Kia introduced the K900 premium luxury car for the 2014 model year. Based on Hyundai/Kia’s rear wheel drive platform shared with the Hyundai Equus and loosely the Hyundai Genesis sedan, Kia’s entry into the luxury market is controversial. Internally and externally there were concerns that the brand was not ready to take the leap into the $60,000 price range. But as is often the case in the life of an import distributor, the parent company demands that you take the “gift” of a vehicle you might not think fits the lineup at the time.
KMA – AutoPacific Neighbors Full disclosure, Kia Motors America headquarters in Irvine are less than a mile from AutoPacific’s headquarters in Tustin, California. Every day our roads are filled with Kia Optima mid-size cars (to our eye, the best looking mid-size car presently on the market), Kia Soul hamster cars and Kia Forte compact cars. Given the population of cars within a mile radius, Kia is the best selling brand on the market. K900s are rarer, but does K900 hurt KMA’s position in the American market? We don’t think so.
Conservative Design Will Not Offend The exterior of the car is conservative and tasteful. There is little flamboyance with the exception of Kia’s outstanding white pearlescent paint (I don’t like white cars, but the white available on the Optima and K900 is a very rich looking color). The K900 is a large car with generous greenhouse that provides excellent visibility except rearward where the headrests get in the way.
Kia K900 Interior Outstanding The K900 interior is a work of art. The seats are nicely styled, supportive and infinitely adjustable with Mercedes-like seat controls on the door trim panels. The instrument panel is electronic wizardry with a very well designed programmable 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 9.2-inch center stack screen with Kia’s UVO eServices telematics system. Radio controls are actually easy to use with KNOBS (!) and source buttons. The rear seat is very spacious and comfortable. In the uplevel VIP executive package (a $6,000 option) designed for Korean CEOs to ride in the rear there are redundant controls in the center arm rest. In the particular example we have been driving for a week, the interior trim is a very light grey or off white which makes it seem open, airy and spacious. The contrasting grey environmental color gives a very upscale ambiance.
Lexus-Like Dynamics Dynamically, the K900 harkens back two generations to the Lexus LS430, before Lexus decided to try a more sporty route. The ride is very isolated, soft and cushion-like. The 5.0L gasoline direct injection V8 is powerful and smooth. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission we saw an average fuel economy of about 15mpg. While the fuel economy is not sterling, it is about what you’d expect in a car like this.
So, the Kia K900 is not a German luxury car and is not what the Lexus LS460 has evolved into. The Kia K900 is a very competitive, traditional luxury car that will be comfortable for the long haul and easy to live with.
The all new 2014 Kia Soul is the highest scoring Compact Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. The Soul beat out some very impressive competitors such as the Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, and the Honda Civic.
The 2014 Kia Soul wins or ties in seven of fifty satisfaction categories. The Soul also was within one tenth of a rating point in thirteen other categories. The 2014 Kia Soul is at the top of a total of twenty categories.
The top ten highest ratings by Kia Soul drivers are: the warranty, the perception of reliability and dependability, overall quality and handling, vehicle and brand reputation, feeling safe while driving and the safety rating, the exterior color, and it is fun to drive.
As Kia’s top selling nameplate, Kia played it safe with the 2014 re-do. Still one of the most pleasant small cars to drive, it excels with its quirky styling, easy entry and exit, good visibility. Simply, the Soul is very easy to live with on a day to day basis.
The 2014 Fiat 500L is on sale now. Fiat unloaded the first boatload of 500Ls in Baltimore early June and by mid-June they had begun arriving at nearby Fiat Studios. Adding this larger four door vehicle to the Fiat line-up is very welcome to Fiat dealers who have been limited to the Fiat 500 albeit with two bodystyles and a multitude of models. The 500L is based on Fiat’s new “Small Wide” platform and shares nothing with the smaller 500 except for the “500” nomenclature and its engine. Like the 500, the 500L strives to be very emotional in its styling with cab-forward proportions and a long floating roof that is usually in contrasting colors to the body. Early on, it will turn heads.
