Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 Kia Optima SX Turbocharged Snow Drive Review

Redesigned and rarin’ to go for a snowy trip in the Colorado mountains is a 2016 Kia Optima. For this test, we have the SX trim with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine under the hood, which outputs 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Running lightly at highway speeds, the 2016 Optima with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine can get up 32 mpg.

For its fourth generation, Kia designers followed a conservative, mildly evolutionary path. Front and rear styling touches, and softer-looking sheetmetal result in a design that has matured. Dimensions have grown in small increments and result is a longer, taller, and wider Optima. All this stretching and pulling gives Kia’s midsize sedan a slightly more spacious and noticeably more comfortable interior than before.

A car that thinks it’s smart by offering Smart Welcome and Smart Trunk features, the 2016 Kia Optima also includes niceties found on more upscale brands, such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, 360-degree view camera system, nappa leather, panoramic sunroof, rear window sunshades and xenon headlamps that turn in the same direction as the steering wheel.

On the TFL car scale of:
Buy it! Lease it! Rent it! or Forget it!

The 2016 Optima gets a strong Lease It! rating. The turbocharged engine performs like a trooper, the cabin is rich with features, and the traction control system does a great job without being too much of a nanny. A couple points are lost for louder than acceptable cabin noise and Kia’s conservative approach to the exterior design.

In this TFL car review, Nathan gets behind the wheel of the all-new 2016 Kia Optima and finds out just how well it handles the road, his family, and fresh fallen Colorado snow.

2016 Kia Optima SX Specs:

•MSRP: $29,690
•Price as tested: $35,515
•Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged DOHC 4-cylinder
•Power: 245 hp @ 6000 rpm
•Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 1350 – 4000 rpm
•Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/Sportmatic Sports Shifter
•Curb weight: 3,494 lbs. (no sunroof) / 3,594 lbs. (with sunroof)
•EPA-estimated fuel economy (city/hwy/combined mpg): 22/32/25
•Wheelbase: 110.4 in.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016 Kia Sorento LX AWD Packs Surprises

The Kia Sorento is a stealthy, surprising player in the SUV class. It sits out in the weeds while the big name players from GMC, Ford, Lexus and others battle it out — all while packing performance and features many drivers would be surprised to discover.

During a weeklong test drive of the new Sorento in its highest trim level (LX AWD), I found the SUV to be comfortable, capable and surprisingly fun to drive, all while considering Kia has the reputation for being a more affordable, less ambitious automaker. The Sorento fights off that image.

You can take a brand new Kia Sorento home for a genuinely approachable $24,900, if you're willing to settle for the entry level trim. Decked out with a 3.3 liter, 290 horsepower V6, the All-Wheel-Drive LX pushes up closer to $30,000. With that you get a six-speed automatic transmission that's also manually shiftable, if you're so inclined.

The resulting drive opens your eyes a bit with its acceleration and ample speed. While it doesn't handle as tightly as its more expensive European sisters, its electronic power steering makes sure it stays on the rails for urban use.

This Kia has no ambition to be part of the crossover wars and opts for full-size, seven-seater SUV status. It seats all seven comfortably with ample room in the back for whatever swag those folk bring with them. All trims include split-folding rear seat back, folding center armrest, manual folding split-bench third row seats and rear ventilation ducts.

Inside, the 2016 Kia Sorento LX AWD throws in all of the candy. The buyer takes home remote keyless power door locks, external temperature display, complete infotainment system, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel a rear view camera, destination guidance and turn-by-turn navigation.

Including such a complete suite of in-car features is a smart move by Kia as packing in the high-tech toys and little driver aid flares is a great way to offer a strong alternative to those more expensive SUV choices that can drain market share with sexier badges.

Considering its target price range, Kia wants to undercut the luxury brands — while offering a solid alternative to the more expensive offerings from Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, etc. While Kia might not be able to match overall build quality and drive dynamics, it can throw in many of the same enhancing tech features as the hot shots. That's a wise play if Kia wants to stay on the bumper of those fancier automakers.

The Kia material on this car puts it out there that it's rugged enough to take on the great outdoors as an off-road capable machine. I won't dispute that, but the Sorento seems more comfortable in its natural habitat — the urban forest. Amongst the concrete, steel and glass, it's an affordable, comfortable and well-equipped animal.


Kia Motors to showcase autonomous driving technology at CES

Kia Motors Corp., South Korea's second-ranked automaker, plans to showcase its autonomous driving technology at a major consumer electronics exhibition to be held in the U.S. early next year, industry sources said Wednesday.

Kia Motors plans to hold a press conference during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016 to be held in Las Vegas on Jan. 6-9 where it will display its autonomous driving and IT connectivity technology. It will also make a presentation on future direction in the field, according to the sources.

This will mark the first time for Kia Motors to hold a press conference during the CES. Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors have joined the exhibition every other year.

During the exhibition, Kia Motors will showcase the Sportage sport utility vehicle and Soul EV equipped with the autonomous driving function.

This comes as South Korean automakers are intensifying their efforts to apply autonomous driving features to their new models.

Recently, Hyundai Motor launched the EQ900 flagship sedan here which adopted the highway driving assist (HDA) system designed to help autonomous driving on highway.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

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Kia to debut 'Mystique' model X-Car next month

The Kia X-Car will debut at the Australian Open in January. (Kia X-Men Apocalypse)
Auto manufacturer Kia will unveil a cross-promotional car modeled after X-Men villain Mystique ahead of the next installment in the comic book franchise "X-Men: Apocalypse."

The X-Car, as it's referred to, is based on its 2017 Sportage and will feature custom-designed bodywork with special textured tone-on-tone matte and gloss blue paint. The vehicle is scheduled for its first look next month at the 2016 Australian Open tennis tournament to coincide with Kia's sponsorship of the event.

This is the second of Kia's X-Cars, following the release of a Wolverine-inspired Sorento, which debuted at the 2015 Australian Open in January.

