Thursday, May 29, 2008

2008 Kia Sportage

Compact SUV comes into its own

The Sportage was first introduced to the Kia vehicle lineup in 1993 and has since been continually upgraded and improved. The compact SUV seats five and comes three ways: the base model LX, which is powered by a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 140 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque; the LX with an optional 2.7-liter V6; or the upscale EX, which comes with the V6 as standard, producing 173 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. There are also two transmissions: a five-speed manual or a four-speed Sportmatic with manual shift capability. The Sportage is available as a front-wheel drive (FWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD). The FWD system is a full-time electronically controlled affair with OnDemand 4WD.

The exterior styling of the Sportage has advanced dramatically throughout the years - it now displays a rugged attitude with some sophisticated cues that include multi-reflector headlamps, black exterior door handles, roof rails, front and rear tow hooks and a skid plate under the front end as standard on all LX models. The EX model adds the V6 engine with automatic transmission.

Despite its seemingly small exterior, the new Sportage provides a surprising amount of interior space, which is capable of carrying five adults comfortably plus some gear. The rear seat is innovative and easy to use, with its 60/40 split cushion and backrest that allows the bottom cushion to move forward and down into the rear footwell area, while also allowing the seat backrest to be folded completely flat and onto the same level as the floor of the trunk. The maneuver may be completed without removing the rear head restraints. The front passenger seat also folds flat, further increasing the versatility and functionality of the Sportage by adding to the number of seating/luggage carrying combinations. Maximum cargo volume is 66.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. The fold-flat seat can double as a work table for the driver with the vehicle parked.

Coupled with the cabin's volume, other load area benefits include an under-floor tray (above the spare wheel) in the rear-cargo area, four floor-mounted tie-down anchors, side-wall storage with a net and a unique two-position rear cargo cover. There are lots of storage compartments, too, including a large center console with two-stage tray top, a large lockable glove box, overhead sunglasses holder, map and cup holders in all four doors, rear-seat central armrest and floor-console dual cup holders.

The Sportage LX model's standard equipment includes power windows with a driver's one-touch down feature, power mirrors, rear privacy glass, roof rails and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system. Cruise control comes standard on all models. Moving up to an EX model adds a leather-covered shift knob and steering wheel, sunroof, remote keyless entry system, a cargo cover and upgraded seat fabric, with the options of a Luxury Package, with leather seats and interior trim, heated front seats, automatic headlamps, electrochromatic interior mirror with HomeLink and an upgraded stereo system complete with woofer and external amplifier. Leather seats and trim are also available as a stand-alone option on the EX model. The Sportage earned a five-star crash rating in frontal and side impact crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for last year. The Sportage's long list of standard safety features and equipment includes six standard air bags (two advanced front air bags, two front-seat-mounted side air bags, and two full-length side-curtain air bags), four-wheel disc brakes with antilock brake system, traction control system and electronic stability control. The four-channel, four-sensor, antilock brake system is standard, incorporating electronic brakeforce distribution, and helping to distribute braking force evenly to all four wheels as weight shifts during cornering. The traction control is a fully automatic, dual-mode system that either reduces engine power or applies the vehicle's brakes - or both - when appropriate.

My test Kia Sportage was in EX trim with the V6 and automatic transmission in a 4x4 configuration. The exterior finish was executed in Satin Silver metallic with the interior done in black. The base price amounted to $22,895. Extra costs included the Luxury Package and the Inland Freight and Handling fee, which combined to bump the final sticker to $24,820.


The Kia Sportage has come a long way from its first generation. The added power is a definite plus, even if it is on the "buzzy" side when pushed in a spirited manner, and the interior now provides more thoughtful touches that tend to increase traveling pleasure.

The ride quality is compliant and comfortable - not plush mind you, but, hey, it's an SUV that is actually capable of going where no roads exist. It might not be capable of traversing the legendary Rubicon Trail, but it should meet most traditional off-road demands thrown its way, such as gravel, mud and snow. The on-road manners are pleasant as well, with agile handling.

