A two-star difference between top trims and base models is never a good look.
Structurally, the Kia Stinger is one hell of a performer—and that's not just an ode to its ability to be tossed around corners like a track car and emerge asking for more. It recently underwent testing by the ANCAP, Australia's version of the New Car Assessment Program, and showcased how its tough frame could put up with devastating crashes without causing the occupants much harm. It led the top-trim Stingers, the GT and Si lines, to receive five star ratings by the safety organization.
Then, when the ANCAP went ahead and tested the entry-level S line's picks—cars intended for fleet sales—these vehicles emerged with only three star ratings. What gives?
Apparently, the discrepancies all have to do with safety technology. Thankfully that means the problem doesn't stem from the expensive Stingers having more structural integrity than the cheaper versions of the same car. Both sets of vehicles feature the same frames, its just that the S models lack some of the technological safety aids like Lane Keep Assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking that Australians have come to expect. It's not exactly uncommon for an automaker to skimp on safety aids for lower trim cars. The problem arises from the fact that Kia doesn't undergo the same practice of stripping S-trim vehicles of their safety equipment for models sold in Europe.
Being in the position of appearing to value the lives of customers in one region over another is a bad look for any automaker, and the ANCAP has asked Kia to check itself by adding these features to base Stingers—which cost about $7,000 Australian dollars less than the higher trims—or stop selling the model in Australia altogether. "Australasian customers should feel let down that important safety features are being left out of the vehicles we're being supplied," said ANCAP CEO, James Goodwin. It might not sound like a huge deal, but as technology has improved, so have safety standards.
"Technology has advanced, and so have our assessments. Vehicle brands must offer the same level of standard safety features across their model ranges if they're to achieve a 5 star ANCAP safety rating," added Goodwin. In fact, the Stinger is lucky to have gotten three stars at all. ANCAP's cutoff for a three-star rating is anything below a 25% Safety Assist score. "Autonomous-emergency braking and lane-keep assist have been omitted from these (S) grades, reducing their Safety Assist score to 25 per cent," said Goodwin. If the Stinger had scored any lower, safety ratings would look pretty bleak for Kia's comeback kid.