The new "X-Men" movie is set for release in theaters in May 2016.


Monday, December 28, 2015

2016 Kia Sedona SXL Review

We know that minivans get a bad rap and most of it is justified. But when was the last time you sat in a minivan with a luxury, jet-style, lounge chair with retracting legrests and winged headrests? Most likely you never have unless you’ve been in the new Kia Sedona SXL. It’s a minivan that’s definitely not like your typical, boring family hauler. The Kia Sedona will transport you in enhanced comfort.

Over the weekend, we drove the top of the line 2016 Kia Sedona SXL.

What’s New For 2016?

New Kia Sedona features for 2016 include a rearview camera as standard equipment. Chrome-accent side sills are available for the 2016 Sedona SXL. SXL trims get seating for eight with the optional Technology Package.

Features & Options

The top trim Kia Sedona SXL ($39,900) comes loaded with features like heated mirrors, an adjustable-height power liftgate, power sliding doors, keyless ignition and entry, upgraded leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a refrigerated lower glovebox, tri-zone automatic climate control, rear sunshades, a heated steering wheel and an eight-speaker Infinity audio system with HD radio.

It also gets navigation, voice controls, and a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert. The second row seats are replaced by lounge seats with airplane-style, winged headrests and extendable leg rests.

This tester also came with the optional Technology Package ($2,800), which adds xenon headlights with automatic high beam control, a surround-view parking camera, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, a forward collision warning system and an additional 115-volt power outlet in the cargo area.

The rear seat entertainment system ($1,095) was also an option and total MSRP was $44,690, including destination.

Interior Highlights

The cabin of the Sedona SXL is exceptionally classy up front with a two-tone instrument panel and glossy piano-black trim. There’s soft-touch surfaces throughout and high-quality materials are evident, matching Kia’s upper level sedans.

The front seats are comfortable enough for settling in and taking a long road trip. This interior stands out from the ordinary cabins in most other minivans.

In the back is where the SXL has another notch up on the competition. This top of-the-line model gets airline-style, lounge chairs with retracting legrests and winged headrests, aimed at enhanced comfort for second row passengers. Just lower the shades, slip in a DVD in the rear seat entertainment system, and you can stretch out for a most comfortable ride.

The Sedona offers 33.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seat and a significant 78.4 cubes with the rear seats folded into the floor. Although, there’s not as much cargo carrying ability in the SXL as other models due to its fixed lounge chairs.

The third row is average size and adults can fit comfortably for short distances.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

Sedona is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine that generates 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. It is coupled with a 6-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels but gas mileage is only average with an EPA estimated 17/22 mpg city/highway and 19 combined.

Driving Dynamics

On the road, the Sedona is as quiet as any minivan we’ve tested. The performance is what you would expect from a family hauler and it delivers smooth power on the highway. It handles like an ordinary vehicle meant for utility over driving dynamics, but it always felt solid and secure. If lightly loaded, the Sedona has plenty of power for most driving situations. Ride quality is excellent even with the SXL’s larger 19-inch wheels, though it can get bouncy over the rough spots.

We pushed the front-wheel-drive Sedona a bit harder through the mountain corners than any family will ever do and it held its own for a heavy vehicle – Sedona’s weight keeps fuel economy down.

In the city, Sedona moves easily through traffic and it’s a comfortable place to sit in heavy traffic too.


For families looking for a top-of-the-line minivan, you won’t find a more comfortable and classy cabin. It’s a pleasant way to move people and cargo on the open road and in the city. Those second row lounge seats will spoil any passenger regardless of age.


Kia Motors, Hyundai Motor to buy $600 million stake in Hyundai Capital from GE

Hyundai Motor (005380.KS) and Kia Motors (000270.KS) will buy a 23.3 percent stake in auto financing affiliate Hyundai Capital from General Electric (GE.N) for 703 billion won ($600.8 million), the automakers said on Tuesday.

Hyundai Motor, South Korea's biggest automaker, plans to acquire a 3.2 percent stake worth 96 billion won, while second-placed Kia Motors would buy a 20.1 percent stake worth 607 billion won, the two companies said in public filings.

Hyundai Motor also said it could buy the remaining 20 percent stake GE has in Hyundai Capital in the future.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Kia Gives Niro Concept Production Go-Ahead

The Toyota Prius better watch out—there’s going to be a new hybrid utility vehicle in town. Kia recently announced that it has officially green lighted a hybrid vehicle that will rival the Prius’ popularity.

This new Kia hybrid model will be based on the Niro concept car, which debuted at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show. The concept car had a rugged, high-riding look to it, which would help it stand out against the Prius’ slightly stale model design.

Kia has stated that the Niro was designed with the American market in mind, giving consumers the spacious interior they want and need, while still offering superior gas mileage.

“Our new model is designed to offer buyers everything they could want from a compact SUV in terms of practicality and styling, while providing the typically low running costs associated with a dedicated hybrid powertrain,” said Hyoung-Keun Lee, Kia’s CEO.

The newest Kia model will be manufactured at Kia’s assembly plant in Hwaseong, South Korean, and is reported to go on sale in the second half of 2016, quickly followed by a plug-in hybrid. This is all part of Kia’s plan to introduce a lineup of green cars by 2020.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Kia: Sportage U.S. Supply Improving With Downturns

Russia’s loss is Kia Motor America’s gain. Ditto for China’s and the Middle East’s.

That’s because a slowdown in new-vehicle demand in those countries and regions is proving beneficial to Kia’s efforts to sell more Sportage CUVs in the U.S.

“We’ve been constrained in terms of the production that we’ve been able to get here in the United States,” Michael Sprague, chief operating officer-KMA tells WardsAuto in an interview of a longstanding issue of not being able to sell higher volumes of the compact CUV to Americans.

Kia’s U.S. Sportage sales were up 20.3% to 47,695, contributing to the brand’s 6.9% overall sales increase through November.

