Offering everything from the Accent subcompact to the Equus large luxury sedan, Hyundai covers a lot of territory. With gas, turbo, and hybrid engines, and basic, sporty, and luxury trims, the Sonata stakes out much of the midrange sedan segment. Which leaves Kia and its new Optima midsize sedan…where? Mercury to Hyundai’s Ford? Not if Kia and chief design officer Peter Schreyer (of Audi TT fame) can help it.
The relationship between automotive writers and manufacturers is based on trust in the basic fairness (or pliability) of the writer, and usually it’s incumbent upon the writer to establish their reliability before being trusted with a week-long tester. What many PR types and press fleet managers don’t seem to understand is that allowing even the snarkiest writer to actually spend time with a product actually helps create a more even-handed review than might result from a brief encounter.
Such was certainly the case with the 2011 Kia Sportage EX. My initial reaction was “boy is this thing cheap,” and had I spent only a day in the car, that would have been my major conclusion. The fact that two days earlier I had to turn in a $70,000 Jaguar XF Supercharged certainly reinforced that initial impression. And after a week with the Sportage I still think it pegs the cheepnis meter, so it’s a cheap car… but it’s an honest cheap car that delivers some real value.
The Korean word for ‘five’ sounds like “oh,” as in, “Oh, Snap!” or “OMG.” So in Korea, that makes Kia’s new K5 a “K.O.,” at least in name. But does Kia’s new Camccord fighter actually land a knockout on the all-important D-Segment, or is it a mere win by decision?
If you’re a driving enthusiast with a family and a sub-$20k budget, then a four-door sport compact tends to be the way to go. Unfortunately, you don’t have as many choices lately. Nissan’s, Honda’s, Suzuki’s, and VW’s suitably sporting offerings are priced out of reach. Mitsubishi is barely hanging on with the Lancer GTS. Toyota offers the Corolla XRS, but few enthusiasts take it seriously. Only the Mazda3 sells well in this segment, but the new styling isn’t for everyone. Perhaps the Kia Forte SX? The lone Korean offers the most horsepower for the lowest price, and for 2011 will be available in practical hatchback form. But is it truly a contender?
Within my first mile in the original Kia Sorento I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is that a live rear axle I feel?” I stopped the vehicle, peered beneath it and, sure enough, there it was. The Sorento looked like a car-based crossover, but body-on-frame construction, a two-speed transfer case, and a live rear axle dwelled beneath the Mercedes-inspired sheetmetal. The upshot: superior off-road capability, but subpar fuel economy and ride quality. Well, the Sorento has been redesigned, and as with the Sportage before it the trucky bits have been tossed in favor of a Hyundai car-based foundation. Specifically, the 2011 Kia Sorento is now a Hyundai Santa Fe beneath the surface. Now that it’s much like all of the others, why buy the Kia?
Back in 1997, when Volkswagen introduced the New Beetle, my wife badly wanted one because it seemed so much more young and fun than her current car. But she also wanted children. The two were not compatible, so no Beetle for her. No doubt she was not the only person seeking a cute, quirkily styled car with four doors. But at the time there were no such cars. Chrysler was arguably first to fill this void, with the PT Cruiser. So that’s what my wife has been driving for the past five years. Today there are a number of contenders. The latest: Kia’s Soul and Nissan’s cube. Which comes closest to the mark? Well, since you’re reading about the Soul first, clearly the cube. Here’s where the Soul falls short…
First impressions last. Except when they don’t. A few years back, I didn’t think the new-generation Accord was all that special. The enlarged Honda mid-sizer did the monkey-making thing; ascending the sales charts to become America’s top-selling mid-size family sedan. My first impression of Kia’s all-new Forte: it’s a hit. The Kia Forte’s a cheap (as in inexpensive), safe, somewhat stylish, fuel-efficient sedan that transports up to four adults in perfect comfort, without driving like a penalty box. In fact, this car is good enough that it could be a turnaround product for Kia, which has struggled to establish its place on the American automotive scene. But will it? What am I, psychic?
