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  • 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 »

  • 2015 Kia Sedona

    Minivan breaks out of the box

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Kia Sedona

    2015 Kia Sedona

    Sometimes the best way to increase sales in a shrinking market segment is by redefining it. Kia’s strategy with its all-new Sedona minivan is just that: combining crossover-like styling with new connectivity features to give its family-friendly car twenty-first century appeal.

    Kia is one of a handful of players who continue to produce minivans, competing against Toyota, Honda and Chrysler. While its competitors continue to play it safe with tried-and-true features such as foldaway seating and giant center console bins, the Korean automaker is sacrificing a bit of practicality for some much needed sex appeal.

    Design guru Peter Schreyer penned the exterior, with a more pronounced front end and grille that bears striking resemblance to the mid-sized Sorento crossover. A taller beltline results in a narrower greenhouse, but gives the Sedona some shoulders and a more interesting profile. A roof-mounted spoiler and aggressive rear fascia frame the wrap-around tail lamps, preventing the slab sided appearance that plagues many members of the genre.

    Inside, the Sedona seats up to eight passengers. Optional lounge seats in the second row rival living room furniture for comfort, while an available dual-pane sunroof adds a welcome dose of ambient light. The newest version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system developed in conjunction with Microsoft adds new services such as geo-fencing and curfew alerts for younger drivers as well as a host of new apps under the Kia App Store umbrella. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Kia Sorento

    Kia debuts the newest version of its best-selling crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Kia Sorento

    2016 Kia Sorento

    There are few places on the planet more beautiful than Lake Tahoe. The second deepest lake in the United States straddles the Nevada/California border, surrounded by the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Kia chose Tahoe as the location for the 2016 Sorento media preview to send home the message that its popular midsized crossover is a car for all seasons and lifestyles.

    Available in five trim levels with front or all-wheel drive and a choice of three engines, the Sorento competes against a wide range of products, from the Toyota Highlander to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Buyers can choose two or three-row versions seating five-to-seven passengers.

    Inspiration for the exterior redesign was the Kia Cross GT concept that debuted at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. Inside, designers incorporated luxury finishes from Kia’s K900 full-sized sedan the newest version of UVO infotainment, available Nappa leather and dual-pane panoramic sunroof.

    A new two-liter turbo engine is the same block used in the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and Kia Optima but tuned for this platform. To keep the weight down, product planners limited the turbo block to five-passenger cars.

    Base price for the new Sorento that rolls out in January is $24,900 for the front-wheel drive L grade. The upscale SX-L V-6 all-wheel drive starts at $41,300. All-wheel drive is an $1800 option. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Kia K900

    High-luxury sedan focuses on value

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Kia K900

    2015 Kia K900

    I have driven the K900, Kia’s first vehicle entry into the high-luxury segment, to the coffee shop where I meet friends for breakfast. As I usher the sedan into its parking spot, I can see their noses pasted up against the front window of the restaurant.

    “What’s that”? is the first question I hear as I walk through the door.

    “The Kia K900,? I reply. “It’s Kia’s answer to the S-Class.”

    “That’s a Kia?” my buddy Jeff remarks. “That’s a sharp looking car.”

    “It’s huge,” adds Big Ed, who likes everything in his life to be, well, big. “That thing’s bigger than my Mercedes.” And with that they’re out the door.

    “Check this out,” chimes Jeff as he opens the back door and slides into the back seat. “Man, there’s tons of room back here.”

    “Enough for you and your bicycle,” I reply.

    Ed is still comparing the K900 to his Mercedes-Benz CLS.

    “A Kia,” he says. “Huh.”

    The jury’s still out as to whether Kia will be able to lure current German luxury car owners away from their current vehicles. But there is no doubt that Kia’s full-sized luxury sedan can compete on every level: style, comfort and most important, performance.

    Despite being a luxury car, the K900 still speaks to the brand’s core philosophy of great value. Although its $59,500 base price is by no means inexpensive, it is significantly lower than the Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series the K900 competes against.

    A VIP option package on the test car adds adaptive cruise control, thin-film-transistor instrument cluster, heads-up display, surround-view monitor, power headrests, power reclining rear seats, ventilated rear seats and rear seat lumbar support. Final MSRP, including the $900 delivery charge is $66,400. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Kia Soul EV

    Versatile crossover gets a new green variant

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Soul EV

    2015 Soul EV

    Although the Soul was launched in 2009 as a competitor to the Scion xB and Nissan Cube, Kia’s compact crossover has taken on a life of its own, eclipsing its direct competitors. While the Nissan and Scion were both adaptations of Japan market cars, the Soul was designed in Kia’s Orange County, California studio for American drivers. Its youthful styling and peppy performance have built a loyal following for the Soul, now in its second generation.

    Following on the launch of an all-new model last year, Kia is rolling out the Soul EV. Power comes from a 109 horsepower electric motor with a rechargeable 360-volt lithium-ion battery pack packaged under the floor. Pricing for the base model begins at $33,700, while the Soul EV Plus starts at $35,700. The rollout for both grades begins in Southern California with a 36-month lease plan.

