Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kia Sportage Awarded Top Ranking in AutoPacific 2009 Ideal Vehicle Awards

Sportage is Highest Ranked in Compact Crossover SUV Category

# Ideal Vehicle Award is Sportage's second AutoPacific award this year
# Compact SUV honored for high owner satisfaction

IRVINE, Calif., June 29, 2009 -- Kia Motors America, Inc. (KMA) today announced the 2009 Kia Sportage compact SUV topped the compact crossover SUV category in AutoPacific, Inc's 2009 Ideal Vehicle Awards (IVA), closely following the AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award received earlier this year. The AutoPacific IVA awards are a quantitative measurement of how closely a vehicle matches an owner's expectations.

"We take great pride in knowing our owners are satisfied with their vehicles and Sportage's recognition as an ideal vehicle is a tremendous compliment," said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing, Kia Motors America (KMA). "This second AutoPacific award directly reflects the satisfaction of smart, discerning Sportage owners, and this type of consumer feedback validates Kia's commitment to providing high levels of quality, style, safety and practicality in all of our vehicles."

Sportage, noted for its passenger and cargo space as well as its off-road capabilities and impressive fuel economy, meets the needs of consumers looking for the total package at a significant value. Sportage offers an extensive list of standard safety and convenience features, including six airbags with full-length side curtain airbags, SIRIUS Satellite Radio with three months complimentary service and USB and auxiliary input jacks, while the 2.0-liter engine delivers impressive fuel economy at 20 mpg (city) and 25 mpg (highway).

Based on survey responses from more than 32,000 vehicle owners, the 2009 IVA measure the combination of trust, anticipation, expectations and reality within specific product segments by having respondents rate 15 attributes concerning whether they would change them after having owned their vehicle for 90 days. An "ideal vehicle" is one that meets the owner's expectations based on how few attributes they would change. Sportage received a score of 1,224 out of a possible 1,500.

In addition to Sportage's top ranking in its segment, Kia Spectra, Optima, Sorento, and Borrego ranked among the top five in their respective categories.

About Kia Motors America

Kia Motors America (KMA) is the marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 630 dealers throughout the United States. For 2008, KMA recorded its 14th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share. 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."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Feel My Forte

Our 2010 Kia Forte SX falls into step with Seattle's afternoon gridlock. The compact sedan's 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine quickly becomes a necessity during all our last-second lane changes. And, sure enough, all four of the front-seat cupholders can accommodate micro-roasted coffee in 16-ounce recycled paper cups.

Somehow we don't think the Spectra, predecessor to the 2010 Kia Forte, would have blended into Seattle's coffee culture. It wasn't quick or refined, and didn't have the panache to make inroads with a caffeinated, left-of-center crowd.

Although our 2010 Kia Forte SX looks like a Civic from the front, there's confidence behind its clean lines and crisp detailing. It's a grown-up compact car penned by an A-list designer, Peter Schreyer, once of Audi but now of Kia.

If you think high style has no place in budget transportation, don't bother telling Kia. Schreyer and the Forte are part of the Korean automaker's grand strategy. Everybody's market share is fluid right now, so if you sell an otherwise respectable economy sedan, like say the 2010 Kia Forte, and it has attractive, cool-kid sheet metal, well, you just might have the next Mazda 3 on your hands.

Feel My Forte
Already Kia reports that its new Forte sedan has caused a stir in focus groups that compared it against its compact-class competitors. Actually, says Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing for Kia Motors America, Kias usually do well in focus groups -- but only in blind tests.

"Normally, for the Kia brand, as soon as you take the tape off the badge, consumers are like, 'Oh, no, we don't want that!' This was the first time in our history when consumers said, 'That is still the No. 1 vehicle.'" Still, Kia worries that you might be prejudiced against the Spectra name, perhaps associating it with ratty, 1990s-era Sephias. "The Spectra name didn't really mean anything to people," Sprague says. "We're trying to signal to the marketplace that Kia is reinventing itself, and to do that, we felt we needed a much stronger name for this vehicle." Conveniently, "Forte" connotes strength.

In reality, the 2010 Kia Forte is not radically different from the outgoing Spectra in size or focus. It has a 104.3-inch wheelbase like the Hyundai Elantra, but whereas the Hyundai has a multilink independent rear suspension, the Kia Forte uses a torsion beam, along with struts in front. The Forte's 61.3-inch front track and 61.6-inch rear track give it the widest stance of any economy sedan in the U.S., though it also has some of the widest wheels and tires, with 17-by-7-inch alloys and P215/45R17 rubber fitted on the top-of-the-line SX model.

In keeping with the new name, Kia's compact sedan also has a stouter structure. Its unit body incorporates 63 percent high-tensile steel, enhancing rigidity without piling on pounds. An overdue switch to aluminum-block engines also helps control weight.

Two Engines, Four Transmissions
Yes, the 2010 Kia Forte can be had with either of two engines à la Mazda 3. The base 2.0-liter inline-4 is rated at 156 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 144 pound-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm (or 154 hp and 139 lb-ft for PZEV states).

This 1,975cc engine is part of the new Theta engine family and thus related to the 2.0-liter in the Mitsubishi Lancer and Dodge Caliber (indeed Hyundai did the primary engineering for this powerplant). The 2.0-liter is standard on base Forte LX ($14,200 base price) and mid-range Forte EX ($16,200 base price).

A five-speed manual or (for $1,000 extra) a four-speed automatic transmission drives the front wheels. That is, unless you check off the Fuel Economy package option (add another $600) for the Kia Forte EX, which upgrades you to a five-speed automatic, while mandating low-rolling-resistance tires, electric power steering, a "smart" alternator that runs only when the battery needs charging and aero enhancements that infinitesimally enhance the sedan's 0.29 coefficient of drag.

Only the 2010 Kia Forte SX ($18,100 base price) gets the 2.4-liter engine. The SX ends up weighing over 100 pounds more (2,853 pounds total), but the 2.4 compensates with 173 hp at 6,000 rpm and 168 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm (165 hp and 161 lb-ft, respectively, in PZEV form). Also, your front wheels can be driven by either a six-speed manual or the five-speed automatic.

Serious About MPG
Mediocre fuel mileage made the Spectra tough to justify as commuter transportation, but this won't be a problem for the 2010 Kia Forte. With the Fuel Economy package, the Forte EX earns a 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway EPA rating -- the highest of any non-hybrid, non-diesel sedan in this size class.

All other LX and EX models get a respectable rating of 25 mpg city/34 mpg highway, although you'd think Kia would just use the five-speed automatic and electric power steering across the board to pump up mpg in anticipation of rising CAFE standards.

"Electric steering assist is more expensive than using hydraulic power steering," says Fred Aikins, director of product planning for the Forte and Soul. "We've got the steering feel so that it's pretty much indistinguishable between the two, so it's primarily a cost issue. With the five-speed automatic, that again has to do with cost, as well as the current production capacity of five-speed automatics."

Mileage falls off a bit on the 2010 Kia Forte SX, but you'd be hard-pressed to top its rating of 22 mpg city, 31-32 mpg highway in any car with a large-displacement four-cylinder engine.

6 Speeds, 666 Ways To Stall
Until the Forte Koup arrives later this summer, the SX sedan is the sportiest Kia Forte you can get, thanks to its better engine, better transmissions and sport-tuned suspension with firmer springs, re-valved dampers and bigger front antiroll bar.

But you wouldn't know that from the car's sluggish throttle response, which combines with the six-speed gearbox's abrupt clutch engagement to make even the most enthusiastic manual-transmission holdout regret his choice.

If you can avoid stalling the engine as you leave the stoplight, you'll find the 2.4-liter turns out to have a pretty nice power band with useful midrange torque and a smooth delivery. There's not much going on at the top end, though, so you'll likely reach for the next gear before the redline at 6,500 rpm. But quick gearchanges aren't really possible in the 2010 Kia Forte SX, as the engine hangs onto revs while rocking around in its soft mounts. Kia says the Forte SX will run to 60 mph "in the 7s." We expect a very abusive launch will be required and we're not sure we want to be there.