For those who have not been paying attention, the 500L competes with the Kia Soul, Nissan Cube and MINI Countryman. It is available with dark tinted rear windows meaning it is classified as a truck. It is front wheel drive and powered with Fiat’s 1.4L Multi-Air Turbocharged 4-cylinder engine found in the 500 Abarth mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or Euro Twin Clutch automatic – a full automatic will be available in the first half of 2014. The 160-horsepower 4-cylinder has 184 lb-ft of torque. But the vehicle is much bigger and heavier than the minuscule Abarth and does not have near the performance. But that’s another story we’ll address later.
Big Car Room in Micro Car Footprint The real story about the 500L is its size. Think of it as a B-Segment four-door hatchback with a large car sized interior. It has panoramic view windows for great visibility. The seating position is upright and the seat is positioned so you can just slide into it. No climbing to get up into the seat. Once you are in, there is generous headroom and adequate shoulder room even for the largest drivers and passengers. The steering wheel has a squarish inner diameter so the instrument cluster can be viewed without obstructions. The ergonomics are good with controls easy to reach and operate. Fiat claims the 500L has best-in-class headroom, legroom, interior volume and cargo space.
Four Models – Pop-Easy-Trekking-Lounge The four models range in price from $19,900 (with destination included) for the Pop to $24,995 for the top of the line Lounge. The more aggressive USA-only Trekking model – shown above with the kayak mounted on the roof – is a step down from the Lounge at $21,995. While Fiat describes the 500L as the “Anti-SUV”, the SUV-like cues on the Trekking model are certainly a nod in that direction with more aggressive cladding and even a unique front fascia. While the Trekking model is USA-only now, Fiat says other markets like the model and are asking that it be added to their line-ups as well. The interiors are differentiated by material usage – hard and soft trim – and color. But each interior attempts to be a bit playful and engaging. Attention to detail is very good.
Kia’s Lineup Expands for 2009
Kia’s display concept at the 2007 North American International Auto Show was a concept called the Kue, but their announcement about last year’s concept is bigger news. At the 2006 North American International Auto Show, Kia showed a four-door SUV called Soul. This year, Kia announced that the Soul will be built in Korea and imported for U.S. sales. No specifics were given, other than the plan to have it in dealers sometime during 2008 (2009 model year).
Does Kia have room for three SUVs? It may seem illogical to need SUVs on top of SUVs, but Soul could be to the Sportage what Ford’s Edge is to their Escape. With more SUV look than substance, this entry could have the cargo/people hauling advantages of a box but reduce the fuel-cost disadvantage.
Many of the concept’s more outrageous elements, like the fold-out laptop computer, aren’t likely for production, but a 2.0L four-cylinder engine and a front-drive-base are good bets, as is optional AWD. Bluetooth, advanced ambient lighting, power liftgate, and an advanced audio system with auxiliary inputs are some features that might make the transition. Cost is a bigger deterrent for those features than technology or engineering. Kia claimed the concept Soul’s rear-hinged second door setup met safety standards, but we’re skeptical about the likelihood of anything but traditional, forward-hinged doors in real life. (For more about concept Soul’s features and images, click to our 2006 concept report here
Reality and Fantasy on Kia’s 2006 North American International Auto Show Stand
Alongside a vision for a small car-based utility in the form of the Soul concept, Kia introduced the second generation of its Optima sedan at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents at the show have reported back on their first look.
The Optima was first launched for the 2001 model year, and is related to the Hyundai Sonata. After serving Kia well for a little more than five years, the latest version arrives at dealerships in spring 2006 as a 2006.5 model year vehicle. An international version went on sale in late 2005. Though the Hyundai Sonatas sold in this market are now built in this market and those sold internationally are built in Korea, Optima production continues solely in Korea.
Differences between the Optima offered in the States and that in international markets are minimal. Compared with the first generation, Optima brings a longer wheelbase and a some extra width, resulting in a bit more interior passenger room and more cargo volume in the trunk. The U.S. Optima is available with the Global Engine Alliance 162HP 2.4L DOHC 16v I4 and the updated 185HP 2.7L V6. The I4 can be had with a five-speed manual transmission, but most models will be equipped with the four-speed automatic.
The new Optima is no longer the clone of the Hyundai Sonata its predecessor was. Clearly, Hyundai Motor Corporation is using the introduction of the new Optima to further differentiate Kia from Hyundai. The new made-in-America Sonata is clearly more upmarket than the Optima. It is larger and has a larger V6 engine. While Kia likely would have preferred a larger, more powerful Optima, the new car will fit with its lineup strategy very well.