Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kia Sportage survives own past, thrives in tough segment

The Kia Sportage compact crossover is a survivor.

It survived its own build-quality issues (one generation was recalled twice for its tendency to shed its rear wheels). It survived the collapse of Kia, which led to its absorption by Hyundai. And it survived a two-year hiatus during which it morphed from truck-based SUV to sedan-based crossover.

The Sportage debuted in 1993 but didn’t become a serious competitor until 2011. Now, the fourth-generation 2017 Sportage lands with a roomier cabin, a stiffer unibody, a new suspension and a look bold enough to worry the competition.

The new look packs an unruly number of creases and curves into the Sportage’s compact frame. Swept-back headlights flank a sharply contoured hood. The front fascia grows deeper to improve engine-bay cooling and accommodate oversized fog lamp housings. In the top SX Turbo trim, a quartet of “ice cube” LED fog lamps glower like machine-gun ports.

Other updates include new driver-assistance systems, seriously improved interior materials and the latest generation of Kia’s UVO telematics and infotainment system, which adds Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

If there were a most-improved award, Sportage would be a contender.

High-strength steel comprises 51 percent of its unibody, up from 18 percent. Torsional rigidity jumps 39 percent. A host of sound-deadening measures — thicker side-window glass, soundproofing in the doors and wheel arches and new rear suspension bushings — work magic inside.

Sportage is quieter, sturdier and better-riding than ever.
It has also grown some. Overall length is up 1.6 inches and the wheelbase is longer by 1.2 inches. These changes boost headroom and legroom for passengers in both rows. Second-row seating has been tweaked for improved headroom and a more comfortable seating position.

Last year’s engine choices return. The base engine is a normally aspirated 2.4-liter four that makes 181 horsepower and has been retuned for improved fuel efficiency. The optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four makes 240 hp in FWD trim and 237 hp with AWD and is tuned for improved mid-range torque.

Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic that goes about its work in a work-a-day fashion. It’s not especially quick nor intuitive, but it’s nearly always in the right gear for the situation.

Name aside, there’s not much sport to the Kia Sportage. Heavier in its fourth-gen guise than before, it’s also more softly suspended and is clearly tuned for comfort. Buyers seeking off-road chops should look elsewhere, as well; the “metal-look” skid plates on my top-of-the-line SX Turbo tester would faint dead at the first sign of rocks.

Nevertheless, Sportage offers real value in a segment that’s all about value. The competition includes a selection of the industry’s best-selling vehicles, but the Sportage is a survivor. And these days the wheels stay on.

Errata: In last week’s review of the Lincoln MKX, we mistakenly referred to a third row of seats. The MKX is a two-row midsize crossover, with room for five adults.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Kia Sportage: Two-Minute Road Test

The Sportage is Kia’s best-selling car in the UK, meaning this fourth-generation model has a tough act to follow. The recipe is a familiar one: a five-seat family SUV with a choice of diesel and petrol engines, plenty of equipment and a long warranty. We’ve tested the 114hp 1.7-litre diesel in modest ‘2’ spec – priced at £22,050.

What are its rivals?
This is one of the most hotly-contested areas of the new-car market. The Kia’s rivals include the ubiquitous Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Mazda CX-5, Renault Kadjar and Volkswagen Tiguan. It also squares up to the mechanically-identical Hyundai Tucson, which is better looking (to our eyes, at least), but comes with a shorter warranty (five years, versus seven for the Kia).

Which engines does it use?
Our 114hp Sportage 1.7 diesel gets to 62mph in 11.1 seconds and returns 61.4mpg in official tests. Pay around £2,300 more for the 134hp 2.0 diesel and those figures drop to 10.1 seconds and 54.3mpg respectively. There are also 130hp and 174hp 1.6 petrols – the latter with a turbocharger. And you can choose from six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes.

