Sunday Drive: Kia Stinger GT and Peugeot 508 GT
PEUGEOT 508 GT FASTBACK
Base price: $55,990
Powertrain and performance: 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four, 169kW/300Nm, 8-speed automatic, FWD, fuel economy 7.5 litres per 100km, CO2 132g/km CO2.
Vital statistics: 4750mm long, 1403mm high, 2793mm wheelbase, 19-inch alloy wheels.
KIA STINGER GT SPORT
Base price: $69,990.
Powertrain and performance: 3.3-litre twin turbo-petrol V6, 272kW/510Nm, 8-speed automatic, RWD, fuel economy 8.9 litres per 100km, CO2 239g/km.
Vital statistics: 4830mm long, 1400mm high, 2905mm wheelbase, 19-inch alloy wheels.
Historically the GT badge has meant a fast, comfortable coupe or roadster large enough to accommodate a driver and passenger along with sufficient luggage room for a weekend blast. Yet these days it's patently pointless being so pedantic about cementing that as a definition for what makes a 'Grand Touring' car.
Basically, makers have applied that GT initial so widely - to cars as different as four-seater convertibles, mid-engined sports cars, fast hatchbacks and powerful station wagons – and for so long that most fan favourites sit outside that rule set.
* The Peugeot 508 GT is our Top Family Car/Wagon of 2019
* Review: Kia Stinger GT Sport 'Neon Orange' edition
* Stinger is a Kia sedan from Seoul with soul
* Road test review: Peugeot 508 GT wagon
A more important measure is how deeply they commit to the ideal of high-scoring for driver enjoyment.
For all their commonality, likelihood of these being cross-shopped is perhaps not high. Brand tribalism, the Peugeot costing $12k less and being a front-drive four-cylinder whereas Kia goes old-school V6 rear-drive… there's all that.
Most significant, though, is that while the regular six-cylinder Stinger remains in stock, the Neon Orange specials, limited to 10 examples nationally, have been snapped up.
Setting that aside, the 508 GT might still merit priority today. No argument; an orange Stinger is a heck of an attention-getter. Yet colours come and go; if you really want a look that is surely set to last the distance, think about this 508.
Vertical slashes of LED daytime running lights at the front is normally a concept car detail. A black rear lamp arrangement, which spans the width of the boot, the highly-detailed 19-inch rims and a slinky silhouette are as captivating as the test car's Ultimate Red hue.
Additional allure? Deeply impressive technology and a lot of luxuries. Also, the chassis is a delight and, as a five-door coupe with sedan-esque lines that is virtually as practical as the alternate station wagon, it's a clever piece of design.
On top of that, there's the value. Pricing against the usual foes – so, locally, the likes of the Holden Commodore, Ford Mondeo and Skoda's Superb - yet equipping to a fully premium level well above that pay grade seems an extraordinary extreme. How can they make a buck? Their issue, your windfall, really.
It's not like Stinger lacks, of course, but aside from it having five more speakers (including one under the driver seat) as an equally safety spec, it has less in-cabin content and a less exquisite interior ambience.
While comparing cabins, take not that neither are hugely spacious cars. The 508 is tight on headroom and rear legroom, the rear headrests compromise rear vision. Mind you, the physically larger Stinger isn't that strong here either, thanks mainly to its low roofline, but also because the wide transmission tunnel effectively makes it a two-plus two.
When it comes to driving positions, both go low and sporty, but the Kia is more orthodox and natural in its layout. A low-set, weirdly under-sized steering wheel is a modern Peugeot trademark that'll split opinion and even if you are okay with it, there are other ergonomic issues – a classic being the confusing and poorly-located cruise control stalk – to deal with.
By contrast, the Stinger hasn't the same level of flair, but it is an easier car in which to simply get in and drive.
The sense of it being a slightly smaller kind of almost large car doesn't transfer to the 508's driving experience, insofar that anyone unaware it the Puretech petrol was 'just' a 1.6 you'd be none the wiser.
It's remarkably zesty and, just as engagingly, is very smooth and refined; even in the sports setting, in the engine is allowed to rev out, it hardly ever sounds overly raucous and maintains good relations with the automatic.
Beyond that, it's just a really well-sorted car to drive, with a lovely flowing action.
Stinger's approach is more direct in its driver-centricity. It isn't an outright muscle car, yet a claimed 0-100kmh time of 4.9 seconds and meaty mid-range oomph remind it doesn't lack for grunt, while its tight handling through bends talks to the quality of its dynamics, fat tyres and beefy brakes.
This edition obviously lays on extra loudness with its overt colour, yet it also expresses much more bullishly with a bi-modal exhaust that, even here, is a cheeky cost extra. It should become standard. A rumbling idle, a touch of bark under stiff acceleration, occasional playful crackle with downshifts and a pleasing timbre at a steady 100kmh is the one enhancement it always cried out for.
The only blight against the GT now – this version included – is that the adaptive dampers are improperly tuned for us; sport is most awry, being irksomely brittle, notably over coarse chip. The update's spring and damper revamp has become Kia Australia's job. My thought? Hire the team that worked up the Commodore VFII SS Redline.
For all that, today's cars are no sticker kit frauds. They're interesting and involving, with the 508 leading the way for vivacious value verve.