“With other markets this past year giving back production because of the decline in those markets we’ve been able to capture more (of their capacity),” Sprague says of the reason behind the 20.3% jump.

Russian light-vehicle sales through October fell 33.6%, with Kia experiencing a 13.3% decline, WardsAuto data shows.

In China, light-vehicle sales rose 2.9% above year-ago through October, although that is a smaller increase than in recent years. The Chinese slowdown took a 15.0% bite out of Kia’s car sales there, but the brand’s light-truck deliveries climbed 3.1%.

The Sportage is built for the U.S. and other markets at Kia’s Gwangju, South Korea, plant. It also is assembled at Kia’s Zilina, Slovakia, plant for Europe.

Sprague sees KMA continuing to grab unused capacity from other regions as the new, fourth-generation Sportage debuts in the U.S. next year.

“We anticipate with the new one coming out we’ll be able to get more production to meet the demand we anticipate this vehicle will have,” he says.

KMA won’t release a sales target for the next-gen CUV.

Since the third-gen Sportage debuted in 2010, Kia has been mostly mid-pack in WardsAuto’s Small CUV segment, one of the industry’s fastest-growing groups.

The nearly 48,000 Sportages delivered through November was shy of the 107,258 Patriots sold by segment leader Jeep, but the vehicle outperformed the newer Chevy Trax and Honda HR-V CUVs in the period.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Stylish new Kia Sorento offers content and value

Traditionally, Kia vehicles have offered high levels of standard equipment and an industry-leading five year/100,000km bumper-to-bumper warranty for the price of a used vehicle from a more established manufacturer. For this reason, it’s easy to see why Kia has seen such a meteoric rise, particularly in the last 10 years.

The trade-off has typically been vehicles that are a generation behind their direct rivals in terms of design, quality and engineering.

However, the new for 2016 Kia Sorento has recently been awarded the top spot in the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s (AJAC’s) $35,000-$60,000 SUV/crossover category. As tested, the MSRP of this SX V6 seven-seat model supplied by Planet Kia in Brandon is $43,395 and it has many features usually associated with luxury brands, such as 19 inch aluminum wheels, pearl effect paint, premium leather, heated and air-cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, Infinity premium audio, smart power tailgate, panoramic sunroof, blind spot and rear cross traffic detection and HID Xenon headlights. It comes with a 3.3 litre V6 24v direct injection gasoline engine with 290 horsepower and 252 pound foot of torque, that offers class-leading power and, with the standard six-speed Sportmatic torque converter automatic transmission, is towards the top of the class in terms of fuel efficiency too.

Ex-Volkswagen/Audi stylist Peter Schreyer, one of the world’s top automotive designers, is Kia’s chief design officer and the latest Sorento features his signature “tiger nose” grille and in my opinion, with its chunky good looks, is one of the most handsome vehicles in its class.

This style is continued inside with the use of good quality plastics, well laid-out controls and a very comfortable, spacious cabin. To reduce wind, road and engine noise inside the cabin, Kia have used 200 per cent more rubber cladding underneath the vehicle, foam insulated body panels and a noise- reducing windshield. A 14 per cent stiffer bodyshell, combined with a 2” lower roofline, contributes to a low for class curb weight of around 1,900kg, improved handling and better fuel economy. Kia claim 9.3L/100km highway, although I only achieved an average of 11.3L/100km on test but that isn’t bad for a near two tonne AWD vehicle on mainly off-highway driving. Both the length and wheelbase are up 3” from 2015, which means more space for second and third row passengers. The second row also splits 40/20/40 to give better flexibility when carrying a combination of cargo and passengers. Towing capacity has now been uprated to 5,000 pounds on V6 models, which is more in-line with the competition.

One unusual feature of the SX model is that it has the power assistance motor for the steering on the rack rather than on the column, which means increased steering feel and greater precision. The steering also has a “Sport” mode, which adds weight to the steering, giving you more confidence when driving on twisty, bumpy roads. The engine pulled really strongly when required, with the transmission shifting smoothly and sounding pleasingly tuneful under hard acceleration.

For a mid-size SUV, the Kia Sorento has genuine driver appeal. On AWD models, the torque split is primarily front-wheel-drive biased for optimum fuel economy but torque can be transferred to the rear wheels as and when required. A manual override allows you to lock the AWD into a 50:50 split up to 36km/h in very slippery conditions and this will automatically disengage at 36km/h to reduce wear on the transmission components.

The Sorento comes in four levels of trim: LX, LX+, EX and SX. All models come with air conditioning, aluminum wheels, rear parking sonar, auto lights, fog lights, power windows/mirrors/locks, heated front seats and cruise control as standard. AWD is standard on EX and SX models and a $2,000 option on the 4-cylinder LX and LX+ models. Entry level price for the five-seat LX model with front-wheel-drive is $27,495 MSRP and it comes with a 2.4 litre engine with 185 horsepower. Next up, for an extra $3,200 the LX+ model benefits from a more powerful 240 horsepower 2 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, leather-trimmed steering wheel, upgraded infotainment system, backup camera, push-button start and power driver’s seat. If you want leather seating, dual-zone climate control and heated steering wheel amongst other features, pay an additional $2,900 for the EX model. If you want seven seats, then you get the V6 engine and AWD as standard for an additional $1,100 to $1,200 on LX+ models and above. The SX model is a hefty $6,500 premium over the EX but comes as standard with the many features of our test model.

