Editor’s note: This is the second in a five-part series comparing a range of cars leading up to prime buying season.
WASHINGTON — Sport Utility Vehicles aren’t the only option for car shoppers who want something useful. And for the most part, SUVs don’t really offer much in the way of sportiness. For those who want something different as the end-of-year car-buying season ramps up, there are some sporty cars that come complete with a rear hatch, making them more fun to drive than an SUV, but still plenty practical for a Costco run.
WTOP’s John Aaron and Mike Parris tested the Audi S5, the Kia Stinger GT2 and the Hyundai Veloster R Spec and detail the pros and cons of each — as well as which ones you should get behind the wheel of.
$63,975 as tested
Audi S5 Pros: Audi’s popular and highly regarded A4 sedan gets a rear hatch instead of a trunk lid, along with the S performance treatment. The result is a great handler with a superior all-wheel-drive system. The S5 has a sharp, albeit flashy interior filled with sporty-looking carbon-fiber accents and soft diamond-pattern red leather seats.
Cons: As is often the case with German cars, the pricey options pile up. (The S5 starts at $52,400.) Despite its 349 horsepower V6 that Audi says will shoot the car to 60 miles an hour in 4.5 seconds, the car does not feel otherworldly fast.
$52,300 as tested (approximate)
Kia Stinger GT2 Pros: The Stinger has the look of a menacing animal, capped off by a pair of hood vents that look like a snarling snake’s nostrils (though disappointingly, the vents are non-functional). The front wheels barely hide high-performance red brake calipers, which are followed by sports-car style vents in the bodywork. Even fully loaded at over $50,000, it competes with German sport sedans that cost thousands, or even tens of thousands, more. All-wheel drive is available. With the GT2’s 365-horsepower V6 engine, Kia promises a dash to 60 miles an hour in 4.7 seconds, putting it in the same straight-line performance league as the pricier and smaller S5.
Cons: “Is this the Forte?” We were asked that question as we took the Stinger for a spin. Having others confuse this sports sedan for Kia’s compact Forte, which starts at under $17,000, would certainly rankle some Stinger owners. Some interior bits do look similar to those found on lower-end Kias. Other aspects of the car, like the just-a-tad-too-slow-to-shift transmission and slightly vague steering, are not quite on par with the German sedans it aims to upset. The test car had plenty of interior squeaks and rattles.
$22,785 as tested
Hyundai Veloster R Spec Pros: An overall blast to drive. It engages the driver with all sorts of surprises: great handling, a smooth and precise manual transmission and even a pleasant growl to the exhaust. Red accent pieces at the bottom of the grille are one hint something devilish is afoot.
Cons: Even enthusiasts may not be up for driving a manual in D.C.-area traffic. It’s significantly smaller than the other two cars. And then there’s the doors: The unusual configuration puts one coupe-style door on the driver’s side, and two sedan-style doors on the passenger side.
Pick: The Hyundai Veloster R Spec offers an insane amount of fun at a reasonable price. It’s small but useful. Honorable mention goes to the Stinger GT2 for pushing the price down on European-style performance.
Read all five parts of the Car Comparison series:
Part 1: 3-row SUVs
Part 2: Hatchbacks
Part 3: Family cars
Part 4: Muscle cars
Part 5: Flashy SUVs