The Truth About Cars » Kia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:54:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Kia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/kia/ Grandma Review: 2014 Kia Soul http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/grandma-review-2014-kia-soul/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/grandma-review-2014-kia-soul/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 13:30:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=954585 Derek’s Grandma returns, by popular demand. I am a very lucky lady. And I don’t say that because I have won the slots every time I have gone to Vegas. I live in the kind of comfortable circumstances than many seniors do not enjoy. I have had a fulfilling career as an educator of children […]

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Derek’s Grandma returns, by popular demand.

I am a very lucky lady. And I don’t say that because I have won the slots every time I have gone to Vegas. I live in the kind of comfortable circumstances than many seniors do not enjoy. I have had a fulfilling career as an educator of children and adults that I only recently gave up. I am surrounded by amazing friends and family and have been fortunate to get through 81 years without any major health problems. So it was just my luck that my brand new Honda Fit was crashed into just days after I got it.

Since the case is now in the hands of police, I can’t talk about it too much. But I was left without my new car for a week. Fortunately, everyone involved was fine, and Derek and his parents helped document the incident, get the car to the body shop and arrange a rental for me.

When Derek and I first went car shopping, he tried to show me the Soul. I dismissed it immediately. It looked far too odd for me, and truthfully, I had my heart set on the Fit as soon as I drove it. But I didn’t want a big car as my rental, and I had a choice between the Soul or a Hyundai Sonata.

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The first thing I noticed about the Soul is that it makes you sit a lot higher and more upright than the Fit. I like this. It’s easier to get in and out of, and the visibility is good – but I miss the little glass triangular windows in the Fit, that are placed ahead of the front windows. The interior of the Soul also looks a lot more like my old 2000 Civic. There’s no touch screen (something I’ve gotten used to, having had lots of practice on my Samsung tablet) and it feels a bit dated compared to the Fit. Derek tells me that most rental cars are basic, and the Soul that I had was probably a base model. But everything seemed dark and drab. I find that now that I’m used to the touch screen, it’s easy for me to use. Getting used to lots of unfamiliar buttons has turned into something that distracts me.

I also didn’t like the lack of cargo room in the Soul. Even though it seemed like a bigger vehicle, i immediately missed the space in the trunk, and the flexibility of the seats. My gentleman-friend’s walker didn’t fit in the back, and the rear seats couldn’t fold as well as the Fit to help me put it in easily.

What I did like? Power. Lots of it, compared to the Fit. The engine felt much stronger and more responsive. The Fit feels like it has one second of hesitation before it gets going. In the Soul, it was instant. The visibility and the higher seating will be two things I miss. I even came around to the looks of the car. It’s cute and easy to find in a parking lot.

If I had a bit more money to spend, then a Soul with more features and equipment than my rental would have been nice. But I’m happy with my Fit, and even happier to be back on the road in my own car.

Derek’s Grandma provided the rental car, gas and insurance. Photos and editing courtesy of Derek.

 

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Rental Review: Doing Some Soul Searching http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/rental-review-soul-searching/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/rental-review-soul-searching/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:30:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=945969 About five years ago, I made a career decision that I wish I had made much earlier: I decided to get into the Learning and Development field. Unfortunately for about twenty or so people, I had spent the previous fifteen years managing sales people, and I fired a lot of them. As a result, I […]

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About five years ago, I made a career decision that I wish I had made much earlier: I decided to get into the Learning and Development field. Unfortunately for about twenty or so people, I had spent the previous fifteen years managing sales people, and I fired a lot of them.

As a result, I also spent a great deal of time interviewing people. One of the things that every HR person will tell you about interviewing is that you’re supposed to look for what they call “contrary evidence.” As an interviewer, you’re going to form an opinion about a candidate pretty quickly—it’s human nature. So you’re supposed to ask questions that could lead to evidence that is contrary to your original impression. If you naturally like a candidate, you should ask questions that could reveal negative things about him, and vice versa.

Thus, when I selected a 2015 Solar Yellow Kia Soul Plus for my one-day trip to the ATL last week, I looked for things to dislike about it.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t find any.

I’ve always been a fan of the Soul. Why? Simple. It’s the closest thing to a compact wagon currently for sale in the United States. It’s a quirky-looking car, with love-it or leave-it looks. The hamster campaign from years ago was easily the best and most memorable ad run by an automaker in recent history. I’ve owned three Hyundais, and all were excellent cars, so I have no K-car bias. In fact, if I were in my mid-twenties, I’d be in the market to buy one.

Yet, as I bypassed some of my favorite rental selections to pick the Soul, including a V6 Impala, I realized that I had formed all of my opinions just like the best Facebook and YouTube commenters do—that is to say, I had never driven one. I figured it was time to fix that.

My first impression of the Soul? It’s much, much bigger inside than I expected. I hopped in the back seat just to verify, and my 5’9″, 165 lb frame would have been entirely comfortable on a journey of any length. But while the Soul excels at people carrying, the storage with the back seats up isn’t sufficient for a 27″ suitcase, or for carry-on luggage for more than two. Not a huge deal unless you’re planning to make it your primary vehicle for a family of four.

The interior is cleanly designed, with simple, intuitive controls. My rental only had about 2K miles on it, so I don’t know how it will hold up over time, but all the interior materials appeared to be of acceptable quality. Unlike my previous week’s rental, a 2015 Ford Escape SE, everything inside the Soul makes sense. My iPhone was easy to pair, and the stereo system lived up to its rapping rodent credentials. While the clarity wasn’t the best, it thumps out the bass with effortless joy. I didn’t get the upgraded UVO infotaintment in my rental, but I don’t know if I’d want it—this one seemed to work just fine.

The seating position is one of the best I’ve seen in any car—it’s upright but still very comfortable. The visibility is quite good through the windshield as well as through the mirrors.

However, the joy of driving the Soul was about to be severely tested by a commute from the airport to the Perimeter North part of town. In ideal traffic conditions, it should take about twenty-five minutes. In this particular morning’s rush hour, it took nearly ninety.

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No matter. The XM Radio gave me plenty of choices for music and/or talk radio, and the Soul handled the start-stop nature of the traffic without much consternation. The 2.0 liter, 164 HP, direct fuel injection motor is neatly paired with a six-speed automatic that never seems to search for the right gear. My rental didn’t have the Idle Stop and Go option, but still managed 24 MPG along the way, which is one of the best ATL traffic numbers I’ve seen.

Even so, the motor gives more than enough power when called upon, and definitely more than I expected from the little four-banger. Max torque can be found at around 4000 RPM, which helps in dealing with the seventh circle of traffic Hell known as “Atlanta.” I was able to dart and dodge through I-75 and I-85 traffic quite fluidly, as the size of the Soul made it easy to fit into the tightest of spots.

I swear I tried to find things not to like about this car. It just does everything well, and it does many things very well. The only thing I can really think of is the price. A Soul Plus optioned out exactly as my rental was stickers at $19,400, which just seems like a bit too much for this car. I’d probably look for a base Soul with the 1.6 liter four cylinder and manual transmission for my own car—but I would just be looking for an airport commuter and fuel saver. For those looking for a true daily driver, the Plus would be the way to go. Also, the Solar Yellow isn’t available on the base car…damn. Okay, I’d get the Plus, too.

Having previously driven the Cube and the xB, this car is, by far, the best choice in this category. The interior is light years ahead of the Toyota and Nissan offerings, and the motor is the equal of the ubiquitous Toyota 2.4 2AZ-FE in the xB (and so much better than the Cube that it’s not even funny). Although it’s purely subjective, I think you’d have a hard time finding anybody who didn’t think the Soul was the best looking of the trio, too.

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In fact, the highest compliment I can pay the Soul is that, for the only the second time ever after driving a rental car (which I do over 25 times per year), I went to the OEM site to configure and price one. The first time I did that, I ended up buying a Ford Flex. I’m not saying I’ll end up buying a Soul, but only because I don’t have a need for one right now.

So, yes, if I were interviewing the Soul, I’d hire it immediately. And if you’re currently interviewing compact cars, make sure that you bring the Soul in for a look. You’ll be glad you did.

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Hyundai, Kia Fined $300M By State, Federal Agencies Over Erroneous Fuel Economy Numbers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/hyundai-kia-fined-300m-state-federal-agencies-erroneous-fuel-economy-numbers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/hyundai-kia-fined-300m-state-federal-agencies-erroneous-fuel-economy-numbers/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=940209 Being an asterisk regarding fuel economy numbers isn’t the only penance Hyundai and Kia must pay: The U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board dropped a collective $300 million penalty on the South Korean brands for mistating fuel economy numbers on their respective 2011-2013 lineups. Autoblog reports the […]

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Being an asterisk regarding fuel economy numbers isn’t the only penance Hyundai and Kia must pay: The U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board dropped a collective $300 million penalty on the South Korean brands for mistating fuel economy numbers on their respective 2011-2013 lineups.

