Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: 2015 Kia Forte5 is Fast and Fun Without the Harsh

2015 Kia Forte5

• Type. Four-door, 5-passenger compact hatchback
• Engines. 2.0-litre four-cylinder (173 hp); 1.6-litre turbocharged four (201)
• Transmissions. Six-speed manual or automatic
• Base price. $19,495 base, $28,795 as-tested

Although Kia initially entered the Canadian market by focusing almost exclusively on price, it now has added performance and styling to the list, even on its compact Forte models.

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Redesigned in 2014, the Forte5 hatchback now includes a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine in its top SX trim line, the model I tested. The base engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that makes 173 horsepower, while the turbo model spins out 201 horses.

You can get both engines with a six-speed manual transmission, but mine was a six-speed automatic.

Pricing for the 2015 models starts at $19,495 for the LX+, while the SX starts at $24,195 and rises to $28,795 for the fully loaded package.

The Forte5 has morphed from a relatively plain car into a sharp-looking model, with its tiger-shark grille, flared wheel arches and upswept body lines.

Inside, the redesigned interior features an upgraded instrument cluster, a new steering wheel, and numerous cubbies for small-item storage, including a covered bin where you can plug in and hide your electronics.

Heated front seats are standard on all models, and the SX Luxury adds heated rear seats and a driver’s seat that’s also cooled. Unfortunately, the front-seat passenger doesn’t get one as well.

The rear seats fold flat for extra cargo space, and there are more hidden storage bins under the cargo floor.

The turbo Forte5 is fast and fun to pilot, but it feels more like a daily driver that’s quick on its feet, rather than a harsh sports model that could get tiring after a while.

The suspension is sport-tuned but still comfortable, although I’d like to get a little more steering feel from the wheel.

It runs on regular-grade gasoline, and I averaged 8.7 L/100 km in my week with it.

Not everyone will need the turbo’s power, so the 2.0-litre should be enough for many drivers, and at a lower price. Be sure to test drive both if the Forte5 is on your list.

Market position

Although it shares platforms and engineering with parent company Hyundai, Kia is becoming more of a performance brand, adding turbo power to some of its models, along with new styling under the direction of former Audi designer Peter Schreyer.


• The Forte has three configurations: the four-door Forte sedan, the Forte5 hatchback, and the two-door Forte Koup.
• You get a lot of features in the SX model, but there’s a lot of hard plastic, so it doesn’t always look as high-end as you’d expect.
Kia’s warranty covers almost everything for five years or 100,000 km.

Interesting features

Heated front seats, wiper de-icer, cruise control, and Bluetooth on all models; available navigation, backup camera, heated rear seats, HID headlights, leather seats, and heated steering wheel.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kia Showcases Diesel-Electric Kia Optima T-Hybrid at Paris Motor Show

Kia revealed the new Kia Optima mild hybrid show car at the 2014 Paris Motor Show on 2 October, the first application and demonstration of the brand’s innovative new mild hybrid powertrain.

The Kia Optima T-Hybrid (turbo hybrid) concept is powered by the model’s existing 1.7-litre CRDi turbo-diesel engine, paired with a small electric motor, powered by a 48V lead-carbon battery.

View: Photos of the Day: Kia's Diesel-Electric Concept Car

The diesel-electric powertrain concept, which was previewed at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, enables the Optima T-Hybrid show car to be driven in electric-only mode at low speeds and when cruising, with deceleration serving to recharge the battery pack.

Lead-carbon batteries were chosen for the mild hybrid powertrain as, unlike lithium-ion batteries, they require no active cooling and are easier to recycle at the end of the unit’s lifecycle.

The vehicle features a zero-emissions stop-start system, and a new belt-driven starter generator replaces the conventional alternator, meaning the engine can restart with almost no noise or vibration.

Installing the powertrain in the Optima sedan has enabled engineers to fit a smaller vehicle battery and starter motor, enhancing weight distribution and handling.

