Monday, July 28, 2014

Car Smart: New Kia Soul offers spirited ride, features


The 2014 Kia Soul 2.0 L is a five-seat wagon with an oddball shape and quirky angular front windows. It looks like anything but a luxury automobile. However, it’s equipped like a car twice its cost, boasting some features seen only in high-end models.

THIS SOUL IS LOADED TO THE CORE

Heated and ventilated seats in this “urban hatchback” keep you the right temperature year-round. The ventilated seats work so well you can even go easy on the air conditioning on a hot day.

The Soul’s navigation system has a substantial 8-inch display, but its two-dimensional display will not show a third dimension until a destination is entered.

Also driven by the big touch screen display is the Infinity sound system, which cranks deep rich bass to its eight speakers including a center dash speaker and sub-woofer. The speakers also glow with the music for some mood lighting.

Controls for the audio system are mounted on the leather-wrapped steering wheel as well as on the touch screen.

The Soul has a power panoramic roof with a power sunshade which helps give an open feel to this small car with big features.

Sleek 18” alloy wheels complement its textured front grille and smart- looking headlights.

Kia also equips this car with a backup camera that is among the best. It provides clear detail of the area behind your bumper as you back in and out of those tight parking spots the 13-foot-7-inch Soul can squeeze into.

Rounding out the Soul’s nice features is a 6-speed automatic with manual overriding paddle shifters commanding a spirited 2.0-liter inline-4,164 -horsepower engine.

The Soul sips gas, getting 23 mpg in the city. It is responsive and fun to drive around the city, but the city is where the luxury similarities are left.

While the Soul gets 31 mpg on the highway, I found the 10-way adjustable driver’s seats uncomfortable for longer drives. I’d like to see the headrest re-engineered so it is more adjustable and not pushed as far forward as the testers.

Its rigid chassis and tight suspension keep a snug connection to the road, but at higher speeds this car gets bounced around by bumps in the road, possibly because it is so lightweight.

Kia equips this car with a horn that nobody can possibly respect. This is not to suggest that smaller cars should have foghorns, but when other drivers hear such a wimpy sound, it barely gets their attention.

The hands-free phone performance is a major shortcoming, especially these days given the need for full concentration on the road and laws in most other states requiring hands-free cellphone use.

Essentially, the Soul is a well-equipped inexpensive compact wagon that is better for city driving than cruising on the highway in spite of the great mileage it gets.

2014 Kia Soul 2.0 L
•MSRP: $17,695
•As tested: $21,295
•MPG: 23 city, 31 highway



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kia wins design gongs for Stinger, Soul

Kia has received two design awards from the Industrial Designers Society of America.
The Korean automaker bagged the International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) in the transportation category for the GT4 Stinger concept vehicle and the 2014 Soul, earning Silver and Bronze [honors].
The 2014 competition included 2000 candidates from 39 countries with each entry evaluated for innovation, benefits to the user and client, sustainability and visual appeal.

Tom Kearns, chief designer at Kia Design Centre America, said: "These IDEA [honors] are truly a testament to the abilities of the Kia Motors design team. The GT4 Stinger was conceived selfishly, but to great effect.
"We wondered what it would be like for the California-based design team to execute our vision of the ultimate Kia performance car, with a keen focus on drop-dead-gorgeous exterior styling and unparalleled driving dynamics.

"As for the Soul, re-inventing an icon is perhaps the biggest challenge our team has faced. You have to offer a fresh take without losing the essence of what made the original so appealing. In both cases, we couldn't be happier with the results," said Kearns.


The Kia design team, led since 2006 by Kia Motors Corporation president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer, has been raking in design awards of late.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

One Year: 2014 Kia Soul Exclaim Arrival

Alien II. That's the color of our new long-term 2014 Kia Soul. Of all the seven colors available for our top-trim Exclaim model, our car was delivered in a shimmery green color -- perhaps the most eye-catching choice on the palette after bright Solar Yellow. But even without a loud and crazy paint color, it's hard to overlook the funky Soul.