All trim levels offer excellent value but, as is often the case, the mid-range LX+ and EX specs seem to offer the best combination of value and features. At $33,895, the LX+ V6 AWD with seven seats could be all the family car that you ever need and if seven seats are not required, the five seat LX+ and EX models also offer excellent value. Servicing is set at relatively frequent 6,000 km intervals, but costs promise to be low due to the use of low maintenance items such as the engine timing chain, which should be good for 300,000 kilometres before it needs replacing

In isolation, the prices don’t look like the bargain that Kias used to be, but when you consider the level of equipment that you get for your money, the competition spec-for-spec are on average 14 per cent (over $5,000) more expensive across the range. For instance, a similarly equipped GMC Acadia Denali AWD to our test model has an MSRP of over $57,000! So, put your prejudices aside, the American-built 2016 Sorento still offers the traditional Kia virtues of good value and a long warranty, but is now more than a match for the domestic, Japanese and even European competition in terms of quality, driver appeal, design and engineering.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

New Kia Optima is ready to conquer more

Kia is just out with an impressive new Optima sedan. Restyled, re-engineered and re-equipped, this year’s model looks poised to continue gaining popularity and building esteem as successfully as the prior-generation version it now replaces.

That’s saying a lot, because the Kia Optima plays in the top league of the passenger car market. As a mid-size sedan, it competes against the most popular and most firmly established automobiles available. Think Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, to name a few of the most prominent.

They’re prominent for a reason. Mid-size sedans are popular as a class because the cars are appropriately sized, providing ample occupant space in manageably scaled vehicles that remain comfortably maneuverable and adroit enough to return a rewarding on-road experience. Particular models like the Fusion, Accord and Camry stand out for distinguished body design, comfortable and accommodating cabins, and reputations for long-lasting quality.

The Kia Optima runs conspicuously right beside them.

“We’re seeing a great deal more conquest business than we used to,” said Dennis Millman, a sales manager at Commonwealth Motors in Lawrence. In addition to Commonwealth Kia, the company operates dealerships that sell the Chevrolet, Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen lines.

In the car biz, a conquest is a driver switching over from another brand. Millman stated that after relentless attention and steady improvements by Kia, the company’s Optima wins consideration on par with all the models in the mid-size class, including the most notable ones.

“We’re seeing a lot more conquests of anything that’s not a Kia,” he said. “They’ve proven that they’ve come to play, that the manufacturer is truly listening to what buyers want.”

This fall’s new, 2016 Optima aims to continue expanding the car line’s appeal by providing more of the ingredients that have brought the model to its current level. That includes visual attraction, a comfortable, useful and well appointed interior, high levels of safety, and confident, self-assured motoring.

Add to that list quality construction from Kia’s car-making factory in West Point, Ga, where a compelling array of features and equipment is installed in the Optima.

Kia is just out with an impressive new Optima sedan. Restyled, re-engineered and re-equipped, this year’s model looks poised to continue gaining popularity and building esteem as successfully as the prior-generation version it now replaces.

That’s saying a lot, because the Kia Optima plays in the top league of the passenger car market. As a mid-size sedan, it competes against the most popular and most firmly established automobiles available. Think Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, to name a few of the most prominent.

They’re prominent for a reason. Mid-size sedans are popular as a class because the cars are appropriately sized, providing ample occupant space in manageably scaled vehicles that remain comfortably maneuverable and adroit enough to return a rewarding on-road experience. Particular models like the Fusion, Accord and Camry stand out for distinguished body design, comfortable and accommodating cabins, and reputations for long-lasting quality.

The Kia Optima runs conspicuously right beside them.

“We’re seeing a great deal more conquest business than we used to,” said Dennis Millman, a sales manager at Commonwealth Motors in Lawrence. In addition to Commonwealth Kia, the company operates dealerships that sell the Chevrolet, Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen lines.

In the car biz, a conquest is a driver switching over from another brand. Millman stated that after relentless attention and steady improvements by Kia, the company’s Optima wins consideration on par with all the models in the mid-size class, including the most notable ones.

“We’re seeing a lot more conquests of anything that’s not a Kia,” he said. “They’ve proven that they’ve come to play, that the manufacturer is truly listening to what buyers want.”

This fall’s new, 2016 Optima aims to continue expanding the car line’s appeal by providing more of the ingredients that have brought the model to its current level. That includes visual attraction, a comfortable, useful and well appointed interior, high levels of safety, and confident, self-assured motoring.

Add to that list quality construction from Kia’s car-making factory in West Point, Ga, where a compelling array of features and equipment is installed in the Optima.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander v Kia Sorento Platinum

It’s said that competition breeds excellence, and it’s certainly served protagonists Hyundai and Kia with big forwards strides towards greatness in recent times. That they’re corporate cousins, with a degree of resource sharing, might have fostered laziness in badge-engineered camaraderie in difference circumstances, but quite the opposite is the reality.

Their fierce rivalry – the Reds versus Blues as they playfully refer to themselves – not only propels Korea’s continued march across motoring’s map, its producing cars of leap-and-bound improvement with distinctive differences as each maker bays for one-upmanship.

The Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe seven-seater SUVs are perfect cases in point. Both are marked improvements over their forebears and key for strengthening their respective brands. Both share DNA – conspicuously and not – though even a cursory glance suggests each has an inimitable character. And each throws the proverbial kitchen sink at highly specifying the affordable, family-swallowing format.

Where the pair differs is in lifecycle. Launched locally in June, the fourth-generation Sorento has been revised down to its platform, making it the, well, the newest. The Santa Fe, however, has been around in third-generation form since 2012, but its November Series II update not only makes it the fresher offering, its introduction creates the impetus for this two-way comparison test.

Each has a solid track record in review past. A perennial test victim, this new Sorento range has been reviewed five times already (including two long-termer reports to date), returning strong eight and eight-point-five scores each time.

The Santa Fe Series II range also scored an eight at its recent launch, though it updates myriad Series I variants CarAdvice has tested extensively since 2012, consistently rating between seven and eight from ten in overall scoring. So far, so close, then.

Our choice of variants reaches as high as the respective ranges go, the ultimate Platinum trim for the Sorento and the flagship Highlander version of the Santa Fe. Each is equipped with a 2.2-litre turbo diesel and six-speed automatic powertrain driven through all-wheel drive. And, as we’ll discover, their similarities end far from there.


