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What Kia did next

The strikingly-styled Stinger is Kia's first serious effort at a sports saloon

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AS all the Sportage and Ceed models running around our roads attest, Kia has gone from being an also-ran budget brand to a thoroughly respectable mainstream choice in a remarkably short space of time, writes William Scholes.

Having achieved its aim of having strong and credible competitors to the line-ups of brands like Ford, Vauxhall and Renault, Kia is ready for its next challenge - to lay the foundations to challenge premium brands like Audi and BMW.

That's the inevitable comparison that the stunning car on this page, dubbed the Kia Stinger, leads to.

Unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, the Stinger is billed as a "fastback sport saloon" which, when fitted with its highest performance engine in the GT version, is an on-paper match for the likes of the Audi S4 and BMW 340i thanks to a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 with 365bhp and 378lb/ft and a 0-62mph target of 5.1 seconds and a top speed nudging 170mph...

Rear-wheel-drive is standard, as is an eight-speed automatic gearbox, though all-wheel-drive can be specified.

A 2.0-litre petrol turbo engine is also offered, with a healthy 255bhp and 260lb/ft, and a diesel powertrain will be added to the mix by the time sales start in Europe.

There's also good reason to believe the Stinger will drive as well as it looks, and live up to Kia's talk about it being a car that enthusiast drivers will enjoy.

The chassis has been developed on the Nurburgring race circuit in Germany - but then, so is almost everything these days, and not always for the better - but it is the involvement of Albert Biermann, Kia's 'head of vehicle test and high performance development', that is significant; before joining Kia, he was one of the engineers who made generations of BMW's M cars so special to drive.

Kia says the Stinger is "a true gran turismo", which it defines as having a bold design, being "nimble and fast whilst also luxurious and quiet", and able to "achieve the perfect balance of ride and handling and seat five comfortably with room for luggage".

"A true gran turismo, a car for spirited long-distance driving, is not about outright power, hard-edged dynamics and brutal styling, all at the expense of luxury, comfort and grace," said Gregory Guillaume, Kia's chief designer.

"The Stinger has nothing to do with being the first to arrive at the destination - this car is all about the journey. It's about passion."

The range-topping GT is likely to cost just over £40,000 when the Stinger arrives in our showrooms in the second half of the year.

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