This Kia Sports Car Concept Should’ve Been the Brand’s Miata Killer



But it never made it to production.

2014 Kia GT4 Stinger Concept 2014 Kia GT4 Stinger Concept

Name: Kia GT4 Stinger
Debut: 2014 Detroit Auto Show
Engine: Turbo 2.0-Liter Four-Cylinder
Power: 315 Horsepower
Drive Type: Rear-Wheel Drive

Toyota kicked off production of what was then called the Scion FR-S sports car in 2012, and it spurred a wave of potential rivals from other manufacturers. The Tru 140S concept was Chevrolet’s front-wheel drive alternative. Nissan threw it back to the 1970s with the Datsun 510-inspired IDx concept. And Kia, building off praise for its four-door GT concept from 2011, introduced the GT4 Stinger—a stylish, rear-wheel-drive sports car concept aimed directly at the Scion.

None of those cars ever made it to production, though, the Kia included. Chevrolet killed the Tru 140S before it had any legs and Nissan did the on-again-off-again thing with the IDx, leading nowhere. But the Kia GT4 Stinger was the most interesting proposition of the group.

This is Concept We Forgot, Motor1’s deep dive into the weird and wonderful concept cars you might not remember.

In the mid-aughts, Kia was in the early stages of a boom. The third-generation Optima sedan made a truly compelling alternative to the Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys of the world. The Kia Soul was well-received as a stylish, affordable compact SUV. And we knew the Stinger sports sedan was on the horizon.

Kia debuted the GT4 Stinger at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show with stylish good looks and genuine front-engine, rear-drive proportions. This was no economy car disguised as a coupe—the GT4 Stinger had a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with a six-speed manual and somewhere in the neighborhood of 315 horsepower.

It also only weighed 2,800 pounds, as much as an FR-S or Subaru BRZ and just a bit more than the Miata at the time. The weight distribution was nearly 50/50, with a bit more over the front axle. It didn’t even have power steering. Kia said it wanted the concept to retain that pure sports car feeling, although, it probably wouldn’t have made it to production without some form of power assist.

The GT4 Stinger was bigger than the BRZ/FR-S and Miata, too, with a 103.1-inch wheelbase and a total length of 169.7 inches. It was also 4.5 inches wider. That meant more space inside; the rear seat had more room than Toyota’s for-insurance-purposes-only second row. And the liftback-style rear meant a bigger cargo hold.

The interior was designed with lightness in mind, ditching carpeted floor mats for rubber inserts and door handles for door pulls. The floating center console housed the shifter, ignition button… and not much else. Even the center touchscreen was tiny (not uncommon for 2014) and the gauge cluster was merely a see-through piece of glass trim perched atop the steering column. Though it was a manual, there were paddle shifters behind the steering wheel that separately controlled the turn signals and cruise control functions.

The GT4 concept was designed at Kia’s California studio, which had been churning out concept and production cars since the early 1990s. In this case, the idea was to design a vehicle with “sports-car proportions in a back-to-basics 2+2 that could be a daily driver,” noted Kia’s American design manager Kurt Kahl back in 2014. The blacked-out A-pillar gave it a “wrap-around sunglasses” look and the Ignition Yellow paint was borrowed from the Kia Soul’ster concept that debuted a few years prior.

“Driving enjoyment was the number one priority,” chief designer Tom Kearns told Motor Trend. “The GT4 Stinger is a throwback to days when driving a car was a visceral experience that wasn’t muted by electronic gimmickry.”

Unfortunately, the dream of a lightweight Kia sports car never made it to production. Like all the other proposed Toyobaru rivals—the Tru 140S and the IDx—the GT4 Stinger was merely a preview of what could have been. It made the rounds at auto shows around the globe before being retired from the circuit. Ten years later, the GR86 and BRZ still don’t have a genuine two-door rival.

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