Proof of how centered Kia and Hyundai are in each other’s crosshairs, is merely suggested by the identical $55,990 (plus on-road costs) prices of their flagship seven-seaters. Digging through their respective, richly appointed standard features lists, though, pretty much cements the level of parity between these two competitors, especially given that neither has any options fitted.

So comprehensive – and frankly exhaustive – are both their equipment lists that space here permits merely the highlights.

Outside, both sit on 19-inch wheels shod with 235/55 R19 tyres and feature automatic on/off, self-leveling HID xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED tail lights, heated electric folding mirrors, roof rails, rear privacy glass, panoramic glass roofs and hands-free powered tailgates.

Reverse-view cameras, along with front and rear parking sensors, are par for the SUV course. Both family haulers also feature suspiciously similar infotainment systems with Suna-equipped (live traffic information) sat-nav, USB/AUX/Bluetooth phone and media streaming/iPod integration, and Infinity-branded 10-speaker audio.

Here, the Hyundai pulls a slim advantage in adopting an 8.0-inch touchscreen against the Kia’s 7.0-inch unit, though the Sorento uses a huge, 7.0-inch circular TFT driver’s screen in the instrument cluster against the Santa Fe’s modest 4.3-inch display. Both get digital speedos, but the Santa Fe sits alone in providing Siri Eyes Free and Google Now voice control.

Both SUVs adopt seating trimmed with a blend of real and artificial leather throughout, with heated/cooled front pews and heating in the outboard second row positions. Both cars feature dual-zone climate control with – hallelujah – air vents covering all three passenger rows. The Kia also gets an exclusive heated steering wheel, though the Hyundai counters with a cooled glovebox.

Auto-dimming mirrors, push button start, rain-sensing wipers, manual second-row sun blinds… their features lists go on and on, both brimming with equipment that some European seven-seaters approaching twice the price want added optional cost for.

These Koreans are almost equally generous in kit, but neither really nudges ahead by any meaningful measure in the bells and whistles count.

That is, until active safety weighs in…

Both SUVs enhance core ABS/ESP active chassis systems with advance stability management and hill-start assist. Further, each adds lane departure warning, ‘smart’ adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane change assist systems for thoroughly comprehensive active safety credentials.

However, the Santa Fe alone bolsters its credential with autonomous emergency braking and hill descent control.

More convenient than ‘safe’, per se, is Hyundai’s all-singing, all-dancing parking assist system, offering automated self-steering during entry and exit parallel and reverse-entry perpendicular parking.

The pair offers five-cap ANCAP surety, but the Hyundai ups the airbag count to seven against Kia’s six, adding a driver’s knee bag to the shared suites of front, front-side and curtain airbags.

It’s advantage Santa Fe, then, moving into their cabin spaces.


The most conspicuous differentiator here is the highly subjective topic of styling. Canvassing the CarAdvice crew, the consensus is that the Santa Fe’s new nip’n’tuck has produced, against its Kia rival, a more modern aesthetic. They are, though, essentially revised bumper, light and grille changes to a familiar old friend, but it’s the Sorento’s more restrained, less-masculine design that is more comprehensively ‘new’.

Its maker calls Sorento’s exterior look “sleek” and “sinuous”, though it’s a little more sonorous in the flesh compared with the angular Hyundai.

Some of the effect is by the pen, some by proportions – the Sorento’s slightly more elongated appearance is no doubt due in part to almost identical dimensions to the Santa Fe in every measure except length and wheelbase, where the Kia is exactly 80mm longer for both.

While we’re certainly not about to rate their respective styling, that both SUVs are so evenly matched on price, equipment and perceived value must surely mean that looks will weigh in substantially in some buyers’ eyes.

Speaking of sight, Blind Freddy could see where inspiration may have struck a design chord at Kia – a touch of Mercedes-Benz in that diamond patterned grille, perhaps..?


Further still, anyone who has sat behind the wheel of Stuttgart-made sports cars of recent generations might see some familiarity in both the Sorento’s steering wheel and instrument cluster (though Kia adopts a speedometer for its central roundel).

That’s no slight. The driver interface of the Kia is clearer and simpler than that of the fussier and more angular treatment inside the Hyundai – though the more technical look, particularly with the tactile button and switch treatment on the door trims and centre console, will appeal to many SUV shoppers’ tastes.

However, the stylized multi-function wheel – which, like the Kia, has simple and intuitive controls – doesn’t afford much hand grip with those fat spokes.

The Santa Fe feels reasonably upmarket – if no more than its predecessor – and not necessarily finer than its Kia rival, which uses a lot of almost rubberised textures that include fake ‘moulded’ stitching – and is a little plasticky despite its own neat ‘clicky’ button treatment.

The Sorento has had a deep dive into glossy wood trim territory in the Platinum variant, while the Santa Fe’s slightly pretentious ‘matte carbon’ sporty trim inserts couldn’t be a more different, though no more convincing, approach.

Nitpicking aside, both exude a level of class, solidity and integrity beyond their affordable, unified mid-fifties price point.

Similarly, their infotainment systems punch above their weight and are, on face value at least, identical bar software tweaks. Both are quite intuitive to use, super quick in response with excellent navigation systems. One markdown is that, as we’ve reported in the past, the Santa Fe lacks the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality that’s being made available in the smaller Tucson stablemate, and given the technical commonality here the same criticism must be aimed at the Sorento as well.

Seating wise, the Santa Fe offers 12-way driver/four-way passenger electric adjustment, the Sorento 10-way/eight-way respectively, though realistically neither lacks any fine-tuning for the perfect seating position.

Both offer relaxed and supportive long-haul comfort, along with entry and egress heights that even the most vertically challenged owners won’t struggle with.

If there’s a major ownership differentiator in the cabin, it’s the glass areas and the effect on outward vision. The Sorento’s flat window line simply provides better vision from all three rows, while the Santa Fe’s swooping, angular glasshouse taper presents more limited vision the further back in the cabin you sit. It’s a small point made large, given how otherwise similar this pair is for accommodation.