Marketing to a particular demographic is a tricky business–just ask Honda or Toyota. Honda introduced the Element in 2003. Toyota brought us the Scion xB in 2004. Both machines were designed as funky vehicles to fit the twenty-something lifestyle. Needless to say, their room and versatility immediately found favor with the quintagenarian crowd. Now Kia’s taking a shot with the Soul. Our own Eddie Niedermeyer, squarely in the demographic Kia’s aiming for, liked it. But then there are us pesky demographic-bustin’ Boomers. Will we see more Souls parked at the old farts’ home than on college campuses?
Review: 2010 Kia Soul Sport, Take Two Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars
Sitting between two highly conventional Rios on the Kia lot, the Soul Sport looks like a visitor from another planet. The Kia’s European styling not only refutes the bland mediocrity of its fellow Kias, but also challenges the toaster-oven aesthetics of its boxy competitors. At the same time, it offers a more unique approach than Honda’s low-slung Fit hatchback. That said, the Soul is more the product of a careful compromise between its competitors rather than a genuine automotive oddity. So what happens when you pick the least-compromising trim level, the Soul Sport with manual transmission? You develop a new level of appreciation for the art of compromise.
Review: 2010 Kia Soul Sport Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars
In the last ten years or so, Hyundai decided it’d be fun to build things that resemble cars that people want to buy. In the process, the Korean automaker acquired struggling brother Kia. As you’d expect, the company offers the now-essential model in any current car range: the budget-priced, fuel-efficient compact car. In fact, American buyers hunting in that market segment can choose between Hyundai’s Hyundai Elantra and the Kia Spectra. Is it a distinction without a difference, in the not-so-grand tradition of General Motors? Let’s have a look to each model’s respective brochures…
Let’s get one thing out of the way right from the start: the Kia Borrego might list for a couple grand less than a 2008 Explorer, but the larger rebate on the Ford eliminates this advantage. The story is similar with other established SUVs. Since the Kia won’t cost significantly less than its highly evolved competitors— at least until Kia tosses some similarly serious cash on the hood—the late-to-the-party truck better have another major selling point. So…
2009 Kia Borrego Review Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
Almost a quarter-century ago, Chrysler rocked the automotive scene by putting a two-box body on the K-car platform, calling it a minivan and inventing the soccer mom. Unfortunately, the intervening years haven’t been kind to the concept; the mini minivan is no more. In fact, the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is almost two feet longer than the full-sized 1984 Dodge Ram van. If you’re looking for a three-row people mover that won’t max out your garage, you can always go the CUV route– if you’re into poseurmobiles. Or you can consider the Mazda5 or Kia Rondo. But do these reborn minivans carry the torch, or has the genre’s flame fizzled-out?
Gourmet restaurants and McDonalds both serve salads. Both establishments offer greens, vegetables and some kind of dressing. Setting aside Mickey D's portion-controlled, polymer-intensive presentation, I doubt anyone would confuse the two salads based on appearance or taste. But what of a "proper" premium sedan and the Kia Amanti? It's an intriguing idea: an upmarket midsize sedan at a family sedan price. Cutting out a badge-related price premium is always tempting… but seldom worth it.
2008 Kia Amanti Review Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 2/5 Stars
Kia is one of the only car brands sold in America that's never built an enthusiast's car. Sensible Swedish Saab offered the 900. Before their core clientele started losing their pulse, Buick ran the Grand National. Saturn looked to the Sky for salvation. GMC got caught up in a Typhoon. Even Hyundai has the Tiburon circling its enthusiast oriented customers. Kia? Nothing but cheap. Or… maybe not. "Being practical doesn't mean you have to take the joy out of life," their web copy proclaims. "That's the thinking behind the Rio. It's affordable and likes a good time as much as you do." What exactly does THAT mean?
2008 Kia Rio Review Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 2/5 Stars