What’s it like to drive?
The Sportage’s high driving position offers a commanding view of the road ahead, although visibility to the sides and rear isn’t so good. Its controls are light and nicely-weighted, and suspension effectively cushions you from speed humps and potholes. However, the pay-off is more body-roll than some rivals when cornering. The engine has plenty of low-down oomph and performance feels adequate for a car of this type. It sounds quite gruff, though – even when warmed-up.

Fuel economy and running costs
The Sportage is relatively cheap to buy, but running costs could be higher than many competitors. The 1.7 diesel manages 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 114g/km – equating to car tax (VED) of £30 a year. Compare that to the 110hp Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi, which ekes out 74.3mpg and a tax-free 99g/km.

Is it practical?
Space is one of the Sportage’s strengths. It can accommodate five adults with ease (there’s no seven-seat option), and reclining rear seats add a touch of luxury-car comfort. The 491-litre boot is one of the largest in the class, with a low lip and square tailgate making it easy to load large objects.

What about safety?
As you’d hope, the Kia scored a full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. Mindful of the car’s potential for driving off-road, Hill-Start Assist and Downhill Brake Control are standard, along with Trailer Stability Assist for towing. Our ‘2’ spec car also gets automatic headlights and Lane-Keep Assist, but you’ll need to upgrade to the top-spec ‘4’ for Automatic Emergency Braking.

Which version should I go for?
Diesel engines make most sense in SUVs, and the entry-level 1.7-litre unit tested here is perfectly up to the job. Considering its cost and efficiency advantages over the larger 2.0 diesel, it looks like the obvious choice. Kia offers virtually no extra-cost options (apart from paint colour), so you need to choose your spec-level carefully. We think ‘2’ offers everything you need, including sat nav, dual-zone air conditioning and a rear-view camera.

Kia Sportage: Should I buy one?
The latest Sportage builds on the strengths of the outgoing car, with good road manners, lots of space and impressive value for money. Shame they made it uglier in the process; the old Sportage was a bit of a looker. It wouldn’t be our first choice in this closely-fought class (the Renault Kadjar is currently top of our list), but it’s certainly a strong contender – especially for buyers on a budget.

Pub fact
Kia may be a relatively new name in Europe, but the marque has existed since 1944. For many years, Kia built bicycles – its first car (a rebadged Mazda) didn’t appear until 1974. It’s now Korea’s second largest car manufacturer, after parent company Hyundai.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

2017 Kia Sportage: An actual fun-to-drive crossover

Kia, the South Korean automaker that was initially scoffed at by car buyers, has had an incredible couple of decades, with constant growth throughout and a march toward respectability. I recently tested out one of their latest offerings, the 2017 Kia Sportage, and I’m back with a rundown of the key things you need to know about this crossover offering from the upstart automaker.


Many vehicles that label themselves as SUVs (sport utility vehicles) are anything but sporty. But thankfully that wasn’t the case here, as the 2017 Sportage is quite impressive in this regard. To be frank (and subliminally quote Shania Twain), most crossovers of this size don’t impress me much with how they perform. But this is one of the few exceptions to that rule in the class.


If you are on a budget and want an SUV with no frills, you can get a 2017 Sportage from $22,990. Even my test vehicle with all the frills came in at just over $33,000. These are very good numbers that will boost Sportage sales numbers as it competes in a segment against such crossover heavyweights as the Ford Escape and the Honda CR-V.


There is an extensive redesign of the exterior of the 2017 Sportage, and you’ll either love it or hate it. … Honestly, I felt differently about it day to day, but in the end I was mostly a fan of the design. One thing that will stand out is the unique look of the front headlights, which are unlike anything you’ve seen on other vehicles. The design may drive some away, but shouldn’t be a dealbreaker for most if you like how it drives.


List most compact SUVs, you’re going to have a bit of a tight squeeze in the Sportage, but the good news is the 2017 Sportage is a little bit better than the 2016 model in terms of space due to the redesign.


One thing Kia does well is offer a 10-year, 100K warranty on the powertrain; and a 5-year, 60K overall warranty. Translation: Peace of mind and less worrying for those who buy these vehicles.