We also get some time with a Forte EX sedan with the four-speed automatic and find this combination even less to our liking, as excessively tall gearing blunts whatever oomph the 2.0-liter four might have to offer.

In either case, the five-speed automatic is probably the more livable choice.

More Toyota Than Mazda
We're pretty happy with the 2010 Kia Forte SX's compromise of comfort and control on the freeway. It has the most sophisticated ride quality of any Kia to date, its compliant suspension seeing us over all manner of ruts and dips without fuss.

But even with a sport-tuned suspension and fairly low-profile P215/45R17 Goodyear tires, the Forte SX is more notable for its body roll than its cornering precision. The car doesn't seem interested in carving up a back road. Its hydraulic-assisted power steering offers reasonable weighting, but little feedback.

Three iPod-Ready Trim Levels
It's hard to make those dynamic complaints stick, though, when you pore over the standard features list. Prices haven't changed much from the 2009 Spectra, but you're getting more stuff.

The base Forte LX is still a stripped-down sedan without air-conditioning, power accessories or cruise control. For 2010, it gains four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, stability control, Bluetooth, satellite radio (three months of Sirius), and auxiliary and USB ports.

Forte EX and SX models have all of the above, plus access to a leather package ($1,000) with heated seats. A sunroof is available on the SX for $600, but costs $800 on the EX, which also picks up alloy wheels. Only the 2010 Kia Forte SX gets a telescoping steering wheel.

Harman International has already developed an Infinity system for the Forte with a claimed 360-watt amplifier and nine speakers. But Kia hasn't decided whether to make it a factory- or port-installed option, so it's not available right now. Nor is a factory navigation system.

Ordinary Car
Calling the 2010 Kia Forte an ordinary car is not the slam it appears to be. The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla have mostly been ordinary cars, remember.

Still, Kia's newest compact sedan shouldn't be embracing ordinariness. As a commuter car, it's adequate. But its drivetrains are so thoroughly tuned to minimize fuel consumption and emissions that there's not much of a driving experience left to enjoy. This is especially true of the 2010 Kia Forte SX, which looks like a Mazda 3 s rival on paper but goes all limp as soon as you goose the throttle.

For an undemanding few, the 2010 Forte SX's uncommon fashion sense and huge price advantage over the Mazda 3, Lancer GTS, Corolla XRS and Nissan Sentra SE-R might offset these annoyances.

But to us, $19K is still $19K. We'd like to see Kia make some drivetrain adjustments, rather than whip out the value card.

By Erin Riches

Friday, June 26, 2009

All-New Special Edition 2010 Kia Soul

Limited-Run Special Edition Soul is Another "New Way to Roll"

IRVINE, Calif., June 24, 2009 -- Kia Motors America (KMA) today rolls out the first all-new special edition for the Soul model line, the 2010 Denim Kia Soul, a unique iteration of the popular urban passenger vehicle that further emphasizes Soul's cutting edge style and youthful, fun character. Matched with impressive fuel economy and safety features standard on all models, the special-edition Denim Soul provides consumers with even more personalization options.

"Denim Soul incorporates edginess and confidence," said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing, KMA. "It illustrates our commitment to fresh design, even on a vehicle that's been in the marketplace only a few months, and it's the first of more special editions to be offered in 2010 for the recently introduced Kia Soul."

Exclusive to the Denim Soul is a unique denim exterior color, striking white side-view mirrors with matching white 18-inch alloy wheels, front fender turn signal indicator lights, a wing-type rear spoiler and a bold off-set white racing stripe completing the rally-inspired look. The Denim Soul is based on the Soul+ model and is fully loaded with the Audio Upgrade Package (center speaker, subwoofer, external amplifier and speaker lights that pulse to the beat of the music), an iPod connection cable for full functionality via the radio head unit and steering wheel controls, carpeted floor mats, moonroof and fog lights all included for this special edition.

The special edition Denim Soul starts at $17,300 with a five-speed manual transmission, and $18,250 with an automatic.

Denim Soul builds from the Soul+ model, which offers standard keyless remote entry, privacy glass on the rear and rear side windows, body-color door handles and dual body-color power side mirrors along with 16-inch alloy wheels with P205/55R16 tires. Soul+ offers additional standard features including cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth® hands-free connectivity, dual 12-volt power outlets and tweeter speakers, all enhancing creature comforts on the road, as well as a covered upper storage bin, dual visor vanity mirrors with covers and dual map lights. Black cloth seats are adorned with Soul logo inserts, further personalizing the cabin.

About the Kia Soul

Designed by Kia Motors' Southern California-based design team, Soul is currently on sale at dealerships across the United States and has already been recognized as a "Best Value" by the Texas Auto Writers Association and by Ward's Autoworld for its "Interior of the Year" list. Available in four trims, Soul, Soul+, Soul! (exclaim) and Soul sport, pricing for the versatile five door begins at $13,300 for the base trim, while Soul+ starts at $14,950. Enhancing to the Soul! or Soul sport offers a price beginning at $16,950.

A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is paired with either the five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission and is standard on Soul+, Soul! and Soul sport models. The engine produces 142 horsepower with 137 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy offers a thrifty, fuel-sipping 24/30 mpg for both the automatic and manual transmissions², better than the Scion xB.

Offering plenty of standard features, the Soul trim offers a chrome-accented grille, clear lens auto-off headlamps, solar glass, black door handles and side mirrors, body-colored front and rear fascias with black inserts, black bodyside molding, rear wiper/washer, variable intermittent windshield wipers and 15-inch steel wheels fitted with P195/65R15 tires.

Passengers will find comfort in the Soul's roomy cabin that offers 40.2/39.6 inches of headroom (front/rear), shoulder room of 55.2/55.1 inches, 42.1/39.0 inches of legroom and a passenger volume of 102.3 cubic feet, more spacious than the Scion xB.

Soul's interior design is decidedly influenced by the car's highly specified audio system.

An uncluttered dashboard with a three-dial instrument cluster, LCD illumination and floating center stack design is the key visual feature and offers enticing access to the AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system outfitted with SIRIUS Satellite Radio capabilities and three months complimentary service³. Standard USB and auxiliary input jacks also are in the center console with full iPod® and MP3 controllability via the audio head unit and steering wheel controls achieved with an optional accessory iPod cable.

Additional standard interior features include air conditioning, tilt steering column, power door locks, power windows with driver's side auto-down, external temperature display and digital clock in the radio, an upper storage bin, dual-level glove box, 12-volt power outlet, rear window defroster, cargo area light and a dome light with delay out. A 60/40 split-folding rear seat offers multiple seating and cargo arrangements depending on driver and passenger needs.

Standard Kia Safety Features

Soul continues to offer the same high level of standard safety equipment as all Kia vehicles, including front seat active headrests, dual front advanced airbags, front seat-mounted and full-length side curtain airbags. An Antilock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist System (BAS) and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) also are standard. Front and rear crumple zones, side-impact door beams, impact-absorbing steering column and Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system also come standard on all Soul models, making for a comprehensive list of standard safety features.

Industry-Leading Warranty

Like all Kia models, Soul is covered by a comprehensive warranty program, which offers unprecedented consumer protection. Included in this program are a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty, and a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan also is part of the comprehensive coverage program.

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 630 dealers throughout the United States. For 2008, KMA recorded its 14th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share. 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."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2010 Kia Soul Recognized on "Coolest New Cars Under $18,000" List by Kelley Blue Book's KBB.com

Urban Passenger Vehicle Lauded for Personality, Versatility and Technology

# All-new Kia Soul delivers style with amenities and a playful spirit
# Coolness factor noted in vehicle purchase criteria

IRVINE, Calif., June 23, 2009 -- Kia Motors America (KMA) today announced the all-new 2010 Soul urban passenger vehicle was named to the 2009 Top 10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000 list by Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com, the leading provider of new car and used car information. The Soul joined Kia Motors' ever-expanding lineup in March and was lauded for being a cool, affordable ride with a growing emphasis on personality, versatility and technology.