The system also allows the installation of an innovative electric supercharger for the CRDi engine, in addition to the conventional turbocharger, providing improved power and torque at all engine speeds.

The electric supercharger in particular helps to boost torque and engine response at low engine speeds.

Still under development, no specific performance or fuel economy figures are confirmed for the powertrain or its application in the Optima T-Hybrid show car.

However, Kia’s engineers are targeting a significant reduction in CO2 tailpipe emissions and fuel consumption and a power increase of between 15 to 20 percent for any model which could be equipped with the new powertrain. Currently, the Optima’s 136ps 1.7-litre engine produces CO2 emissions of 128 g/km (when fitted with ISG stop-start).

“In future, our mild hybrid powertrain could offer Kia customers greater performance and lower running costs, without sacrificing the qualities they expect of a Kia car – enjoyable handling, a comfortable ride and high quality.

Demonstrated for the first time in the Optima T-Hybrid, the technology will lower the total cost of ownership of our cars, yet still keep them affordable as an outright purchase for customers,” commented Michael Cole, Chief Operating Officer, Kia Motors Europe.

“The new mild hybrid system is our flagship technology for improving the efficiency of our internal combustion-powered models. In future, technology such as this will help Kia further reduce fleet emissions in Europe,” added Cole.

While under development, no plans have been confirmed yet for mass production of the Kia Optima T-Hybrid show car. The T-Hybrid powertrain remains under consideration for new Kia models in the future.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2014 Kia Cadenza

Teenage passengers are often among the first people I turn to for second opinions about a test vehicle. While they understandably aren't allowed behind the wheel – most aren't even old enough to drive – their honest and generally unbiased observations, coupled with a complete lack of understanding about what a particular vehicle costs, can provide a wealth of insight.

An open-minded approach is especially important when taking a closer look at the 2014 Kia Cadenza, a premium sedan from an automaker best known for providing affordable transportation for entry-level buyers. But unlike the Rio and Forte, low-priced compacts designed to cater to consumers looking for fuel economy and value, this more substantial four-door sedan asks for twice the out-of-pocket investment in exchange for promises of luxury and technology.

With an impartial mindset and a genuine curiosity, I recently spent a week with the more substantial Cadenza to see if it could live up to its aspirations.

Kia introduced the States to its Cadenza at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show as a model to sit above the Optima sedan, which was its flagship offering at the time. Those loyal to the brand wanted a more premium product. According to Mike Ofiara, Supervisor of Product Communications at Kia Motors America, the new "more upscale sedan was in response to what many of the buyers were asking for."

Despite its all-new appearance on this side of the Pacific, this vehicle had already been on sale in Korea's domestic market for some time, and a look beneath its skin and spec sheet at its reveal suggested a very similar heart and soul to the Hyundai Azera.

Yet its previous life and similarities to its corporate cousin were the last things on my mind when the automaker dropped off this sparkling Metallic Bronze over White Nappa model in my driveway. As you can see from these photos, this well-proportioned sedan looks every bit the part of its $35,100 base price (plus $800 destination), with its distinctive chrome Kia "Tiger Nose" grille, aggressive headlights, chrome window surrounds and LED-style taillamps. Even the 19-inch alloy wheels fill their wells perfectly.

More striking than its exterior, however, is its interior. My particular press car arrived configured with White Nappa Leather, a no-charge option that contrasts well with the dark dashboard, door panels and carpet. The Luxury Package (a $3,000 upgrade) adds goodies including a panoramic roof, upgraded instrument panel, heated rear seats and a warmed steering wheel. Less obvious to the eyes are components in the Technology Package (also $3,000), which includes Advanced Smart Cruise Control (ASCC), Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and hydrophobic front door windows. The bottom line reads $41,900 – that's a lot of cash, but it represents a considerable value; even before Kia's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty is taken into consideration.

