Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013 Kia Soul offers great mix of features and value

January 28, 2013 @ 4:12pm | Lary Coppola ~ KPBJ Publisher
No matter how you feel about those rapping wannabe gangsta hamsters, the 2013 Kia Soul offers an interesting mix of good looks, technology, functionality, efficiency and refinement, in an incredibly affordable package, and does it in a way that attracts a wider spectrum of buyers than those hamsters are aiming for.
In spite of new engines and tweaked styling received in 2012, it’s still an inexpensive box-shaped runabout with Gen Y firmly in its crosshairs. But it’s surprisingly suitable for anyone — no matter what their age — who appreciates youthful styling, fuel economy, daily practicality, coupled with useful standard features like Bluetooth, iPod, and USB connectivity, and the best warranty on the planet.
While the Soul attempts to stand out in a sea of sameness — in spite of its basic shape — there are plenty of options and accessories to seriously personalize it. Kia makes no bones about what the Soul is — and is not: It’s a car — not a cute-ute, or “compact utility” as that segment is labeled, and certainly not an SUV, crossover, or minivan surrogate. Mechanically, it’s your basic small sedan, with no all-wheel or four-wheel drive offered.
Model Lineup: The 2013 Kia Soul comes in three models: Soul, Soul+ (Soul plus), and Soul! (Soul exclaim).
The Soul ($14,400) features an inline, 138-horse, 4-cylinder, 1.6-liter engine and comes with air conditioning, power windows and door locks, 15-inch steel wheels, black trim, body-color door handles and mirrors, AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 stereo, USB and auxiliary inputs, Bluetooth with steering-wheel controls, 6-way manual drivers seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split folding rear seat, remote keyless entry, and variable intermittent wipers. The base Soul comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, but a 6-speed automatic is available ($16,200).
Options include alloy wheels and an ECO package that includes idle-stop-and-go start-stop system, power mirrors, alloy wheels, luggage under-floor tray, illuminated visor mirrors with extensions, and low rolling resistance tires. Accessories include illuminated sill plates, cabin lighting, auto-dimming mirror, floor mats, cargo net and rear spoiler.
The Soul+ ($16,700) upgrades to the 2.0-liter engine, and adds 16-inch alloy wheels, stereo tweeters, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Soul logo inserts on the upholstery, and metal-finish trim. The 6-speed manual is standard, but it’s available with the 6-speed automatic ($17,700). Options available only on automatic versions include a power sunroof and fog lights ($800), 350-watt Infinity/UVO by Microsoft entertainment system with rear camera and HD radio, and the ECO package.
The top of the line Soul! ($19,900) offers only the 2-liter and 6-speed automatic, and adds 18-inch alloy wheels, body-color trim, LED running lights, projector headlights, sand and black interior with houndstooth upholstery inserts, standard UVO, and more. The main option is the premium package that includes navigation, XM traffic, leather seating trim, heated front seats, climate control, and push-button start/Smart Key.
Safety equipment on all models includes six airbags, active front headrests, LATCH seating system, electronic stability control, antilock brakes, and a tire pressure monitor.
Walkaround: With rear windows that are narrower than those in front, it appears there’s a rear downward slope to the roof, but it’s a clever optical illusion because of the rising beltline below the windows. There’s also a black, horizontal, ding strip on the doors that’s both functional, and adds to the strong straight-line design.
The corners on the Soul are nicely rounded, taking away some of the hard edge of its box-like shape, with help from strong, chiseled wheel wells. The smile-like grille is small, and no bigger than necessary to suck in fresh air for the engine. The stylish front lighting elements are new, and include LED running lights and projector headlamps.
Big vertical LED taillamps outline the rear pillars, and complete the wraparound look. The rear window and liftgate are clean and smooth, with an indented handle and a stylish chrome Soul badge.
The 16- and 18-inch alloy wheels are larger than what’s often available in this market segment.
Interior: Everything inside the Soul is simple, clean, functional, and ergonomically positioned. The front bucket seats are more comfortable than I thought they’d be — especially after a couple of long jaunts. They offer plenty of legroom, and enough headroom for six-plus-footers.

Rear seat legroom is tight, but fine for kids or adults of average height, and the 60/40 rear seats easily fold flat. There’s a handy compartment under the trunk floor, and below that a space-saver spare tire. There’s 19 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat, about four under the floor, totaling 53.4 with the back seats folded down.