In the socket stouch, the Hyundai runs single USB, single auxiliary and dual 120w 12V outlets up front; as well as single 120w 12V in both rows two and three. The Kia matches the first row count and uses 180w 12v outlets throughout, though where it lacks third-row power it compensates for in a second row USB port. Kids – and tech-addict adults alike – will love that.

If the Sorento’s extra 80mm affords extra row two legroom, it’s not immediately noticeable. And as each SUV’s 40:20:40 split-fold bench offers sliding and backrest adjustment, you’d need adults in all three rows to pick any (slight) compromise in knee room…somewhere. For all-round roominess, they’re very close, though the Kia is slightly better for headroom.

So far, so even. But wait, there’s more.

In either vehicle, all three rows get air vents and controls, the final row featuring 50:50 split-fold that can be dropped with remote switches in the cargo area walls. It’s awkward to climb into or out of the rearmost seating of both SUVs, each requiring two hands and elbow grease to put the second rows back in play.

If there’s a small victory, it’s the Sorento’s slightly superior third-row shoulder room and headroom, nicer air-con controls and, once again, better outward visibility. By contrast, the Santa Fe is slightly more claustrophobic.

Make no mistake. This pair is so close, and so good, at interior packaging and treatment that you will not go wrong with either. They’re tough to separate even when sampled back to back.

The Sorento, though, has a little more luggage space, offering 605 litres against the Santa Fe’s 516 litres with the third row folded, and 1662 litres versus the Hyundai’s 1615 litres once the second row is stowed. Call it a fractional and academic advantage to the Kia.

On the road

With the same 2.2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder producing 147kW at 3800rpm and 440Nm between 1750 and 2750rpm – well, okay, Kia claims one semantic extra Newton meter for a 441 total – and mechanically identical six-speed automatic and all-wheel-driven drivelines, one might expect an identical driving experience with these Koreans. That’s not the case.

Oily motivation aside, they’re not twins under their skins. The platforms that underpin the two are fundamentally different: technically, the Sorento is newer. The Kia is, at 2036kg, also heavier than the Santa Fe, if by a paltry 52kg.

None of this impacts how this pair drives quite as much as ride and handling development, and while each has benefited from bespoke Australian tuning and calibration, neither the engineering teams, the degree of work or targets set are likely to be identical.

We’ve long rated the R-Series engine as a refined and gutsy unit and little has changed. It’s torquey and responsive from the depths of the rpm range, spirited yet untasked when duty bound to haul each SUV’s considerable heft swiftly.

Both SUVs offer Sport mode powertrain calibrations that provide noticeable if hardly marked leaps in characteristic response, and in their default drive mode the Sorento treats forward progress a little more leisurely, particularly in the transmission program. Not better nor worse, just different.

The Series II Santa Fe is more firmly set than its forebear – for both “load carrying” and “a more responsive car” says the company – and this tauter tune is certainly noticeable, compared with the slightly wallowy Sorento that we’ve found wanting for dynamic ability in tests past.

While handling prowess as driving enjoyment isn’t a primary priority for seven-seater family hauling, a sense of surety with the road, the provision of driver confidence in vehicle placement, rates highly in my book of Moving Loved Ones. And the Santa Fe offers more of that confidence.

Almost conversely, the Sorento is a little more jiggly across small road imperfections and there’s more thudding through the suspension over square edges and ‘cats eye’ lane markers.

In isolation, it feels nicely compliant – against the Santa Fe, its ride is a little more terse.

The Santa Fe takes the edge off large bumps, potholes and square-profile speed humps with more resolve, too. As an all-round tune, the Hyundai’s suspension is more multi-faceted and flexible.

The Sorento’s steering is very light and almost completely bereft of connection with the road, which is great for low-speed parking maneuvers, but not so flash when your SUV suddenly understeers in first rain or over black ice and you’re left with the stability system’s intervention to keep you informed.

The Santa Fe, though, communicates – heightened safety in itself – through its slightly weightier steering, and boasts a marginally tighter 10.9-metre turning circle against the Sorento’s 11.1m figure.

Achieving fuel consumption figures close to their combined-cycle claims of 7.7L/100km (Santa Fe) and 7.8L/100km (Sorento) requires a light load and plenty of light throttle long hauling out on the open road, and both are really in their elements lunging across grand distances.

In being tailor-made for the great Aussie family getaway, this pair makes any dual-cab 4×4 ‘lifestyle’ ute you could name feel torturous and agricultural by comparison, and no less handy if you’re planning serious off-road work. Each does offer a degree of light broken road capability – each has an electronically lockable centre differential – though the gravel road to the farmhouse or camping site is about the extent of their wild roaming abilities. The main inhibitors being on-road tyre design and meagre underbody clearances, their all-wheel-drive system more about traction surety in slippery road-going conditions.

Perhaps the biggest letdown here is, unsurprisingly, one shared between the two: their active safety systems. It’s not that they don’t work – they most certainly do – it’s just that the on-the-move systems tasked with overseeing lane and collision protocols aren’t tuned sharply or intelligently enough for the mild chaos of Aussie urban traffic and the confined environment in which it lives.

So invasive are both cars’ incessant beeping and flashing, even during the most passive driving, that they distract more than they assist, forcing you to turn much of it off out of frustration.

With its inherent friendliness to driver and passengers alike, it’s the Santa Fe that pulls ahead on the move…


The Kia steals the march here with its “triple-seven” scheme of an outstanding seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, seven years of roadside assist and capped-priced servicing for the same duration. Nothing else on the Australian market can match the Kia in terms of longer-term ownership.

Meanwhile, the Hyundai brings five years of surety with no kilometre limit and five years of capped-priced serving but pushes the roadside assist pledge out to 10 years.

Both apply capped-price service intervals of 15,000kms or 12 months, whichever comes first. However, the Santa Fe is cheaper to service: the total cost after 60 months/75,00kms is $2015 against $2442 for the Sorento.