Autoblog reports the two alone will pay a total of $100 million to the EPA, the highest such fine in the agency’s history. Hyundai’s part of the bill comes to $56.8 million, while Kia will foot the remaining $43.2 million. The brands will also forfeit 4.75 million greenhouse emissions credits, worth approximately $200 million, and contribute a requested $50 million in investments “to prevent future violations of the Clean Air Act” by automakers.

In-house, parent company Hyundai is establishing “an independent certification test group” to handle future fuel economy testing and reporting, along with training proctors on the proper methods. The company maintains the erroneous reporting was due to the methodology used in the EPA’s test schedule, as well as errors from the coastdown portion of the test.

Hyundai and Kia are also auditing 2015 and 2016 models for accurate fuel economy numbers in light of the previous errors.

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Hyundai/Kia Reconsidering US Diesel Market Stance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/hyundaikia-reconsidering-us-diesel-market-stance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/hyundaikia-reconsidering-us-diesel-market-stance/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930882 With their portfolio of hybrids and EVs in place in the United States, Hyundai/Kia are now reconsidering their stance on bringing diesel power over to the market. According to Ward’s Auto, Hyundai/Kia America Technical Center powertrain director John Juriga says his employer sees “some value with diesels,” stating the South Korean duo had planned to […]

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With their portfolio of hybrids and EVs in place in the United States, Hyundai/Kia are now reconsidering their stance on bringing diesel power over to the market.

According to Ward’s Auto, Hyundai/Kia America Technical Center powertrain director John Juriga says his employer sees “some value with diesels,” stating the South Korean duo had planned to bring them over as far back as 2009, only to back out due to then-upcoming regulations for cleaner diesels, the costs in creating them, and the higher price of diesel compared to gasoline. He says that while those issues “haven’t necessarily been eliminated, they’ve been understood better,” leading to a “more direct path” toward a U.S. diesel lineup.

Additionally, CAFE targets — especially the 2025 fleet target of 54.5 mpg — could necessitate Hyundai/Kia to add diesel to its green weapons arsenal. Juriga stated Hyundai may bring cylinder deactivation, PHEVs and EGR between 2016 and 2021, while nine- and 10-speed automatics could further its fuel efficiency game between 2021 and 2025.

That said, the duo’s diesel efforts would need to find the right fit in the U.S. in order to achieve success. Juriga explained that the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel made up just 3 percent of overall Cruze sales, and that the vehicle chosen by Hyundai/Kia would also have to go against Volkswagen strong diesel lineup. Though he didn’t offer what vehicle the duo had in mind, he believes the automakers’ customer base would be “more accepting of the technology and willing to pay a premium for the engine type in the correct product.”

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Paris 2014: Kia Unveils Updated 2016 Sorento http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-kia-unveils-updated-2016-sorento/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-kia-unveils-updated-2016-sorento/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 14:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=923321 Behold the new face of the 2016 Kia Sorento as revealed at the 2014 Paris Auto Show. The updated SUV holds either five or seven passengers depending on configuration, with increases in head- and legroom within its overall measurement of 188 inches. The cargo area also gained more space, now at 21.3 cubic feet with […]

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Behold the new face of the 2016 Kia Sorento as revealed at the 2014 Paris Auto Show.

The updated SUV holds either five or seven passengers depending on configuration, with increases in head- and legroom within its overall measurement of 188 inches. The cargo area also gained more space, now at 21.3 cubic feet with all rows folded down; the second row is split 40/20/40.

Up front — in Europe, at least — two diesel and one gasoline four-bangers will be available to move the Sorento around: an entry-level 2-liter with 182 horses and 297 lb-ft of torque, mated exclusively to a six-speed auto; a 2.2-liter with 197 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque; and a 2.4-liter with 185 horses and 178 lb-ft of torque.

Inside, plenty of safety technology can be fitted, including backup camera, lane departure, speed limit informer et al. Sound deadening materials help cut interior noise up to 6 percent, while all occupants will be treated to leather and soft-touch materials.

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Hyundai’s Gangnam Style Leads To Partial Strike http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/hyundais-gangnam-style-leads-partial-strike/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/hyundais-gangnam-style-leads-partial-strike/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 13:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=917626 Due to a Gangnam-style real estate deal in the Gangnam district of Seoul, South Korea, workers at Hyundai and Kia have gone on partial strike for the next few days. Bloomberg reports the unions leading the strike will do so through September 26, while wage talks with the parent company are indefinitely postponed. In turn, […]

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Due to a Gangnam-style real estate deal in the Gangnam district of Seoul, South Korea, workers at Hyundai and Kia have gone on partial strike for the next few days.

Bloomberg reports the unions leading the strike will do so through September 26, while wage talks with the parent company are indefinitely postponed. In turn, shares in Hyundai fell 2 percent to close at ₩191,500 ($184 USD) on the Korea Exchange, the lowest since May 2013.

The trigger for the strike was ₩10.6 trillion ($10 billion) real estate deal for property in the Gangnam district of the South Korean capital between Hyundai, Kia and affiliate Hyundai Mobis. The unions claim this move as not only proof Hyundai can pay its workers better, including bonuses — which have been mandated by the country’s supreme court to be a part of a worker’s base pay — but that company chair Chung Mong Moo’s management style leaves a lot to be desired.

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2015 Kia Soul EV Coming To US With $33K Price Tag http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-kia-soul-ev-coming-us-33k-price-tag/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-kia-soul-ev-coming-us-33k-price-tag/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 10:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=911033 Looking for an EV that doesn’t cost Tesla money or resemble a jelly bean? Then Kia might just have what you need with its electrified version of the Soul when it arrives in showrooms later this year. AutoblogGreen reports the compact EV — the South Korean automaker’s first such mass-market offering — will enter showrooms […]

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2015 Kia Soul EV

Looking for an EV that doesn’t cost Tesla money or resemble a jelly bean? Then Kia might just have what you need with its electrified version of the Soul when it arrives in showrooms later this year.

AutoblogGreen reports the compact EV — the South Korean automaker’s first such mass-market offering — will enter showrooms with a base MSRP of $33,700 before the $7,500 federal tax rebate is applied. The price of admission places the Soul EV above the Nissan Leaf ($28,980), but just below the Volkswagen e-Golf ($35,445).

The base model — dubbed Base — brings a 6.6kW on-board charger and an “exclusive” HVAC system designed to maintain the vehicle’s 93-mile range “by minimizing energy draw.” The UVO eServices system, which provides in-car and — via the UVO app — smartphone info on range and were to pull over for a charge, comes standard. Other amenities available include Bluetooth, rear-camera display, cruise control and power windows.

Meanwhile, the top-of-the-line + — or Plus — model adds heated leather-trimmed seats, fog lights and power-folding mirrors, all for a starting price of $35,700 MSRP pre-rebate.

For those who would rather lease, Kia is offering an introductory $249/month rate for 36 months on the Soul EV Base with $1,999 down. Either way, the crossover will only be available in a few California markets, with expansion planned down the road.

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Kia Set To Build “Range” Of Compacts At Monterrey Plant In 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/kia-set-build-range-compacts-monterrey-plant-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/kia-set-build-range-compacts-monterrey-plant-2016/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=902129 Kia announced Wednesday that it plans to build “a range of yet-to-be confirmed compact models” at its new plant in Monterrey, Mexico after Job 1 production begins in H1 2016. Automotive News reports the automaker is still determining which vehicles it plans to produce at the $1 billion plant, as it will be set-up to […]

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Kia announced Wednesday that it plans to build “a range of yet-to-be confirmed compact models” at its new plant in Monterrey, Mexico after Job 1 production begins in H1 2016.

Automotive News reports the automaker is still determining which vehicles it plans to produce at the $1 billion plant, as it will be set-up to produce both compact and subcompact models at a rate of 300,000 units annually once full production begins.

Kia adds that the plant will also serve as a potential launching pad for production throughout Central and South America, as well as a supply line to a new sales channel in Mexico:

With its strong growth forecasts for new vehicle demand, Mexico was chosen as the site for Kia’s next overseas plant given that it is one of the few remaining major markets in the world in which Kia does not have a sales presence.

Kia will begin construction of its new facility in late September.

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Kia In Talks With Mexican Officials Over $1.5B Nuevo Leon Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kia-in-talks-with-mexican-officials-over-1-5b-nuevo-leon-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kia-in-talks-with-mexican-officials-over-1-5b-nuevo-leon-plant/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874337 With the need to increase supply to meet U.S. demand, Kia is in talks with Mexican officials about building a new factory in the country. Reuters reports the $1.5 billion facility would pump out 300,000 units annually, and would be located in Monterrey. The output would consist of two small vehicles to start, augmenting the […]

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With the need to increase supply to meet U.S. demand, Kia is in talks with Mexican officials about building a new factory in the country.

