Sunday, May 31, 2015

Kia Sportage 4×2 diesel: Compact Build With Huge Performance

WHEN you look at the third-generation Kia Sportage 4×2 diesel variant, there is no doubt that it exudes a robust visual presence. Aside from the aesthetics, it is also engaging to drive with its balance of sportiness, form and functionality.

The fascia radiates with Kia’s signature tiger-nose front grille, which complements the projector-type headlights that stretch to the fenders. It is evidence of Kia styling chief Peter Schreyer’s design approach, which is unique to every modern Kia vehicle. The body lines and contours, which form an elegant aura, also add to the aerodynamics, with the lower rear roofline extending to the tail gate. Black trim surrounding the underneath panels supplements the solid styling.

Yet, there’s a different story once you’re inside the five-seater cabin. Although the interior layout is modern and ergonomic, the materials used lean toward practical, rather than elegance. True to its functional purpose, switches and controls are straight-forward and within reach of the driver. It may not have the usual modern bells and whistles, but there are several essential amenities and interior-design cues. The combination of the sunken cup holders in the center console and elevated arm rest prevents any distraction when operating the short shifter. You wouldn’t miss a glimpse of the enlarged and well-illuminated analog gauges that are perfectly visible through the chunky and grippy steering wheel. Seats are wrapped in fabric, giving a perfect hug. Rear passengers will enjoy the ample legroom and available aircon vent for a more comfortable ride. Despite lacking an automatic climate-control system, the manually activated blower and thermostat proved to be capable of wrapping the occupants in a blanket of coldness. For a moment, one wouldn’t think it runs with diesel, since there is minimal noise inside the cabin apart from the tire-tread echoes.

The powertrain is the Sportage’s most compelling feature. Given the engine’s performance, it seems capable of going head-to-head with popular Japanese SUVs, which sport bigger displacements. With the 2.0-liter CRDI turbocharged and intercooled diesel engine, driving was amazingly fun. You don’t need a dynamometer to validate the declared figures once you get to drive the Sportage. With maximum torque available within the low-end range, acceleration was instantaneous, so forceful, in fact, that it demonstrated swift overtaking and made every ascent almost irrelevant. On steep climbs, this writer almost forgot about the fact that the vehicle was a front driver; it left no hesitation when summoned to scramble. Once you reached the midrange, it produced a distinct grunt before unleashing more boost. Transferring power to the front wheels is a six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. It exhibited seamless operation and stayed within low-engine speeds in the final drive—a fuel-efficiency feature. Shifting was almost executed in real-time with the manual mode, allowing the engine to stay within the power band during passing and supporting the engine braking when needed.

As for the suspension, the test unit showed adaptability on different terrains. It may be a little bouncy on bad pavement but it’s surprisingly stable and smooth on level roads, even with random variations. The 17-inch alloy wheels, wrapped with 225/60 series tires, handled rubble without any rebound. On turns and curves, there were no excessive body roll and twists from the relatively stiff dampers. And together with the responsive electronic steering, handling and control were impressive. There’s more than enough stopping power with the large diameter four-wheel disc brakes. The Antilock Braking System performed well on hard braking, maintaining steering direction.

This writer sees the Kia Sportage as a countryside dweller with the versatility to drive around urban areas. It is great for traversing highways or in extreme road conditions, given its unyielding execution. On the other hand, its practical interior is ideal for out-of-town trips without the worries of soiling the upholstery. The minimalist switches and controls allow you to focus and enjoy the driving dynamics.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The 2015 Kia Sorento Is an Upgrade in all Areas, Great Value Model, And More Details

Reviews about the new redesigned Kia Sorento have been coming in, and while there was some skepticism about the new model in the beginning, most critics seem to have a positive attitude towards the launch so far, claiming that it’s an improvement in pretty much every regard – it’s bigger, better and offers a great value for its asking price, making it a fantastic entry into the market for Kia. 
Positive opinions started right from the car’s looks, as it was noted for its sharp, edgy appearance, something which even gave it a somewhat sporty look according to some critics. The interior of the car matches the outside as well, with luxurious materials and a great overall design that really makes the passenger feel comfortable and right at home.