Four adults will find much to like about the Cadenza, but I'd argue that the driver has the best seat in the house. A standard 10-way power-operated seat provides plenty of support for my six-foot, two-inch frame, and the adjustable lower bolster supports my thighs comfortably. The front passenger is only offered four-way powered seats and oddly, they are offered no seat ventilation – many of my passengers griped about that. [We drove an early production car. Kia has since added passenger set ventilation. - Ed.] Those in the second row will find a spacious interior, with generous room for feet and shoulders. Headroom may be an issue for tall adults thanks to the Cadenza's graceful sloping roofline, however. Twin climate control outlets, adjustable for airflow (but not temperature), help keep rear passengers comfortable.

Even though the primary instrument panel utilizes a large full-color digital display in tandem with an eight-inch infotainment display at the top of the stack, the Cadenza's cabin is very traditional in layout, with a large transmission selector dominating the lower center console. Two clusters of flat buttons are arranged on the console to control the climate control and audio operations. Comfort switchgear (e.g., heated steering wheel and ventilated seats) are found just aft of the transmission lever, while the safety settings (including lane departure and traction control) are to the left of the steering wheel. The seat memories are located on the door. After a few days of acclimation, I was able to locate the general area of the flush controls quickly, but each required me to remove my eyes from the road momentarily to use.

With key fob in pocket, a press of the black start/stop button fires up the 3.3-liter V6 under the Cadenza's hood. This modern direct-injected powerplant, shared with the Azera, is rated at 293 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 255 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm. The engine is mounted transversely in the nose – perpendicular to the direction of travel – like it is in nearly all other front-wheel-drive vehicles. Amusingly, Kia's tricky engineers have hidden it beneath a plastic engine cover that has been molded to insinuate a longitudinal mounting.

A traditional six-speed automatic transmission, also shared with the Azera, is tasked with sending power to the ground. But its first two gears and final drive ratio are different to allow the Kia to feel a bit sportier than its sibling from Hyundai. In practice, this does seem to be the case, with the four-door launching off the line smartly, with even moderate throttle. Kia doesn't publish its own acceleration figures, but third-party testing suggests the Cadenza sprints to the 60 mph benchmark from a standstill in just under 6.5 seconds, covering the quarter mile in slightly fewer than 15 seconds. That's plenty quick for sedan whose primary mission is not performance.

During my seven-day test, I tossed Kia's premium sedan headfirst into the family routine, where it was forced to drive carpools, run errands and suffer in traffic jams. Everyone found the cabin comfortable, but the high-gloss wood trim sprinkled throughout the upscale cabin quickly showed fingerprints and dust, while the buttery smooth white leather required a nightly wipe-down to keep it clean – if you shuttle grubby young passengers (I loaded it with lacrosse players) often or are a neat freak, consider other colors. The rear seats don't fold, but the automaker does provide a seven-inch square pass-through for longer items like skis or a few lacrosse sticks.

To better assess the Cadenza's ride and handling chops, I took it on a four-hour road trip, nearly 200 miles long, which started at sea level and eventually climbed to 5,500 feet of elevation. Making things interesting, the drive encompassed busy highways and rural two-lane mountain passes before dropping me back on a well-traveled interstate highway. In a nutshell, the loop forced the Kia to perform under every imaginable driving environment – with the exception of inclement weather, which was in the mid-60s with clear blue skies.

With its 18.5-gallon fuel tank filled to the top with regular unleaded gasoline (premium fuel is not required), I set out after the bulk of the area's morning congestion had cleared.

The first part of the drive took me along the Pacific coast on a nicely paved, multi-lane highway traveling at about 60 mph (the speed limit was 65 mph, but it was crowded). To run with the flow of traffic, I switched on the Kia's radar-based ASCC and let its electronics inform my velocity. In this near-mindless state of cruise, with the Cadenza following the car ahead of it like a magnet following a block of iron, I found the sedan very comfortable. Its electrically assisted steering was on the numb side, but the car tracked well and lane changes were easy thanks to oversized exterior mirrors that provided a nice view. The cabin was well insulated, too, and there wasn't the slightest peep from the combustion going on under the hood or from the engine's two oval exhaust pipes – only the muted sound of wind rushing by the glass and the dull sound of the tires as they rolled over the textured pavement offered a hint of my velocity.