Plenty of helpful safety features are offered on the Sportage (blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, etc.) that can help make the Sportage a vehicle you feel confident in when getting the family from place to place.


The Sportage SX model I tested featured a premium audio system from industry stalwart Harman Kardon that music lovers will truly enjoy.


The panoramic sunroof, standard on the SX trim line and running the length of the roof, is a sharp look that stands out and enhances the overall attractiveness of the vehicle.


One of the tradeoffs of having such a fun, sporty ride on the Sportage is that fuel economy suffers compared to other crossovers that may not be as much fun to drive. Official numbers on my test vehicle were 21 city, 26 highway, and 23 combined, which are not impressive in the category. Crossover buyers will have to choose whether ride quality is more important than the mpg, or vice versa, and that will play a factor in whether they choose the Sportage or some of its rivals.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hyundai and Kia to Produce Low-cost SUVs to Compete with Chinese Rivals

South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors are set to launch three low-cost sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in China next year, people privy to the plans told Reuters.

The report said that it was the first time that the South Korean automakers will be making cheaper cars to attract Chinese consumers after their attempt to sell older models was weakened by the surge of local brands.

According to company data, the rise of Chinese rivals such as Great Wall Motor has caused the market share of Hyundai and Kia to drop to a seven-year low of 8.9 percent last year, from 10.4 percent in 2014. Data from IHS Automotive showed that it was the biggest drop in annual sales among China's top 10 automakers.

Hyundai and Kia rank third among automakers in China, with Volkswagen and General Motors leading the pack.

Chinese brands, however, are now taking their share after learning from Hyundai and making sleek, smaller but affordable models. The drop in oil prices has shifted the competition from sedans to SUVs, the report said.

Hyundai will start building a compact SUV at its factory in Changzhou in Nov. 2017 and a subcompact SUV at its new Chongqing factory in 2018, while Kia will produce its mid-sized SUV in China next year.

Another source also said that the two companies will try to lower their costs by getting Chinese suppliers for cheaper and low-spec parts. They also plan to step up local engineering in a joint research and development center in Yantai.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, the two automakers said that they are "internally examining from various sides to develop differentiated SUVs that give customers a more practical value by continuing in our cost-cutting efforts," and plans to "realign its line-up to range from lower-priced models to high-end cars to respond to demands from diverse customer bases."

The two automakers, however, were cautioned by some industry experts on making low-end SUVs that could damage their brand reputation in the long-term.

Hyundai said that together with KIA, they will increase the production capacity through the planned Chinese plants by nearly 30 percent to 2.7 million vehicles a year in 2018.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Kia Motors’ Sportage selling like hot cakes

The new Sportage, a compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) of South Korea’s automaker Kia Motors Corp., has been selling like hot cakes in the U.K. and the U.S. According to the automobile industry on Friday, the new Sportage made the top 10 best-selling car list for the first time in the U.K. in February with the sales of 1,521 units. The sales in April almost doubled to 3,167 units from February. The automaker started to sell the SUV in February and the car has swept the country since then for three months.

Thanks to the sales boost, Kia’s market share in the U.K has recorded all-time high for three years. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the automaker had 3.62 percent market share in April, the highest since July in 2013. The carmaker’s market share came to 0.82 percent in 2003 when it started to sell cars in the U.K. market. The market share exceeded 2 percent for the first time in 2009. It reached a record high of 3.26 percent in 2012 and it has continued to slightly decrease over the last few years.

The new Sportage has also fared well in the U.S. market. The automaker sold 56,508 units in the U.S. in April, up 6.1 percent on year. In particular, 7,645 units of the Sprotage were selling in April, up 78.9 percent from last year. In the Chinese market, the car fell short of the expectation in March but more than 7,800 units of the car were sold in April.

