IT’S clear that Kia, as a manufacturer has grown in confidence in recent years.

Once renowned for making solid, reliable but unremarkable vehicles, its main selling point was its seven-year warranty rather than exciting looks or fun-to-drive factor.

But over the years models such as the Optima and Sportage, once ugly ducklings, have emerged more swan-like as the South Koreans placed more emphasis on looks.

They even brought in European design gurus Peter Schreyer and Gregory Guillaume.

And there’s no clearer sign of the firm’s intent than its latest model the Stinger – a head-turning, eye-catching grand tourer which is hurtling into the prestige five-door coupé market, dominated by cars such as the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé.

It certainly has the wow factor.

Pull up to some traffic lights alongside your average boy racer in a hot hatch and they can’t help but double take.

In fact driving around town brings any number of glances, mainly admiring, some incredulous at the Kia badge on such a beast.

It cruises around town sedately as one might expect but it’s a car that really yearns for the open road and when you consider what’s under the bonnet it’s plain to see why.

The top-of-the-range 3.3 T-GDi V6 GTS (£40,535 on the road) is equipped with a 365bhp unit which will whisk you from 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 168mph.

There are two other more sensible engine choices, a very nippy 2.0litre petrol and 2,2litre diesel, but the rear-wheel drive 3.3 petrol really is the sweet spot in the range.

It’s the most exciting engine by a mile, sounding as purposeful as it is smooth and delivering outrageous performance.

And there’s a range of luxurious and helpful kit inside and out too. Heated electric front seats (with memory recall for the driver which ushers you back into place every time you get in) and full leather seat trim to a head-up display, adaptive cruise control and keyless entry.

In the GT S add a 360-degree camera, heated rear seats, power tailgate, a sunroof and wireless phone charging and 15-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo system.

For a luxurious GT performance car, it’s certain to have worried Audi and BMW.

While it can’t match their luxury marque factor, if you went for the Kia over say an Audi S5 Sportback, just think of the several thousands pounds you’ve saved and that all-conquering warranty.