Kia GT4 Stinger Concept: Korean manufacturer shows off GT muscle

Don’t be confused by the name. The GT4 in the Kia Stinger Concept’s name doesn’t mean the company is two generations out of step with other manufacturers producing cars specifically for a certain PlayStation racing game (non-gamers you'll see what we mean in our Toyota FT-1 concept car hands-on). No, the GT4 in GT4 Stinger refers to its 4-seat Gran Tourismo body style. The car itself is the latest step in the Kia brand’s effort to turn its vehicles into something you really lust after.

So what are we to read into this? Primarily that Kia is thinking hard about a range of GT-branded sportier cars that feature rear wheel drive. There is already got the GT version of the Pro_Cee’d hatch and two years ago at the Frankfurt Motor Show there was another Kia GT Concept - a large, BMW M5-rivalling saloon/coupe. The GT4 Stinger shows the kind of thing Kia would do with a much smaller package, to rival Toyota’s GT86.

READ: Toyota GT86 review

Sadly, we wouldn’t expect a car looking like this to appear in showrooms anytime soon, as Kia and its sister brand Hyundai don’t have a platform to build it on. We asked the design team about how realistic it would be for the GT4 to make it into production, and they told us a long tale about how it is more concept than it looks. Apparently, the team tried to build it on the Hyundai Genesis Coupe platform, but the transmission and gearbox were too big and the entire thing weighed too much. Kia also doesn’t yet have a rear wheel drive platform to support a car of this small scale either. So this kind of thing isn't going to be down in your local Kia showroom in the next 18 months.

But given the brand’s recent history, don’t rule out that it will eventually get the green light if there’s enough interest in it. And there’s much to like if it ever does. The look from the front evolves the Kia tiger nose face, with a pair of upright lamps that remind us of Audi’s Le Mans race cars.

The bonnet line is super-low and long, which gives the car much of its sporty feel. And then you get to the cool details - such as the cut-outs in the A-pillars, a reprise of an idea by Volvo from 15 years ago, to improve forward visibility. Those wheels are pretty neat too, reminding us of the historic BMW M1. And the GT4 Stinger badge itself in the tailgate is cut from a block of acrylic, which is back-lit. All the kind of things that, five years ago, you’d have perhaps only seen on an Audi concept. But are now being brought to you by Kia.

Inside is an interior that’s generically handsome and sporty, with some cool floating door armrests, great figure-hugging driver and passengers seats and a very reduced driving display. The GT4 also features the transparent OLED displays either side of the more conventional speedo - similar to the earlier GT concept. Here's a little video from 2011 showing the concept action:

Kia is keen to leverage its advantage of being Korean-based, and the country’s leadership in such display technology. And given how many Kia concepts this type of display has appeared in, we suspect it’s only a matter of time before it does actually appear in a production car.

As seems de rigueur these days, the central display features the plan of a race track, and our attention was drawn to the air vent outlets which –-somewhat like the new Audi TT concept - feature temp/speed controls, within the unit.

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Designed by Kia’s California studio, the GT4 certainly has a sunny SoCal vibe to it. We think that something like this is just what Kia needs in order to continue the good design work and image building achieved over recent years, and open the brand up to fun-loving, more young-at-heart consumers. Certainly, we’d be more than happy if Kia chose to spread a little of the mellow yellow love by bringing a car like this to Europe. Here’s hoping.