2019 Kia Stinger — Kia Puts BMW on Notice…

2019 Kia StingerModel tested: 2019 Kia Stinger GT

Engine: 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 • 365 horsepower • 376 lb. ft. of torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters and five programmable driving modes

EPA ratings: 19/city, 25/highway, 21/combined

Base price: $38,350

As tested: $39,250

Overview: The Kia Stinger has the BMW 3-Series dead center in its crosshairs — and BMW should be nervous. This rear-wheel drive (with optional AWD), compact/midsize sedan offers serious performance, comfort, quality and real driving fun — for a lot less money.

Walkaround: The Stinger might be considered a hatchback because the trunklid opens like a ’70s-era hatch. However, it’s more like a European-inspired fastback sedan, with a long, chiseled hood, short overhangs, ducktail rear spoiler, gills behind the front wheels reducing turbulence, and a belly pan smoothing underchassis airflow. At 190.2 inches with a 114.4-inch wheelbase, it’s slightly bigger than the 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A5 Sportback and Lexus IS — which could all be considered competitors.

2019 Kia StingerInterior: The Stinger’s cabin is similar to Kia’s Cadenza and luxury K900 models. Materials are high quality, featuring standard leather; soft-touch surfaces everywhere; and large, metal-framed instrumentation. The wing-shaped dashboard is black, with contrasting metal trim. The tablet-inspired infotainment system sits atop the dash, with three climate-control gauges below. A programmable color screen displays performance data, like G-forces and lap times. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, with driver’s seat power adjustable including lumbar. The hatchback/fastback roofline reduces rear headroom, but it’s adequate for a 6-footer. There’s more cargo space than a sedan trunk — 23.3 cubic feet, increasing to 40.9 with the rear seats folded — as much as a small SUV.

Under the Hood: The base powerplant is a 2-liter, 255-horse, turbocharged four-banger. Our GT model test-driver featured the 3.3-liter, 365-pony, twin-turbo V6 delivering 376 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are married to a Kia-built eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

Behind the Wheel: The twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6 delivers smooth, responsive acceleration with a refined yowl. Five drive modes — eco, comfort, sport, smart (which learns your behavior) and custom — adjust transmission and throttle response, suspension damping, stability control and traction with all-wheel drive. This is undoubtedly the best-handling Kia ever built. The steering is direct, braking excellent, cornering stable, and the ride smooth. However, European-style agility is slightly lacking.

Bottom Line: The Kia Stinger is impressive. The price for a fully loaded GT2 nears 50 grand; however, the base Stinger at $32K and the GT at $38K are so well-equipped, both are awesome values for a performance sedan.