Reuters reports the $1.5 billion facility would pump out 300,000 units annually, and would be located in Monterrey. The output would consist of two small vehicles to start, augmenting the output at Kia’s sole plant in the Southeastern United States.

Nuevo Leon secretary of economic development Rolando Zubrian, along with other state and federal officials, began talks last week with the automaker, and hopes a deal would be made sometime during the first two weeks of August. The plant may also pave the path toward a resumption of bilateral free trade negotiations between South Korea and Mexico.

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Nissan: 633 CHAdeMO Fast Chargers Available For Use Today, More Coming http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/nissan-633-chademo-fast-chargers-available-for-use-today-more-coming/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/nissan-633-chademo-fast-chargers-available-for-use-today-more-coming/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858009 Just in time for the Fourth of July travel weekend, Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MIEV owners will have access to 633 CHAdeMO fast chargers, up from 160 stations in January 2013. Green Car Reports says back then, the majority of those chargers were along the West Coast and Texas, with Nissan promising to triple that […]

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Just in time for the Fourth of July travel weekend, Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MIEV owners will have access to 633 CHAdeMO fast chargers, up from 160 stations in January 2013.

Green Car Reports says back then, the majority of those chargers were along the West Coast and Texas, with Nissan promising to triple that number within 18 months. Nissan North America senior manager of corporate communications Brian Brockman announced last week that his employer had gone above and beyond by bringing online nearly 500 units in the time period, with all listed on PlugShare.

As for the rest of FY 2014, Nissan will push forward to bring more CHAdeMO stations online, from its network of dealerships, to top Leaf markets such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and Houston. Meanwhile, another vehicle will be able to make use of the chargers when the 2015 Kia Soul EV goes on sale later on this summer.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Kia Soul http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/capsule-review-2014-kia-soul-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/capsule-review-2014-kia-soul-2/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 13:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=845121 Even those who didn’t appreciate the first Kia Soul’s eye-catching exterior would acknowledge the Soul was a car that majored on style. Replacing the underlying platform, updating the interior, and adding features are, to a degree, a set of secondary concerns in a car like this. The new Soul had to look every inch like […]

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Even those who didn’t appreciate the first Kia Soul’s eye-catching exterior would acknowledge the Soul was a car that majored on style.
Replacing the underlying platform, updating the interior, and adding features are, to a degree, a set of secondary concerns in a car like this. The new Soul had to look every inch like the Soul, but if it didn’t look new, it may not incite the necessary reaction from the style-conscious portion of the car-buying public.

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Let’s not bore ourselves with the details: the plentiful black surround on the tailgate, the headlamps that no longer grow deformities out of themselves, and the tiny but meaningful increases in length and width. To my eye, it looks like a more modern Kia Soul. Job well done. You are welcome to be the final arbiter.
As much as the exterior is an important section on the 2015 Soul’s resume, I had high hopes that the rest of the car would undergo the more serious makeover. The first-generation Soul was obviously a marketplace success, but not because it rode smoothly, steered sweetly, or made efficient use of its powerplants, and not because it felt as well-built as the vehicles Kia has introduced since 2009.
In the 2015 model I drove around last week, superior ride quality was the most dramatic dynamic improvement. You’ll continue to suffer from a few unwelcome encounters out back where there’s still a torsion beam, but if poor ride quality was the key factor restraining a potential Soul buyer a year ago, they won’t feel the same way now. Losing the 18-inch-wheels from this fully-optioned SX Luxury model (a $21,095 ! with The Whole Shabang Package for $26,195 including destination, in U.S.-speak) may further isolate road imperfections.
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Kia’s FlexSteer, which allows you to select one of three steering weight modes, is not uncommon in its lifelessness. I’d take GoodSteer from the latest Mazda 3 over the Soul’s trio of optional steering modes, but the Soul’s rack isn’t offensive. Nor is the handling anything worse than perfectly adequate. This isn’t a sporting device; there is no great level of athleticism. But as with any properly small car, the Soul is delightfully agile in urban scenarios, and the new Soul is also pleasantly quiet during highway jaunts.
I would appreciate the availability of a manual transmission with the 2.0L engine. Subcompact-like dimensions and 164 horsepower sounds fun at first. This Soul, however, is carrying around 3100 pounds, and it’s fitted with a 6-speed automatic that favours smoothness over swiftness. The 2.0L-powered Soul Exclamation Point isn’t slow, but there is a sense of weight you don’t expect in a car that’s only 163 inches long.
Regardless of its on-road characteristics, the Soul has proven to be a winner because of its engaging design, outside and in, and its vast interior. Rear leg room is terrific, and thanks to our slim Diono car seat, two adults could sit in the back with the baby and voice no complaints. The driver’s seat doesn’t have the top-end Forte’s extendable seat cushion, but I still enjoyed the chair-like seating position and the improved material quality in all the places no car owner ever touches except when cleaning. The driver’s seat is powered in all sorts of ways, including lumbar, but the passenger makes do with basic manual adjustments. Both receive heated and cooled cushions, however. Living alongside the north Atlantic as I do, those ventilated front seats sure do come in handy for a long stretch during, well, the first week of August.
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A bit longer than a Rio hatchback and a bit shorter than a Forte hatchback, the Soul’s interior only forces you to sacrifice when it comes to seats-up cargo capacity. It’s decidedly more subcompact-like than compact-like (18.8 height-assisted cubic feet compared with 15 in the Rio hatch and 23.2 in the Forte) until you fold the seats down. At which point, the Soul’s boxy shape creates greater space than you’d get in, say, hatchback versions of the Mazda 3 or Ford Focus.
The Soul also feels like a much better-built car than the majority of, if not all, subcompacts. The rear doors thunk just as well as the front doors, rather than the thunk/thwack front/rear disagreement endured in many small cars. Kia’s UVO system continues to operate at an above-average level, with multiple menus visible on the screen at any given time, quick responses, and conventional controls for most features.
For way less than $30,000, the level of luxury content in this Whole Shabanged Exclamation Point Soul is impressive, from the panoramic sunroof to the upgraded Infinity stereo, navigation, and heated rear seats. Plus, power-folding mirrors that unfolded and folded back a thousand times while I did yardwork beside our driveway with keys in my pocket, wondering all the while what that faint buzzing sound was.
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The Soul still isn’t sufficiently fuel efficient relative to most small cars, with EPA ratings of just 23/31 mpg. There is also genuine potential for a hot hatch here, and it would be wonderful if the Forte’s turbo and manual transmission made the trek over to the Soul. It’s easy to suggest that halo models are insisted upon only by non-buying enthusiasts but won’t turn out to be profit generators. Yet the Soul’s audience has become so numerous that I have to believe a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive, sport-suspended Soul would gain more than just a small cult following.
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Perhaps not. I won’t argue with the merits of the car in its current state, nor the level of success Kia has stumbled upon with the Soul since it arrived in 2009. Through the end of May, Americans have registered nearly 500,000 Souls. Sales have improved every year, rising above 118,000 units in 2013. So far this year, U.S. Soul volume is up 21%, and it’s outselling all “small” cars other than the Corolla, Civic, Cruze, Elantra, Focus, Sentra, and Jetta.
Kia Canada provided the vehicle and insurance for this review.
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Kia Building First Mexican Plant To Alleviate Strained U.S. Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/kia-building-first-mexican-plant-to-alleviate-strained-u-s-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/kia-building-first-mexican-plant-to-alleviate-strained-u-s-production/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=840426 In light of high demand in the United States for its offerings, Kia will build its first Mexican plant in Monterrey to help bring additional capacity to North America. Reuters reports the factory will open 21 months after groundbreaking, supplying a total of 300,000 vehicles annually to the United States. Production will focus on Kia’s […]

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In light of high demand in the United States for its offerings, Kia will build its first Mexican plant in Monterrey to help bring additional capacity to North America.

Reuters reports the factory will open 21 months after groundbreaking, supplying a total of 300,000 vehicles annually to the United States. Production will focus on Kia’s compacts — the Forte and Rio — at first before taking on work from the brand’s sole U.S. factory in Georgia, where the Optima, Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe are assembled, and from Hyundai’s Alabama plant, where the Sonata and Elantra are built. No word was given on when the first shovels would break the earth.

Aside from supply-and-demand issues in the U.S., Kia is likely building the Monterrey plant — to go with Hyundai’s production expansion into Chongqing, China — in order to maintain its market share around the globe. The duo together hold fifth place in the global auto sales race, a position it could lose by 2016 if no more capacity is added, according to Korea Investment & Securities auto analyst Suh Sung-moon.

The capacity limit was unofficially put in place by Hyundai/Kia chair Chung Mong-koo over two years ago, fearing his two brands would end up like Toyota in the 2000s if they expanded as aggressively as had the Japanese automaker.