"Soul's personality really has made an impact with consumers and the media, who are realizing you don't have to spend a lot of money to make a statement," said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing, KMA. "We are pleased that Soul is being recognized for its playfulness and versatility but also that it is appreciated for its economical attributes that affect real world purchase decisions."

Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com editors selected the latest list of Top 10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000 using the same set of criteria that many consumers use in examining this category: safety, fuel economy, interior size, comfort, technology, the vehicle's fun-to-drive-factor, as well as the decidedly subjective "cool" factor. The editors compiled the list of qualifying vehicles using Kelley Blue Book's New Car Blue Book Values, which reflect real-world transaction prices and provide a more useful comparison point than Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).

On Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com Web site, editors state, "You don't have to drop the big bucks to get a car with kickin' style and all the techie gadgets required to get by in the world today. Every Kia Soul comes with standout styling, Bluetooth phone connectivity, an auxiliary audio input and iPod integration. But the pulsing speaker lights are the first things you'll show your friends."

Also a recipient of the 2009 "Best Value" award by the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) and the "Grooviest Interior" award from Ward's AutoWorld, Soul is available in four trims, Soul, Soul+, Soul! (exclaim) and Soul sport. Pricing for the versatile five door begins at $13,300¹ for the base trim, while Soul+ starts at $14,950. Moving up to the Soul! offers a price beginning at $16,950 and the Soul sport, designed for those with active lifestyles, starts at $16,950 and tops out at $18,600.

Soul stands out from the crowd with modern, unique styling aimed toward the young and young-at-heart and offers a unique combination of style, value and personalization options. An available Audio Upgrade Package includes speaker lights that can pulse to the beat of the music or add mood lighting to the interior cabin, enhancing the overall personal lounge feeling. The Soul+ offers funky black cloth seats with "glowing" Soul logo inserts while the Soul! trim comes with a distinctive sand-black interior with houndstooth-patterned inserts, and the Soul sport presents a bold red-black interior trim with red-trimmed cloth seats and metal-finish interior accents.

For more information about the 2009 Top 10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000 by Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com, visit www.kbb.com/coolcars2009.

About Kia Motors America

Kia Motors America (KMA) is the marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 630 dealers throughout the United States. Kia Motors subscribes to a philosophy of building high value, high quality, safe and dynamic vehicles.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kia Soul mixes offbeat cool, performance

Innovative design yields distinctive car

Like the way the godfather of soul James Brown's style and energy blasted American music out of the easy-listening blahs, the 2010 Kia Soul hatchback mainlines fun and funk into a bland brand heretofore defined by the logical appeal of low prices and long warranties.

Leave your left brain at home, clap your hands and say yeah as the eye-catching Soul rolls into sight, lights in its speakers flashing in time to the tunes pouring out of your iPod.

The Soul is the latest player in the offbeat-cool class of small cars inspired by the Honda Element. Exactly the same length as a Honda Fit subcompact, the 161.6-inch-long Soul combines a low price with high fuel economy, arena-like interior room, spunky performance and unique looks in a winning package.

Prices for the 2010 Soul start at $13,300 for a base model with a 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission.

Kia offers four equipment levels: base, the cutesy-named + and ! and the less-cloying Sport. Stepping up to the + gets you a satisfying 142-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and manual transmission for $14,950, and the automatic version of the + will cost another $950. Top-of-the-line ! and Sport models get the 2.0-liter engine and go for $16,950 with the manual and $17,900 with the four-speed automatic transmission.

I tested a very well-equipped manual transmission Soul Sport that stickered at $17,650. All prices exclude destination charges.

While it's the same size as the sleek and aerodynamic Fit, the Soul's offbeat looks and roomy interior make it a more direct competitor for cars like the Chevrolet HHR retro wagon, the bigger and boxier Honda Element and the cool-to-be-square Nissan Cube and Scion xB.

The four-cylinder engine in the Sport provides plenty of zip for dicing in traffic. The Kia's long wheelbase and wide track provide a stable, road-gripping ride that encourages sporty driving. The Soul is considerably more entertaining to drive than the bigger xB or underpowered Cube.

The transmission lineup is a bit archaic in a world of six-speed manuals and five-speed automatics, however. The Soul Sport I tested accelerated ably, but a sixth gear would be welcome to boost performance and fuel economy while reducing engine noise.

Despite the dated transmissions, the Soul has excellent EPA fuel economy ratings. The 2.0-liter engine returns 24 m.p.g. in the city and 30 m.p.g. on the highway, while the 1.6-liter achieved 26 city/31 highway.

An innovative exterior design complements those mechanical virtues with a cheeky long-nosed body that features an aft-sloping roof, big doors for easy passenger access and a large and convenient tailgate. From its high roof and big wraparound headlights to a long wheelbase that pushes the wheels to the corners, there's nothing quite like the Soul on the road.

Outward visibility is excellent, thanks to large sideview mirrors and expansive windows all around.

The Soul offers a cavernous 102.3 cubic feet of passenger space and 19.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. That's as much passenger space, and more cargo room, than most midsize sedans offer.

With the seat folded flat, cargo space rises to 53.4 cubic feet.

The Soul tops the xB's passenger space and has nearly as much cargo room, despite the Scion being 5.7 inches longer. It offers considerably more room than the smaller Cube.

While the Soul Sport I tested assaulted the eye with a bright red and black interior, it also offered welcome features like USB connectivity for iPods, a separate auxiliary input jack and Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free phones.

Adjustable mood lighting includes a feature that set lights in the front-door speaker grilles flashing in time with music from a good six-speaker sound system.

Hit the lights, cue the J.B. horns and get on up. Kia's got a groove. Make the scene like a Soul machine.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Kia Borrego Awarded Edmunds.com Consumers' Top Rated Vehicle Award

Midsize SUV Named Top-Rated SUV by Consumers in $25,000-$35,000 Category

# Kia midsize SUV recognized for high owner satisfaction
# Borrego lauded for overall value, power and fuel economy

IRVINE, Calif., June 18, 2009 -- Kia Motors America (KMA) today announced the 2009 Kia Borrego has been named the top-rated "SUV $25,000-$35,000" in the Edmunds.com Consumers' Top Rated(SM) Vehicle awards for 2009. Borrego earned strong marks from consumers for its overall excellent value, along with impressive power and towing capacity, interior space, visibility, fuel economy and extensive list of standard features.

"Borrego offers those looking for a spacious, powerful and fuel efficient vehicle the complete package at an incredible value," said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing, KMA. "As one of the first vehicles to roll out under Kia's exciting new design direction, accolades such as this Edmunds.com award, which provides feedback directly from owners, are evidence of Kia's commitment to consumers as well as to offering vehicles with the content consumers want without breaking the pocketbook."

To determine the winners of the 19 vehicle categories, Edmunds.com invited owners to use the Consumer Reviews and Ratings feature, where they are able to evaluate their new or used vehicles in eight different categories, including performance, comfort, fuel economy, driving impressions, interior design, exterior design, build quality and reliability. Top-rated vehicles are those that received the highest average rating from visitors as of April 30.

Borrego is offered with a DOHC, all-aluminum 3.8-liter V6 as well as Kia's first-ever DOHC 4.6-liter V8 engine, also all-aluminum; both engines are more powerful than any in Kia's line to date. While the V6 produces a competitive 276 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 267 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm, the V8 generates a class-leading 337 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 323 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm -- more powerful than the Toyota 4Runner, Honda Pilot, Jeep Grand Cherokee and GMC Acadia. Borrego runs on regular unleaded fuel compared to some other competitors that require premium unleaded, and achieves best-in-class fuel economy of 15/22 city/highway for its V8 with two-wheel drive, and a respectable 15/20 city/highway for its V8 with four-wheel drive.