Add to the above attributes, Kia's industry-leading, comprehensive warranty program that offers a 10-year or 100,000-mile limited power train warranty, a five-year or 60,000-mile limited basic warranty, and a five-year or 100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty, and you have a pretty attractive deal. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan is also part of the comprehensive coverage program.

2008 Kia Sportage

Base price: $22,895

Price as tested: $24,820

Engine/transmission: 2.7-liter, 173-horsepower V6; four-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 103.5 inches

Length: 171.3 inches

Width: 70.9 inches

Height: 66.7 inches

Curb weight: 3,527 pounds

Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons

Fuel consumption: 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway

By: Arv Voss
May, 2008
San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kia Rio and Rio5 Named to's List of Top 10 Best Small Cars

Sub-Compact Sedan and Five-Door Make Annual List

* Fuel-efficient, budget-minded vehicles top list
* Comprehensive warranty program, standard safety outshine competition

IRVINE, Calif., May 23, 2008 - The 2008 Kia Rio and Rio5 have been named to's "Top 10 Best Small Cars." was impressed with the vehicles' fuel efficiency, standard safety features, extensive warranty and low starting price.

"Rio and Rio5 are the vehicles of choice in today's car-buying market as fuel prices hit record highs and budgets become increasingly tighter," said Tom Loveless, vice president, sales of Kia Motors America (KMA). "However fuel efficiency does not mean style and substance need to be sacrificed, as Kia's sub-compact offerings prove by providing consumers with a sporty, stylish option packed with standard features, an extensive warranty and budget-minded starting price."

According to, vehicles that are "quality built with high feature content and loads of character" were selected as top choices. The site also notes Rio's starting price of $10,890 ranks the sedan among the most budget-friendly cars on the market and added that its comprehensive warranty and safety features "further sweeten the deal." Rio's nimble engine, which produces more horsepower than segment rivals Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, and responsive handling were also praised.

"This Korean-built sedan may be inexpensive, but it doesn't skimp on protecting its passengers," according to the review. "For a starter vehicle in urban settings, this vehicle is a bargain." is a unit of Gayot Publications, a worldwide leader in professional hotel and restaurant reviews, along with comprehensive travel and online lifestyle content. Additional partnerships with the American Automobile Association (AAA), AOL, MSN, Yahoo! and American Express allow Gayot access to millions of viewers, delivering more than 28 million monthly visitors.

About Kia Motors America

Kia Motors America (KMA) is the sales, marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 640 dealers throughout the United States. For 2007, KMA recorded its 14th consecutive year of record U.S. sales. Kia Motors subscribes to a philosophy of building high value, high quality, safe and dynamic vehicles. Kia Motors prides itself on producing vehicles that are exciting and enabling and evoke the Kia tagline "The Power to Surprise."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

G. Chambers Williams III: Kia beefs up Optima for '09

The newest generation of Kia's midsize Optima sedan goes on sale this fall, bearing an "aggressive new look" as well as more power, the South Korean automaker says.

Kia, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hyundai, unveiled the redesigned 2009 Optima at the New York auto show in March.

Designed to compete head to head with the segment's leaders, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the new Optima is larger and roomier, with an interior that can accommodate five people easily.

The Optima's new four-cylinder engine "packs a powerful punch without sacrificing fuel economy," the automaker said. The car also will be offered with a V-6 that carries over from the current generation, which was introduced as a mid-2006 model.

"The refreshed Optima offers a completely modified exterior, which offers a more aggressive, dynamic style than previous models, and is outfitted with a new engine that provides more power and better fuel economy," the company's U.S. arm, Kia Motors America, said during the New York introduction.

The new, larger size "complements its distinctive new styling and separates itself from other vehicles in the growing midsize segment," the automaker added.

"Optima is in a strong position to change the way consumers think about midsize sedan offerings," said Tom Loveless, Kia Motors America's vice president for sales.

"Already known for its exemplary quality, safety and value, Optima's sleek new redesign provides consumers with a sporty, fuel-efficient choice and showcases Kia's commitment to providing the best all-around vehicle package." The car also competes with a similar model from sister brand Hyundai, the Sonata, but the two are built on different chassis.