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New York 2014: 2015 Kia Sedona Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-kia-sedona-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-kia-sedona-live-shots/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 21:34:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803610 The 2015 Kia Sedona quietly made its public debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show, ready to take up to eight passengers to the nearest Trader Joe’s after soccer practice. Behind the tiger nose, Kia dropped in a 3.3-liter V6 pushing 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a […]

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The 2015 Kia Sedona quietly made its public debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show, ready to take up to eight passengers to the nearest Trader Joe’s after soccer practice.

Behind the tiger nose, Kia dropped in a 3.3-liter V6 pushing 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic.

Inside, up eight passengers can pile in depending on configuration, with third-row riders receiving 34.8 inches of legroom, second-row gaining 41.1 inches, and the parents enjoying 43.1 inches up front. Access to the third row is enabled by the Sedona’s Slide-n-Stow system in the second row, which also allows for increased storage room if needed.

Other features include auto-opening tailgate, surround-view monitoring, electronic stability control and ABS.

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Hyundai Sonata Fuel Economy Rating Found Lower Than Stated, Corrected http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hyundai-sonata-fuel-economy-rating-found-lower-than-stated-corrected/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hyundai-sonata-fuel-economy-rating-found-lower-than-stated-corrected/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:40:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=774929 Hyundai announced a correction in the upcoming 2015 Sonata’s fuel economy upon findings showing the economy figures to be lower than originally stated. Reuters reports the sedan claimed a 6 percent-climb to 12.6 kilometers per liter, a figure based on tests at the automaker’s research center. However, government tests returned a 2 percent-climb of 12.1 […]

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2014 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai announced a correction in the upcoming 2015 Sonata’s fuel economy upon findings showing the economy figures to be lower than originally stated.

Reuters reports the sedan claimed a 6 percent-climb to 12.6 kilometers per liter, a figure based on tests at the automaker’s research center. However, government tests returned a 2 percent-climb of 12.1 kilometers per liter than the outgoing model.

Analysts, including Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade senior researcher Cho Chul, said the impact of the error and subsequent correction would be short-lived, having been announced prior to the new Sonata going on sale later this month in its home market:

This may have a short-term impact on its reputation. But for the longer term, it is better for Hyundai to take quick action before controversy erupts.

Both Hyundai and Kia are rebuilding their reputations regarding fuel economy after overstate figures in their respective lineups led to recalls and customer lawsuits, paying $395 million total in settlements in the United States in 2012 for over 1 million vehicles with erroneous mileage.

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Less Than Thirty Percent Of Kia Dealers To Sell 2015 K900 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/less-than-thirty-percent-of-kia-dealers-to-sell-2015-k900/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/less-than-thirty-percent-of-kia-dealers-to-sell-2015-k900/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:55:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=756329 Kia’s first RWD V8 premium sedan for the United States is set to arrive next month, though less than 30 percent of all Kia dealerships will be ready to welcome the K900 when the first shipments arrive. Edmunds reports the $60,000 sedan — aimed at the Lexus LS 400 and Mercedes S550 — will be […]

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Kia’s first RWD V8 premium sedan for the United States is set to arrive next month, though less than 30 percent of all Kia dealerships will be ready to welcome the K900 when the first shipments arrive.

Edmunds reports the $60,000 sedan — aimed at the Lexus LS 400 and Mercedes S550 — will be sold by dealerships who signed up for the $30,000 training and display package designed around the K900, according to Kia spokesman Scott McKee:

The experience is designed to shift the culture, prepare authorized K900 dealers to welcome customers who may have never visited a Kia dealership and bring with them expectations set by other luxury brands. That cultural change will have a ripple effect through our network, elevating the experience for all Kia customers.

Kia executive vice president of sales and marketing Michael Sprague added that 220 of Kia’s 765 dealers in U.S. premium markets along the coasts and within the South and Chicago have signed up thus far, though he expects more will join the party once the first phase of the training and marketing push behind the K900 is successful.

As for what customers will see when the K900 arrives in those select showrooms, the premium sedan will have its own space, with dark wood inlays cut into the floor, displays highlighting various color and trim options, and a touchscreen device showing a video of the car’s interior.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Kia Soul ! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/capsule-review-2014-kia-soul/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/capsule-review-2014-kia-soul/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=749409 Winter can be stern and humorless. Into the frozen fray trundled a visitor from California. I told the 2014 Kia Soul that it was out of place. Then a whole bunch of snow fell. The Soul’s chipper personality replied “no worries, brah.” With only all-season tires, I was worried, though. Without winter tires, any-wheel drive […]

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red 2014 kia soul under snow cover

Winter can be stern and humorless. Into the frozen fray trundled a visitor from California. I told the 2014 Kia Soul that it was out of place. Then a whole bunch of snow fell. The Soul’s chipper personality replied “no worries, brah.” With only all-season tires, I was worried, though. Without winter tires, any-wheel drive may be inadequate, proper equipment really does matter. The California license plate peeked out as if to say “Let’s crush some dendrites.”

Turns out the Kia Soul is more than just a whimsical set of wheels. See, whimsy is a tricky thing. It’s a subset of humor, and humor requires a deft touch. The joke is funny when it bends. Go too far, though, and it breaks. Nobody laughs when the funny breaks.

The Kia Soul has been a practical personality box since 2009, and it’s all-new for 2014. You might have to look closely to spot the changes, and that’s good. The original Soul was charming and stretched the gags just enough. In contrast, the Scion xB, this segment’s pioneer, had already lost the plot by 2009.

The example of the xB’s second-generation Thorazine shuffle hung ominously over the 2014 Kia Soul. Would Kia mess up its cheeky little hedgehog-inspired dumpling?

 

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If styling permanence works for the Porsche 911, why can’t it work for the Kia Soul? In fact, it works quite well. It’s hard to be unhappy with so much style for so little money. The base Soul will run you $14,900. I was driving the Exclaim trim, and it turns out the price of my totally-loaded Soul was $27,000. At that price, there’s lots of alternatives, but nothing is quite like the Kia Soul.

Like MINI or the Volkswagen Beetle or even the Jeep Wrangler, the 2014 Soul hews tight to the look established by its predecessor. Park them next to each other, though, and the 2014 Soul instantly makes the original look old. The styling of the new Soul is further refined and smoothed out. Kia makes it sound like there’s a bunch of the Track’ster concept in the new car, but it’s mostly just details like the lower fascia, grille and floating body-color panel in the tailgate. The 2014 Soul looks mostly like the 2009 Soul, though it sits on its wider, longer wheelbase with more visual authority. The stoplights are the easiest tell, if you’re a car-spotter.

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We are in a new age of “Lower! Longer! Wider!” but the dimensional growth is welcome in the 2014 Soul. The back gate is wider, which leads to a larger cargo area. There’s more legroom for both front and rear seats, more front headroom, a lower hip point and reduced step-in height, adding up to a Soul that’s friendlier and more useful. The 2014 Soul turned out to be surprisingly excellent in the snow, even on the all-season tires the standard 18” alloys it wears, so it’s not useless outside of Cali.

Think of the Soul as the 2000s version of the Honda Civic Wagovan or Nissan Stanza Wagon. It’s usefully boxy, economical, easy to get in and out of and easy to drive. For something on a small 101.2” wheelbase, the 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat is impressively large. Fold that second row down and there’s 61.3 cubic feet of room.

Being loaded up with features that used to be luxury car stuff probably didn’t hurt my impression, either. I sat on ventilated leather. Everyone had seat heaters, front and rear. Automatic HID projector headlights burrowed through the swirl of the storm, and I was directed by the navigation system. Above my head, a giant panoramic moonroof gave me an underside view of the glacier on the roof, the Infinity audio system was plenty entertaining, though the pulsing Hamster-Nightclub interior lights were doused quickly. The top-spec infotainment system was easy to use, and the rest of the ergonomics in the Soul are good because they don’t try to be cutesy. The dash speakers that look like coasters are a little weird, though.

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Even without the list of equipment that’s longer than a Dickens story, the Soul would be a pleaser. The base engine for the Soul is a 1.6 liter DOHC direct-injected four cylinder with a healthy-for-its-size 130 hp and a slightly disappointing 118 lb-ft of torque. It’s probably nice enough, like listening to the neighbor kid’s well-practiced rendition of Sing, Sing, Sing, but the Plus and Exclaim get a 2.0 liter that’s Benny Goodman backed by Gene Krupa, instead. (Hey, you carped about my Led Zeppelin reference…) That’s an exaggeration, but the 2.0 liter has 164 hp, 151 lb-ft, and a high 11.5:1 compression ratio. It’s a snappy little number, for sure.

What kinda harshes the buzz is the fact that the only way to get a six-speed manual is to go with the small engine. The six-speed automatic that’s paired with the 2.0 liter is a pretty decent consolation prize, though. It’s well matched to the engine and shifts well, though it exhibits some of the pulsating wonkiness under hard acceleration that’s an apparent trademark behavior of this Hyundai design.