“The 4th generation Sprotage has gained popularity in foreign markets thanks to its performance and design and, with the globally growing popularity of SUV, we expect to see the sales increase more in the U.K,” said an official of the automaker.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Apple CarPlay arrives on Kia vehicles starting with Sportage, Optima

IRVINE, Calif., May 12, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Adding to the constant evolution in telematics and infotainment, Kia Motors America (KMA) today announced that the 2017 Sportage and 2016 Optima, when equipped with a compatible navigation system[3] or UVO3[4], will be offered with Apple CarPlay® compatibility when the vehicles arrive at Kia retailers during the second quarter. Additionally, customers who have previously purchased the 2017 Sportage or 2016 Optima equipped with a compatible navigation[5] system or UVO3 will be provided with a downloadable update via myuvo.com that will be available beginning in the third quarter. Currently on sale, the 2017 Sorento is the first Kia vehicle to be offered with CarPlay®[6] support and other models in the Kia lineup eligible for the CarPlay® update will be announced at a later date.

"The arrival of CarPlay® compatibility follows on a promise we made when Optima launched last year. These running changes and available downloads will seamlessly bring iPhone's easy-to-use interface and functionality to our newest and best-selling models," said Henry Bzeih, Managing Director Connected & Mobility Services, KMA. "Kia is taking the UVO platform to yet another level of enhancement by extending the customer's personal mobility technologies safely and easily into a Kia vehicle. CarPlay® will bring an additional element of convenience while maximizing the benefits of connectivity."

A smarter and more convenient way to use the iPhone® in the car, CarPlay® gives drivers the ability to access the device's seamless user interface through Kia's UVO infotainment system. By connecting the iPhone® into the USB port, users are able to make phone calls, access music, send and receive messages, get directions optimized for traffic conditions and more while staying focused on the road. CarPlay® also features hands-free support via Siri®[1] voice control or the vehicle's controls and touchscreen.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Kia Sportage named best diesel

ONLY a few months after its launch the all-new Kia Sportage has been crowned with a significant accolade by becoming the Diesel Car Magazine Car of the Year.

The fourth generation Kia Sportage bettered the competition due to its excellent specification levels, even on low grade vehicles, including Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio and satellite navigation.

This coupled with its dynamic handling and distinctive design, made this family crossover a clear choice for the top spot.

The Sportage was also voted the best medium sized SUV by the magazine.

The Sportage strong points were its competitive prices with the range starting from £17,995 and the lead-in diesel, the1.7 CRDi 6-speed manual version, at £19,745 - all covered by the brand's industry leading seven year warranty.

Kia's new crossover, which was introduced to the UK market in February, has already seen impressive sales success with more than 14,000 customers placing orders in just four months.

Editor and publisher of Diesel Car, Ian Robertson, said: "The Sportage won the top spot because of its generous equipment levels, keen prices and excellent road manners, which means that the Sportage leapfrogs the competition to sit at the very top of the class."

Paul Philpott, president and chief executive of Kia Motors (UK) said: "We are delighted and honoured to get this tremendous accolade from Diesel Car. Clearly new Sportage is a big winner with customers and Diesel Car's endorsement only reinforces the car's success."


Monday, May 16, 2016

Day-by-Day Review: 2016 Kia Rio 5-door

Day 1 | Day 2

For under $20,000 the interior of the Kia Rio is a nice looking place to be. The design is visually appealing, yet simple and ergonomically well laid out. The materials used are par for the course in the sub-compact class of vehicle and in this price range but they are mostly hard plastics.

At the very least they could provide a soft place to rest one’s elbow on the door panel. That said there is a centre armrest with some padding: an option that many competitors in this price range omit all together. There is also storage in said arm rest to hide or store smaller items.

This is a small car but it is impressively large inside. Front seat space is as expected and I wouldn’t see anyone but friendly giants complaining about lack of space, but what is really surprising is the amount of headroom in the rear. Even leg room in the backseats seemed reasonable to me, I did not feel squashed at all, considering the total size of the car it is impressive.