Other key competitors in the segment include the Nissan Altima, Mazda 6, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Dodge Avenger, Chrysler Sebring, Pontiac G6, Saturn Aura and Mercury Milan.

Although no prices have been announced yet for the new model, the 2008 version ranges from $16,355 to $20,500 (plus $640 freight), which gives the current Optima a significant price advantage over most of its competition. The segment-leading Camry, for instance, begins at $18,720 and runs as high as $28,270.

Kia says the Optima's new styling builds on Kia's philosophy of "creating dynamic vehicles that evoke passion," something that generally is lacking in this segment of mass-market sedans.

"The fog lamps and lower front grille have been enlarged and the headlamps narrowed to create an aggressively sharper look," the company said. "Wider side garnishes add sportiness, while the acute front lines continue toward the back, ending on a distinctly edged trunk lid."

The taillights were "narrowed to enhance Optima's sleeker” appearance.

A new sporty midlevel model, the SX, will be added to the 2009 lineup. Other trims will include the base LX version and the top-of-the-line EX, which comes with the most luxury features.

The SX trim is offered in other Kia model lines, including the subcompact Rio and Rio5, as well as the compact Spectra and Spectra5, offering sportier versions of these vehicles.

That sporty nature comes from such upgrades as a sport-tuned suspension, black-bezeled front grille and headlights, LED turn signals built into the outside mirrors, fog lights and silver-finished 17-inch wheels.

Kia says the EX and LX V-6 models will have 16-inch alloy wheels with Goodyear tires.

The new model is nearly 3 inches longer, giving it an overall length of 89 inches. Other dimensions carry over from the 2008 model.

The base engine is a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder, rated at 175 horsepower and 169 foot-pounds of torque -- up from 161 horsepower in the current model's base engine. That compares with 158 horsepower for the Camry's four-cylinder engine.

The optional engine is a 2.7-liter V-6, with 190 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque. Although this is a carry-over engine, power has been boosted from 185 in this year's model.

Five-speed manual and automatic transmissions will be offered, although the manual will be available only in the base LX model.

Dual continuously variable valve timing and a variable intake system are used to improve performance and fuel economy, Kia says.

EPA ratings on the two engines are not yet available. But the 2008 model's four-cylinder is listed at 21 miles per gallon city/31 highway, and the V-6 at 20 city/28 highway. Those ratings should carry over about the same. The four-cylinder's mileage is identical to that of the Camry four-cylinder.

The Optima has unibody construction with independent front and rear suspension, MacPherson struts up front and coil springs in the rear.

Inside, new technology includes a standard audio system with both MP3 playback capability and a USB port for connecting memory cards or external audio players. There is also an auxiliary jack for those iPods and such, and Sirius satellite radio is optional. Also available is a new dash-mounted navigation system.

Some of the interior features carry over mostly unchanged from 2008, such as the floor console. But there is a new "barrel-type" instrument cluster with red illumination.

The LX has cloth seats, while the EX and SX have leather. The SX also comes with aluminum interior trim, metal pedals and a special instrument cluster.

Standard on the LX will be air conditioning, power windows and door locks, an AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers, cloth seat and door trim, a six-way adjustable driver's seat and four-way adjustable front passenger seat, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat that allows for expansion of the trunk's cargo area.

Upgrading to the EX brings a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt and telescopic adjustments, the leather seat and door trim, leather-wrapped shift knob, automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage opener and an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat.

Other options include a power sunroof and an Infinity audio system.

Included in the car's safety features are front seat-mounted side air bags, as well as side-curtain air bags for both rows. The car also comes with electronic stability control, four-wheel antilock brakes and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

The cars are scheduled to go on sale in the fall.

G. Chambers Williams III
San Antonio Express-News

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Kia Optima, 2008: The Weekly Driver

First driving impressions mean a lot -- at least to me. Whether it's a rental vehicle, a friend's car or a new weekly test drive, I can usually tell if I'll like the vehicle within a few minutes

Honda and Cadillac offer diverse cars, but I always immediately feel comfortable in all the manufacturers' vehicles.