The Soul is perhaps the most vivid example of Kia’s learning curve. Kias used to look great on paper, with lots of features and equipment for less money than the competition, but you could always count on them being short on integration. In less than a decade, that’s been completely reversed. The 2014 Soul drives like a car designed, assembled, and tuned by people who actually spoke to each other.

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The last piece of the puzzle was suspension tuning, and Kia has figured out how to make the seemingly-dowdy combo of MacPherson struts in the front and a torsion-beam rear axle ride with compliance and yet handle with some spirit, too. Other style-boxes can’t pull that off. The xB is hopelessly uninteresting to drive, and the Nissan Cube is as soft as nursing home pudding. It’s like Kia looked at what they had, realized that the first-generation VW GTI managed to do pretty damn well with the same basic parts, and got inspired.

I’d still have preferred to try the Soul in the snow on winter tires, but on its 18” alloys and surprisingly wide 235/45 Kumho Nexens it cut through like a champ. I’m also a little surprised that there’s not an all-wheel drive version of the Soul, because I think it would sell like moonshine in a dry county. I’d have an alternative to the Subaru Forester to recommend to people, and  that’s something I dearly desire. On the other hand, there’s a new Soul EV, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.

The Soul is aptly named. It’s a boxy little car with a bunch of personality. In this time of bland-but-pretty, rare is the car that both stands out for its styling and delivers some fun for everyone at a price normal people can swing. Get down with your bad self, Kia.

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Hyundai Ready To Add Capacity After Two-Year Break http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/hyundai-ready-to-add-capacity-after-two-year-break/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/hyundai-ready-to-add-capacity-after-two-year-break/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 17:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739417 After a two-year break in expansion mandated by Hyundai Motor Company Chairman Chung Mong-koo in order to avoid quality issues experienced by Toyota during their aggressive growing spurt in the 2000s, Hyundai and Kia are both looking through feasibilities studies to determine where to invest in expanding their manufacturing footprint. Though the mandate is still […]

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Hyundai production line Alabama plant

After a two-year break in expansion mandated by Hyundai Motor Company Chairman Chung Mong-koo in order to avoid quality issues experienced by Toyota during their aggressive growing spurt in the 2000s, Hyundai and Kia are both looking through feasibilities studies to determine where to invest in expanding their manufacturing footprint.

Though the mandate is still in place, the expansion freeze is putting the pressure on both brands’ existing factories to produce more vehicles as it is. In 2013, Hyundai and Kia utilized 105 percent capacity of their factories around the globe, with those in the Southeastern United States running flat-out between 125 percent and 135 percent on two shifts per day.

Sources closes to the expansion plans noted the current ban, though highly beneficial to the parent automaker’s bottom line, is ultimately unsustainable for future success; Hyundai aims to sell nearly 8 million units globally in 2014, and expansion into Mexico and China — and possibly the U.S., though through a cautious approach due to tougher competition in a tight market — would help move the goal post past 8 million

The renewed interest in expansion comes as costs in labor and languid growth prospects in the automaker’s home market are prompting competitors — such as General Motors — to cut back on manufacturing and export, something Hyundai refuses to contemplate. Thus, the search for “investment opportunities” outside of a local market set to peak at 1.6 million sales annually through 2020 beginning in 2016, including three sites in China, whose local market could see 33 million to 38 million sales annually by 2020.

If approved, the fourth Chinese factory would be Hyundai’s first major manufacturing capacity investment since opening their third plant in 2012 alongside one in Brazil, both announced prior to the expansion ban in 2010 and 2008, respectively.

That said, Chung could veto any new expansion investment should such plans be presented.

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Hyundai Canada Settles Class Action Fuel Economy Suit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hyundai-canada-settles-class-action-fuel-economy-suit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hyundai-canada-settles-class-action-fuel-economy-suit/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 17:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=726978 Hyundai Auto Canada reached a settlement with consumers in a class action lawsuit over exaggerated fuel economy numbers among their Hyundai and Kia lineup of vehicles, paying a total of $46.65 million CAD ($41.85 million USD) in the deal, according to just-auto. Under the terms of the settlement — affecting current and former owners and […]

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2011 Hyundai Elantra Build Sheet

Hyundai Auto Canada reached a settlement with consumers in a class action lawsuit over exaggerated fuel economy numbers among their Hyundai and Kia lineup of vehicles, paying a total of $46.65 million CAD ($41.85 million USD) in the deal, according to just-auto.

Under the terms of the settlement — affecting current and former owners and lessees of 130,000 Hyundai and Kia models made between MY2011 and MY2013 — consumers can either take a one-time payment based on type of vehicle affected, or remain in an existing reimbursement program Hyundai started in late 2012 after the automaker restated fuel economy ratings. The program covers additional fuel costs associated with the adjustment, along with a 15 percent premium in acknowledgement of the inconvenience over the issue so long as the vehicle is in the possession of the owner or lessee.

Those who take the lump sum will receive the payment minus previous reimbursements from the program. Other options available include a dealership credit of 150 percent of the lump sum, and a 200 percent credit of the cash amount towards the purchase of a new Hyundai or Kia.

Though Hyundai’s Canadian wing has its ducks in a row, their operations in the United States are still in the class action process after the Environmental Protection Agency announced fuel economy overstatements made by the automaker, as well as subsequent adjustments to the fact.

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Honda, Nissan, Toyota Set Production Record Against Weakening Yen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/honda-nissan-toyota-set-production-record-against-weakening-yen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/honda-nissan-toyota-set-production-record-against-weakening-yen/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:32:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=706538 As the yen weakened against the dollar for a second consecutive year, Honda, Nissan and Toyota all set production records in their North American plants in 2013, according to Automotive News. Outputs for the trio last year include 1.86 million units for Toyota, 1.78 million for Honda, and 1.47 million for Nissan, though gains on […]

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Toyota Baja California Assembly Line

As the yen weakened against the dollar for a second consecutive year, Honda, Nissan and Toyota all set production records in their North American plants in 2013, according to Automotive News.

Outputs for the trio last year include 1.86 million units for Toyota, 1.78 million for Honda, and 1.47 million for Nissan, though gains on the production line didn’t match sales in the United States. However, exports took up the slack in U.S. showrooms, with more units sent to growing markets such as South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Latin America.

As far as individual models are concerned, Honda built 466,695 Accords at their Marysville, Ohio plant in 2013, around 20,000 more than the number of Camrys Toyota workers at the automaker’s Georgetown, Ky. plant.

The Japanese Three expanded their presence in North America as insulation against a falling yen, which fell 17.6 percent against the dollar in 2013 after falling 11 percent in 2012, as well as protection from overseas production disruptions that could affect North American output. In fact, Honda will soon open a plant in Celaya, Mexico to build the Fit, with the long-awaited 2015 NSX to be assembled in an experimental plant in Marysville.

Regarding Hyundai and Kia, the two South Korean automakers set a few records of their own in North America, including 399,495 Sonatas and Elantras leaving Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala. plant, and 105,647 Santa Fes rolling out of the Kia line in West Point, Ga.

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Hyundai, Kia See Weakest Annual Sales Growth in a Decade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hyundai-kia-see-weakest-annual-sales-growth-in-a-decade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hyundai-kia-see-weakest-annual-sales-growth-in-a-decade/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 16:59:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691178 2014 may only be a day old, but it’s already shaping up to be a rough year for Hyundai and Kia as they prepare to increase global sales by just 4 percent this year, the lowest and bleakest forecast for the Korean duo since 2003. Though the foreseen growth will be fueled by revamped models […]

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2014 may only be a day old, but it’s already shaping up to be a rough year for Hyundai and Kia as they prepare to increase global sales by just 4 percent this year, the lowest and bleakest forecast for the Korean duo since 2003.

Though the foreseen growth will be fueled by revamped models and increased production in China, and is in line with overall projected global sales in 2014, a stronger won and weaker yen — the latter brought about by Japan’s desire to support its export industry and to find a way out of the 20-year trek through the economic wilderness — have eroded the price advantage Hyundai and Kia held over their Japanese competitors.

While the duo experienced market growth in Brazil and China last year, they lost market share in both their home market and in the United States, the former through a free trade pact between the European Union and South Korea. Sales in 2013 totaled 7.56 million units worldwide, with a total projection of 7.86 million going forward in 2014.

Shares of the parent automaker haven’t fared well in the outgoing year, advancing only 8 percent against GM’s 41 percent and Toyota’s 60 percent surges on the trading floor.

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Hamster Heart, Electric Soul http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hamster-heart-electric-soul-kia-soul-ev-in-north-america-soon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hamster-heart-electric-soul-kia-soul-ev-in-north-america-soon/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2013 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=648482 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. The Soul EV will be the first EV sold outside of South Korea, with experience gained from the development and […]

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Kia Soul EV

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.