Even though this transmission has been tweaked with sportier ratios, that more athletic mindset hasn't necessarily carried over to the rest of the car's specifications. It quickly became obvious that the fully independent front and rear suspension have been tuned for comfort, with the underpinnings effortlessly absorbing all bumps and expansion joints. The base Cadenza arrives with standard 18-inch wheels, but the aforementioned optional 19-inch alloys fitted to my tester never caused an issue, despite being paired with rubber possessing shorter sidewalls. Much of the credit goes to the Hankook Optimo H426 all-season grand touring tires, size 245/40R19, which are tuned to optimize ride comfort.

Turning off the highway and heading into the mountains quickened the pace of things, especially when the road narrowed and started to get twisty. But unfortunately, the Cadenza's impressive composure soon began to wane.

With the roads nearly empty, I pushed the sedan into the corners. Kia pegs the curb weight of the four-door at 3,792 pounds, which is about average in this segment, but the strong V6 never felt the least bit burdened. In contrast, the standard disc brakes provided good initial bite, but the pads quickly started to overheat and provide less stopping power with each subsequent corner. But the single-piston brakes weren't the car's Achilles heel – the bulk of the blame should be directed at the soft suspension, which reached the end of its travel more than once, as well as at the aforementioned all-season tires that had me working the brakes as hard as I did.

Despite Kia's mild attempt to make the Cadenza come off as a luxury sedan with a bit of sporty flair (they've even gone so far as to fit steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters), the four-door is simply out of its comfort zone at anything above six-tenths in the canyons. And even if the brakes, suspension and tires had worked in perfect harmony, the wide seats offer very little lateral support for such roads. I found myself continuously struggling to stay in place – these are not issues with sport sedans. Once I reduced my speeds and turned the impressive UVO entertainment (with audio by Infinity) up a few notches, motoring tranquility and serenity were restored to previous levels. Despite marketing materials that allude to "carving through the Swiss Alps," this clearly isn't tuned to be a sport sedan, a conclusion confirmed by Kia executives during a subsequent interview.

I kept records of the road trip, as I often do, and my overall hand-calculated average for 197.2 miles traveled was 21.88 mpg overall. While my number did fall between the EPA numbers (19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway), nearly all of its six-cylinder competitors, including the Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus and Volvo S80 will exceed the Cadenza's government-estimated highway numbers. It's a shame that the list even includes the Hyundai Azera, thanks to its slight gearing changes.

Extended periods behind the Cadenza's four-spoke leather and wood steering was very revealing. Once I overlooked whatever misguided sport aspirations it held and I stopped worrying about its slightly thirstier fuel consumption, I was left very impressed with this luxury vehicle. But there was one more thing I still needed to reconcile – the badge on the grille.

On my last day with the Kia, I drove a group of teenagers to high school while I covered the steering wheel hub with my hand. Each young passenger candidly raved about the sedan from their different seating positions. In their own words, they commented on the soft leather, legroom and isolation of the cabin. They played eagerly with the infotainment system, blasted the audio and were impressed when I mentioned that it had nearly 300 horsepower. As we approached the campus, I quizzed them about pricing, and each overshot the number, one guessing tens of thousands too high. Seconds before I dropped them off, I mentioned what brand car they were riding in. There was a brief pause before one of the kids piped up incredulously, "A Kia, really? Wow."