So, added confidence or a hip-pocket saving? We’d favour the former, though buyers may well be more enticed by the latter.


Picking the nuances of each SUV and then stacking the few (and largely inconsequential) together in comparable piles to attribute a victory here unfortunately avoids the most glaring conclusion one might draw: the buyer wins opting for either of these SUVs.

Both play key and more-or-less equally significant roles in moving the game forward for their brands and their nationality, while improving and enriching the price-savvy, seven-seater SUV segment.

During the pair’s week-long tenure in the CarAdvice garage, one question really qualified this pair’s goodness: what else beyond what each SUV offers might a buyer reasonably expect from a mid-$50K price point?

Yes, the Santa Fe is slightly more polished on road, but only by a matter of shades. Equally, the less-stylised – if no less stylish – Sorento provides a marginally more occupant friendly cabin for vision and cargo space if, again, by measures of fractional degree.

If ever there was a two-way comparison where subjective buyer tastes should sway the decision-making process, this is it. You won’t lose, whichever the choice.


Kia allows us to make an Apples-and-Rolexes comparison

Rapid technological progress, accompanied by the increasing standardization of what once was sold as costly optional equipment, is upsetting the notion of traditional automotive luxury.

I’ve written this before — much to the chagrin of many in the car industry, particularly executives who cling to the eroding but still profitable idea that “luxury” is reserved for those truly wealthy enough to afford it, or aspirant buyers willing to incur enormous debt to acquire it.

I am hereby restating my argument and offering as proof Exhibit A — the 2016 Kia Optima SX Limited sedan.

It carries a starting price of $35,790, which is $13,950 more than the base — but very well-equipped — Optima LX.

A difference of nearly $14,000 is no small thing. Not for me, at least. And, I suspect, it isn’t chump change for most of you. But the top-of-the-line, fully equipped Optima SX Limited is still tens of thousands of dollars less expensive than many similarly outfitted traditional luxury automobiles.

This is where I usually get the Timex-Rolex argument. It goes something like this: Both watches perfectly reflect passing seconds and minutes. But the Rolex is more elegant, expensive, luxurious — fitting for someone wealthy enough and willing to spend the money to acquire the prestige it presumably imparts.

I used to give that counterargument some credence — until along came Apple and Kia.

The new Apple watches — effective wrist computers, smartphones and timepieces — arguably do more and provide greater service than the most expensive Rolex, for a lot less money. Kia? Put it this way: Kia is doing to the car industry what Apple has done to the phone, wristwatch and computer businesses.

Here is my interpretation of Kia’s business philosophy: Everyone who buys a car wants to feel safe in that car and will appreciate any driver-assistance technology that enhances their feeling of security. Everyone wants to remain safely in touch with everyone and everything else, even while driving. Everyone appreciates flattery, something that visibly “congratulates” them for “having arrived,” or at least for making solid progress toward getting there. Everyone loves a good deal, something that speaks to their common sense, as opposed to something that primarily strokes their egos while lifting their wallets.

In addition, the Kia thinking goes: Of course, everyone wants a car that moves with authority. The Optima SX Limited gives them that with a turbocharged (forced air) 2-liter in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine (245 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque). But people want everything, assuming they can get it. They want big horsepower in tandem with good fuel economy. The Optima SX Limited delivers decently, with 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, with premium fuel needed for “best performance.”

I absolutely loved driving the Optima SX Limited. It is comfortable. The model driven for this column came with optional quilted Nappa leather seat covering. Standard driver-assistance technology (in the SX Limited) included a premium onboard navigation system with high-definition rearview camera; Bluetooth wireless technology with hands-free connectivity; electronic rear parking assistance; forward collision warning system; lane-departure warning; blind-spot detection; rear cross-traffic alert, advanced smart cruise control and autonomous emergency braking.

All of this stuff works, consistently and reliably. It could mean the difference between a costly crash and no crash at all.

That, to me, is far more important than sub-five-second 0-to-60-mph acceleration times, or excessive horsepower that can safely be exploited only on a racetrack, or “prestige” that becomes less prestigious with each monthly payment.

Kia is on to something here. The South Korean company understands the future of the global automobile industry — a world in which 99 percent, as opposed to 1 percent, of the world’s car buyers control the direction of that industry. It is a world where vehicle safety is not an option, low emissions are a universally mandated requirement, and the “joy of driving” is not limited to those with enough money and horsepower to put a car on a racetrack.

Bottom line: The 2016 Kia Optima — base LX, LX1.6 Turbo, EX, SX, or top-of-the-line SX or SXL Limited — is well worth the look for anyone shopping for a nicely done, well-equipped, reasonably affordable midsize family sedan.

Ride, acceleration and handling: The SX Limited gets very good marks in all three.

Head-turning quotient: Mainstream attractive.

Body style/layout: This is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive midsize family sedan with a traditional notchback trunk.

Engine/transmission: The 2016 Optima SX Limited comes standard with a turbocharged, 16-valve, gasoline-direct-injection 2-liter in-line four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing (245 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque). The engine is linked to a continuously variable automatic transmission.

Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 15.4 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 18.5 gallons of gasoline. For non-turbo models, regular grade is okay. Premium grade is recommended for best performance in turbocharged versions.

Actual mileage: I averaged 32 miles per gallon in spirited, albeit legal, highway driving.

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear), four-wheel anti-lock braking system, emergency braking assistance, stability and traction control, driver-side knee air bag, full-length side curtain air bags, hill start assist control, tire-pressure monitoring, and lower anchors and tethers for children.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Kia Soul EV + Long-Term Update 2

Hello, World: My First EV
Besides one time on a golf course and another time at an indoor kart track, I’d never driven an electric car before I was given the keys to our long-term Kia Soul EV+. Like many of you, dear readers, I had a few questions that started to solidify as the clock ticked closer and closer to 5 p.m. What happens if I run out of juice? Will it be too slow to merge? Can it do more than 65 mph? I found answers to my main questions (flatbed tow truck, no, yes) and quite a few others handily on Kia’s own website.

