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  • 2017 Kia Soul

    Tops the list for urban athletes

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Kia Soul Turbo

    2017 Kia Soul Turbo

    In 2016 the Kia Soul won ALV’s Urban category award for an unprecedented fourth year in a row: further proof that the compact crossover might be the perfect choice for city dwellers with active lifestyles. The Soul’s cool styling, compact dimensions and versatile interior resonate with athletes of all ages. The Soul is also affordable, with pricing for the base model starting at $15,990 excluding delivery.

    The test car is the upscale Soul! (exclaim), priced from $22,650. Among standard convenience features are automatic headlamps, power windows, door locks and side mirrors, keyless start, automatic climate control and Bluetooth interface.

    Options on the test car include a panoramic sunroof and a technology package that adds navigation, Harman Kardon premium audio system, LED exterior lighting, power folding outside mirrors, power driver’s and front passenger seats, heated front and rear outboard seats, blind spot monitoring and USB charging ports. Final MSRP is $27,620. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Kia Cadenza Limited

    Premium full-size sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Kia Cadenza

    2017 Kia Cadenza

    The 2017 Kia Cadenza raised eyebrows when it beat out several luxury competitors to win this year’s Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year Luxury On-Road award. Although Kia continues its value-based marketing strategy, new models such as the Cadenza are giving competitors a run for the money, with award-winning styling and performance.

    The first-generation Cadenza looked and felt very much like a stretch version of the smaller Optima sedan. The newest model is very much its own animal, with unique styling and performance.

    Base price for the Limited is $44,390 excluding the $900 destination charge. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, Nappa leather interior with memory driver’s seat settings, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, UVO infotainment, satellite radio, navigation and a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

    Midsize crossover simplifies busy lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Kia Sorento

    2017 Kia Sorento

    For eleven months out of the year my life is pretty simple: writing about cars, spending time with my husband, friends, family, a very spoiled cat named Goober and riding my bicycle.

    For the month of October leading up to the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year program, simplicity goes out the window. As the event organizer, I become a professional schlepper, carting around everything from luggage to traffic barriers and extremely large tureens of coffee. It takes a special vehicle to carry this sort of stuff and offer the versatility to drive on paved and dirt roads, through a variety of weather conditions, night and day. That vehicle is the Kia Sorento.

    As any schlepper knows, bigger isn’t always better. It’s hard to park a Bluebird bus next to an airport terminal. As out-of-town journalists arrive having endured hours in too-small airplane seats, they expect a modicum of comfort. The Sorento delivers that, with eight-way adjustable front seats and plenty of hip and legroom in the second row.

    2017 Sorento

    2017 Sorento

    A premium Infinity sound system kicks out the tunes in a pleasantly quiet interior. Keyless entry and start and hands-free power liftgate make it easier to get people and their luggage in and out of the car when time is of the essence.

    The test car is the upscale SX Limited priced from $45,700. To simplify the buying process, Kia includes the convenience and safety features the car’s buying audience is looking for: from Nappa leather upholstery to dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, a panoramic sunroof, blind spot monitoring, around-view camera, navigation and autonomous emergency braking.

    Options on the test car include white pearl exterior paint and special interior trim. Final MSRP including the $895 destination charge is $48,990. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Kia Forte EX

    Compact sedan with refreshed styling

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Kia Forte Sedan EX

    2017 Kia Forte Sedan EX

    The Kia Forte’s heritage dates back to 2010 when it replaced the Spectra: one of the most popular models produced by the South Korean automaker at that time. More affordable than its competitors from Honda and Toyota, the Spectra was a big hit among compact sports car enthusiasts, with some pretty cool customizing options.

    The Forte is more of a mainstream offering, taking many of its styling cues from the larger Optima sedan. The 2017 Forte features refreshed exterior styling and a new, more powerful base engine. Buyers can choose between three trim levels of which the EX model tested is the most upscale.

    2017 Kia Forte Sedan

    2017 Kia Forte Sedan

    Pricing for the EX starts at $21,200, excluding the $850 destination charge. Options on the test car include a Premium plus package that includes navigation, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, rearview camera, power driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, Xenon headlamps and a power sunroof ($4490), bringing the final MSRP to $26,540. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD

    Compact crossover for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo

    2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo

    The Sportage was one of the first vehicles Kia imported to the United States in the early 1990s: a small, simple but robust sport-utility vehicle. I still see first-generation Sportages tooling around Phoenix, all showing scars from years of off-road driving. It’s a badge of honor.

    When Kia introduced the third-generation Sportage six years ago, the car’s focus shifted from sport-utility to crossover, appealing to buyers who might want four-season capability, but also required better road handling for the daily commute. While the Sportage did all of that well, it seemed to lack the character of the first two generation vehicles.

    The most recent Sportage introduced late last year is a much more complete product, with more appealing styling and a confident drivetrain that includes a SX grade for driving enthusiasts. While the car maintains a front-wheel drive bias, owners in all-season climates can opt for an all-wheel drive system that transfers power to the rear wheels when traction demands it.

    Base price for the front-wheel drive car tested is $32,500 excluding an $895 destination charge. Final MSRP is $33,395. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Kia Optima SX Limited

    Redesigned midsize sedan builds on winning formula

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Kia Optima SX 2.0 turbo

    2016 Kia Optima SX 2.0 turbo

    The redesigned 2016 Kia Optima is less revolution than evolution: the logical strategy considering the outgoing model’s success. Peter Schreyer’s team refined the sedan’s aerodynamic exterior, adding new technology and luxury materials inside.