 It just goes to show how much a little attention to detail can do to ensure that a car is met positively, as people have been particularly fond of the smaller details about the design of the car. Furthermore, they have been equally attentive in the design of the base model, something that many reviewers were particularly interested in.

Speaking of models, the vehicle comes in several different engine choices – a 2.4 liter model with a 185 horsepower output for the base models, L and LX, and that engine has a 24 miles per gallon efficiency; then there’s the 2.0 liter turbo engine with 240 horsepower, which will be driving the midsized models. And last but not least, we have the 3.3 liter V6 which will increase the car’s output to 290 horsepower, but at the cost of worse gas mileage, namely 21.

The driving experience when behind the wheel of the Sorento has changed for the better, according to those who’ve had a chance to give it a test drive. And although the changes can be subtle in some ways, they are still definitely noticeable and those who’re used to the previous handling style of the car should definitely find the new improvements appropriate. The car doesn’t just handle slightly better, but it’s also simply more comfortable to drive, owing to the new redesigned interior.

Meanwhile, the company has been facing some difficulties with earlier versions of the model, as a faulty accelerator has forced them to issue a recall on some models. It’s not yet clear how serious the issue is, but 12,361 units have had to be recalled according to the company’s statement, and owners are first asked to come in for a checkup, and then appropriate course of action is taken if the problem is discovered.

Still, this hasn’t done much to affect the company’s popularity negatively, as they are still enjoying positive press and good reception for the Sorento overall. It’s clear that the overall performance of the model has been strong enough to leave a very good impression on the market, and that can be hard to undermine.

All that’s left now is for the company to continue making improvements to the line in the same style – not too drastic, but at the same time noticeable enough to make it clear that there has been progress. They already have a pretty strong following of fans, so they won’t have to do much to advertise their new models either.

But of course, that hasn’t stopped them from being quite heavy on the marketing for the new Kia Sorento, which is not a bad thing by any means, but hopefully their marketing campaign isn’t going to be affected negatively by the recent mishap with the recalls that they have had to go through.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Optima Review SX

With its replacement on the horizon, we arranged for a final drive with the midsizer that made a lot of enthusiasts take a second look at a company that hadn't previously held a great deal of appeal.

What is it?
The Optima is Kia's midsize sedan, riding on the same platform as (and sharing powertrains with) the Hyundai Sonata. Our 2015 tester is an exception in that Hyundai overhauled the Sonata for 2015 (Kia's new Optima will be on sale later this year as a 2016 model year). You won't find the Hyundai's new 1.6L turbo-four under the hood of an Optima until the revised model appears, for example.

Our tester is a naturally aspirated SX model. That means it's powered by a 2.4L Gasoline Direct Injection engine making 192 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Power goes to the front wheels only via a traditional, six-speed automatic transmission.

Inside and out
When the new Kia Optima debuted in 2011, it may not have made the same splash as its Hyundai platform mate, but it was still a hit. Its sporty but comparatively traditional styling drew the eyes of buyers who preferred a more conservative, almost European look.

Four years later, the outgoing Optima still looks fresh. The signature grille sits out front, setting the tone for a design that is light on curves. Small flourishes can be found here and there--the pronounced fender vents and split five-spoke wheels provide a hint of flash--but the bigger theme here is clean, sharp and sporty.

Inside, the story is similar. The look is functional and high-tech. The story here is feature content, as the Optima has it in abundance. Our tester's optional SX Premium Technology Package adds an upgraded Infinity audio system, HD Radio, UVO eServices (Kia's vehicle communications system), navigation, a rearview camera, driver's seat memory, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard rear seats and back-up/blind spot monitoring.

