I went on the Pat Kenny show on RTÉ many, many years ago and was absolutely panned by friends for not talking ‘normally’ – with my natural Offaly accent that is. I learned a hard lesson. My friends were indignant; said I made a right eejit of myself.
I never tried it again, I can tell you. Indeed, I took it to heart so much that there are people out there now who say not alone do I speak with an Offaly accent (and mighty proud to do so) but I write with one as well (even prouder).
One of the reasons for my radio-accent faux pas was that I felt, rightly or wrongly, there was a prejudice against anything that wasn’t ‘Dublin’ at the time – that there might be greater acceptance of a jumped-up Johnny-come-lately if one’s accent was more, shall we say, cosmopolitan.
Young(er) and foolish that I was, I must have subliminally fallen into the trap. Not since and never again, I can promise you. I learned a lot from the escapade about just being oneself and not trying too hard to conform.
I was reminded of all that quite sharply with the KIA Stinger GT that I drove some time back.
Let me say right here and now that I’ve really wrestled with what to make of the Stinger.
One part of me still asks who in God’s name is going to spend €66,000 on a V6 performance petrol car from KIA. But is that me being prejudiced because KIA isn’t a posh carmaker (yet) or am I being realistic on your behalf? Maybe both?
Another part of me says fair dues; why not give it a go? Why shouldn’t a technically gifted automaker rock a boat that for so long has had the German giants as well as the likes of Jaguar and Lexus at the helm.
KIA and Hyundai (with their new i30N) may be newcomers, but they’re not novices with the engineering and technology. So why not show what they can do?
Now maybe, just maybe, the answers to my Stinger conundrum (and I am largely on my own in withholding outright approval) would be easier come by if the car was a more out-and-out performer. If it was more of a boy racer, like. It does have plenty of bite – 0-100kmh in under five seconds was sharp and enjoyable – but it wasn’t raising-hairs-on-back-of-the-neck for me on the road (and within legal limits). That is not the way it is set up for everyday driving.
It is more a moderately edgy grand tourer (Gran Turismo as they say) – with comfort and performance to savour rather than drool over.
And the rear wiggled a fair bit under moderate pressure – what they call ‘tail happy’. Didn’t like that at all.
There is now a 2.2-litre diesel as well which is not only €13,000 less expensive but probably a more sensible option. Or is being sensible a cop-out with a car like this? Is it all or nothing?
The other thing against it – to my way of thinking – is that it lacks a really strong visual presence, something I would have thought to be important. The front is quite rounded, as opposed to sharp. I feel it needs something.
But according to several residents of Gorey, Co Wexford, I am completely wrong. They loved the look of it, with several of them coming over to ask all about it when I parked on a busy street.
All of which would appear to bear out the fact that KIA are successfully doing this their way (and striking a chord) while not adhering slavishly to the conventional.
Fair dues to them for sticking with their own take. That’s what will set it apart in the major markets such as the US, where it has won rave reviews and appreciable pick up. People are not as tramlined in their perception of performance cars over there. We (I) risk that accusation (though they still expect 60/70 people to buy one this year through 15 authorised dealers).
I’ll admit, the car grew on me as I drove here and there over a variety of road conditions. It’s big, roomy, surprisingly long, has a big boot and is packed with bling to tick the comfort, safety and driving assistance boxes. Ah! the ould leather was great, adding a dash of ‘premium’ to a cabin that was nicely understated.
However, the sense of being cocooned and spoilt a bit was disrupted by some tyre noise over rougher surfaces, but it wasn’t intrusive enough to warrant heavy criticism.
I liked the driving position a lot and found myself, where possible, ‘squirting’ the car to legal limits to get a sense of its dynamics. I enjoyed it a lot in the end – without being gobsmacked.
Designed in Europe and ‘honed’ at the famous Nürburgring, it is halo car for the brand.
And as such it is a more-than-decent start-out for KIA to become accepted as a maker of performance cars.
For me, however, it just wasn’t ‘different’ enough for the sort of money involved – even with its own distinct accent on some notable creature comforts and accomplished engineering.
Facts & Figures
- KIA Stinger performance Gran Turismo (GT); 3.3-litre petrol V6, 370PS, 8spd auto, 4.9 secs to 100kmh, top speed 270kmh, 225g/km, €1,200 tax, drive modes, rear-wheel-drive, 60-litre fuel tank.
- Spec includes: Nappa leather/heated seats, Harman Kardon system, satnav, auto/smart cruise control, rear-view camera, wireless phone charger, 18ins Brembo brakes, spread of driver-assist and performance-assist technology, including autonomous emergency braking, 19ins alloys, rear spoiler, dual muffler, sunroof, heated steering wheel, LED lights with dynamic bending, suede roof trim.
- From: €66,895; 2.2-litre diesel: €53,895.