Kia now joins my "comfort car club."

I recently drove a 2008 Kia Optima nearly 1,100 miles in eight days in Georgia. It's a vastly unheralded midsize sedan. There's little flash, no outrageous color choices, nothing so computer high-tech it's problematic for the average driver.

What the Optima provides is dependable transportation, a superior warranty and stellar crash tests results that all add up to prompt one question: Why isn't public giving Kia more attention?

The likely answer is that it's positioned in arguably the most competitive car segment -- the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry are the "major players" in midsize sedan category.

Several leading automotive publications have commented that one of the Kia's best attributes is its ability to not stand out in a crowd. It's a good thing, and as the reviewer commented, "The Kia is a clever, value-conscious buy. And besides, what other car comes with a cloaking device?"

The Kia Optima is offered in LX and EX trim. Standard equipment on the LX with a 4-cylinder includes 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, tilt steering column, and a six-speaker sound system with single-CD player and auxiliary audio jack.

The LX model, which I drove for a week, comes with a V6 engine or automatic-equipped four-cylinder gain keyless entry, cruise control and tilt-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls.

The LX V6 also has alloy wheels. The LX Appearance Package adds 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, trip computer, and upgraded exterior and interior trim.

The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 162 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the four-cylinder LX. Optional on the LX and standard on the four-cylinder EX is a fiv

e-speed automatic transmission. Optional on both trim levels is a 2.7-liter V6 with 185 horsepower. Optima crash test scores are superior, with a perfect five stars for front-and side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the highest possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset crash test.

The 2008 Optima's interior is efficient, easy-to-use and devoid of any unique characteristic other than it "gets the job done." There's plenty of legroom and seats are well shaped and supportive.

During my week in the Optima, I negotiated high-speed highways to country roads. I used the air conditioner often and I also drove to the summit of Brasstown Bald Mountain, the highest elevation in Georgia at nearly 5,000 feet.

With three adult males in the car, the Kia struggled on the steep parts of the mountain ascent. But nearly every other car in the entourage I was traveling in also suffered. It was the only hesitation in my time in the vehicle. I filled the gas tank three times and it averaged 28.2 mpg.

It's doubtful with Kia will cut into the Honda, Toyota or Nissan stronghold in the midsize market. But it's a less-expensive, efficient, no-frills alternative to the leading trio, and deserves a second look.

Safety Features -- Front seat front, side and side curtain airbags. Stability control, ABS brakes.

Warranty -- Bumper to bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/100,000 miles; Roadside assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles;

Gas Mileage Estimates -- 21 mpg (city), 31 mpg (highway).

Base Price -- $20,500.

By James Raia

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2008 Kia Sportage 4x4 Review


For under $25k, the Kia Sportage 4x4 is not just a great deal, but a reliable one that has grown more impressive in the last couple of years.

The Kia Sportage fell into the crossover vehicle market (CUV) in 1995. Kia is originally part of South Korea's oldest car company, but the actual Kia car brand didn't became available for the U.S. market until 1992. The company's bankruptcy in 1997 allowed Hyundai to acquire Kia.

I drove a 4-door, 5-passenger 2008 Kia Sportage 4x4 with a 2.7-liter DOHC 4-speed automatic V6 engine and an electronic control on-demand 4-wheel drive system. It came with the Luxury Package ($1,300), which included color-keyed bumpers, leather seating, heated front seats, Homelink, and a CD player. Total vehicle price is $24,820.

This is a 2008 Consumer Reports recommended vehicle - not a major standout for any particular category such as fuel conservation or performance, but such a recommendation is a highlight nonetheless. Little has changed since last year's model. Consumer Reports noted its roomy interior, secure handling, and long warranty.

I agree: With a 60/40 split-folding rear seats that fold pretty flat and folding front passenger seat, you get 66.6 cubic feet of cargo space for groceries or what's needed for a weekend camping trip (including bikes).