While the Optima's touchscreen offers controls for just about all of those features. Kia opted to include redundant access to just about everything via traditional controls and knobs--a plus in terms of ease of access, but a minus in cleanliness. Kia managed to keep the button madness under control to an extent, but given how many different systems this car comes with, it's virtually impossible to avoid at least some visual clutter.

Does it go?
The Optima is a mixed bag in the performance department. On the plus side, the 2.4L engine is plenty robust to move the Optima down the road. The tires are reasonably grippy and the Optima's curb weight is a segment-average 3,300lbs (give or take). So, the Optima goes and sticks; what happens when the road turns curvy?

The SX boasts a sport-tuned suspension which manages to keep the body relatively well-controlled without too much of a ride penalty. That's the good news. The bad? Steering feel. The road just doesn't come through, and compounding the issue is a very artificial weight to the wheel itself. It's not that it feels particularly under- or over-boosted, but the level of assist just doesn't ever feel quite right.

This flaw forces the driver to rely on his or her eyes rather than physical feedback, taking away bandwidth that could normally be used to process other sensory information. Kia's midsizer has the on-paper chops to keep pace with the sportier cars in the segment, but the driver would have to work much harder to do it. This has long been the Optima's weakness, and hopefully one that will be resolved with the forthcoming revisions.

Looking ahead
While Hyundai decided to dial back the Sonata's exterior design for its all-new look, Kia decided it was happy to make small, evolutionary changes rather than a sweeping overhaul. Put our 2015 tester next to the upcoming 2016 model, and you can see that Kia believes it already had a winning formula.

Under the skin, however, things are changing more drastically. The SX model we're currently testing will cease to exist for 2016. The SX badge will be reserved for the two-liter turbo cars at the top of the range. A 1.6L turbocharged engine will sit in the middle of the lineup, boasting a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. While it will sport an LX badge, hopefully it will carry on the current SX's legacy as the fun Optima for less money.

Leftlane's bottom line
The 2015 Kia Optima is on its way out, but it's still a competent, feature-rich package. The steering leaves a bit to be desired, but for the buyer who cares about bang-for-the-buck, the outgoing Optima is a steal.

2015 Kia Optima SX base price, $25,790; SX Premium Technology Package, $4,600; Cargo Mat, $95; Destination, $825

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Face-Lifted Kia Rio

OFFICIAL Malaysian Kia cars distributors Naza Kia Malaysia has updated its line up for the local market following the introduction of the newly refreshed Kia Rio five-door hatchback late last week.

With the updated variant's arrival, Naza Kia Malaysia will now offer the Rio exclusively in the full-spec 1.4 SX trim line. The firm has dropped the entry-level 1.4 EX variant from the range.

The Korean automaker's B-segment hatchback has received a mild aesthetic revision, gaining with a restyled front grille design, followed by a new broader and lower grille, whilst its rear fascia is enhanced with a restyled rear bumper and reflectors.

Completing the exterior enhancements are a set of new 17-inch alloy wheels that sports a more dynamic design profile.

On board, the hatchback gains a more subtle set of revisions, the most notable of which being the lightly revised monochrome infotainment screen and its control button layout.

Much of the premium features found in the pre-facelift model have also been retained such as the six-speaker audio system, keyless entry and engine pushstart button, as well as the automatic air conditioning unit with cluster ioniser.

Things remain unchanged mechanically as well, with the Rio retaining the familiar 1.4-litre Gamma MPI four-cylinder petrol engine and four-speed automatic transmission powertrain package.

Also carried over are the Rio's impressive array of standard safety features that notably consists of six airbags, hill-start assist control (HAC), ISOFIX child seat anchors, as well as antilocking brakes (ABS) and vehicle stability control (VSC).