The interior vinyl and cloth trim is above average, and there are bottle holders in the front door pockets, plus cupholders in the console, which also offers a deep storage compartment. There’s a surprisingly large dual-level glovebox, map nets on the front seatbacks, and grab handles over every door. There are auxiliary audio, iPod, and USB port connections, and two 12-volt outlets.
The steering wheel boasts the usual standard controls, while the three-ring instrumentation is clean, with an eave over the gauges so they’re readable in the sun. The modest center stack features business-like knobs and buttons that accommodate the revised shifter and UVO/Microsoft entertainment system, which includes a rear camera.
There’s throbbing-to-the-beat rims of changing colored lights surrounding the front door speakers. This can be turned on and off, and you can program the way it reacts to sound — a quick way to amuse yourself while stuck in traffic.
Under The Hood: The 2.0-liter inline-four (which our test model was equipped with) got a much-needed upgrade during the 2012 model year refresh. Power was increased by 16 horses to 164, and torque by 11 pound-feet to 148. The base powerplant is a 138-horse, 1.6-liter (up from 122).
Kia upgraded the transmissions as well last year. The six-speed automatic is smoother, even when shifting down a couple of gears for acceleration and highway passing, with mileage improved by 1-4 mpg whether automatic or manual, to 27/35 mpg for the 1.6-liter and 26/34 mpg for the 2.0-liter.
Behind The Wheel: I found the Soul nimble, and fun to drive. There’s sufficient power available, although the transmission will run a gear up all the way up to redline before shifting under heavy acceleration. If that’s your driving style, you’ll pay for it with lots of engine noise. Road noise is also a factor, but no worse than any other vehicle this size, and this low to the ground.
Handling and braking are more than adequate for this class of vehicle, and there is that level of utility that makes this a surprisingly adaptable daily driver.
Whines: Having an upright windshield and large greenhouse make for great for visibility, but wind noise is harsh.
Bottom Line: The Kia Soul offers simplicity, four-door upright hatchback versatility, great gas mileage, and styling with personality. It’s easy to drive in urban settings because of its nimble size, and with a price of $25,555 for the top-of-the-line Exclaim with every single option available — not to mention Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile warranty — this car is an enormous value.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kia Will Add Google Maps To Uvo System: Get Yours From Carbuyersexpress

LA CROSSE, Wis., Jan. 8, 2013 — /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Kia's UVO infotainment center has gotten a much needed upgrade this year and it will debut in the 2014 Kia Sorento. Kia's UVO system will now feature Google Maps and Google Places technology and will allow drivers to integrate their smartphones to the vehicle, where Google Maps will direct them to their Points of Interest. Drivers can also search with the Google Places database to find exact locations where they need to go, such as businesses, restaurants or car dealerships.
Google Maps and Google Places are some of the most comprehensive mapping and navigation technologies on the market. Kia's UVO system will take advantage of this and help to make sure that drivers can get where they need to go easily by using the voice activated system. There are many new and used cars available with infotainment systems, but none with the Google Maps integration that CarBuyersExpress.com offers on the Kia vehicles. You can find many great deals from cars of all brands on the website including a Ford F-150 in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Media Contact: Dan Stumpf CarBuyersExpress.com, (800) 326-7217, dstumpf@stumpfpublishing.net News distributed by PR Newswire iReach: https://ireach.prnewswire.com

Thursday, January 3, 2013

First drive: 2013 Kia Optima SX Limited By Henny Hemmes

REDONDO BEACH, CA. December 2012. The Optima has been on the road already for some time, and in Chicago, earlier this year, Kia introduced the SX Limited, the top trim variant. As this model is not available in Europe, I was happy I could drive it when the Los Angeles auto show lured me away to California in November.

I still remember the unanimous media approval when Kia unveiled its new midsize sedan in early 2010 and as soon as the Optima arrived on the market about a year later, it made Kia sales surging.

The new Optima made waves because of its stunning new design, that was honored with the Red Dot Product Design Award 2011. The credit goes to Kia’s design chief Peter Schreyer and his team. In 2006, Schreyer joined Kia as Chief Design Officer after two decades at Audi and Volkswagen and he has since coordinated design at Kia’s styling studios in Korea, Frankfurt, Los Angeles and Tokyo.

