The all new 2013 Honda Accord is Honda’s most important vehicle EVER. That’s right, EVER! It comes after lackluster reviews of the latest cost-reduced mind-numbing Civic. It enters the mid-size car product segment where the oldest high volume competitor was launched as a 2011 model in early 2010 (Hyundai Sonata) and each new model is more impressive than the one that came before it… Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat, Nissan Altima, the coming-soon Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and next year’s Mazda6. Each new mid-size entry is better, more finessed, more technologically capable and available with a wider range of features than ever before. The question is “Did Honda bring their ‘A Game’ to the 2013 Accord, or is it another misstep like the Civic?”
Bring their “A Game”? Wow, did they! This Accord is a take-no-prisoners attempt by Honda to reclaim leadership in the premium mid-size car class. With this car, Honda appears to have its MOJO back!
Going on sale in July 2012, the new Nissan Altima joins the most competitive car class in the market. Representing the second largest car segment (after small cars), the mid-size car class is critically important to each manufacturer in the class; volume, profits and image are on the line.
It is hard to believe that the AutoPacific 2010 President’s Award Winner, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, is about to be the oldest major competitor in the class. The 2013 Nissan Altima joins the new Toyota Camry (new for the 2012MY) and Chevrolet Malibu (2013 Eco model is on the market now) and awaits the launches of the upcoming 2013 heavyweights – Honda Accord and Ford Fusion in Fall 2012.
First seen at the 2012 New York International Auto Show in April, the Altima drew “WOWs” from the media at its unveiling. The management of some competitors gulped and looked a bit nervous. Most were very complimentary; the new Altima has gone upscale in a big way without adding much to its price tag.
Traditionally, the mid-size car class has been noted for its relatively bland styling. That changed with the launch of the 2011 Sonata in early 2010 where over half of the buyers indicated that exterior styling was extremely important in their selection of the car. Sonata’s swoopy styling broke the mid-size car mold. The 2011 Kia Optima that followed the Sonata is strikingly handsome in its own Euro-Korean way. Toyota stayed very conservative with its new 2012 entry and Honda is rumored to have continued its very conservative streak with the next generation Accord coming this fall. The 2013 Ford Fusion is another game changer in the mold of Sonata and Optima, but even with Fusion’s advanced styling, Altima may have pushed the envelope the farthest. Nissan calls it “Altimaness”.
I’m really not a hypermiling type of guy – I usually drive a twin-turbocharged V6. When the opportunity to drive from Miami Beach to Key West came up, I admit the allure of Key West was more than the chance to get the maximum fuel economy out of a Kia Optima Hybrid and new Kia Rio. Having grown up in Florida, the northern part, I had never been to Key West – got as far as the Everglades a couple of times.
Kia Optima Hybrid and Kia Rio
The cars did not disappoint and Kia threw in the chance to attend GRAND-AM Continental Tire/Kia200 Sports Car Challenge race at the Homestead-Miami Raceway. So how could I refuse?
Optima – Elegant Mid-Size Style With Maximum Fuel Economy The Optima is one of my favorite mid-size cars. Its styling is great and interior is very easy to live with. From my perspective, the Optima style is very sophisticated and European. Coming from the “junior” Korean manufacturer, the Optima is much better looking than the swoopy Hyundai Sonata that has turned so many heads since its introduction in early 2010. My guess is that the Optima style has more staying power than the Sonata which may age pretty quickly.
Adding the Hybrid model to the Optima lineup gives Kia a price-efficient, fuel-efficient combatant in the growing fuel economy battleground among mid-size cars.
All New Rio – Bottom-Feeder No More This was the first chance I have had to drive the all new Rio. As the bottom entry in Kia’s lineup, the Rio has evolved from a cheap, cheap tin can to a very worthy small car. Of course, it is not cheap, cheap any more, but it is reasonably priced. The model we drove was priced a notch above $20,000 but had everything on it including a navigation system, sun roof and leather seats. In previous generations, it would have been unheard of to have this level of equipment available in the lowest priced car from a mainstream brand. With a front seat package rivaling a mid-size car in size, folks are no longer “sentenced” to drive a small car.
This is almost becoming repetitive. How many times have we reviewed a new small entry level car and declared it filled to the brim with style, features, performance, and personality? It’s gotten to the point where I was searching hard for another angle with this all-new 2012 Kia Rio5 that I recently got to drive in Austin, Texas, but as it turns out, I’m going to have to essentially tell you the same story again.
Last summer during a discussion with senior Hyundai management in Seoul, I asked “When can we expect to see a third plant for Hyundai and or Kia in the United States?” The response was “A third plant will be necessary when Hyundai and Kia sell 900,000 per year in the USA.”
In 2010, Hyundai sold 538,228 cars and light trucks in the USA and Kia sold 356,496 cars and light trucks. That is a total of 874,496 cars and light trucks for these two fast-growing brands. That number is also close enough for us to hypothesize that an announcement for a third Hyundai or Kia plant in the USA should be forthcoming.
