobody buying it

The last time we discussed the Stinger's fate, many people mentioned that the Kia dealership experience and brand reputation were the main factors that drove potential buyers away from the car.

Yet another problem is the niche audience that Kia needs to cater to in order to sell the sedan. The Stinger exists in an awkward spot, slotted somewhere between the boy-racer Honda Civic Type R and the more refined Infiniti Q50. Perhaps worse yet, it directly competes with like-minded vehicles from Kia's sister brand, such as the Genesis G70.

While the Stinger is a special car, little outside of its driving experience makes it particularly interesting compared to even its closest rivals. Maybe changing the Stinger up isn't such a bad idea after all.

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