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.
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.
New Study Shows Willingness to Accept Unknown Brands
Tustin, CA (July 28, 2009) — Newly released research shows fifteen percent of new car buyers in the United States say they would consider purchasing their next vehicle from China, and eleven percent would consider buying a car from India, without knowing specific brands or vehicles. This compares with sixteen percent who said they would consider a vehicle from Korea, which has been marketing vehicles in the U. S. since the 1980s.
“As Hyundai and Kia have been on the American scene for decades now, it’s surprising that consideration for Chinese and Indian brands, sight unseen, would be about as strong as it is for the Korean brands,” said George Peterson, president of automotive research firm AutoPacific and author of the study. “However, with so many premium and high-tech non-automotive products already being made in China and purchased by Americans, why not automobiles too? It appears that buyers in America are willing to give Chinese and Indian vehicles a chance right out of the box. Understanding these consumers will be critically important to the success of any newcomer.”
“The Kia Sportage delivers what its owners want, winning AutoPacific’s 2009 Ideal Vehicle Award in the Compact Crossover SUV segment. While winning the Ideal Vehicle Award is a big deal, Sportage also won AutoPacific’s 2009 Vehicle Satisfaction Award. Since both awards are based on owner ratings, this is definitely an outstanding achievement,” said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, Inc. The Sportage scored particularly well in the following areas:
* Exterior styling
* Interior lighting
The Kia Sportage wins the Vehicle Satisfaction Award for the Compact Crossover Sport Utility Vehicle segment on the strength of a combination of high-scoring product and financial characteristics. Sporting a fresh face for 2009MY, the four-year-old Sportage won against newer competition, including the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Jeep Compass and Patriot. Areas in which the Kia Sportage leads its segment include:
• Ride and handling
• Safety features and feeling safe while driving
• Quietness inside the vehicle
• Feel of interior fabrics and materials
• Innovative technology
• Price, operating costs and value for the money
AutoPacific’s 2009 Vehicle Satisfaction Award Highlights Consumer Opinion As Industry Struggles
National Survey Measures Satisfaction with New Vehicles
TUSTIN, Calif. (May 19, 2009) — In the most challenging auto sales market in years, AutoPacific today announced its 13th Annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA). For the second straight year, Cadillac ranks highest among new car owners, taking the Highest Satisfaction Brand honors even with the turmoil surrounding General Motors and the industry as a whole.
Overall brand satisfaction ratings among Hyundai purchasers jumped 11 positions earning Hyundai 2009 Rising Star honors. This positive move was more than any other manufacturer in the survey. Hyundai scored higher in 40 of 48 rating categories in 2009 compared with 2008. Two Hyundai products took VSAs this year: the Genesis in the Aspirational Luxury Car category and the Sonata in the Premium Mid-size car class.
“These are difficult times, with news of automaker bankruptcies, companies restructuring and dealer closures a daily occurrence,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “Clearly, the dynamics surrounding the Vehicle Satisfaction Award in 2009 are far different from anything we’ve seen in many years. Winners needed to overachieve to earn their awards.”
Nicely Developed, Designed, and Executed, but Can Kia Overcome Bad Timing?
In the midst of a shaky economy and frenzy over high fuel costs that hasn’t quite died down, Kia’s new Borrego appears to be the wrong product at the wrong time. Borrego isn’t alone in facing an uphill battle this fall, as the Dodge Challenger muscle car, Cadillac CTS-V performance sport sedan, Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram pickups, and king of any hill Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 are just a few of the other thirsty, function-oriented entries this year.
Yet Kia may pull some success out of an apparently difficult situation. First, Borrego is well done, competitive, and has nothing to apologize for. Second, Borrego is supported by a significant marketing program, advertising mid-size SUVs when no one else dares; this is the one segment with comparatively little ad clutter today and with the chance to grab some buyers feeling guilty about their suburban jungle Expeditions, or looking to shave a bit off the monthly payment to compensate for increased fuel costs. Third, the model is sold in South Korea as well and Kia could offer a lower-content version for some emerging markets if they chose. Finally, if sales don’t take off as expected, the economy is the easy the fall guy. If sales beat (likely readjusted) targets, then they’ve got a success to report back home.