Two USA Plants Already at or Above Capacity: Clearly, Hyundai is pushing the capacity of their Montgomery, Alabama plant. With the Sonata Mid-Size Sedan setting all-time sales records and the newly launched Elantra promising to sell very well, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama is out of capacity even at its increased capacity planning volume of 400,000 units. Hyundai has announced it is importing Elantras from Korea to meet extraordinary demand in the USA. Kia is adding a third shift to its West Point, Georgia plant producing Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe crossover sport utility vehicles.
Rumor – Mississippi Hyundai-Kia has likely squeezed as many concessions as possible from Alabama and Georgia to support its two plants there. A logical next choice still within range of Hyundai and Kia suppliers is Mississippi. With a third plant in the offing, any state would be willing to offer substantial concessions for the investment dollars and jobs a large scale plant inevitably generates.
You know the world has changed when Kia can price a normally aspirated 4-cylinder compact crossover at $30K. Buying a Kia Sportage used to mean that you needed the cargo capacity and/or wanted the image of an SUV but were prepared to settle for the lowest common denominator (read: Least expensive option). After explaining to your family, friends, neighbors and the occasional gas station patron why on earth you purchased a Kia another debate came up… What about resale? You could usually sit back and watch a Kia depreciate like gallon of unrefrigerated milk on a warm summer afternoon. But times have definitely changed… and Kia’s star is on the rise…
Kia Becomes Instantly Relevant in the Premium Mid-Size Segment The new Kia Optima is set to challenge the top of the premium mid-size car category with its 3rd generation 2011 model year version due out by the end of 2010. The Optima is arguably the most strikingly gorgeous cars in the class. It looks upscale, elegant, sporty and highly desirable.
Optima is a sibling of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata that set records in AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. The Sonata became the top scoring vehicle EVER in AutoPacific’s research and won AutoPacific’s first-ever President’s Award. Part of the reason Sonata won was because of its aggressive styling which was important to its buyers and highly satisfying to them. Over time, though, the swoopy Sonata styling may wear a bit thin even as it sells over ten thousand cars a month. Optima looks just as modern and contemporary, but more elegant. Optima may have more legs. We’ll have Optima’s VSA results in April next year.
Optima Sales Will Increase Kia Volumes by Over 50,000 Units Per Year Optima will be largely incremental to Kia in the USA. All previous Optima sedans have been cyphers – not really competitive. Just good, basic value transportation. This new Optima moves Kia into the big leagues. Kia will be fighting with the rest of the world for Optima output so its volume cannot match that of Hyundai with its Sonata production here in the USA, but selling 120,000 Optimas a year is not out of the question.
It’s not everyday you have the chance to visit a brand spanking new automotive assembly plant, but the new Kia plant in western Georgia (USA, not Eastern Europe) makes Kia latest “transplant” to build new vehicles in the States. Kia began producing the all-new 2011 Kia Sorento in small volumes in fall 2009, right on schedule. Full production begins in mid-November.
Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) is a 300,000 unit capacity assembly plant situated along Interstate 85 in western Georgia adjacent to the Alabama border. Its location is about 85-miles east up the 85 from the Hyundai assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama. Surrounding and between the plants are suppliers providing components not only to the Kia and Hyundai plants in the area but some also produce components for Honda, Mercedes, and Nissan plants in Alabama and Mississippi.
OK, OK. I know that title has been used for about every traditional SUV that has evolved into a Crossover SUV in its latest incarnation and that is just what the 2011 Kia Sorento has done. Sorento becomes thoroughly modern with the introduction of its 2011 model.
The first generation Sorento; Kia’s first entry in the mid-size SUV arena, was a traditional SUV It had body-on-frame construction, was based on rear wheel drive architecture, had a traditional shape, carried five passengers and was powered by a V6 engine. Many people thought the Sorento was based on the Hyundai Santa Fe, but that was far from the truth.
The first year the Sorento was on the market it won AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award for best-in-class Mid-Size SUV. Clearly, its owners liked the product.
Now comes the all, new Sorento…
This summer, a new Kia came to town. Following the hot and hip Kia Soul, the brand’s bread-and-butter compact sedan was updated. Instead of carrying on the Spectra name, this all-new and much improved model took the Forte name, hopefully losing some baggage along the way.
Forte deserves its new name. The model now takes fresh exterior and grown-up interior; the ongoing maturation of the company can be seen in the transition from Spectra to Forte. Since entering the U.S. market in 1993 with bargain-basement, marginally competitive products, Kia has made great strides in closing the gap against established makers. We’ve said this before, and we’ll probably say it again, at least until the Chinese brands start playing the in the States and Hyundai-Kia stop being the newest kids on the block.
Kia continues improving features, style, and content availability. The Forte offers crisp, modern style in a nicely sized package. Exterior cues include slim headlights and taillights, not unlike Acura TSX and nicely done. Not too big, not too small, and besting 30mpg highway, Forte competes against the likes of Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, and Honda Civic. The sedan’s tailored look also makes for a nice complement next to the more fun-loving and cheery Soul. Both are inviting, happy, and willing to play, but Forte has a more adult attitude.