If you’re into EVs but find theTesla Model S too expensive, and the Leaf too jelly bean, then Kia would like to offer you something with a bit of soul. An electric Soul, that is.
TTAC readers seem to care not a whit for the flashy stuff. The Jaguar F-Type, possibly the most anticipated press car this year among journalists, lifestyle bloggers and other dubiously affiliated members of the media, garnered less than 50 reader comments. Meanwhile, reviews of the Chrysler minivans regularly generate hundreds. In a quest to be of greater service to our readers (and because I know that another Generation Why can scarcely be tolerated), I decided to sample something that is hopefully of genuine interest to you all: a minivan that is not available in the United States. Like the Chevrolet Orlando, the Kia Rondo is available in a number of countries that did not support the Iraq War, among them, Canada. Like the Chevrolet Orlando, it is supposedly “right-sized” for Canada, thanks to a smaller engine, a smaller physical footprint and an available manual transmission (which will be popular in Northen Quebec and nowhere else). And like the Chevrolet Orlando, it’s hard to rationalize buying one of these when you can have a Dodge Caravan for similar money. Read More >
Over a month ago, we brought you news on the upcoming arrival of Kia’s rear-driven K900 sometime in early 2014. If you can’t wait to see the car in the flesh, however, the car will make its debut in November during the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Kia has big plans for America. The Korean brand that was written off in the 1990s, and is best known for making inexpensive cars with long warranties, isn’t planning an assault on the mass market. Kia has bigger plans: compete head on with Lexus, BMW and Mercedes. Say what? Yep. By 2017 Kia promises they will be ready. Rather than leaping right into the market, Kia is dipping their toes into the murky waters of the near-luxury pool. In many ways the near-luxury segment is a harder place to compete. This segment is full of aspiring brands trying to move up (Buick and Cadillac), brands that are floundering (Acura), brands that are treading water (Volvo and Lexus’s FWD models ), brands trying to expand down (Mercedes with the CLA) and brands that have no idea what their mission is (Lincoln). Into this smorgasbord lands a sedan that managed to be the most exciting car I have driven this year and the most awkwardly named. Now that I have that spoiler out of the way, let’s dive into the Credenza. I mean Cadenza.
On paper and in person, the 2014 Kia Forte looks like a Very Good Car™. Is it really, though? The outgoing Forte pulled the same trick, looking all the world like it was going to keep the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus up at night, an illusion that fell apart upon driving. Oh sure, the Forte has always been very good looking, and Kia is known for offering a lot more equipment for less money, but you can’t just strap styling and stuff to a base-model-1992 driving experience and call it a day. And that is why there’s a 2014 Kia Forte, with great new looks and a price-to-equipment ratio that would please even the crustiest quartermaster. Fine, newly-minted college graduates (at least those with jobs) and equally-new AARP card holders looking to downsize will still be thrilled, but what about the enthusiast?
When Kia started selling the ’94 Sephia in America, nobody was worried. Not the American car companies still adjusting to the market share lost to the Japanese competition, and not the Japanese who used cheap and reliable cars to take the market share in the first place. The laissez-faire attitude to the Korean upstart was understandable, the Sephia was a truly horrible car. In 1997 Kia filed for bankruptcy protection and the big boys patted themselves on their back for not worrying about the Asian upstart. When another unremarkable Korean company purchased 51% of Kia, nobody cared. They should have.
Ever since Isaac Singer figured that he could make more money making sewing machines for the European market in a factory near Glasgow rather than export them from his Elizabeth, New Jersey plant, manufacturing companies have built products where they’ve sold them.
To say the Sorento’s transformation from rugged body-on-frame SUV to car-based softroader has been a sales success is putting it mildly. In the first 27 months of production Kia shifted more Sorentos than they did the 8 years prior. Sales numbers like that catapulted the Korean krossover (couldn’t help it) from CX-9/Xtera/Murano competition to 7th place in the midsized battlefield. Three model years later, Kia is spicing things up with a refresh. I know what you’re thinking: why bother looking at a refresh? Because 2014 brings enough changes to call the 2014 Sorento a redesign.
So the Halloween Hooptiefest 24 Hours of LeMons at New Hampshire Motors Speedway went well, with the Rust In The Wind Saab-powered Nissan 300ZX taking a very improbable overall win, and we of the LeMons HQ crew were packing up the gear on Sunday afternoon and getting ready to head home… when we heard that all of our flights out of Logan— in fact, all flights out of the northeastern United States— were canceled due to ZOMG THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING PANIC YALL!!!1! The plan had been to drive our rental Kia Sorento 70 miles or so to an airport hotel, spend the night there, and grab our flights early Monday morning. We got to the hotel in Burlington, Massachusetts, where we convened an emergency meeting of the very exhausted LeMons brain trust. Read More >
For members of the North American Small Car Love Association, this might seem to be a golden age. Lately every manufacturer (with the notable exception of Volkswagen) seems to be taking the B-segment seriously. GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai, and Kia have all recently introduced new or substantially redesigned models. Yet, amidst this orgy, where’s the love? With so many new cars, why aren’t we lusting after ANY of them? Case in point: the 2012 Kia Rio SX.
