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Ah, Los Angeles: Where image rules, poolboys drive BMWs, and self-worth can hinge on the car you drive.

It’s the kind of brand-conscious city where the Kia Stinger GT could face an uphill battle no matter how quickly it can climb into the surrounding canyons.

But for enthusiasts who don’t give a damn about the Kia badge on the exterior—or those who are handy with a roll of duct tape—the Stinger GT is looking like the Underdog of the Year. As with various slope-roofed German sedans, the Stinger disguises a hatchback, but not its ambitions, whether in performance- or bargain price: that would be (a still-unofficial) $39,895 for a base Stinger GT, with its 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6; or $32,795 for the Stinger 2.0T and its 255-hp four with a single, twin-scroll turbo. If some four-legged, sled-dog traction is in order, add $2,200 for AWD on any model.


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