After a bit of careful reading, a number of my fears were assuaged. I would likely survive eight days in a row without gasoline. I wanted to get the full experience, so I downloaded a few apps for my Android smartphone. I started with Kia’s UVO EV Services app and the ChargePoint app for locating charging stations. Now properly equipped, I endeavored to answer a few of the questions surrounding the whole EV experience.

How does it drive?

Well, the Kia Soul EV drives a whole lot like a regular car, just without gears. Similar to a CVT but without the delay when you signal for acceleration. It’s like a “normal” car, just simplified. Pedal down, immediate lag-free acceleration. We get used to a delay between acceleration and response, whether that means turbochargers spooling, an automatic transmission kicking down a gear, or a CVT doing whatever it does. The Kia Soul EV with its single-speed automatic and instant torque is delightfully smooth. Until I rode in our long-gone, other long-term Kia Soul (you know, the one with the gasoline engine), I thought, “Well, this electric Soul drives about as good as a regular Kia Soul. People wouldn’t be sacrificing too much to drive one of these.” Turns out the gas burners are the ones sacrificing. The 2.0-liter I-4 in our Kia Soul Exclaim produces all the same wind and tire noise as the Soul EV but one-ups the electric by adding a double helping of engine noise. I’m sure I’d find the regular Soul relatively agreeable had I not ridden in its freakishly quiet EV relative first.

Power is quite adequate for merging, even when I’m jumping into a pocket between cars with accelerators matted. Passing is doable, though when I’m cruising in the 50-60-mph range, I start to notice that the Soul is using most of its available oomph to keep me at speed. The Soul EV takes 2.7 seconds to go from 50 to 60 mph, but our gas-powered Soul Exclaim takes 2.3 seconds, almost half a second faster. In the real world the immediate push of the electric drivetrain contrasts pretty sharply with the languid but otherwise acceptable response of the gas-fed inline-four. You get the impression that with the Soul EV there’s no slop.

Range Anxiety?

When you’re driving an electric vehicle, you are acutely aware that every driving choice takes energy. The view from the driver’s seat ensures that.

The left side is power-management headquarters: battery state of charge, the dreaded range indicator, and energy use. I drove nearly all of the time in B mode, which cranks the regenerative braking to its maximum when I completely release the accelerator. Like the economy gauges at the bottom of the tachometer on some vehicles, you can watch the display light up as you lasso all of your electrons for a passing maneuver. As I spent more time in the Soul EV, the novelty of the system wore off and I became more used to the energy gauge. With the Soul in B you can drive without using the brakes in most situations. I usually commute in a manual-transmission Civic, so using the Soul’s ability to slow without the brakes was a natural transition, and although it takes some adjustment, by day four I was pretty comfortable with the system.

My commute is almost 40 miles round trip, so in the day-to-day grind there wasn’t much range-induced anxiety. I would typically make it back to the office (and its Level 2 charger) with about 56 miles of range left. Aside from B mode, I made no concessions for efficient driving; I wasn’t slumming it for the sake of a few electrons. I cranked the air-conditioning, listened to music, ran the ventilated seats, and drove normally—although my “normal” driving style is pretty relaxed, so perhaps you could say “cup of coffee without a lid” pace.

It was a hot, long weekend that got me. Sure, there was a 30-minute stint at the Level 2 charger when I picked my wife up from class, but the range was dropping, and I only have 110-volts of power at home to ply the Kia with. I needed to find some public place with a more serious solution. Yes, folks, we’re talking Level 3: the built-in CHAdeMO port and its promised 30-minute charge time. I rolled into a local mall, plugged in, enjoyed some window-shopping, ate lunch at the food court, and otherwise killed time while the car charged. If you’re not in a hurry, the EV charging bit is quite relaxing.

The Charging Experience and Some Apps

The Soul’s infotainment system has a built-in feature for not only finding but also navigating to the charging stations. The trouble, I found, was the onboard system does not provide three key pieces of information: payment type, precise location, or current availability. I’ve encountered all three in different combinations. Once I drove all the way to the top of a parking garage only to find the station on the side of the building on the ground floor. To add insult to injury, it was on a network I didn’t have a payment card for. A more frequent occurrence is hunting around for the charger (“bottom level of parking structure” is only so specific) only to find it occupied. That’s where a company such as ChargePoint comes in. Its app allows me to see what payment forms are accepted (ChargePoint offers a card with a good network), varying levels of description on location, and often whether it’s in use (typically only the ChargePoint stations). The other users help fill in the blanks on location when it’s not obvious and would note that certain registered stations did not actually exist, which is a surprisingly common occurrence.

Once plugged in, Kia’s UVO EV Services app offers a level of remote control and basic information. The functionality is there, but the execution left me wishing for more polish. You’ve got a nice set of functions that allow you to lock/unlock the car, set the climate control (if it’s plugged in), and check the status of the battery (state of charge, range, if the car’s unlocked, etc). The problem is you see a lot of “vehicle status check in progress.” It’s not exactly responsive. Another problem is the app does not alert you if there’s a problem with charging. Like, say, you plug in your CHAdeMO cable, everything looks good, you walk away, and there’s an error, so you sit around for 30 minutes waiting while your car gains precisely zero charge.

Remotely sending climate control requests is a really handy feature that I used on my toasty weekend. The climate control will run for about 15 minutes once you send it, which is about long enough to cool a car down on a hot day. If it’s 90+ degrees out, just set it to 62 degrees; it won’t come close to that, but it’ll be cooler when you get in. You cannot, however, do this unless the car is plugged into a charger.

Me, EV?

Can I live the electric life? Well, it’s looking like a solid “probably.” The driving experience is quite agreeable, charging is easy enough in day-to-day life, and even charging while I’m out is relatively painless.

In future updates, we’ll explore life beyond 90 miles and the effects hypermiling has on range and the EV experience.