At his arrival at Kia, the Soul was almost production ready and Schreyer replaced the grille by one with the characteristic hexagonal shape, which later formed part of Kia’s new, recognizable ‘face’, known as ‘tiger nose’.

But it is not only about design, when we talk about the Optima. It is also about fit, finish and performance. Since its launch, the Optima has won other prestigious awards, such as ‘Best Family Car of 2012’ and the ‘Top Safety Pick’ of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), while ranking highest in a tie with the Volkswagen Passat in the midsize car category of J.D. Power & Association and the 2012 Automotive Performance Execution and Layout Study.

When picking up the white SX Limited, I thought how well white becomes cars in sunny California. Contrary to Europe, where white is pretty exceptional. In The Netherlands we even say: “Met een witte, blijf je zitten”, which translates into ‘with a white one, you’ll get stuck’ (hard to resell)...

Anyway, Snow White Pearl enhances the Optima’s styling, shows its lines and makes it look larger. The SXL is based on the turbocharged Optima SX and has LED daytime running lights, chrome accented rear spoiler and lower door sills, while red brake calipers are visible through the SXL’s unique 18-inch wheels.

In Europe, the Optima with its length of 191 inches, is considered as a large business sedan and to be honest, it does not look very ‘medium’ on American roads either.

The interior is well executed and offers a rich standard equipment, that is not common yet in many other models in its segment. To mention some: Nappa leather in white or black, wood interior trim, eight-way power driver seat with memory, dual zone air conditioning, full map navigation with integrated rear view camera,

Nappa leather interior, electronic parking brake, instrument panel with LCD display, steering wheel with paddle shifters, metal pedals panoramic sunroof, 4-way power front passenger seat, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats and Infinity audio system, and not to forget the first aid kit.

The cabin offers excellent space, the driver seat – eight-way power adjustable with memory - can be easily adjusted and offers enough comfort and support. Six-feet tall passengers in the rear have plenty of leg- and headroom, but the panoramic roof eats away a little bit of space.

Even with a full size spare wheel (YEA!!!!), luggage space is excellent, but when my suitcases were loaded, I noticed the old-fashioned hinges. Of course, they are sturdier and cheaper than hydraulic units, but they are unprotected, meaning they take space when you close the boot lid and then can easily crack your luggage.

Technically, the SXL is the same as the Optima SX and is equipped with the 2.0-liter turbo charged engine that produces 274 hp at 6,000 rpm and has 269 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. The four-cylinder is a strong, but quiet performer and a fair alternative to a V-6 motor. Its response is quick and sophisticated and the six-speed automatic transmission is well tuned to work together with the engine and downshifts smoothly on the right moments to provide engine power, with fuel economy.

The SXL’s handling has a sporty touch and there is hardly any body roll. The sport suspension does not completely flatten out bumps, but the ride is not too harsh. A softer compound rubber around the 18-inch wheels will improve this somewhat.

The steering is quick and the Optima feels well-balanced. With its front wheel drive, the car is neutral when turning into corners, but to my taste, could be a bit crispier. The stability is good and the car feels stable in the straight line, also when you push the XSL to higher speeds. When pushing the brake pedal, the Optima comes to a standstill in a smooth and straight way.

I drove the Optima on the freeways around Los Angeles and in the Beach Cities and found it such a nice ‘daily driver’, that I would not have mind to keep it somewhat longer than the assigned test time.

With an MSRP of $ 35,275 it is not the cheap car, but people who like the looks and the extensive equipment, will enjoy the South Korean car. They do not need to think about ‘buying American’, as the Optima is produced in Kia’s factory in West Point, Georgia. (See Also: Where All Cars Sold In North America Are Built.

-Good fuel economy of 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway Refinement, performance, styling Fuel eco. (although SX models averaged 20.1-21.9 mpg in mostly city driving.)

 -Backlit, inset gauges are easy to see in most any lighting condition. This is in direct contrast to the steering-wheel buttons, which are not well-lit at all. The available navigation system absorbs some audio functions, but the most basic settings are controlled with buttons on the steering wheel or center of the dashboard. 

By Henny Hemmes

Senior European Editor

The Auto Channel