I AM glad I don’t run an airline, because if I did, all the planes would be pretty much empty pretty much always, and it would be bankrupt in a week.
For instance, I find it amazing that in early March you can’t fly non-stop from the UK to Corfu. I’d have a meeting about that, and explain to my colleagues that Corfu is a lovely spot that is very popular with the sort of middle-class families who’d pay through the nose for such a flight. And then it would turn out that all the middle-class families I was targeting were in the Alps. And didn’t want to spend early March shivering on a beach, on an island that’s pretty much shut.
Did you know there are 30 flights a day from London to New York? Which means that when there were 29, someone said: “Yes, the market can take another.” That wouldn’t have been me. I’d have said: “Twenty-nine flights a day and you reckon there’s a market for a 30th? Pah. Not a chance.” And I’d have been wrong.
I also wouldn’t operate a service to Paris, because it’s faster on the train. But I’d put a 747 on the London-Pisa route and go every 30 minutes because Tuscany’s lovely and our rail companies don’t provide an alternative.
Then there’s Charlotte. I flew there not that long ago on a Tuesday morning and assumed that I’d have the plane to myself. But it was rammed. And that amazed me, because how can there possibly be 300 people a day who wake up in England and think, “I fancy going to North Carolina today”?
Recently, I wanted to go from Bogota in Colombia to Barbados and not one single airline boss has recognised this as a possibility. Which meant I was faced with a four-hour trip to Miami, a six-hour wait, and a near four-hour trip back to virtually where I’d started.
So I had to get a private jet, which wasn’t easy because the people who operate such things are unwilling to send them to Colombia in case they are used for smuggling.
Mind you, while I’d be a useless airline boss, I think I’d be even worse if I were running a car firm. Because if I were at the helm of, say, Kia, and someone came to me saying, “Let’s make a forty grand, rear-drive, four-door coupé with a snarly V6 and many horsepowers,” I’d have shot him in the front of the head for being crazy.
To us here in Britain, Kia makes a range of hatchbacks and saloons for people who know nothing at all about cars. They are quite good-looking and I’m sure they are well made but they are really for the old and the muddled. And there’s the problem. The old and the muddled don’t want a many-horse-powered sports saloon and those that do don’t want a Kia.
There’s more. In Britain, and the rest of western Europe for that matter, the car is rapidly losing its appeal. There are too many rules and too many cameras and there’s too much congestion. The car is seen as an expensive nuisance. We’ve been there and we’ve done that and now we’re in an Uber waiting for Google to give us something that drives itself.
“If you were in the market for a BMW M3, or a fast Audi or a Mercedes-AMG, it’s certain you’d be better off with the Kia. But of course you wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing”
People who buy a flash car are mocked for being footballists and those who buy something fast are labelled as boy racers. The love affair with the car, here, is dying. So what’s the point of Kia trying to sell a fast car such as the Stinger GT S?
Ah well. As I said, I was in Colombia recently and it’s much the same as any country that’s emerging from decades of strife. With a new entrepreneurial spirit causing the whole place to hum, the roads are awash with people driving about, very carefully, in brand new Kias and Dacias. To us, these cars are horrible crates made from old cassette boxes. But over there they are luxury goods to rival anything made by Fabergé. You mention the word Kia in Bogota and people take off their hats.
I would hope, because I fell madly in love with Colombia, that its emergence from the dark side continues and that soon people will be able to make money from something other than forest products. And if that happens, the people are going to want the very best car that Kia can sell them. Because Kia to them is the same as Ford was to us back in the late Sixties. And everyone back then wanted a Cortina 1600E.
The Stinger is a very good car. It’s quite hard to climb aboard because the roofline is low but when you’re in, the driving position has that “hang on a minute” feel that lets you know you’re at the helm of something special.
Which it is. Thanks to a twin turbocharged 3.3-litre V6, you get 365 horsepowers and that means 0-60 in less than five seconds. But it’s not the straight-line oomph that impresses most. It’s the way this car feels as you go about your daily business: special.
Maybe this is because the Stinger was developed by Albert Biermann, who was poached from his previous job running things at BMW’s M division. You can sense his DNA in the Stinger. Same as you can in an M3.
The steering is heavy. I don’t mean it’ll cause you to smell while parking. I mean, it has a meatiness and somehow you know it’s guiding wheels that aren’t troubled by the bothersome business of propulsion. Which means it also feels clean and pure and right.
Fearful that I may have just quoted a Meatloaf song, I’m going to move on to the comfort, which is sublime. I was expecting the ride to shake my eyes out but even in Sport+ nutter mode, it just glides. In the Comfort setting, it doesn’t feel like a sports saloon at all. Jaguar should have a careful look at this car to see how it’s done.
The economy is a bit better than you might expect, the equipment levels are higher than you’d imagine, and it’s hard really to find fault. Maybe the interior is a bit grey and maybe the exterior isn’t quite as handsome as all the other Kias. I especially didn’t like the fake bonnet vents. Or how hard it was to see out of the back window.
But that really is about it. Everything else was either delightful or wonderful or better than I was expecting. If you were in the market for a BMW M3, or a fast Audi or a Mercedes-AMG, it’s certain you’d be better off with the Kia. But of course you wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing. A Kia? What the hell would the neighbours think?
I get that. I wouldn’t want to buy one either. But our friends in Colombia and Cambodia and Rwanda? They will. I’d never have noticed that if I’d been running Kia. Luckily for the company, however, I’m not.
Head to head: Kia Stinger vs BMW 4-series
|Kia Stinger GT S||BMW 430i M Sport|