Glamour model: Kia Stinger
Speedy, poised and precise
Two talented Germans are behind the growing confidence of South Korean car maker Kia. The first is design chief and company president Peter Shreyer, ex-Audi, who over the past 12 years has transformed the way the cars look. The second is engineering chief Albert Biermann, ex-BMW, who over three years has injected some excitement into the ways the cars drive.
Here is one of the first results of their combined expertise. The Kia Stinger is a slickly styled sports GT car with a challenging name that is fully justified by the driving experience. Kia’s target with the Stinger is to woo BMW, Audi and Mercedes drivers out of their German machinery and into a Korean-built alternative. That’s a tall order, but the signs are that it may well succeed.
Like much of its German opposition, the Stinger is rear-wheel-drive. It is not shy about its performance, with red brake callipers and two sets of twin exhausts under the tail. The launch model, called Stinger GT S, has a 3.3 litre V6 petrol engine, 365 bhp power output, and a punchy 376 lb ft of torque. The top speed is 168mph and 0-62 mph acceleration is in 4.7 seconds. So it’s vividly quick, but also poised and precise, joyful to drive, with a firm but civilised ride quality and a gorgeously rich engine sound.
None of which comes cheap. At £40,495 it is an expensive Kia, but one that justifies its price tag. You do get some nice standard goodies for the price, too: head-up display, an 8in infotainment touchscreen with satnav, front seats that have built-in heating for winter and cooling for summer, and a heated steering wheel. Safety kit includes autonomous emergency braking and blind spot monitoring alerts. The combined economy figure is 28.5 mpg and the CO2 output is 225 g/km.
Stinger pricing starts from £31,995 for a two-litre petrol GT-Line model, which is not in the same performance league as the GT S, but still no slouch with a 149mph top speed and 0-62 time in six seconds. There is also a 2.2 litre diesel version priced from £33,895. Both are more affordable than the flagship V6, but that’s the real glamour model, the GT S.
Business savvy: Citroen C4 Cactus
Citroen reinvented itself for the modern era with the C4 Cactus. Quirky and characterful, and distinguished by its prominent “airbump” side protectors, the Cactus marked a rejuvenation for the French car brand. It has proved popular, with more than 30,000 sold in the UK and a loyal following of keen owners, but has also been rather Marmite.
Some have found it a bit too quirky, so after four years on the road it has just undergone a mid-life update that has been more extensive than most. The car looks significantly different, with styling revisions to make it more mainstream in looks. Those big side airbumps were practical, but divisive, and so have been slimmed down to rather more apologetic cushions along the lower doors.
This is the first model in the range to be equipped with Citroen’s new “advanced comfort” package of measures that involve a stiffer body structure, revised seats and changes to the suspension. The combined effect is improved comfort and a more cushioned ride.
The improvement is confirmed by driving the car, which feels tauter than the previous Cactus, has some of the most comfortable seats to be found in rival models at a similar price and rides impressively across all but the deepest potholes.
The new Cactus is 4.17 metres long with a 2.6 metre wheelbase and has a 358-litre boot. It comes in nine body colours, four colour packs for a more personalised look and four interior colours. Engine choices are 1.2 litre, three-cylinder petrol and 1.6 litre, four-cylinder diesel. Fuel economy ranges from 60.1 to 76.3 mpg, and CO2 output from 96 to 108 g/km. The price ranges from £17,265 to £21,165. The expected best seller is the PureTech 110 petrol model in Flair trim at £19,865. Many business buyers though will prefer the 1.6 litre BlueHDI with a manual gearbox, at just shy of £21,000.