Kia’s mission in America over the past decade was to compete squarely with the likes of Honda and Toyota. Lately however, the plucky South Korean brand seems to have larger aspirations. With the new Optima and Sportage turbos it would appear that Kia may just have budget near-luxury brands in mind as competition. Competition is fierce in the CUV market and the cute-ute segment is especially cut-throat with (by my count) no fewer than 11 vehicles that more-or-less compete directly with the Sportage. Among the main competition lurk the likes of the Rav 4, CR-V, Rogue, Juke, Compass, Patriot, Escape, Tiguan, Equinox, RDX and possibly the Q5.
However the 260HP turbo Sportage SX is possibly a different beast, and if you were to whittle this list down to just the 200HP+, turbocharged competition the list gets considerably shorter: Tiguan, Q5 and RDX. As Kia continues their claw upmarket, it should come as no surprise that Acura’s baby crossover should be found in Kia’s crosshairs. The question is: does the Sportage have what it takes to convince entry-level luxury CUV shoppers to stop at the Kia dealer? Or is this just faster competition for the RAV 4 and CR-V? Michael Karesh was able to get a Sportage SX turbo for a day from a local dealer, but what’s it like for a week? Lets find out.
“You know,” editor Ed told me, “that would be, about, like, a Take Four on the Soul, we’re not gonna do that.” I’d rented a 2011-vintage Kia Soul for a LeMons race in Houston and had been quite impressed. Although the powertrain (the traditional two-liter Hyundai/Kia four-banger and a lackluster four-speed auto) hadn’t been stellar, the rest of the car was just awfully useful and pleasant besides. Nevertheless, Ed wouldn’t let me review the thing. Oh well. If you want to know what we thought about the Soul, collectively speaking, (zing) you can read Ed’s 2010 Sport review and Frank Williams’ Take Two.
To ensure that I would have a chance to talk about this very interesting little car, however, Kia went through the trouble of thoroughly revising the Soul just a few months after my initial drive… and they were kind enough to have just one six-speed manual version available during the press introduction. I snagged said manual-transmission Soul with ferocity and am ready to convey all the details to you. For those of you too diffident to click the jump, here’s the sum-up: Great car, shot in the foot at its launch by a rather unfortunate decision on Kia’s part…
In his novel Excession, sci-fi writer Iain M. Banks introduced the concept of the “Outside Context Problem”. It’s described like so:
The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you’d tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever… you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass… when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you’ve just been discovered, you’re all subjects of the Emperor now, he’s keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests.
The current players in the subcompact game have defined their roles pretty well. Yaris: cheap and crappy. Versa: metal for money. Fit: Magic Seat and Honda markup. Fiesta: sporty, but pricey and slow. Sonic: Second-tier Korean car made by UAW labor. Putting aside the Accent (which we’ll get to in a bit), those were your choices. This situation has worked out pretty well for all involved, because with the exception of Nissan nobody was looking for volume anyway and the rest of it amounted to eco-friendly window dressing, lip service to the media loudmouths who talk about small cars and then catch a limo ride home to Park Avenue. It’s a happy little society.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, however, there’s an Outside Context Problem arriving at Kia showrooms. The 2012 Rio is good. It is cheap. Compared to its competitors, it’s even fast. If you’re swimming in this segment, you’re about to see blood in the water.
I’m a product of the 1970s, and as a result I was just the right age to remember when Kia came on the scene in 1992 (available for sale 2 years later), the first Kias were cheap to buy but fairly cheaply made as well prompting the running joke was that Kia meant: “Korean, Inexpensive, and Awful.” Fast forward to 2011; Kia/Hyundai products are on an impressive roll, sporting competitive looks and competitive features without the sting of a large price tag. Could the new Optima Hybrid be the frugal shopper’s green alternative to the mainstream Camry and Fusion or even the Lexus HS250h? Let’s find out.
Though Hyundai owns a controlling stake in and shares platforms with Kia, the two Korean car companies continue to operate more independently than GM’s divisions did back in their heydays. So the decision between related products often comes down to something beyond price. Take, for example, the Kia Sportage. Why buy it instead of the related Hyundai Tucson? Read More >