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Monday, 13 January 2014

Kia's GT4 Stinger Hopefully Won't Hurt

2014 Kia GT4 Stinger Concept
OK, what the hell is going on here?! It's all very well that Toyota's stirring up talk of a new Supra for the umpteenth time and Porsche is bringing out a new 911 variant that's basically a modernisation of an old 911 variant, but this GT4 Stinger Concept previews an attractive, rear-wheel-drive 2+2 sports coupé from... Kia?!

Well now, Captain 2006, a lot has changed since the days of the Pride and the first-generation Rio. The Korean brand - twinned with other Korean brand Hyundai - has undergone a significant transformation under the keen eye of respected designer (and father of the Audi TT) Peter Schreyer. The 2011 GT Concept showed the world that they were ready to take on the western world if we were ready for them, while also inspiring the new Optima and a couple of other production models. Now in 2014, they're really getting ready to challenge our perceptions of what a Korean car means to us. This is them seeing what the car-buying public thinks of a Kia sports car to tackle the Toyota GT86. While I'm not currently buying cars myself, I think it's a great idea.

This is what happens when you have a bad reputation to get rid of. It's a good thing
The styling is a departure even from their current range of cars. Despite their head of design being ex-Audi, the only thing here reminiscent of anything four-ringed is the waistline, which rises over the wheels to accentuate the low nose to make it look like more of a road-hugger. It's clean, modern and the Kia pulls it off on its own, proving that even today, a sports car doesn't need to have slashes and creases everywhere to look new or to look sporty. The slightly unusual side profile looks like they cut the tail off something like a Nissan GT-R at the base of the roof, but again the Stinger makes it its own, teaming its fastback shape with wheels that resemble dished vinyl records with strong-looking V-shaped spokes slicing through them like cookie cutters. It's hard to deny, it looks good. The rear glass section below the liftback tailgate houses boomerang tail lights, while at the front, their usual graphics have evolved slightly, again into something unconventional.

Blacked-out A-Pillars have holes in them because it looks cool and sort-of improves visibility... if you're used to peering through blinds
Rather than having two grilles with the upper one integrating swept-back horizontal headlights, the low nose has necessitated a bigger single mouth, featuring Kia's signature "tiger nose" design with the pinched central section (echoed in the rear bumper), which is flanked by skinny vertical headlights that look as if they've filled in some cooling ducts with LEDs. It works quite well, even if it does put me in mind of the 2005 VW EcoRacer Concept which coincidentally did roughly the same sort of thing with its front graphics.

The low clamshell bonnet, decorated with a cool-looking pair of sinking vents, hides a real, working engine. It's a direct-injection 2.0L turbocharged inline-4 that can muster a hefty 315bhp - plenty in a 1303kg (2874lb) sports car about the size of a BRZ - and send it to the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox. Only a lack of mechanical limited-slip differential is stopping this being the perfect sports car recipe on paper, especially as the show car is built on a bespoke tube-frame chassis, sporting double-wishbone suspension and big Brembo brakes at all four corners, all carrying a lightweight interior.

Fabric door pulls like a Porsche GT3 RS, central stripe on the 'wheel like a rally car, manual gearbox like the internet's dreams!
I really want Kia to make this. Not only would it be a bold move and potentially a great image-builder for them, but it would be a left-field alternative to the Toyobaru, and I like a good left-field alternative. The interior would become slightly more normal, the A-Pillars wouldn't be all full of holes and the headlights would likely be different, plus a bespoke chassis (tubular or not) would cost a lot to develop, but if that shape and those specs remain in a production version then I will be very happy indeed. Kia, you would be applauded for building this.

If you like it too, dear reader, then here's a video of it looking good and driving around and stuff:


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