About Kia Motors America

Kia Motors America (KMA) is the marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 630 dealers throughout the United States. For 2008, KMA recorded its 14th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share. 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."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Examiner: 2010 Kia Soul road test

Small vehicles with small, fuel-sipping engines and squarish truck shapes are all the rage these days. The Scion xB started it and now the Nissan Cube and the Kia Soul have joined the fray. This is a report on the 2010 Kia Soul.

The Kia Soul is a new inexpensive, but highly styled five-door panel truck it calls the Soul. Kia, in a return to humorous advertising, shows many hamsters in cages and a hamster named Larry sitting in the passenger seat of the new Soul and he is rocking out to the music in the company's latest round of television commercials.

There is actually more styling to the Soul than is apparent at first glance. It is indeed a two-box design. But the exterior style features a tapering greenhouse, a bold character line and a friendly face.

Once you are behind the wheel, you will discover that none of these new boxes are "sporty" to drive, but the Soul may indeed by the most fun-to-drive. The base engine is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder rated at 122 horsepower, but there is an available 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at a stronger 142 horsepower. That one has my recommendation. The 2.0liter engine can be matched to a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission and surprise, the EPA fuel economy rating is the same with either transmission – 24 miles per gallon in the city and 30 miles per gallon on the highway.

We found the interior well finished and the controls to be straightforward. The Kia, from South Korea, has some things in its favor in addition to the low price. It has a long warranty and it has a long list of standard safety features including anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control. Prices range from $14,000 up to more than $16,000 but there should be some fantastic deals out there. On our scale of one to five, four tires and a spare, the 2010 Kia Soul rates a four.

One thing to note about automobiles imported from South Korea. The build quality is better than ever and the service should be acceptable, but the resale value may be lower than Scion or Nissan. It's just something to keep in mind.

If you are in the market for a new small truck from Asia, all the available trucks (including a used PT Cruiser (from Chrysler and built in Mexico), a new Chevrolet high heritage roofline (HHR), Scion xB, and Nissan Cube should be on your short list. Test drive all of them and select the one you like the best or the one on which you can get the best deal. There should be deals available on all new vehicles by now.

Michael Anson

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kia's boxy car has plenty of Soul

Folks either love or hate the current brood of boxy cars. In my mind, Kia's new Soul is the cutest of the bunch.

Perhaps Kia has managed to inject a little soul into its boxy creation. Soul comes in four models, the base, the +, the Sport and the ! (or Exclaim.)

My test car was the upscale Soul! Starting price is $17,900 and only adding a $695 delivery charge ended up at $18,595. Not cheap, but not so pricey as to rule out its major buying demographic of younger folks, probably working at their first job.

For that you get a fairly peppy and smooth 142-horsepower engine, good handling, stability control, good seating for four adults, good storage made better by split and fold-flat rear seats, a tall sitting and driving position so you don't feel you're in a smaller car, a hatch, easy in and out, a fun and well-finished interior, 18-inch tires and alloy wheels, 4-wheel disc brakes, air bags front and side, plus side air bag curtains, a tire pressure monitor, air conditioning, MP3 hookup, remote keyless entry, tilt steering, power sunroof, fog lights, variable wipers, a rear wiper and a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Plus, I loved the car's looks, its feel and its performance at this bargain price. And if you need a bigger bargain, drop back to any of the other three levels. The base starts at $13,300, but you drop down to a 1.6-liter I-4 engine that only generates 122 horsepower. That might feel a bit slow, so a better option might be the Soul+ at $14,950, which includes the 2.0-liter I-4 that was in the test car. The Sport also uses the same engine and each adds a few more goodies until you hit the ! model. All start off with a 5-speed manual gearbox until the 4-speed automatic-equipped version of the !.

Soul looks fun with its upswept front roofline and profile.

The 2.0-liter I-4 gives it decent acceleration, even with an automatic transmission. I'd save the added expense and pump up the fun with the standard 5-speed manual. Even so, the automatic shifts smoothly and the test car never felt underpowered or like it was struggling, even zipping onto the freeway.

Handling is light and easy with quick turn-in at corners and only a touch of body lean. It's that light breezy feel that gives the Soul such pleasant road manners. Wind doesn't seem to bother it much. Riding on a 100.4-inch wheelbase the car has a good ride for a small vehicle. Railroad tracks and other more uniform bumps are no problem.

Braking is excellent thanks to 4-wheel disc brakes, the front being vented. Add to that stability control, standard on the Soul!.

Inside may have been an even nicer surprise with a handsome look, quality fit and finish and good tactile feel to all the knobs and controls. The test car featured a textured tan dash top with black trim atop the doors and three round gauges right in front of the driver behind a tilt steering wheel. A trip odometer button is just to the right of the wheel.

Kia also puts both the cruise control and radio control buttons on the steering wheel hub, something you'd expect to pay extra for in most small cars in this price range.

Mid-dash is a big radio speaker at the top with a sunglasses holder below that, followed by a CD and MP3 player, and the radio with Sirius satellite service for the first 3 months. All the buttons and knobs are good sized and easy to figure out and Kia also provides 3 large climate control knobs to make that a simple operation.

Obviously aimed at the younger market, the center stack also has two power outlets, an iPod and a USB plug.

The seats are comfortable and sit high so you feel more in control, and less like you're in a small vehicle. These were cloth with a checkered pattern on the top one-third (including the headrest) that looked particularly youthful. There's also a pump handle on the side to raise the seat and the seats themselves are moderately contoured. Head and legroom are excellent and the car will seat four adults pretty comfortably.

My only complaint would be the somewhat modest storage behind the rear seat, although the seat does split and fold flat.

Overhead the Soul! includes a sunroof and sliding shade, plus solid sun visors that slide to the side to help with side sun. The visors have mirrors, but no lights.

Other pluses include storage under the cargo floor, a rear wiper and a big glove box and arm rest/storage box between the front seats.

I got 27.6 mpg in about 60% highway driving, which is what I'd expect with an EPA rating of 24 city and 30 highway.

Mark Savage

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

All-New 2010 Kia Forte Compact Sedan

Kia Motors' New Compact Sedan Hits the Streets of Seattle

# Kia Motors introduces sleek, muscular and fuel-efficient compact sedan
# New Forte effortlessly blends style with comfort and safety features

SEATTLE, June. 12, 2009 -- Following the successful launch of the all-new, widely acclaimed 2010 Kia Soul urban passenger vehicle in Miami earlier this year, Kia Motors America (KMA) today launched the all-new 2010 Kia Forte compact sedan in Seattle. The Emerald City, known for its innovation and creativity, provides the perfect backdrop for Forte, a true pioneering player in its segment. On sale in North America early this summer, Forte is the first of its kind to offer consumers an impressive combination of standard safety, comfort and convenience features.

"On the heels of several successful vehicle debuts and introductions, Forte finds itself in good company and follows in the stylish steps of Borrego and Soul," said Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing, KMA. "With a heavy emphasis on design, Forte sedan is poised to help consumers make that emotional connection with their vehicle by offering the entire package of style, safety features and value."

Dynamic Exterior Styling

With aggressive design cues, the new Forte firmly establishes itself as a strong contender in its segment. Sporting a bold look set apart by crisp lines, swept-back headlamps and a sleek profile, Forte exudes a wide, stable stance that conveys motion both while cruising the highway and parked in the driveway. Available in three trim levels (LX, EX and SX), Forte offers a sleek, sophisticated design. The SX trim offers a more athletic profile with 17-inch alloy wheels paired with P215/45R17-sized premium tires.

Available in three trims, LX, EX and SX, pricing for the all-new compact sedan will start at $13,695 for the LX trim, while the Forte EX begins at $15,795. Moving up to the SX trim, pricing begins at $17,195.

Smooth and Seamless Ride

With a wheelbase of 104.3 inches, an overall length of 178.3 inches, an overall width of 69.9 inches and overall height of 57.5 inches, Forte offers comfortable seating for up to five passengers. The Kia-engineered body achieves high torsional stiffness giving Forte taut, responsive handling, a smoother ride quality and greater refinement than its competitors, with a specially tuned, Kia-developed suspension adjusted perfectly for responsive handling on S-turn laden roads. Additional refinements are fitted throughout Forte to help ensure a comfortable ride with good noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) reduction qualities.