Seven days behind the wheel left me, and a handful of impartial teenagers, convinced that the new 2014 Kia Cadenza has what it takes to challenge for segment leadership. But those who spend $40,000 are often looking for more than just a strong value proposition – many want the prestige of a established premium badge (the automaker sold 8,626 Cadenza sedans in 2013, a partial year of sales, while Toyota moved 70,990 Avalon sedans). Only time will tell if this Korean automaker has finally proven to finicky Americans that the three silver letters on its nose carry more weight than the metal they are enameled upon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Kia and B.R.A.K.E.S. Gear Up for National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 19-25) to Raise Awareness for Free, Hands-On, Behind-the-Wheel Education

B.R.A.K.E.S. has trained more than 12,000 teens and their parents in 10 states
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 14-18 year olds in the U.S.1

IRVINE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2014 – Kia Motors America (KMA) has furthered its commitment to keeping young drivers safe on the road by expanding the company’s partnership with the B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe) Teen Pro-Active Driving School to help the 501(c)(3) charity offer additional classes across the country, increasing its geographic reach and the total number of teens that receive this lifesaving training. 

In conjunction with National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 19-25, Kia and B.R.A.K.E.S. will provide an estimated 200 teens and their parents with free, hands-on defensive driving instruction in new Kia vehicles.  These 200 students will add to the more than 12,000 teens that have already graduated from B.R.A.K.E.S.’ intensive half-day training, which includes a distracted driving exercise, emergency braking using the anti-lock braking system (ABS), evasive maneuvering and skid-control practice.  Kia is the Official Vehicle and presenting sponsor of the B.R.A.K.E.S. Teen Pro-Active Driving School.

Kia joined forces with B.R.A.K.E.S. more than a year ago because we believe in (founder) Doug Herbert and the organization, and we support their mission to save lives through driver education,” said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of sales and marketing, KMA.  “We’ve supplied the school with a fleet of new Kia vehicles, and we’re expanding our commitment to help scale up this valuable effort.  With traffic accidents still the leading cause of fatalities among teens 14 to 18 years of age, we’re determined to help B.R.A.K.E.S. maximize their impact in communities across the country.”

Sobering statistics reveal that drivers 16 to 19 years of age have the highest average annual crash and traffic violation rates among all age groups2, and the chance of having at least one crash in the first three years of driving is 89.2 percent3.  Accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S.

Kia’s partnership has been instrumental in raising awareness with teens and parents about the importance of responsible driving and the benefits of hands on training behind the wheel,” said Doug Herbert, National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Top Fuel drag racer and founder of B.R.A.K.E.S. “Our training is designed to prepare teens for the situations that they will inevitably face at some point as drivers. Experience with these situations in a controlled environment helps them make good decisions when they face them on the street. And, of course, we also include classroom lessons and hands-on exercises to impress upon our students just how dangerous distracted driving is.”

B.R.A.K.E.S. has provided free safe-driving instruction for more than 12,000 students in 10 states across America.  The school offers nearly four hours of hands-on training with a low three-to-one student-to-teacher ratio to ensure personal attention, and parents participate in the courses alongside their teens to ensure proper driving techniques are reinforced following the session.  Teens with parents who set driving rules and monitor their activities are half as likely to crash, 71 percent less likely to drive intoxicated, 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone when driving and less inclined to speed4.

Upcoming training dates include Oct. 25 - 26 in Concord, North Carolina; Nov. 1 - 2 in Ocoee, Florida; Nov. 15 - 16 in Concord, North Carolina; Dec. 6 - 7 in Concord, North Carolina, and Dec. 20 - 21 in Pomona, California.  Additional schools are expected to be added soon.