When it comes to box-on-wheels cars, the Soul is the last of a dying breed. The Honda Element was killed off a few years ago, and the Scion xB and Nissan Cube have struggled in sales for a while now. While those slab-sided cars are struggling to stay afloat, the Soul continues to be one of the Koreans' best-selling vehicles, coming in second to top-seller Kia Optima so far this year. Obviously, there's something endearing about the Soul, and we've got an entire year to figure out what it is.
For starters, staffers were surprised to find the Kia was equipped with a boatload of features, but that's because we got the top-spec Exclaim model, which rings in at $21,295. Standard features include UVO with eServices, Bluetooth connectivity, a leather-wrapped steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, and rearview camera. Even with all that, we went ahead and added the Whole Shebang -- yes, that's what the package is really called -- but we added it for good reason.


For $2500, that package throws in all the creature comforts you could possibly want including a push-start button and a bunch of heaters -- front and rear seats have them, as does the steering wheel. Having a black interior in Southern California is not ideal in the winter, but the package remedies that with ventilated front seats. We also checked off the $2600 Sun and Sound Package that throws in automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, navigation, an Infinity premium audio system, and those trippy speaker lights. 

The only downside with this package is that opting for the panoramic sunroof means you can't get a roof rack (something that I would've considered otherwise). Kia also claims that opting for navigation limits the UVO eServices functionality, so I intend to figure out whether choosing navigation is worth that "limited functionality." With all said and done, both these packages bring the Soul's grand total up to $26,635.Since the Soul arrived just in time for summer, it'll visit the beach a whole lot since its high roof will be perfect for loading it up with all the beach essentials such as umbrellas, coolers and skimboards. I'll also be taking the Soul up for some fresh up air at Big Bear Lake, and it could also be tapped on the shoulder for road trips to Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and San Diego, or even longer road trips to Utah.


With so many amenities, ample cargo room, respectable fuel economy rated at 23/31 mpg, and 164 hp coming from the 2.0-liter I-4, the Soul seems like a promising funky little car. Stay tuned to see if it truly proves that it's hip to be square.


Photos: GaryRomeKia

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kia Reportedly Considering Diesel Model for the US


German carmakers are leading the way in terms of diesel offerings on the U.S. market, but competitors are trying to catch up. Mazda will soon offer a diesel on the Mazda6 sedan, and Kia is also considering introducing diesel engines to America. 
Offering diesel engines would allow the Korean carmaker to enter new segments, just as it did with the recently launched K900 full-size luxury sedan (pictured) and with the Soul EV scheduled to launch later this year. However, Kia doesn’t see the launch of a diesel model happening less than three or four years from now.

“The problem right now is that there are different emissions standards in Europe and the US, which means we would be faced with different after-treatments, and that makes it very expensive,” Orth Hedrick, the vice-president of product planning for Kia Motors America, was quoted as saying by Just Auto. 
“But with EU6 in 2017-18 there would be the same standards in both Europe and the US, and that gives us a better chance,” he added. Still, Hendrick said no decision has been taken, but the company is encouraged by German manufacturers’ diesel sales results. 
Since the US market has overtaken Korea as Kia’s top-selling region and is the most profitable sales area, the automaker is open to entering new segments. Kia sold more than 500,000 cars in the US in 2013, including 100,000 Sorento SUVs and 100,000 Optima sedans, both of which are produced locally.
In the first six months of this year, Kia sold 297,500 vehicles in the US, its best-ever half-year in the US.


By Dan Mihalascu

Friday, July 11, 2014

Eyes on the road: The head-up display, as experienced in the 2015 Kia K900

2014 kia k900 hud steering wheel controlsThe 2015 Kia K900 luxury sedan feels like a massive hot-tub with wheels, and I mean that in the best possible way. I was relaxed. I was comfortable. And on a winding road closer than anyone should ever get to cowpies and large farm implements, I zigged and zagged with alarming precision.

Some of the credit goes to the car’s HUD (head-up display), which hovers just above the steering wheel and keeps my eyes from drifting down to the instrument cluster.
I hit the button for the lane departure warning system (it beeps if you get close to a lane marking) and the adaptive cruise control (which controls your speed automatically based on the distance you are from the car in front of you).