    Kia expects the Soul to be cross-shopped against the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, Volkswagen eGolf and Fiat 500e. With its unique styling, surprisingly spacious cargo bay and 93-mile driving range, the newest Soul should give those cars a run for the money. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2015 Kia Sedona SXL

    Style makes it different

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Sedona SX Limited

    2015 Sedona SX Limited

    There’s no doubt that minivans are one of the most practical car choices for growing families. The reason car companies don’t sell more of them is the stigma attached, primarily because of styling. Kia is addressing this issue in its third-generation Sedona with a sexy exterior penned by the very talented Peter Schreyer that should make car shoppers take a second look.

    Schreyer adapted the wide, sweeping shoulders and aggressive grille of a crossover, making the Sedona look sportier and more purposeful. Inside, a driver-centric interior features a center console-mounted gearshift lever and high tech instrument panel that includes the most recent iteration of Kia’s UVO infotainment system, co-developed with Microsoft.

    On the flip side, product planners remembered to focus on versatility, with new seating configurations that include a Slide-N-Stow function for second-row seating and third-row seats that fold into the floor. Buyers of the upscale SXL grade can opt for first class lounge seating: think Barcaloungers in the second row, only much more stylish. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Kia K900

    Full-sized high luxury sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Kia K900

    2015 Kia K900

    Kia’s success story has been built on big risks. The brand that came to the US twenty years ago with two niche vehicles and a loss leader pricing strategy has evolved into one of the fastest growing OEMs in North America.

    The Cadenza sedan that rolled out last spring moved Kia into the premium segment. The all-new K900 takes the upwardly mobile product strategy a step further, competing head to head with the BMW 7-Series, Audi A8 and Mercedes-Benz S Class.

    While naysayers might question the automaker’s wisdom introducing a $60,000 sedan in what remains a shaky economy, one needs to look at the global picture. The K900 is also sold in Korea as the K9 as well as China, where the demand for luxury goods continues to grow at a healthy rate.

    From a marketing standpoint, the K900 builds on the image makeover that began with the current Optima. Kia is no longer a value brand, although its products continue to offer buyers more content than most of their competitors.

    With the addition of its new Orange County, California design studio, Kia has emerged as a leader in the area of automotive styling. Continued collaboration with Microsoft has made the brand’s UVO infotainment system one of the best connectivity technologies in the industry. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Kia Soul Plus

    Compact crossover gains in style and performance

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Kia Soul

    2014 Kia Soul

    This year, Kia introduces the second-generation Soul compact crossover: the first major redesign since the car was introduced in 2009. The original Soul was one of several box-shaped vehicles aimed towards young urbanites needing interior versatility.

    The new Soul builds on the original theme, with a slightly larger interior, more nuanced styling and upgraded powertrains. Kia expects the midlevel Plus trim to be the volume leader, priced from $18,200.

    The Soul’s spacious interior and fold-flat second-row seats make it a good option for buyers with active lifestyles. The 2014 model won our Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year award in the urban category.

    An audio package on the test car adds navigation, automatic climate control, and an Infinity sound system with speaker lights ($1400). Other options include a premium package with a panoramic sunroof, push button start, leather seating, power driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats ($3000), UVO infotainment system with rearview camera display ($500) and carpeted floor mats ($115). Together with the $795 destination charge, final MSRP is $24,010. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Kia Cadenza

    New sedan proves luxury and value aren’t mutually exclusive

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Kia Cadenza

    Building on the success of its midsized Optima, Kia introduces the full-sized Cadenza premium sedan. Although the Cadenza is not Kia’s first foray into large sedan territory, following on the heels of the 2009 Amanti, it is the brand’s first serious contender in the segment. Not only does it hold its own against luxury brands such as Lexus, Audi and Infiniti, it blows the doors off comparably priced premium models.

    With styling by ace designer, Peter Schreyer, the Cadenza is a sexy, powerful ride. The base model starts at $35,100 excluding the $800 destination charge. Two options on the test car, a luxury package and technology group, bring the final MSRP to $41,900.

    Power comes from a 293-horsepower direct injection V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection. The engine’s 255 foot-pounds of torque give the Cadenza excellent acceleration off the line and in the 20-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic.

    Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, Infinity surround-sound audio system, navigation, Bluetooth interface, rearview camera, leather upholstery, UVO telematics, satellite radio and more. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Kia Soul

    Compact crossover gets a Makeover

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Kia Soul

    I’m not sure how I feel about the skinny hamsters in Kia’s newest spot for the 2014 Soul compact crossover. The hamsters’ transformation from T-shirt clad hipsters to red carpet-ready studs is a metaphor for the Soul’s evolution into a much more sophisticated car.

    But I’ve always had the feeling that a chubby hamster is a healthy hamster: ready for a winter when food on the ground is less plentiful. And the effort of marketing gurus to portray their product as a more evolved vehicle shouldn’t negate the youthful spirit essential to the original model’s success.

    There is no doubt that the newest Soul is a great package, with more resolved styling and a solid powertrain featuring two direct injection engines. Value continues to drive the product strategy, with the base model starting at $14,700.

    Unlike the Scion xB that grew larger in its second iteration, the 2014 Soul maintains much the same footprint as its predecessor. It’s about an inch longer, slightly wider and lower.

    Engineers contained curb weight to about 2800 pounds, and enhanced torsional rigidity by using ultra high strength steel in key areas of the chassis, increasing stiffness 28.7 percent over the former model.

    The newest Soul will also be Kia’s entry into the growing electric car segment. Details on that model come at a later date. Read the rest of this entry »