Forte's front-wheel-drive unibody structure employs an independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar and a torsion beam rear suspension with struts and coil springs. This combination helps provide the optimal balance of handling and comfort. An engine-speed-sensitive, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system adds the finishing touch for precise handling by providing the most advantageous amount of assist for varying road conditions. In keeping with the energetic essence of the SX model line, a sport-tuned suspension gives the chassis a firmer feel and responsiveness resulting in a sportier and more spirited ride. The SX model also features larger front brakes for improved stopping capabilities.

Modern and High-Tech Interior

With one of the roomiest interiors in the segment, Forte boasts a spacious 96.8 cubic feet of passenger volume, while driver and passengers have an impressive 40.0 inches of headroom and 43.3 inches of legroom in the front seats and 37.8 inches of headroom and 35.0 inches of legroom in the rear seats. Forte's trunk also offers a best-in-class 14.7 cubic feet of cargo space, perfect for luggage and weekend getaways or around-town grocery shopping.

Capitalizing on its spacious interior, Forte makes every effort to incorporate style and function, starting with a crisp, high-visibility center stack and a driver-oriented three-gauge instrument cluster exuding a stylish red glow. Forte continues to pamper its riders with a host of interior features, starting with comfortable, nicely appointed full cloth seats. A six-way adjustable driver's seat, tilt steering column, rear defroster and dual 12-volt power outlets in the center console are driver- and passenger-conscious luxuries standard on every vehicle.

EX and SX models offer a number of additional standard luxurious touches such as: power windows and door locks; remote keyless entry; air conditioning; map lamps; steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls; tweeter speakers; dual front and rear cup holders; and floor mats. Forte EX models also offer an optional Premium Package that includes a power moonroof and 16-inch alloy wheels, or a Leather Package that includes leather-trimmed seats with front seat warmers, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and metal-finish trim.

The SX model brings even more standard features, including a unique black interior with sport cloth fabric adorned with red stitching, a telescoping steering column, Supervision™ gauge cluster, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and metal-finish trim and pedals. The SX model also offers the optional power moonroof and leather-trimmed seats with front seat warmers.

Lively Performance and Power

Forte LX and EX are powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine, producing a class-leading 156 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque, that features Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) and multi-port electronic fuel injection, both of which provide for greater performance and fuel economy. The SX features an upgraded 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, also with CVVT, which delivers 173³ horsepower -- more powerful and with better fuel economy than the Mazda3s and Corolla XRS.

Four transmission options are offered for the 2010 Forte: a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission (LX and EX models). The SX model features a standard six-speed manual transmission and an optional five-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic®.

Offering impressive fuel economy, the 2.0-liter engine offers a competitive 25/34 mpg (city/highway) when mated to either the five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions, while the 2.4-liter engine turns out a notable 22/32 mpg when paired with the six-speed manual and 23/31 with the five-speed automatic.

The optional Fuel Economy Package, available on the EX model with the 2.0-liter powerplant, includes the five-speed automatic transmission, Motor Drive Power Steering (MPDS), "smart" alternator, silica tires and aero enhancements. These improvements result in 27/36 mpg and a class-leading combined fuel economy of 30 mpg.

Jamming Sound System

Forte comes with a ground-breaking combination of standard convenience features, starting with a standard four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system outfitted with SIRIUS Satellite Radio capabilities with three months complimentary service†. Also standard on all models is an auxiliary audio input jack and USB port for connecting personal MP3 players as well as Bluetooth® connectivity with steering wheel-mounted controls, which enables hands-free operation for all compatible cell phones. For true audiophiles, the EX and SX packages add a standard six-speaker surround-sound audio system.

Forte's advanced audio system also includes Speed Dependent Volume Control (SDVC), which automatically increases the volume at higher speeds for better listening enjoyment, and Power Bass, which automatically enhances the bass response and tone.

Standard Kia Motors Safety Forte offers a class-leading level of standard safety equipment, with features such as front active headrests, dual advanced front airbags, front seat-mounted and side curtain airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, side impact door beams, front and rear crumple zones, four-wheel disc brakes with an Antilock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BAS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a Traction Control System (TCS), and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Industry-Leading Warranty Like all Kia models, Forte is covered by a comprehensive warranty program, which offers unprecedented consumer protection. Included in this program are a 10-year or 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year or 60,000-mile limited basic warranty, and a five-year or 100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan is also part of the comprehensive coverage program.

Kia Motors Product Line

Kia Motors America offers a dynamic and diverse product line of 13 vehicles to meet the needs of all lifestyles. The vehicle line features the functional Rondo CUV and award-winning Sedona minivan along with a wide variety of popular passenger cars, including the refined Amanti full-size sedan, purposeful Optima midsize sedan, versatile and compact Spectra and Spectra5, and sporty yet fuel-efficient Rio and Rio5 subcompacts. The vehicle line also features the affordably luxurious Borrego, rugged Sorento and value-packed Sportage SUVs. The 2010 Soul and Forte further complement the lineup as they arrive in dealerships, as will the 2010 Forte Koup.

About Kia Motors America

Kia Motors America (KMA) is the marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 625 dealers throughout the United States. For 2008, KMA recorded its 14th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share. 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."

Friday, June 12, 2009

First Drive: 2010 Kia Forte

Kia has renamed its core small-sedan model the Forte to signal a new beginning for the brand in this segment, and it only takes a glance at the new model to understand why. It's a really good-looking car. While the Spectra that preceded the Forte certainly wasn't a bad car, its anonymous styling didn't win many friends and its feature set was far from exciting.

Like the fashionable 2010 Soul, the 2010 Kia Forte merits a new trip to the Kia dealership and perhaps a new look at Kia, as the brand is quickly shedding its reputation for dowdy vehicles. The Forte has many of the elements and features of much more expensive cars, yet it's still one of the least expensive small sedans.

Thank Kia's new design studio in California for creating such clean, assertive, and attractive look for the Forte. With smooth, clean sheetmetal and an uncluttered look in front and in back, the new Forte doesn't go over the top and it's likely to age well; even more to the point, they got the trim proportions right. The svelte 2010 Kia Forte doesn't have any awkward angles, and a nice wide stance from the front and back somehow matches the flowing, elegant roofline. Inside, the look is simple, with a smoother, more organic version of the teardrop center stack used in the Forte.

Forte shoppers have a choice of two different engines—a 156-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder in LX and EX models or a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four in the sportier Kia Forte SX. LX and EX models have a standard five-speed manual and optional four-speed automatic, while SX models get a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.

The 2010 Kia Forte delivers a lot more driving satisfaction (and sophistication) than most value-minded buyers will expect. Both engines deliver more than adequate acceleration, and they function just fine with the automatics as they both are happiest in the mid-rev ranges. Kia expects acceleration to 60 mph to be in the low eight-second range for the SX. The standard hydraulic power steering responds well, outward visibility is good, and the ride is firm but absorbent—a nice compromise for daily driving. There's not a lot of nosedive in hard braking, and the four-wheel discs stop the Forte confidently. Automatic Fortes include a manumatic shift mode that actually locks in a gear; unlike other systems it won't force a downshift if you floor it. We actually recommend the automatic with the Forte, as it works well with the engine and clutch-throttle coordination on manual cars was imprecise.

The EX Fuel Economy Package keeps the 2.0-liter engine but upgrades to a five-speed automatic, and includes electric power steering, a smart alternator system, low-rolling-resistance silica tires, and some minor aerodunamic enhancements. And, surprisingly, it's the Forte that we liked best; we thought the weighting of the electric power steering was better, with a little more feel of the road, and boosted more while parking and less at speed. None of the other changes affected ride or handling noticeably, yet the package ups fuel economy ratings to 27 mpg city, 36 highway. What's not to like?