Almost magically, icons in the HUD glowed with a heavenly aura—orange bars to show the lane warnings are active, and a tiny car icon for adaptive cruise. If you press another button to change the follow distance from short to long, more bars appear.
2014 kia k900 hud 1 close crop
The HUD also shows your current speed and the speed of the cruise control. If you use the navigation system, you’ll also see tiny arrows indicating that you should turn soon.
How tiny are they? The HUD is clear enough to see during the day, but don’t expect a gleaming, eye-catching holographic laser beam like you are driving a Star Wars TIE fighter. Not quite. The HUD is easier to see in the daytime than, say, the HUD on an older Chevy Corvette.
2014 kia k900
HUDs aren't new, however, nor are some of the K900's other tech advancements. Many new Acura, Audi, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz sedans, for instance, keep you in the lane and don’t just warn you.
The K900 has a reasonable (compared to most luxe sedans) base price of $59,500. The VIP package that provides the tech features, like adaptive cruise control, adds $6,000 to the price. Definitely not cheap, but still several thousand less than Lexus LS 460 (at $72,140). A Kia does not scream “I’ve arrived,” but it does whisper that you saved at least a few thousand over other, more expensive luxury cars.

Author: John Brandon , TechHive 

Image: John Brandon

Monday, July 7, 2014

2014 Kia Forte Koup SX Turbo Manual

Like its Forte5 hatchback sibling, Kia’s Forte Koup was restyled and got a newsworthy power upgrade this year in the form of a direct-injected, 1.6-liter turbocharged four cranking out 201 horsepower; the prerefresh car settled for 173 ponies from a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter. Like the hatch, the Koup shares the turboed mill with Hyundai’s funky-doored Veloster pseudo-coupe. 

Intentionally misspelled name aside, Kia takes the more conservative approach in this segment, dealing its Koup some added rear leg- and headroom over the previous edition’s while keeping the exterior design more conventional than that of the Veloster. Aesthetically, it’s more in line with what you see from the Honda Civic and Scion tC coupes. 

That’s not to say the Koup isn’t a handsome little thing, turned out in this case in bright Racing Red and carrying the high feature content and competitive pricing we’ve come to expect from Kia. The front fenders and the hood are shared with the hatchback and sedan Forte models, and all ride on the same wheelbase and deliver much the same driving experience. 

The Koup’s hot engine comes with the top-spec SX trim; you get similar looks but a 173-hp 2.0-liter and a lower price in the EX. Parsing details for those who might have decided on a Forte but are still debating the body style and transmission choices, this loaded-up manual-transmission SX did the run to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, about half a second quicker than the 2014 Forte5 we tested with the same engine and gearbox.
The two-door tipped our scales at 2964 pounds, 54 lighter than the Forte5 we weighed. As tested, the Koup packed the full boat of options, which means two packages. The Premium bundle brings a power sunroof, leather upholstery, heated seats (plus cooling for the driver), a heated steering wheel, and a couple of other items. The Technology package, which requires the Premium kit, adds navigation, a high-res driver’s info screen, dual-zone climate control, and HID headlamps. Each package costs $1800. Add in accessories like a bumper appliqué, cargo mat, and floor mats, and our vehicle’s as-tested was $25,285. We got 21 mpg from the hatchback but managed to finesse 27 mpg from the Koup, which is sort of amazing for our lead-footed crew. But at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway (the automatic turbo model is rated for 30 highway), this is no one’s idea of a fuel-economy special. 

As in other Fortes, the adjustable-assist electric steering—altered via an easily thumbed button on the steering-wheel spoke—varies effort from board-game spinner to cement-stirring paddle without adding anything that resembles feel or feedback. It’s responsive, though, being sharp enough at turn-in and offering progressive operation. 

The 0.85 g of grip we recorded on the skidpad is pretty good, but we noted more understeer than in the manual hatchback. This is probably attributable to the Koup’s carrying a greater proportion of its mass over the front axle (61.5 percent versus 60.4). The two-door doesn’t encourage outrageous freeway on-ramp behavior, but the handling balance is entertaining enough. 

For the price, however, the Mazda 3 2.0-liter hatchback delivers a more engaging driving experience and a richer-looking cabin environment, albeit with substantially less power—it’s a full second behind on the run to 60 mph—and not quite as many features. Of course, it’s also a five-door. So if what you’re seeking is sub-seven-second thrust, the spiffy looks of a coupe, and a bunch of small car for the money, the Forte Koup merits a look. View Photo Gallery