Offered with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty plan, the new and refreshed Kia Rio 1.4SX is priced on-the-road at RM79,080. More information can be obtained online via Naza Kia Malaysia's official website, or by visiting the nearest authorised Kia showroom nationwide.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

2015 Kia K900

Even though its sales were down four percent last year, Kia has been wildly successful in this market. Undeterred by a bit of a slide in sales; the Korean automaker continues its long term strategy in the U.S. market which can be summed up in one word – growth.

During the last three years the automaker has watched the luxury market fragment. Traditional luxury brands moving down market and many main stream brands moving up market has opened a gap in Kia’s view and the automaker brought us to the West Coast to test drive its latest offering to fill the hole that it says has opened up in the luxury market.

The question for Kia is will Americans pay $66,400 for the 2015 Kia K900 luxury sedan that is new to the market segment and, what’s more, is the product of brand that has just recently shed its image as the manufacturer of inexpensive automobiles.

In a phrase, the K900 offers enough to entice independent minded consumers to take a look when it goes on sale this spring. Of course, Kia brought the top of the line K900 VIP. But first let’s look at how the K900 looked. With a wheel-base of almost 120-inches, it was a sizable car with 19-inch wheels.

It sported Kia’s signature grille, it had a swept greenhouse, understated cut lines along the doors, high rear deck and the sheet metal was taunt. The car had the same hereditary silhouette that adorns the Kia Optima and the recently introduced Kia Cadenza.

And in Kia’s tradition of offering more for less, the K900 had LED adaptive headlights as well as LED taillights. The only normal illuminative bulbs were the backup lights. The power trunk was standard, so was the heated automatic dimming sideview mirrors. Kia designers also sweated the small stuff like the chrome tipped dual exhaust mimicking the shape of the taillights.

The car’s adaptive cruise control could bring it to halt and the four-caliper brakes could and did stop the car quickly.

But on any automobile in the luxury realm it is all about what’s under the hood. Kia brought the V8 powered K900 here. Producing 420 horsepower, the 5.0 liter engine made 376 pound-feet of torque and it was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that was developed in-house. A 3.8-liter V6 will be available later this year.
The V8 was impressive. However, it did work hard getting up and over some of the hills. But during the driver change we had neglected to take it out of sport mode which made the steering heavier and moved the shift points up the rev band. In other words, the car held gears longer. Once we put it back in normal mode the K900 moved through the hills here without effort as a 400 plus horsepower luxury sedan should. There was also an ECO mode that moved the shift points down the rev band but we didn’t bother with that.
The engine was quiet, gear selection was buttery smooth and acceleration was effortless. Through the twist and turns of the mountainous roads here, the K900’s chassis remained stiff no doubt because of the use of high and ultra-high strength steel. The norm, the car featured a five-link suspension fore and aft which kept it level in all forms of driving.

About the only thing Kia should tweak on the K900 is that suspension. It should be just a tad stiffer in the sense of spring and or shock absorber compression to give the car a more substantive feel. Basically, sedans in this class have a more solid ride not because they weigh more than the K900’s 4,555 lbs. but because the suspension gives them an air of solidity.

Still, as an automobile stylist said years ago, luxury is conveyed in the interior of a vehicle and in this area the K900 measured up nicely as well. Though a leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard, our test vehicle had a heated wood veneer steering wheel. The interior was swathed in white Napa leather and ambient interior lighting was standard across the model line. Wood trim is either walnut or poplar.

Kia even upgraded the audio system on the K900. The 900 watt Lexicon system featured 17 speakers in 16 locations. It had a 12 channel amp and the rich surround sound clarity was augmented by a subwoofer.

A 12-way driver’s seat is standard but a 16-way power seat featuring power headrests and cushion extender will be available when the car goes on sale. Of course, the front seats were heated and cooled. The VIP package included rear climate controls, heated and cooled rear seats with power recline and lumbar support and head rest adjustability.
The 2015 Kia K900 is sound luxury sedan. The question is can the Korean automaker get luxury car buyers to consider this car. The advertising and marketing effort will have to be rifle shot accurate.