The rather tall roof and wider body works wonders for passenger space in the Forte. Front seats aren't generously proportioned, but there's adequate headroom even with the sunroof for this 6'-6" driver, with lots of legroom, and the back seat has plenty of space for two adults, three in a pinch—though there legroom is limited. The trunk is huge.

Overall, Kia has done a great job damping the noise and vibration that usually accompanies the cheapest small cars, and even over the coarsest road surfaces the cabin boom wasn't excessive. And while there's definitely some hard plastic around the cabin we couldn't find any ragged edges.

All safety features are standard across the entire 2010 Kia Forte line; that includes dual seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, front active headrests, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, and electronic stability control.

The new Forte starts at just $13,695 for the LX model, while the EX starts at $15,745 and the SX bows at $17,195, not counting destination. All models get Bluetooth, Sirius Satellite Radio, and an auxiliary input jack for the audio system, plus steering wheel controls and voice activation. The EX model adds air conditioning, power accessories, and the SX adds fog lamps plus upgraded upholstery and trim. The SX model is the "image leader" of the lineup; in addition to those details and the stronger engine, it gets a sport-tuned suspension, larger brakes, and showy 17-inch alloy wheels. Other options are limited to a power sunroof, leather seat packages (heated in front), and a Convenience Package that adds A/C and other upgrades to the LX.

First with the Soul, and now with the 2010 Forte, even without nitpicking features and value we can confidently say that Kia has some of the best small cars out there.

Check out our overview page on the 2010 Kia Forte for new pictures, along with specs, prices, news, and more.

By Bengt Halvorson
The Car Connection

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kia a Soul mate for Generation Y

In the past when I've talked about helping my 18-year-old son buy a car, he usually requests something impractical and way out of my price range. But, the other day he told me that he wanted a Kia Soul. Apparently, it's high on the hip scale with his college buddies.

In fact, Kia is redefining its social network with the launch of its newest vehicle, the all-new 2010 Soul. Considering that the average age of a Kia buyer is 52, Kia is basically re-creating itself through the Soul to appeal to the children of those 52-year-olds, aka "Gen Y."

"We are absolutely committed to this market," said Tom Loveless, vice president of sales for Kia Motors. "This is the tip of a very big iceberg. It's the direction Kia is going."

Gen-Y buyers are the children of baby boomers, ages 16 to early 30s. They are seen as easy-going, positive, hard-working, tech-savvy and of course, social-networking butterflies. To help reach them, Kia developed a Facebook page for Soul, an interactive Web site and a presence on Twitter.

Kia also has changed how it reaches its potential buyers, from formal TV ads to something more memorable and fun with the new rolling hamsters. Other marketing activities include a partnership with the NBA and a 43-city Vans indie-rock tour.

The Soul, whose name is a play on Seoul, the capital of South Korea and Kia's hometown, is customizable with over 50 different body and interior accessories, including a fashionable red-lined glove box, speakers that pulse in time with your music, black "eyeliner" surrounding the headlights and a body kit with a rear spoiler.

Kia says that two more model intros will follow the Soul in 2010. Could it be that by next year, it will actually be cool to own a Kia?

So far, the strategy -- and the car -- is working. "This is the best response we've ever received," says Kia's director of public relations, Alex Fedorak. "We kind of knew we had a good idea."

What is it? A five-passenger front-wheel drive compact urban vehicle.

Looks like: Very much its own soul but reminiscent of the Scion xB, Nissan Cube, a baby Chrysler PT Cruiser, or a Mini Clubman.

Engine & EPA: Choice of two four-cylinders: 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter delivers 26/31 mpg; 142-horsepower, 2.0-liter returns 24/30 mpg.

Interior/Exterior: Roomy cabin with lots of storage possibilities, including a two-tiered glove box with room on the bottom for a laptop. An upper closed storage bin is perfect for cell phones, keys, etc. The Soul comes in a variety of standout colors, such as coffee-inspired Java, red-hot Molten and Alien green.

What's different: The clean-looking interior is decked out with a "floating center console" and a rockin' Infinity stereo system with available speakers that flash or vibrate to keep time with the music. Optional speaker lights pulse to the beat of the music or add mood lighting.

Pricing: Starts at $13,300 for the base trim and tops out at $18,600 for the Soul Sport with all available options included.

By Holly Reich
Washington Times

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2010 Kia Soul steps up the brand's style and function

The first Kia I drove, about 11 years ago, was so miserable that I advised buyers to consider a used car instead. Owning a Kia then would have been like trading in an Armani suit for a flour sack.

Back then, Kia was an inexpensive car that never let you forget how little you paid for it. Sure, you might flip burgers for a living, but you don't want to be constantly reminded of the fact.

Kia is still a cheap ride, but its products have improved markedly.

Like finalists on "American Idol," today's Kias are almost unrecognizable from their humble beginnings, even if being a good value is still their most noticeable trait.

But the 2010 Kia Soul is a game changer for the brand. No longer just a vehicle for those with thin wallets, the Soul is chic in a way Kias never have been, and it makes no apologies for what it is.

Credit for the transformation goes to Kia's new design chief, Peter Schreyer, who was lured away from Volkswagen just more than two years ago. At VW, Schreyer sculpted many notable Audi models, including the TT roadster and 1997 A6. At Kia, the German designer has endowed the brand with personality, something lacking at many Asian automakers.

Sure, the Soul's cubist form takes its lead from the Scion xB and Nissan Cube. But from there, the Kia is its own cubicle.

Walk around it, and take in the side view. Wheel arches and a strong horizontal crease below the windows visually plant the Soul to the ground, while vertical tail lamps and strong window shapes play a carefully orchestrated counterpoint.

In the rear, a simple Kia logo is placed above the latch opening. Its elegance proves an essential mantra: Good design doesn't cost any more than bad design.

Inside, the smart design continues. No, you won't be blown away by opulence, but there are few reasons to be ashamed.

Open up the glovebox or sunglass holder, and you'll see their interiors are flaming red. The speaker grilles are lined with LED lights that pulse along with the music. Call it a tacky, novel or interesting idea, but it is new, and its inclusion speaks to the thought invested in the Soul's design.

The center of the instrument panel is angled so controls are within easy reach. No need to reach for the owners' manual; controls are easy to understand and operate. That is a luxury most luxury carmakers fail to understand.

There isn't a navigation system, but most of us know where we're going, right?

However, there is air conditioning on all models, save the base model, along with satellite radio and power windows, mirrors and door locks.

A tilt steering wheel makes finding the perfect driving position easier, even though it doesn't telescope. The steering wheel contains controls for audio, cruise control and Bluetooth telephone. One caveat: The phone button is too easy to hit while cornering, but the thought is there.

Kia equips the Soul with a USB port and power point on the instrument panel, just above the center console. Perfect for your iPod.

As much soul as the Soul possesses, you'll find that, at its heart, it's an economical little hauler. It's meant to brighten the mundane tasks of transporting cargo, both animate and inanimate, and it does so surprisingly well. Designed to hold five people, four is the more practical limit.

Base Souls (now that sounds judgmental) have a 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder wheezer up-front. Leave that one on the lot and opt for the Plus, Exclaim or Sport models, which get a 142-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine.

A five-speed manual or four-speed automatic is offered. Try the manual before you buy, but the automatic might be the better choice.

Certainly this little box has more than enough moxie to muscle down city streets and suburban parkways, although you'll have to flog the hamsters under the hood a bit to extract the needed juice. When you do, you'll find they complain vocally, which adds to occasional road and tire noise.

Surprisingly, you won't feel as if you're driving something that transports large appliances. The Soul feels like a car, because its front-wheel-drive platform is derived from the Kia Rio.

Body motions are mostly controlled when the roads turn rough, but the back end does the macadam mambo on the worst of them, hopping a bit.

And the rear-view mirror wobbled loosely over the harshest bumps.

Still, the Soul has a cheeky, cheerful feel that makes you forgive its worst transgressions.