The Soul EV will be the first EV sold outside of South Korea, with experience gained from the development and limited introduction of the Ray EV to government and rental fleets in their native market. Though no specific date has been set for the Soul EV’s North American rollout, Kia says to expect the electric hamstermobile to arrive in showrooms sometime in the second half of 2014, possibly bearing a 2015 model year designation.

If you’re lucky enough to be introduced to the Soul EV next year, expect drive away in a vehicle made for the city without looking like an electric wizard. Under the hood will be an electric motor pushing 109 horses out through the front door while providing 210 square-pounds of Whole Foods Market-pulling torque. Zero to 60 takes about 12 seconds, and you’ll be able to go back to the future with the Soul EV’s top speed of 90 mph.

The Soul EV will utilize what Kia calls the Virtual Engine Sound System, or VESS. At 12 mph or less, or while backing out with those organic goodies, the VESS will emit an audio alert of some sort to warn those hipsters to move out of your way in an ironic manner.

As for range and charging, the Soul EV is definitely meant for commuting to and from the hip neighborhood you call a home, with a target range of 120 miles per charge. While putting in your time at that awesome startup that will revolutionize the way you play with running vicious candy farmers, the Soul’s 27 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack will take five hours to charge on a standard 240v outlet, or 25 minutes on fast-charging through a 100 kW outlet.

Finally, the Soul EV is not only eco-conscious on the road, but is totally granola on the inside as well: the materials used are composed of biomass, from the foam in the seats to the dashboard holding the instrument cluster and 8-inch display.

The price of admission to feel like an electric hamster? Unknown as of this time, though word on the street is that it might be sold for around $35,000 on our shores. Like the Fiat 500e, this is strictly a compliance car meant to appease regulators. Hyundai’s corporate direction for ZEVs will be based around fuel cells, not electric vehicles.

In the meantime, enjoy this brief spy shot gallery with some bonus meta-commentary on the idea of “exclusivity.”

Soul EV Spy Shot 01 Soul EV Spy Shot 02 Soul EV Spy Shot 03

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Canada Capsule Review: 2014 Kia Rondo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/canada-capsule-review-2014-kia-rondo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/canada-capsule-review-2014-kia-rondo/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 17:31:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=623193 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 […]

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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. Like the Orlando and the Mazda5, the Rondo’s roots lay in a global compact car platform – in this case, the same one that underpins the Hyundai Elantra and the Kia Forte. The relationship between the products is akin to how the Volkswagen Touran is the slightly larger, MPV twin of the Volkswagen Golf. The strut suspension up front, the torsion beam out back and even the 2.0L Theta 4-cylinder and 6-speed automatic are carried over from the Hyundai/Kia corporate parts bin, and the cars don’t feel terribly different to drive.

Around town, the higher driving position and premium-feeling interior make the Rondo a decent place to spend time. Visibility is excellent, thanks to the wraparound glass throughout the greenhouse, and the CUV-esque way that you sit up high in the car. Kia’s UVO infotainment system is one of the easier ones to operate, with clear, intuitive menus and an easy to operate touchscreen. All of the controls are well laid out, though there are some odd quirks – the top model EX Luxury that we tested only has a cooled driver’s seat, but the passenger seat doesn’t get that same consideration. At a glance, the materials and design of the interior looks “premium”, but look a little deeper and the facade disappears. The lids of the many storage bids feel a bit flimsy on closer inspection, while the headliner has the “egg carton” feel of a typical economy car when pressed. Even so, I would give it the edge over the rather drab Orlando and the now-dated Mazda5 as far as interiors go. Like most of these European-style MPVs, seating in the second row is generous but the third-row is useless for anyone past puberty. With the seats up, there’s a measly 8.6 cubic feet of space, which then expands to 32.2 cubic feet once folded. With both rows down, you’re up to 65.5 cubic feet.

The Rondo’s road manners also leave something to be desired, resembling the base Elantra rather than the more sporting Elantra GT. All of the chassis and powertrain flaws present in this vehicle family are only magnified in the Rondo, though it does a good job of masking them. In a daily commute, the Rondo is basically transparent, moving along in relative silence, isolating you from most road imperfections. Handling is as you’d expect – not great. Excess bodyroll makes the Rondo feel like a Bayliner through corners, while the three-model steering system, as seen on the Elantra GT and other Hyundai/Kia products, does little to help improve driver engagement. I left it in Sport the entire time, and while it firmed up the steering a fair bit, feedback was non-existent.

Power from the 2.0L engine, with its 164 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque is adequate. On the freeway, there’s enough power to pass other cars without making it a white knuckle experience. Around town, it’s let down by poor throttle calibration and a sluggish 6-speed automatic transmission – similar to the Dodge Dart, the Rondo suffered from a perceptible lag when trying to weave and bob through urban traffic. Press the accelerator and there would be a very noticeable “One onethousand, two onethousand” gap between when your foot moved and when the car would start moving forward. When you’re trying to close a gap that might get you out of a blocked lane in congested, rush hour traffic, this kind of delay can be the difference between making it and having someone else get there first. Fuel economy in mostly city driving was 23 mpg, three mpg off of its city rating, and a rather respectable showing given that downtown Toronto’s driving conditions are far from those mandated in fuel economy tests.

The Rondo’s biggest issue isn’t its competitive set, but the Dodge Grand Caravan. In an urban metro area like Toronto, the Rondo has a lot going for it. It’s quite fuel-efficient, easy to drive in traffic (though the lag in power is a real problem) and is “right-sized”, in that it’s short enough to park easily while also narrow enough to weave its way through busy streets and tight parking garages. It has lots of premium features, from heated rear seats to a panoramic sunroof to a backup camera, that make it a very nice place to be when you’re doing errands around town. But you’ll pay for all of that too. In Canada, where vehicles are a fair bit more expensive than the United States, our tester rang up at $32,195.

But I’m not sure that’s quite good enough. Dodge has an iron grip on the Canadian minivan market for a reason. The Caravan is cheap, powerful and has enough room for multiple hockey bags, and you don’t necessarily have to fold the third row of seats to accommodate them. When it’s time for that, the Stow ‘N Go system makes it as easy as possible for a harried parent to do so. Fitting just one hockey bag in the Rondo would immediately require the folding of the third row, and then some creative maneuvering to make it fit. Oh, and there’s also the whole “sliding doors vs hinged doors” debate. For many people, the Rondo will be on the losing side of that one.

Talk of hockey bags and thriftiness may seem like a tired joke to our American audience, but Canadian readers will be able to affirm that these are the realities of life up in the Frozen North, and our auto market reflects that. Last year, Dodge sold 51,552 Grand Carvans in Canada, making it the fourth best selling vehicle in the country. Our love for small vehicles and fuel efficiency would suggest that a vehicle like the Rondo would do well here, but in 2012, just 6316 Rondos were sold, with the Mazda5 and Chevrolet Orlando not doing much better either. Canadian consumers seem to be playing against type in this particular segment, and given their unique needs and the absolute rock bottom prices one can get a Caravan for, it’s easy to understand why.

Kia provided insurance, a tank of gas and the press vehicle for one week. Thanks to AutoGuide.com for the photography.

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Kia K900 To Debut at LA Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/kia-k900-to-debut-at-la-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/kia-k900-to-debut-at-la-auto-show/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 15:16:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=636945 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. The brief press release issued by Kia claims the […]

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20120527_kia_k9_1Over 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.

The brief press release issued by Kia claims the K900 (otherwise known as the K9 in its home market, and the Quoris in export markets not known as the United States) will allow the automaker to “take value to new levels of sophistication,” positioning the car as their flagship among the Fortes and hamster-piloted, Lady Gaga-blasting Souls normally found on the lots.

Though the release didn’t specify beyond stating that the K900 will have either a V6 or V8 driving the power to the back, the flagship sedan will possess a 3.8-liter V6 pushing 240 horses out of the stable with a larger V8 bringing 420 wild stallions to the party, both attached to an eight-speed automatic.

The K900 is set to take dead aim at the BMW 7 Series, just in time for your next high school reunion under the serious moonlight. Price of admission is expected to be between $50,000 and $70,000, with a big campaign to debut during Super Bowl XLVIII in February 2014.

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Review: 2014 Kia Cadenza (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-kia-cadenza-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-kia-cadenza-with-video/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 22:08:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501244 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 […]

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2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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.