The Sportage is offered with front- or four-wheel drive in LX and EX trim levels. Last year I drove a 2007 Sportage and took it on an off-road destination in northern California's Lost Coast. I was initially a little soar I didn't have the Jeep I was scheduled for, so my attitude was the scrutinize it. I was a little skeptical the Sportage could take the bumpy 4-mile trail I had planned. Despite much resistance, I ended up loving the little Sportage and was satisfied with its 4-wheel drive components that were as simple to use. I also took some winding highways to the trip destination and the Sportage with its rally shifting options made for an even better driving experience.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Sportage looks and feels a lot classier than you think it would – sometimes a great deal comes off as sounding a little cheap. While it certainly isn't going to dazzle you with dual temperature controls, power seating or a Bose stereo, the center console and dashboard are still modern and sleek in design with basic features.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Kia offers a longer and better than most when it comes to warranty: 10-year/100,000 miles for powertrain issues; 5-year/60,000 miles for limited basic items; 5-year/60,000 miles for 24-hour road assistance; each of which provides coverage until either the yearly or total mileage figure is reached, whichever occurs first. Consumer Reports states Kias are generally good values, although they recommend only 45% of the total 2008 Kia lineup tested – the Kia Sportage is one of those vehicles with a high score of predicted reliability. The reported lows on a Kia has more to with the personal preferences (reported suspension noise). The 2008 Sportage has earned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-star crash safety rating in all four categories. It has such safety features as six airbags, full-length side curtains, anti-lock brakes and Electronic Stability Control.

Cost Issues: If you are looking for an affordable, almost mid-size SUV that looks like a distant cousin to the Lexus GX, at $24,820 this is one of your considerations. The sunroof, power windows, heated outside mirrors, trip computer, roof rack and keyless entry does not come as an extra cost or better known as an upgrade package, which is nice. Considering how fond makers are of packaging and charging extra for such upgrades, this makes the Sportage a good deal.

Activity & Performance Ability: Acceleration is typical but nothing special. I took it up some of the steepest streets in San Francisco and while it didn't lag, the 2.7-liter V6 certainly didn't defy the forces of gravity. The Sportage has a four-wheel-independent suspension. There is also a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine.

The Green Concern: While the Sportage is a great value, the 2.7-liter V6 is not a standout in the gas mileage estimations: try 17-mpg city and 21-mpg highway. These figures are below average for an engine and CUV of this size, making lack of decent fuel economy a downside.

FINAL PARTING WORDS: I've been pleasantly impressed with Kia Sportage as far as looks, off-road performance, and interior size are concerned. You're getting a great warranty on a CUV with little reported problems at a decent price– too bad the gas mileage on the 2.7-liter V6 engine isn't a tad more economical.

By Katrina Ramser
©2008 Katrina Ramser

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kia Sorento supports family values

SUV costs less than rivals like the CR-V

The 2008 Kia Sorento represents just the latest of the South Korean automaker's family friendly vehicles to offer a nice mix of price, performance and roominess.

Carrying a $20,995 base price, the Sorento costs a bit less than rivals like the Toyota RAV4 or Honda's CR-V, but provides comparable space, features and an industry-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Motor Mouth recently checked out the Sorento EX 4x4 (base price: $26,195), upgraded with a $3,000 Luxury Package and $200 rear spoiler.

On the outside, the Sorento sports a beefy, SUV appearance.

A solid-looking hood and grille sweep back to large wheels and hefty doors with folding side mirrors. In back, the SUV's liftgate comes standard with a rear wiper and a windshield that pops open for easy loading/unloading.

Inside, the Sorento offers good headroom, legroom and hiproom for both driver and front passenger. (The driver's side comes standard with an electric seat adjuster.)

My test model's Luxury Package upgraded standard cloth upholstery with heated leather seating, adding in chrome accents and a leather-wrapped gear shift as well.

The Sorento's clean dashboard includes a big speedometer and tachometer, as well as smaller fuel and temperature gauges.