That theme continues to the trunk, the hatch floor is extremely low, when I opened that hatch for the first time I was blown away with the available storage space. Add in the fact that the hatch is a large opening and the back seats fold 60/40 nearly flat the amount of space really is incredible.

Back up front in the driver’s seat which is adjustable fore-aft, height and tilt makes for a comfortable driving position. The tilt/telescopic wheel adds even more adjust-ability and the steering wheel offers radio and cruise control settings at the driver’s finger tips.

Day 1 | Day 2

It’s been awhile since I’ve test driven a Kia. This is a good thing since they are one of those manufacturers that are constantly improving their vehicles, so here is a chance for me to get a good sense of how they have improved over the last few years since I’ve been behind the wheel of one.

My tester is a Kia Rio 5-Door, the Rio5 name is no more, although they still use it oddly on their website in one spot. That brings me to Kia’s website, if you don’t know what you want I don’t understand how you learn anything on their website, just a bunch of pictures with no info, but I’ll digress.

The 2016 Rio comes with a 1.6-litre “GDI” (gasoline direct injection) engine that produces 137 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque which is decently powered for a small platform such as this. The SX model I’m driving starts at just over $19,000 and currently has $2,500 on the hood if you pay cash, not bad.

My tester is a manual transmission (six-speed) which is most likely not the volume seller as most will opt for the automatic, but the features are plentiful for the price range. The SX is equipped with leather seats, a heated steering wheel, back-up camera, cruise control, automatic climate control, proximity key and push button start and 17-inch alloy wheels.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Kia partners with the Telegraph to ensure Euro 2016 sponsorship is a win

Havas Media UK has brokered a deal between Euro 2016 sponsor Kia and The Telegraph, designed to associate the car brand with football in the build-up to and throughout the tournament.

To kick off the campaign there will be four events across the country at Kia dealerships – in Bolton, London, Bridgend Wales and Burton. The events have been timed to correlate with key events in the run-up to the Euros such as the England warm-up matches and squad announcements.

The events will feature high profile figures in football including John Barnes, Stuart Pearce, Dean Saunders, Garry Monk and Neil Lennon with the events all fronted by TV presenter Sue Thearle. To showcase the Kia Sportage, football talent will be asked for their tournament predictions, players and teams to look out for from the passenger seat of the vehicle.

Content captured at the dealerships will be published on the Telegraph website and social channels. Selected guests attending the preview events will be offered the chance to win tickets to the opening match of Euro 2016.

The second phase of the campaign, taking place as the tournament gets underway, will follow Telegraph sports writer Thom Gibbs on a road trip to France in a Kia Sportage. It will see Gibbs capturing the build-up, game results and fan reactions in a 36 day video series - Thom Voyage! - hosted on the Telegraph website and shared channels.

To further drive interaction with the campaign, the Telegraph has created a bespoke Kia penalty shoot-out game, offering a chance to win a Kia Sportage. The game launches today (11 May), and is fronted by ex-England Goalkeeper David James. It will be promoted across Telegraph platforms.

To close the campaign, there will be a series of features showcasing the best moments from the competition. These will run alongside high impact, tactical display activity at key moments throughout the tournament, celebrating, commiserating and congratulating teams on their performance.

Natasha Murray, managing director at Havas Media said: “Kia’s association with football and the Telegraph’s fantastic sports journalism make this a great brand fit. The Euros are a key date in the sporting calendar and we are thrilled to have brokered such a fitting collaboration. ”

Simon Hetherington, commercial director at Kia said: “Kia has a strong link with football. Euro 2016 this summer will ensure that as a brand we will gain cut-through with new consumers and current Kia owners.”

Keith Perry, group sport managing editor at Telegraph Media Group said: “The Telegraph Media Group is the number one place for sport, with an array of talent producing award-winning coverage. Alongside our newly relaunched website and video capability, this means we’re able to work with brands to create truly innovating and engaging content.”