Exterior

Kia has long been accused of copying styles and jamming discordant cues into one product. The pinnacle of this was the unloved Kia Amanti, mercy killed a number of years ago. That model had Mercedes E-Class headlamps, a Jaguar-meets-Chrysler grille, Lincoln tail lamps and a decidedly Town Car profile. The 2014 Cadenza is so different you’d think it was from a different car company. The overall style is “Optima’s big brother” with the same “tiger nose” grille up front. The large grille strikes me as the best interpretation of this style yet, although the plastic accent strip inside the aggressive headlamps struck me as slightly cheesy. There is still something derivative about the Cadenza, the side profile is exactly what a FWD 7-series would look like. (Shorten the hood, stretch the overhang.) Overall the Cadenza’s “smoothed out Optima” lines strike me as conservative and elegant, something that appeals to me.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Before we go further, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the Hyundai Azera. The Cadenza isn’t simply a badge engineered Azera, but neither is it a unique vehicle. Through a convoluted set of financial arrangements, Hyundai and Kia are 32.8%  joined at the hip, which means Hyundai doesn’t “control” Kia and Kia can’t just grab an Azera and stick a Kia logo on the front. Instead what we see are two cars with common drivetrains, crash systems, hard points and bits grabbed from the same parts bin. Think of the Cadenza as the Azera’s younger cousin and not a corporate twin.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Style is a subjective matter, there’s no way around that. I found the Cadenza to be traditional, almost to a fault, on the inside but still handsome. For me that’s a good thing as I don’t tend to gravitate to “ground breaking designs” like crazy asymmetrical dashboards or shifters that require an instruction manual and 30 minutes to master. I found the Azera’s interior to be more unique, but less to my taste. On the flip side there is little about the Cadenza’s interior that creates a burning desire, unless you like value. Being the cheap bastard that I am, words like “value” “bargain” and “deal” light a primeval fire in my loins. Keep that in mind.

As I have said in the past, value is all about cutting corners. Lately Kia has been displaying a level of perspicacity unseen in the competition. This balance is obvious when you look at the dash and doors which combine hard and soft touch plastics. This isn’t unique by itself, what is rare is the placement of the hard bits away from the driver’s reach and a careful matching of color and texture so that its hard to tell what’s hard and what’s not. This is something Lexus got totally wrong with the new ES. Most Cadenzas on my local lot had the optional Alcantara headliner and cream colored leather seats which have a huge impact on the feel of the interior. Faux-suede used to be something you’d only find on high-end European models, but it can be yours for under 40-large in Kia-land. Unlike Chrysler’s application of the soft-stuff, Kia also coats the A, B and C pillars in fake cow. Speaking of fake, the wood isn’t real. The lack of real tree bugs me a hair, but when you consider that a $60,000 Acura still has imitation burl I guess I shouldn’t complain. In terms of interior feel, the Cadenza ranks slightly above the new LaCrosse and Azera and just below the Toyota Avalon. While I think the Acura RLX’s interior was made of nicer bits, the Cadenza isn’t far off and almost everyone had a nicer interior than the current Lexus ES.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Front seat comfort proved good for the driver in the base model and excellent with the optional soft Nappa leather which adds a power extending thigh bolster. You should keep in mind that the front seats aren’t created equally and the passenger seat doesn’t have the same range of motion making it harder for your spouse to find an ideal sitting position. Trust me, I heard the complaints. Being self-centred, this didn’t bother me, but I should note the American competition offers matching controls on their front passenger throne. The Cadenza’s lumbar support hit me at exactly the right spot on my back which is fortunate because unlike the GM sedans the lumbar isn’t adjustable for height.

The Cadenza’s rear compartment was surprising, not just because the seats seemed designed for adults with cushy cushions suspended high off the floor, but because the plastics quality was consistent with the front cabin. That may sound like an odd thing to comment on, but most mass market entries and even cars like the Lincoln MKS and Lexus ES350 gets cheaper bits in the back. Speaking of the back, the Cadenza’s trunk is acceptable for the class at 15.9 cubic feet, notably below the Impala and Taurus with their cavernous trunks. It’s worth noting that the Cadenza’s rear seat backs don’t fold like some of the competition so keep that in mind if you’re a regular IKEA shopper.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

The dashboard of the Cadenza is dominated by a standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment/navigation system dubbed UVO2. The Microsoft-powered system is bright, easily readable and a bit far from the driver. This distance could be a problem if you have short arms or long legs. The Cadenza gets the latest version of Kia’s software featuring full voice commands of your music library, allowing you to select songs and playlists with voice commands ala Ford’s SYNC. Also included is an array of OnStar-like services including vehicle diagnostics, car locator and automatic 911 dialing when your airbags deploy. Unlike OnStar however the system depends on a compatible smartphone being paired with the system and present for these services to work. The lack of a cell modem means you also need a paired smartphone for some of the data services to operate. In an odd ergonomic twist, Kia places the system’s button bank between the screen and the climate controls. The loaded Cadenza we tested gets a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster which houses the speedometer, trip computer, secondary infotainment display and navigation instructions.

Overall the Cadenza’s system is easy to use and intuitive but not as feature rich as some of the other options on the market. Notably uConnect and MyFord Touch offer sexier graphics and better app integration, although the Ford system crashes as often as a 1980s computer. Toyota/Lexus’ systems are getting a little long in the tooth at the high-end with older graphics and a smallish 7-inch screen, and their less expensive systems use small and dim 6.1 inch screens that are easily outclassed. GM’s direct competition is a bit disappointing because the LaCrosse and Impala use the same buggy software as the Cadillac XTS with a different brand attached instead of the excellent systems used in the Buick Verano and Chevy Malibu. If you want to know more, I take a deep dive into UVO2 in the video.

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

The Cadenza uses the same 3.3L direct-injection V6 engine as Hyundai’s Azera mated to the same 6-speed automatic transaxle. The six-pot is good for 293 horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 255 lb-ft of toque at 5,200 RPM. These numbers place the Cadenza in the middle of the pack, below the GM triplets and the Acura RLX, but above the Avalon and ES350 and a virtual tie with Chrysler’s 300 V6. When it comes to performance, curb weight and transmission design are  just as critical as raw engine numbers. At around 3,750lbs the Cadenza is lighter than everyone but the new Avalon and ES (around 3,550lbs). In theory, this should skew performance in the Cadenza’s favor, but when the numbers are tabulated the Kia is 3/10ths slower than the RLX to  60 and half a second slower than the Impala and LaCrosse V6. Compared to the AWD XTS, the Cadenza is a hair faster. (The XTS AWD was tested in-house which is why I don’t use a FWD XTS estimate.) The 8-speed V6 Chrysler 300 was the slowest to 60 by around half a second. What gives? The 300 isn’t a light-weight. Our last instrumented test of the Taurus V6 and MKS put the Ford at the bottom of the pack with the 300 and the MKS on par with the Kia.

GM’s 3.6L V6 not only delivers more twist, it also has a broader torque curve and the GM/Ford 6-speed transaxle has an extremely low first gear helping the Impala and LaCrosse get off the line rapidly. Chrysler’s 8-speed auto may be a gem but it can’t re-write the laws of physics, the 300 is just too heavy. At this time Kia isn’t saying if there will ever be an AWD version of the Cadenza, so if you need four-wheel-motivation you need to look to elsewhere.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Pricing

$35,100, $38,100 and $41,100. That’s all you need to know about the Cadenza’s pricing since the up-scale sedan only comes in three flavors. Why the lack of variation? It keeps prices low and helps inventory issues as the Cadenza is made in Korea. The Cadenza is extremely well-featured at the base price with standard heated leather seats, navigation, backup camera, keyless go, dual-zone climate control, 10-way driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support and rain-sense wipers. This price point sets the Kia at a slight discount versus the main-stream competition, and about $1,600 cheaper than a Lexus ES350 or Lincoln MKS. If that doesn’t sound like a “deal” yet, hang on. For $38,100 Kia adds a ginormous sunroof, HID headlamps, ventilated driver’s seat, heated rear seats, electric tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power extending thigh bolster (driver’s seat only), a seat/wheel memory system, power rear sun shade, a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster and snazzy Nappa leather seats. This level of Cadenza is where the value proposition starts slotting in $2,500 less than the LaCrosse and $4,000 less than an ES350 or MKS before you take into account the features you just can’t get on the competition. Jump to $41,100 and Kia tosses in 19-inch wheels, radar cruise control with full-speed range ability, blind spot warning, lane departure prevention, an automatic electric parking brake, water-phobic glass and (if you select the no-cost white leather) the faux-suede headliner. This is the option level where the Cadenza (like most Kias) starts to shine. The loaded Kia is a $7,000 discount vs the Lexus ES350 which is an apt comparison. The Kia doesn’t offer real wood but it does offer a nicer interior and a few features you won’t find on the Lexus like the LCD disco dash. Compared to the Acura RLX we had the week before, the Cadenza is nearly $20,000 less expensive. The discount is similarly large with you compare the Cadenza to the XTS and smaller vs the MKS.