The model's standard AM/FM/MP3/CD stereo features 17 intuitive knobs and buttons clearly marked "AM, "FM," etc. (There are none of the cryptic labels like "Source" or "A.Lib" that show up on lots of audio systems these days.)

Similarly, the model's climate system - upgraded to dual zone on my test car as part of the Luxury Package - has relatively easy-to-use controls. However, two big knobs that you'd assume adjust fan speed actually control air temperature.

In back, the Sorento's 60/40 split fold-down rear seats provide good headroom and legroom, although hiproom is a bit tight.

The back seat can comfortably accommodate three children for even long trips, but three adults might find the space a little cramped after about 20 minutes.

All the way back, the Sorento's cargo area has room for perhaps two large suitcases.

However, you can get plenty of space for big items by folding down the rear seats. Unfortunately, that's a bit challenging, as you have to manually remove the rear head rests.

If you need still more cargo space, the EX comes standard with a roof rack.

Other nice standard features include 12-volt outlets for both the front and rear passengers. The SUV also has a plethora of cup holders, change holders, eyeglass holders and the like.

On the road, the Sorento EX's five-speed transmission, four-wheel drive system and 3.8-liter, 262-horsepower V-6 engine team up to provide a comfortable ride.

The model offers a "high-up" road view, along with good cornering and braking.

The Sorento likewise accelerates well, although my test car noisily revved up above 5,000 rpm in one tough situation (gunning the engine from 0 mph to 40 mph while going uphill).

Backing up and parking the Sorento are also a bit challenging given the model's size.

As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the Sorento at 15 mpg/city and 20 mpg/highway. That’s OK, but not incredible.

In terms of price, the Sorento EX's $26,195 sticker runs anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars below that of key rivals. (These include the $26,700 Honda CR-V EX-L, the $27,070 Toyota RAV-4 Limited and the $32,670 Saturn Outlook XR.)

The bottom line: Kias like the 2008 Sorento continue to impress Motor Mouth with their mix of family friendly features, roominess - and nice prices.

By Jerry Kronenberg / Motor Mouth
Boston Herald

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

G. Chambers Williams III: Kia Sportage a sensible SUV

With gasoline prices setting new records almost daily, the auto market is ripe for manufacturers such as Kia.

Heavy on fuel-efficient cars and crossover utility vehicles, and light on trucks (actually, the company has none), this South Korean automaker now owned by Hyundai is well-positioned to take advantage of the changing consumer habits.

In record numbers, people are giving up their larger, less-fuel-efficient vehicles such as pickups and traditional SUVs, and turning to vehicles that make sense as gasoline approaches $4 a gallon (or as in some markets, has already surpassed that mark).

It hasn't been easy for Kia, but the company has come a long way since introduction of its first vehicles in the U.S. market in 1995.

The first two vehicles from Kia were the compact Sportage sport utility vehicle and the subcompact Sephia sedan. Both sold well, and the Sportage was quite popular, giving consumers a well-built yet economical SUV that was surprisingly roomy - nearly as big inside as most midsize models at the time.

The Sephia was replaced in 2001 by the Rio, which is now the best-selling economy car in the brand's lineup. It comes in sedan and five-door hatchback versions.

Kia has added other vehicles over the past few years, including the midsize Optima sedan and Sorento crossover, the compact Spectra sedan and liftback, the Sedona minivan, and the premium Amanti full-size sedan, and the Rondo subcompact crossover, with its three rows of seats.

While the Rondo is one of the smallest and most-fuel-efficient vehicles designed for seven passengers, the roomier Sportage, which is almost a midsize utility vehicle, makes a great alternative to the bigger, less-efficient SUVs that are barely hanging on in today's market.

This is the second generation of the Sportage, introduced for 2006. It's essentially the same vehicle as the Hyundai Tucson, which arrived a year earlier, but there are some differences in the two.

Both are compact crossovers based on the architecture of the Hyundai Elantra compact sedan, but unlike the Elantra, both are offered with an optional 2.7-liter V-6 engine, which powered our test model.

Kia dropped the previous Sportage model when the Sorento was introduced in 2003 but said at the time that a replacement was on the way.