    The 2017 car is slightly larger with a redesigned grille based on the K900 sedan and new headlamps. Designers maintained the body’s sharply raked A and C pillars. Inside the sporty SXL grade features diamond stitched leather seating, a cleaner instrument panel with updated infotainment features and flat bottom steering wheel that’s a nod to the OEM’s racing program.

    2016 Kia Optima SX 2.0 turbo

    2016 Kia Optima SX 2.0 turbo

    The SXL comes with the larger of two available turbocharged engines and a six-speed automatic transmission. Base price is $35,790 excluding the $825 destination charge. Unlike some competitors in the midsize segment, the Optima is available with front-wheel drive only.

    The SX Limited is fully loaded with standard safety and convenience features, including keyless entry and start, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, Nappa leather upholstery and a very large panoramic sunroof.

    Active safety technology includes adaptive front HID headlamps, rearview and surround view monitors, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. While the Kia Optima is by no means an inexpensive car, the automaker packed a lot of content into a sub-$40,000 package. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Kia Sportage SX

    Reinvented compact crossover for outdoor enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo

    2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo

    The Sportage was one of two models Kia introduced when it opened its first US dealerships in 1994. It was a bare bones sport-utility vehicle, the automaker’s strategy at the time being one of loss leader. Buyers whose budgets normally limited them to pre-owned cars could afford a new Kia Sportage.

    The car was also sturdy, completing two Dakar rallies and the Baja 1000. I see first-generation Sportages floating around my neighborhood to this day, having survived more than two decades of brutal Phoenix summers.

    As Kia introduces an all-new Sportage for 2017, one wonders what the OEM has up its hat to make its newest compact crossover rise to the top in a highly competitive segment’

    2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo 2WD, SX Turbo AWD

    2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo 2WD, SX Turbo AWD

    Style will play a big role. The ever-talented Peter Schreyer headed up the design team in the automaker’s Frankfurt and Korean studios, creating a sexy, muscular looking vehicle with undeniable road presence. But the Sportage’s beauty is more than skin deep, with improvements throughout the chassis and updated infotainment features.

    Three available grades- LX, EX and SX- are available with front or all-wheel drive. Pricing for the base LX FWD starts at $22,990 excluding the $895 destination charge. Base MSRP for the fully loaded SX Turbo all-wheel drive model is $34,000.

    Power for the LX and mid-grade EX comes from a 181-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.4-liter direct injection engine, while the sporty SX all-wheel drive model gets a 237-horsepower turbocharged two-liter block. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard across the line. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Kia Sedona SXL

    Stylish minivan for active families

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Kia Sedona SX Limited

    2016 Kia Sedona SX Limited

    When Kia redesigned the Sedona for 2015, the goal was to maintain its minivan functionality with sexier design. The car’s profile is most similar to a crossover, with a distinct hood and body versus the ‘one box’ configuration of traditional minivans. Design chief Peter Schreyer added a unique grille treatment, wrap-around headlamps and an aggressive front fascia to give the Sedona road presence, with an aerodynamic back end accented by a roof spoiler.

    Inside, a sweeping center stack leads to a large center console with storage, separating two captain’s chairs. Buyers can add captain’s chairs to the second row with retractable leg rests, reminiscent of first class seating on airplanes.

    The 2016 car is basically carryover from last year. All models now come standard with a rearview camera. Buyers of the upscale SXL can add chrome side sill trim for some extra pizzazz. Cars equipped with the optional technology package seat eight passengers.

    Base price for the test car is $39,900 excluding the $895 destination charge. Options include xenon headlamps, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, an around-view camera, adaptive cruise control, 115-volt power outlet and a rear seat entertainment system, bringing the final MSRP to $44,690. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

    Redesigned crossover for active families

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Kia Sorento

    2016 Kia Sorento

    Despite the growing number of entries into the midsize crossover segment, the stylish Kia Sorento remains a leader of the pack. Simply put, it’s a great package, with a redesigned 2016 model that includes a new two-liter turbocharged engine, revised exterior and interior styling and some appealing new infotainment features. With available seating for up to seven passengers, the Sorento is a great option for families with active lifestyles who don’t need a full-size sport-utility vehicle.

    The sporty SX Limited test car comes with the two-liter engine, six-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel drive with a lockable center differential for enhanced traction on wet, snowy or unimproved roads. Base price is $41,700 excluding an $895 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, UVO infotainment with apps, rearview camera, Nappa leather seating, panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, roof rails and heated outside mirrors.

    A technology package adds xenon headlamps, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, surround view monitor, adaptive cruise control and an electronic parking brake. Final MSRP is $45,095. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Kia Forte5 SX

    Sporty hatch targets active urbanites

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Kia Forte5

    2015 Kia Forte5

    Although Kia’s product line has moved up-water with products such as the K900 and Cadenza, value remains the brand’s core attribute. In no case is that more apparent than in the compact Forte, available as a coupe, sedan and five-door hatchback.

    Although it shares chassis components with the Hyundai Elantra GT, the Forte5 SX appeals to driving enthusiasts with a 201-horsepower turbocharged engine as compared to the naturally-aspirated two-liter block in the Elantra rated at 173-horsepower.

    A six-speed manual gearbox is standard in the Forte5 SX, but buyers can opt to add a six-speed automatic with Formula-style paddle shifters. Base price is $21,890 excluding the destination charge. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels and a sport-tuned suspension come standard on the upscale model.

    Options on the test car include a premium package that adds leather seating with heated front seats and a ventilated driver’s seat, power sunroof, power driver’s seat and a heated steering wheel. A technology package adds navigation, xenon headlamps, HD radio and dual-zone climate control. Final MSRP is $27,100. Read the rest of this entry »