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The one area where the Cadenza didn’t surprise was behind the wheel. Kia’s relative inexperience in the near-luxury market shows, if you know where to look. However the delta between the Kia and the competition, once as wide as the grand canyon,  is now a light shade of grey. Although very well controlled, the Cadenza exhibited slightly more torque steer and wheel hop than you’ll find in GM’s Epsilon II triplets or the Avalon/ES sisters. Of course when it comes to driving dynamics the Chrysler 300’s rear wheel drive layout is the clear winner. When it comes to absolute grip, the Cadenza is likely the equal of the Impala and Avalon, however the steering is not as communicative and the chassis isn’t quite as predictable or refined. Don’t think that makes the Cadenza “feel cheap”, far from it. The Cadenza nails the ” substantial”  feel that this large sedan category is known for.

While drivers will notice the Cadenza is a hair less sophisticated than the competition, passengers are unlikely to notice. The Cadenza’s springs and dampers did an admirable job of soaking up road imperfections around town and are tuned to land somewhere between the Acura RLX’s sportier aspirations and the pillow-soft ride of the LaCrosse. Cabin noise in the Cadenza is extremely well controlled on all road surfaces and thanks all throttle positions. In some ways the Cadenza was too quiet, hushing the engine’s emissions during our 0-60 testing.

In a straight line the Cadenza’s gear ratios and relative lack of low end torque make the Kia feel sluggish compared to the competition, something I hadn’t expected given the engine specs. Part of this is a transmission that feels reluctant to downshift which takes some of the joy out of mountain driving. Fortunately Kia includes paddle shifters so you can command the gears, but in comparison the Ford/GM transaxle and Chrysler’s ZF sourced unit seem psychic in comparison.

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When it comes to nannies and gadgets Kia took an interesting line. The Cadenza has lane departure warning but no prevention system tied to it unlike Lincoln and Acura’s systems. On the flip side Kia over-delivers with the radar cruise control system. Acura’s systems brake too hard and too early, Infiniti’s systems brake hard and late, most of the other systems on the market are a combination of the two and the majority give up when speeds drop below 20MPH. Much like the systems on current Volvo and Mercedes models however the Kia system drives like a moderately cautious driver, braking progressively but smoothly to a complete stop, and accelerating at a moderate rate when traffic resumes. The system is so fluid that passengers didn’t know the car was “driving itself”  in heavy traffic until I told them to pay attention to my right leg.

After a week with the Cadenza and 611 miles I have to admit I was hooked and that’s not something I say often. The Cadenza’s elegant but restrained looks, comfortable and well-assembled interior, heavy gadget content and value pricing are an incredibly compelling combo. The interior and sticker price more than justify the negatives I encountered during the week. The only major problem with the Cadenza is the Kia logo on the hood. This begs the question: is luxury looking expensive or feeling coddled? At higher price points I would argue you need both, but near luxury is about value and that’s where the Cadenza shines. I’m not sure about Kia’s Mercedes ambitions, but one thing’s for sure, the Cadenza puts Acura on notice and Lexus needs to watch their back.

 

Hit it or Quit it?

Hit it

  • It turns out you can have an Acura at Honda prices.
  • Alcantara headliners rock.
  • Near-luxury without near-pretentiousness

Quit it

  • Can you handle your premium car’s discount badge?
  • I had expected better performance numbers.

 

Kia provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.51 Seconds

0-60: 6.08 Seconds

1/4 mile: 14.67 Seconds @ 97 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 24.5 MPG over 611 miles

 

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-001 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-002 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-003 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-004 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-005 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-006 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-007 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-008 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-010 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-011 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-012 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-015 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-002 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-003 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-004 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-006 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-007 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-009 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-010 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-011 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-012 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-013 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-014 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-015 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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Capsule Review: 2014 Kia Forte EX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/capsule-review-2014-kia-forte-ex/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/capsule-review-2014-kia-forte-ex/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 13:18:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501408   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. […]

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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?

The styling is, of course, the first thing you notice. The 2014 Forte has a roofline that swoops instead of sucks. It may be swimming in the “needs a car” end of the pool, but the Forte looks expensive. Of course it does, because Peter Schreyer is in charge; a man who spent years plying his trade for style-forward juggernaut Audi. Handsome form underscores everything about your first impressions of the Forte.

There’s still a few gimmicks – a string of LED running lamps in the headlight clusters look like someone glomming on to a trend, because that’s exactly why they’re there. There are, of course, benefits to LED lighting elements: they’re efficient, lightweight and long-lived, but really, they exist here because it’s the latest bit of bedazzling that the automotive industry is pushing.

During my week with the Forte, nobody stopped me to ask about it, but I always enjoyed walking up on it. It’s a great-looking car, especially in EX trim, like the one I had. Of course, the fancy wheels, fog lamps and big engine in the Forte EX will cost you. The 2014  Kia Forte LX starts at $15,900 with a 1.8 liter four cylinder and six-speed you-shift-it transmission. The six-speed automatic bumps the price to $17,400, and if you want more stuff in your LX, you’re looking at the LX (Popular) for $18,300, which also adds a bunch more exterior paint colors.

The EX means a 2.0 liter four cylinder that’s a solid middleweight performer, six-speed auto, and all kinds of other goodies like automatic headlights, adjustable steering assist that Kia calls FlexSteer, the maddening Active Eco system that you immedately make inactive, rear-view camera, and up-rated materials on the door panels, steering wheel and shift knob, the latter two being done in the skin of some cow that probably became a burger for the fast food joints that Forte drivers might manage.

The Forte left a very good impression in terms of interior materials and fit and finish. Kia is smart. They didn’t send me the LX with the less nicey-nice door panels and un-equipped option list. Instead, what I drove was a car that rung up $25K and was equipped like you’d expect a Lexus ES. No lie. This thing even had seats done in leather with memory and power adjustment and a ventilated driver’s seat. Again: ventilated driver’s seat in a Kia.

This is what Kia is good at. There’s climate control, HID headlamps, more LEDs for the taillamps, a power sunroof, voice-recognition navigation, pushbutton start, and auto-dimming mirrors all available optionally, and included on the test car by dint of it carrying the Premium and EX Technology Packages.

Kia got the memo loud and clear that people buying these smaller cars (that have really grown to be as big as midsize cars once were) don’t expect or desire to settle  for less. But so far, all that means is that your father the Actuary will find the Kia an eyebrow-raising candidate. It won’t mean bupkus to anyone with an inner ear accustomed to simultaneous elevation and directional changes at high rates of speed. That’s where the Kia Forte has fallen down in the past, with a brittle ride and numb feedback making for a sloppy, underachieving driving experience.

For 2014, it’s a lot better. That’s not to say it’s all fixed, the steering is still a little weird, even if you can switch the electric assist between “Electra 225″ and “busted hose.” The rear suspension is a torsion beam with coil springs, a setup that’s next on the list for the autowriter cool-kids to talk shit about, behind the Mustang’s “ox-cart live axle” ( I swear, if I read that one more time, I’m getting an ox, just so I can gore whatever twit with a keyboard taps it out). You know what, though? Struts ‘N A Beam was delightful enough on a Mk1 GTI, and it doesn’t get in the way here, either. The new Forte isn’t as good a handler as the Ford Focus, for instance, but it’s clear that Kia has been doing its ride and handling homework. The Forte played along just fine when asked to clip an apex or unkink a back road. The structure feels pretty solid, but still not as tight as some others, Focus example included.

Bumps are absorbed by the suspension, instead of your tailbone; evidence that someone at Kia has been hitting the books when it comes to balancing jounce and rebound stiffness. The 2.0 liter engine has a power level that was only possible with forced induction not too long ago. Now, thanks to direct injection, it’s possible to run the compression ratio up to 11.5:1, which yieds 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque. It makes for an eager little mill, and the 2.0 is a noticeable upgrade over the still-respectable 148 hp and 131 lb-ft of the 1.8 liter engine (145 hp/130 lb-ft in SULEV configuration). Another annoying thing that’s plagued Kias in the past has been super-jumpy fly-by-wire throttles, like they were programmed to give a strong initial response to make the car feel extra-peppy. Now there’s finally some refinement and subtlety to the Forte’s response to the accelerator pedal.

Kia has growed the Forte all up for 2014. The interior is as nicely styled as the exterior, and in EX trim, the materials that surround you are nice enough to be considered among the top half of the class. The ergonomics are very good, better than the button-tastic Ford Focus, weird-ass Civic, or even the Chevrolet Cruze, which is better than the other two, but not as good as the Forte.

If your idea of a “good” car is value by the pound, you might not think there’s much to recommend at roughly $25,500 for the 2014 Kia Forte EX with all the packages. That would be wrong. It’s a fully-loaded box of new car smell at that price level. There’s a decent trunk, respectable fuel economy (32 mpg observed), build quality that (probably) won’t run out before the considerable warranty does, and a driving experience that’s good enough to have some of the perennial darlings looking over their shoulders, if not fretting just yet.

The Forte is a lot better than it was, to the point where it’s a legitimate player among its peers, rather than just an on-paper par-baked bargain.

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