Seats are high, firm and fairly comfy. The center console up-front makes long drives more tolerable; the lack of a rear center armrest in the rear seat makes it less so back there.

But legroom is abundant. Ditto cargo space, which ranges from 19 cubic feet with the seats up, about the same as the Cadillac DTS, to 58 cubic feet with the seats folded. That means it can swallow a lot of stuff.

But it won't swallow is a lot of fuel. The Soul is rated at 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. A test drive of mostly city and suburban driving returned 25 mpg.

And if that doesn't save some green at the pump, you'll save some green at the showroom. The test vehicle, a Plus model, included the aforementioned items along with a $400 audio system upgrade, $800 sunroof and $95 worth of carpeted floor mats and topped out at $17,890.

That's surprisingly cheap.

Lest you think that I only fall for expensive vehicles, I can say that this Soul grabbed my heart.

It's a remarkable first step in branding a marque with an identity that goes beyond your bank balance.

By Larry Printz
The Virginian-Pilot

Monday, June 8, 2009

Three Kia vehicles make the top 5 least expensive cars to insure

It probably comes as no surprise that high-performance sports cars and large, premium SUVs are among the vehicles that cost the most to insure.

Research by Insure.com shows that among the 2009 model vehicles on the market, the most expensive to insure is the all-new Nissan GT-R super car, which has a 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine that cranks out 485 horsepower.

"Owners of the GT-R buy it for power and speed, and their driving habits will be reflected in frequent and expensive insurance claims," the insurance Web site said in its report on the costs of insurance for the current model year vehicles.

"GT-R owners who are young with less-than-spotless driving records could easily see their annual car insurance premiums zoom to several thousand dollars," the report said.

The report noted that "sports cars dominate the 'most expensive' roster, along with theft favorites such as the Cadillac Escalade."

That points out a key factor that consumers often overlook in determining which cars might be more expensive to insure: just how popular a vehicle is with thieves. Combine the Escalade's high theft rate with its high sticker prices, and you have a nightmare for insurers.

Even so, the Escalade is 17th down the list of the Top 20 vehicles most expensive to insure, with an estimated average annual insurance cost of $1,592, compared with $2,533 for the GT-R and $2,446 for the second-place Dodge Viper.

On the other end of the scale, the Hyundai Santa Fe midsize crossover utility vehicle is at the top of the list of the 20 vehicles that cost the least to insure -- with an annual average rate of just $832. In fact, Hyundai and Kia vehicles are the top five on the list of least expensive to insure. Kia is a subsidiary of South Korea's Hyundai, and probably one key reason for their positions at the top of the list is that prices for these vehicles are somewhat below those of their Japanese and domestic competitors. Second on the list of least expensive to insure is the Kia Sportage sport utility, at $840, followed by the Hyundai Entourage minivan, at $848, and the Kia Sedona minivan, at $857. These two vans are almost identical, as they are built on the same architecture.

But what they have going for them is that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said after initial crash-testing that these minivans were the safest that had ever been tested.

The Honda Odyssey ($871), Chrysler Town & Country ($915) and Dodge Grand Caravan ($960), all of which are minivans, also were on the Top 20 least expensive list.

The two-passenger Smart ForTwo micro car was on the least expensive list as well, at the No. 7 spot, with an annual average cost of $881. While the car is quite tiny, it has fared well in crash tests because of its unique "Tridion safety cell" construction that is designed to dissipate crash energy around the outside of the vehicle, protecting the occupants.

While high-priced SUVs such as the Mercedes G-class ($2,088), Hummer H2 ($1,912), Range Rover ($1,603) and BMW X6 ($1,584) were on the list of most expensive to insure, the least expensive list had its own share of sport utilities -- but they are much lower priced.

Besides the Santa Fe and Sportage, others on the least expensive list included the Saturn Vue ($911), Mazda Tribute ($913), Scion xB ($921) and Jeep Wrangler ($939).

Sedans and coupes on the most expensive list included the high-priced Audi S8 ($2,071) and the bargain-priced Chevrolet Cobalt SS ($1,762).

On the least-expensive-to-insure list, though, were such consumer favorites as the Volkswagen Passat ($936), Honda Accord ($951), Lincoln Town Car ($955) and Chevy Impala ($959).

Insure.com said the lists were compiled using the driver profile of a 40-year-old single man who drives 12 miles each way to work, and policy limits of $100,000/$300,000 (bodily injury) and $50,000 (property damage), with a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage.

The rates were averaged nationwide and included multiple insurance companies, the Web site said. Average premiums ranged from $832 to $2,533, with the Chevrolet Tahoe in the middle, at $1,169.

G. Chambers Williams III
San Antonio Express-News

Insurance List

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kia's Soul has heart, stamina

Uniquely designed compact cruiser is a surprisingly good, affordable ride

I laughed when I first saw the Kia Soul at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It's the opposite of nearly every compact on the road -- the competition went small; Kia went tall. It looks like a computerized roller skate.

I snickered again when the Soul showed up in my driveway. Good Lord, the red model looks like the Diablo Hell Boys Edition: red dash, red steering wheel, red lights inside the stereo speakers. Blasting the radio at night eerily lights up the cabin as if you're Arnie Cunningham in a 1958 Plymouth Fury.

It may have aerodynamics slightly better than Christine, Stephen King's fictional Fury, and mood lighting that can thump to the bass of Frank Beckman's voice, but the Soul is no laughing matter. It's a pretty good road runner designed for a new breed of customer who wants enough head room to wear a fedora, good enough fuel economy to avoid weekly fill-ups and something cheap enough to actually afford.

My fully loaded Soul sport was $18,600 -- you can't spend more than that for the Soul -- and a nicely equipped base model starts at $13,995, including $695 shipping. Those are reasonable digits.

The Soul is part of a growing segment American carmakers have not embraced. The inexpensive multi-passenger compact cruiser. Cheap and cheerful is back -- it comes as a box and plays loud music.

The Soul joins the likes of the Nissan Cube, Scion xB and the high-end (meaning it can cost more than $20,000) Honda Element. It's almost enough chopped blocked body styles to play a game of Yahtzee.

This particular car-truckie-van thing has more charm than any inexpensive compact car and a surprisingly good ride. During a week of test-driving, I took it all over southeastern Michigan. Who says personality and a full tank of gas won't take you far?

Actually, the Soul will take you well over 300 miles on a single 12.7-gallon tank. That's not a bad start. (I managed 28 miles per gallon overall on two tank-fulls.)

Too much Soul?
The trim level names of the Soul, however, give me pause. Instead of sticking to something familiar -- the touring, the sport, the base -- Kia uses some strange text-messaging code for some. Soul+Kia=Soul!

From base to high-end, Kia named its trim levels the following: Soul, Soul+, Soul! and Soul sport. It's OK; I rolled my eyes, too. I don't know if you need to yell "Soul" at the dealership to make sure it isn't confused with the base model.

What people won't confuse is the originality of this package. Nothing in any dealerships looks like the Kia Soul. Many people may not even like the polarizing design, but that's precisely the point. Love it or hate it, but at least it makes you feel something.

Straight-laced sides, a steep windshield and a high roof that slopes down from front to rear like a tin shanty are the basic bones of this vehicle. From the side, the back end bubbles out as if the rear axle was pushed too far during the design to create more space in the cabin. The backside looks oversized with a tiny door tacked between two pillars of tail lights. In the front, the little open grille and sweeping headlights give the Soul the expression of an emoticon instead of powerful vehicle.

That's probably fitting as this was not designed as a muscle van. The 2-liter four-cylinder engine (this is the optional bigger engine) manages 142 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque. It never struck me as powerful. Zippy, maybe, but never potent.

But sometimes zip trumps force. In city driving, the Soul can give you those bursts of speed needed to wedge into the turning lane. Overall, it's only 161.6 inches long, and that means it will easily squeeze into tight city parking spaces or the third spot on a suburban driveway.