The base two-wheel-drive Sportage LX, with a five-speed manual gearbox and the same 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine as the base Tucson, starts at $16,050 (plus $625 freight).

These vehicles are more affordable than most in their class, which includes the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V among import brands and the Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Jeep Liberty, Dodge Nitro, Pontiac Torrent and Saturn Vue among domestics.

All-wheel-drive models with four-cylinder engine and manual transmission start at $19,545, and V-6 versions with automatic transmission and two-wheel drive begin at $20,045.

Our tester, though, was the top model, the EX four-wheel drive with the V-6 engine and four-speed automatic transmission. List price is $22,895, and with a luxury option package ($1,300) that tacked on leather seats, heated front seats, automatic headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage/gate opener and a stereo with an in-dash CD changer, our vehicle's sticker totaled $24,820, including freight.

The Sportage has seating for up to five people, with a surprisingly roomy interior for a car with such a compact profile.

The base engine is a Hyundai 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder with a cast-iron block and aluminum cylinder head, rated at 140 horsepower and 136 foot-pounds of torque. It can be connected either to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

This engine is the best choice for fuel economy, and I suspect that many customers today would choose it even though it has less power than the optional V-6. EPA ratings for two-wheel-drive models are 20 miles per gallon city/25 highway with the manual gearbox and 19/25 with the automatic. The four-wheel-drive, four-cylinder model, available only with manual, is rated at 19/24.

For the V-6 engine, with 173 horsepower and 178 foot-pounds of torque, the ratings are slightly lower: 17 city/23 highway with two-wheel drive, and for our tester, with the on-demand four-wheel drive, 17/21. Only the automatic transmission is offered with the V-6.

With that big of a difference in highway fuel economy, the four-wheel drive doesn't make sense unless you're in a place where you might really need it, such as snow country.

But unlike the previous generation of the Sportage, the newest model's four-wheel drive does not come with a two-speed transfer case for serious off-road use. That takes the Sportage out of the class of SUVs designed for the trail. It would be suitable for light off-road use, though, and there is a switch on the dash that locks the four-wheel drive.

Safety features standard across the board include four-wheel disc brakes with a four-channel antilock system, electronic stability control and traction control, front seat-mounted side air bags, side-curtain air bags for both rows, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

The Sportage is generally roomy and comfortable, but I did find the driver's seat a bit tight for larger folks. The rear bench seat can hold three adults, though, and there is decent legroom.

My tester was full of amenities, as well it should have been as it was the top model. Surprisingly, though, the climate-control system was manual, not automatic.

There was another oddity: The upgraded audio system that came with the luxury package brought a six-disc CD changer, but it eliminated the MP3 playback capability that the base single-disc audio system offered. I learned this rather quickly early in my test drive as I inserted a CD with 273 MP3 music files on it, and got an "Error" message. The audio system didn't have an auxiliary input jack for my iPod, either, but it did have a cassette player. Unfortunately, I tossed out all of my cassette tapes about 15 years ago.

Among the other standard features on the tester were 16-inch alloy wheels, power windows/mirrors/door locks with remote; sunroof; trip computer; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, included even without the leather upholstery upgrade; eight-way manual driver's seat adjustment; cruise control; variable intermittent wipers; roof rails; a cargo cover; dual vanity mirrors; fog lights; privacy glass; and front and rear cup holders.

The rear hatch lifts up all in one piece, or the window can be flipped up by itself. The cargo area has 23.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seat up, but can be expanded to 66.6 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. The seatback has a 60/40 split so part of the seating capacity can be maintained while expanding the cargo space.

This vehicle isn't really designed for towing, but can take a trailer weighing up to 1,000 pounds (2,000 pounds if the trailer has brakes).

With the V-6, there is plenty of power, and the vehicle quickly moves to highway speeds even on uphill freeway on-ramps.

The ride is smooth, and the vehicle is surprisingly quiet inside for a low-end SUV. I've tested some premium sedans recently that were much noisier.

Overall, the Sportage offers a good mix of performance, styling, safety, utility and fuel economy in an affordable package.