The B.R.A.K.E.S. Training Curriculum includes the following –

·         Accident Avoidance/Slalom:  The two-part course simulates an animal or object jumping out in front of a car.  It forces students to make a split-second reaction to help negotiate a quick, evasive lane change without losing control of the vehicle.  Students must navigate their vehicle around cones while focusing on weight transfer, hand positioning and eye scanning.
·         Distracted Driving:  In 2009 it was estimated more than 5,400 people died in crashes that were reported to involve a distracted driver and about 448,000 people were injured5. The course demonstrates the danger that cell phones, text messaging, and other distractions can pose while driving.
·         Drop Wheel/Off Road Recovery:  The drop-wheel recovery course teaches students how to effectively recover when one or more of their wheels veers off the road surface and onto the shoulder, regaining control of the car and safely returning to the roadway.
·         Panic Stop:  Teens often lack the experience needed to judge a safe following distance.  The panic stop course instructs students on proper braking techniques to help stop a vehicle in the shortest distance possible while maintaining control.  Students experience firsthand the pulsating brake pedal effects of ABS and how to control the vehicle when ABS in engaged.
·         Car Control and Recovery:  A wet skid pad simulates wet-road conditions.  Students learn how to recover from both over-steer (rear wheel) and under-steer (front wheel) skids.
·         Other learning experiences vary by school but can include an eye-opening view from the driver’s seat of a big-rig truck with a discussion about safe zones and blind spots, as well as demonstrations from police and fire-rescue agencies.

About B.R.A.K.E.S.
B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by NHRA Mello Yellow Series Top Fuel drag racer Doug Herbert in memory of his two sons, Jon and James, who were tragically killed in a car accident.  The B.R.A.K.E.S. Teen Pro-Active Driving School is a free, defensive driving program.  By training and educating teenage drivers and their parents, the program aims to promote safe driving in an attempt to prevent injuries and save lives. To volunteer, obtain more information or donate please visit

Monday, October 20, 2014

2015 Kia Soul EV Electric Car Rated: 93 Miles Range, 105 MPGe

The very first 2015 Kia Soul EV electric cars are now being sold in California, adding a 19th plug-in vehicle to that state's market.

And its final EPA range and efficiency ratings may drive buyers in other states to demand that they get the chance to buy it too.

Given the apparent desire for plug-in family vehicles, this tall wagon may come closer to accommodating more kids and gears than other electric competitors.

The 2015 Soul EV is rated at 93 miles of range--more than any electric car on sale without a Tesla powertrain--and 105 MPGe, or Miles Per Gallon Equivalent.

Among larger electric cars, its 93-mile range is exceeded only by the 103-mile, Tesla-powered Toyota RAV4 EV electric crossover compliance car (which will soon end its limited sales run) and the two Tesla Model S versions, at 208 and 265 miles.

The Soul EV's added range is due to a slightly larger lithium-ion battery pack: 28 kilowatt-hours rather than the Nissan Leaf's 24 kWh and various other cars that range from 20 to 24 kWh.

Moreover, the electric Soul's efficiency exceeds the notable 100-MPGe mark, putting it ahead of the far sleeker Tesla Model S--which is, of course, both larger and much faster.

It's exceeded by the smaller BMW i3 (the most efficient, at 124 MPGe), the Chevrolet Spark EV minicar (at 119 MPGe), and a number of other electric cars, many of them smaller.

The world's best-selling electric car, the Nissan Leaf, also beats the Soul at 114 MPGe; the low-volume Ford Focus Electric is rated at the same 105 MPGe as the Soul EV.

The upcoming Volkswagen e-Golf does slightly better even than the Leaf, at 116 MPGe.

MPGe stands for Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, the distance a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy that's contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.

MORE: 2015 Kia Soul EV: Details From Execs Who Brought It To The U.S.

The 2015 Kia Soul EV will start at $34,500 before the $7,500 Federal income-tax credit for electric cars, and any available state and local incentives.

The base model includes navigation, a rearview camera, and the UVO EV Services smartphone app. For an additional $2,000 , the Soul EV Plus adds leather seats with heating and ventilation for the driver and front passenger, power-folding exterior mirrors, projection-style fog lamps, among other features.

The 2015 Kia Soul EV will also be offered at a lease rate of $249 a month for 36 months, with $1,999 due at signing. Note that this rate includes the $7,500 Federal tax credit, thereby lowering the monthly cost.