The five-speed manual transmission provides longer-than-expected throws but gives the driver more control to eek out every pony under the bonnet. An optional four-speed automatic is available for the 2-liter engine.

Well mannered on the road
The high roof makes the body roll more than a car through corners, but it never felt loose or nearing out of control. On the highway, it could get tossed around in the wind at high speeds, but once again, it felt sure-footed and well-balanced, thanks to the independent front suspension and torsion beam rear.

The engine-speed-sensitive power steering was excellent in city driving with an exact feel and good return to center. The highway steering, however, felt slightly numb and disconnected from the road. This is a cruiser, not a missile.

High tech appeal
The Soul launches to life inside the cabin -- even the red one. There are lots of neat tech features that will appeal to the growin group of gizmo consumers who need to stay connected to their outside world all the time.

The interior takes a minimalist approach with only three knobs on the floating center stack. The zig-zag lines that separate the buttons on the stereo add a playful touch.

Music also plays an important role inside the Soul. Even the base model includes an auxiliary jack and USB port for connecting your iPod to the stereo -- which can be controlled by the stereo or steering wheel buttons.

Other optional features include Bluetooth hands-free connectivity for your cell phone and an upgraded stereo with center speaker, subwoofer and 315-watt amplifier.

Even entering and exiting the Soul is made easier by the low floor and tall door. The seating position is comfortable and more upright than a car's.

Some of the materials could have been better or higher quality, particularly the cloth seat covers and some of the plastic on the dash. But considering the price level, it felt appropriate. The pleasant surprise was the lack of lines across the dash. It looked like one solid piece, which takes away from many of those potential bad fits between pieces that can turn into squeaks and rattles in the future.

Touch points were also nicely padded, meaning your elbows didn't get sore on long hauls from pressing against a hard arm rest.

More importantly was the room the cabin provides. The high roof makes the cab feel extra large, even though the vehicle isn't. The second row will easily fit three adults with room to spare. The trunk is a deep well that provides lots of space (19.3 cubic feet) and if you need more, just fold the 60/40 second row seats down for 53.4 cubic feet of storage.

It's the versatility that gives the Soul a step over its compact car competition. All things equal, such as mileage and price, the Soul can just carry more people and stuff.

The appeal to younger buyers may also spark interest in older ones searching for ways to express their inner teen, though the only thing new and hip about them, is, in fact, their new stainless steel hip.

The Soul fills a void in a niche that no one knew existed a few years ago. Kia managed to do it with style.

It's like rolling all fives on the first try. Yahtzee!

Detroit News

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

2010 KIA Soul Sport - Cube Done Right

Americans have a love-it-or-hate-it point of view about boxy vehicles. Scion's original xB design was as angular as it gets and showed us that a compact design mixed with box-like lines creates a lot of room in a small package. It is a design that is supposed to catch the imagination and dollars of younger drivers. Funny thing, a HUGH demographic for Scions (and other boxy rides) are older folk -- as in, grandparents of the youth movement they attempted to capture. Maybe it's the minivan look of the newer Scion xB.

The brand new KIA Soul looks much better -- both inside and out.

Good for KIA, they made a car that captures one of the most basic elements of what cheap cars should provide… fun. Yup, this is one of those rare machines that is far more valuable than the sum of its parts. Rather than remake another boring KIA Rio, they opted for something funky, unique and useful.

I have yet to evaluate the base models with the smaller engine. I did get an opportunity to zip around in a KIA Soul Sport for a week and I truly enjoyed the ride. My tester was the top of the line (just over $18,000), 5-speed manual with the large sunroof. KIA offers a lot for the money.

The top of the line 315 watt CD/MP3/Sattleight stereo system with 8 speakers, external amplifier and light-up front door speakers (which is a bit of a gimmick) sounds great. You can control the speaker lights via a rotary knob that allows you to choose "music" which kind of throbs with the music, "mood" which simply throbs all the time, keep it on full time or shut it off.

18 inch alloy wheels look great and seem to help the rather simple rear torsion-beam suspension (the front is an independent MacPherson-strut setup). For a box, the KIA Soul does a great job when being tossed around slow corners. Sure, there is some body lean, although it was far less than I expected. I was pleased with the fairly communicative steering and good turning radius.

It was less pleasant on high wind roads where the minimal side aerodynamics and soft suspension helped the wind push the little KIA about. The body felt a bit anxious over uneven pavement and pot-holes as well. Still, on a regular jaunt over average road surfaces the KIA Soul works well and drives smoothly.

Internally, the seats were firm, yet comfortable with just enough surface area for my large body to find comfort. The rear seats are somewhat flat with leg and headroom surprisingly commodious. This is one of the easiest vehicles in its class to load little ones into given its good ride height and large door openings. 3 skinny teens could fit in the back with no problem.

My 4-year-old LOVED the red and black interior. She ogled and chattered about how much fun she had sitting inside. I have to admit, the look of the interior is a major plus. If you get the higher end KIA Soul, you get red and black interior trim. Unfortunately, red is the only bright interior color available, rumor has it that other colors may become available eventually.

The KIA Soul is a light-ish 2800 lbs and has a 142 horsepower (137 lbs feet of torque) 2.0 liter 4-cylinder which is capable of a sensible 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. In power, performance and economy the KIA Soul bridges the gap between the KIA Rio5 and KIA Spectra5. Before I get to performance and driving impressions, I want you all to know how squarely KIA hit the target. The first day I drove the KIA Soul, I parked outside a Greek fast-food joint next to Cherry Creek High School. A Jr. or Sr. sauntered up. I thought he walked the way he did because of a dreadful car accident. It turns out it was the best way to keep his belt-line at crotch level.

Anyway, he and what I assume was his girlfriend, moseyed up to the KIA Soul and looked at it in serious contemplation. As I exited with my Gyro in a bag, he asked me what I thought of it. I shrugged and opened up the door letting he and his female friend (who wore enough perfume to shame OPEC) look inside. Then, I asked them "what do YOU think?" They both liked it, especially when I told them that they were available from 14K to just over 19K.

5 days later the same thing happened to me at the Denver Zoo. This time, a group of teens swamped me and I let them sit inside. One asked why old people (me, I guess) liked this car. Every single one liked the look of the interior and didn't seem to care about the hard, cheap plastics used.

Come to think of it, neither did I.

This is one of the easiest cars to get in and drive. The learning curve for a majority of components and settings is considerably easier than, say a Honda Fit. The windows are big, sightlines excellent and seating position -- ideal.

My main issues were the lifeless 5-speed manual which was anything but sporty and the clutch pedal was oddly off-kilter. The clutch pedal is poorly placed and makes engagement rough for those large of foot. The shifter and clutch are a bit on the rubbery side and offer less than stellar feel. Still, they are very easy to use and a great gear-set for a first time stick owner.

The 2.0 growls like an old-school GTI, without the hustle. Indeed, this is no speedster as I was barely able to get to 60 in less than 9 seconds. Brakes were real good with my best stop from 60 taking 127 feet. I credit and laud KIA for having the wherewithal to have disc brakes at all 4 corners. Few cars in this class have 4-wheel discs.

Handling is good. With stubby proportions and short overhangs, it's a breeze to find where your tires truly are. Accurately placing the KIA Soul exactly where you want it is simple and the grip was much better than I expected. This KIA changes direction quickly, decisively making mid-level performance cornering a blast.

This is a fun little car.

The storage capacity of the KIA Soul is quite good. With both rear seats folded, the KIA Soul would easily swallow a 5-piece drum-set complete with cymbals, stands and throne. There was room left over for a few guitars and/or small amplifiers. With the rear seats up, it can hold a small stroller or a fair amount of groceries.

Actually, the KIA Soul is more than a youth orientated product, this is a perfect car for a young family of 4 -- who like something spunky. With KIA's killer warranty and altogether better quality, I would gladly recommend this car to anyone who is looking for some cheap, logical fun.

AND it doesn't look like a miniaturized minivan...

Nathan Adlen
Denver Autos Examiner