And one great thing about Kia products: They come with a 10-year, 100,000-mile extended powertrain warranty, one of the best in the industry. The base warranty covers the car bumper-to-bumper for five years/60,000 miles, and includes 24-hour roadside assistance during that period.

G.Chambers Williams III
Source: San Antonio Express-News

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kia to Bring Small Car to U.S.

The Kia Soul concept car, shown, has a new grille. The production version comes to the U.S. in 2009.

Kia Motors Corp. plans to export its new Soul small car to the United States and China in March, says a Kia source.

The five-seater will be produced for the Chinese market at a Kia plant in China in December 2009. The source declined to be identified because he is not authorized to talk about the matter.

Suh Sung-moon, an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities, also said the Soul is coming to the United States in early 2009.

The car, code-named AM, is the next step, after the Borrego SUV, in Kia's strategy to reshape the brand's exterior design. The Soul concept was shown first in Detroit in January 2006. It was displayed in Geneva in March with a new "tiger nose" grille by Peter Schreyer, Kia's head of design.

Schreyer has said he wants to give Kias a more distinct look. In his corner is Tom Kearns, who came from Cadillac and did the main design work on the Soul.

The Soul was developed with buyers of the Toyota Scion and Honda Fit in mind. The car is expected to get a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive.

Source: AutoWeek

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Microsoft and Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group to Develop Next Generation of In-Car Infotainment

New partnership will globalize innovative in-car infotainment.

SEOUL, South Korea - May 6, 2008 - Today, Microsoft Corp. and Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group (HKAG) entered into a long-term agreement to co-develop the next generation of in-car infotainment systems. Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, and Mongku Chung, chairman of HKAG, were present as Martin Thall, general manager of Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit, and Hyun Soon Lee, president and chief technology officer of HKAG, signed the agreement in Seoul.

Together, Microsoft and HKAG will deliver new and innovative solutions based on the Microsoft Auto software platform, bringing the future of in-car technology to Hyundai-Kia drivers worldwide.

"These new systems will redefine consumer experiences in the car," Thall said. "Since the spring of 2006, HKAG and Microsoft have been sharing their vision for the future of in-car technology. We're now aligned to develop the next generation of in-car infotainment systems."

"We are pleased to partner with Microsoft to deliver high-performance infotainment solutions to our customers," Lee said. "The advanced capabilities, flexibility and low price point make the Microsoft Auto software platform an attractive solution for us."

The first product, a next-generation infotainment system that provides voice-controlled connectivity between mobile devices, will be introduced in the North American market in 2010. It will further apply to Asian and European markets, and expand into multimedia and navigation devices. These easy-to-use infotainment systems will allow consumers to enjoy music in various digital formats.

The next-generation infotainment systems are comparable to mini-PCs. Even after product launch, new functions can be added or upgraded in the form of software program updates, an innovation to existing in-car multimedia technology.

The Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group's adoption of the Microsoft Auto software platform increases Microsoft's presence in the Asian car market and enhances the global automotive business. The engineering and marketing teams of Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit in Redmond, Wash., will be working directly with counterparts at HKAG in Seoul to support this goal. Microsoft Auto-powered systems are currently available in Fiat Auto Group vehicles in Europe and South America and Ford Motor Co. vehicles in North America.

In a related announcement, Microsoft and Hyundai-Kia, along with the Institute for Information Technology Advancement (IITA), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to co-establish an automotive IT innovation center with the goal of promoting innovation and opportunities for Korean software and device vendors in the global market.

Microsoft Automotive Business Unit

The Microsoft Automotive Business Unit is a dedicated partner to the auto industry, providing innovative technologies and flexible software platforms to help deliver simple, more reliable and cost-effective in-car infotainment systems. Developed closely with automakers and automotive suppliers, the award-winning Microsoft Auto and Windows Automotive software platforms connect drivers with a wide range of devices, services and technology while on the go, including hands-free communication, mobile device integration, customized navigation and high-fidelity digital entertainment. More information can be found at

About Microsoft

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