Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hyundai-Kia Aims to Sell 8.4m Vehicles in 2015

Hyundai Motor Group is expected to raise its global sales target to 8.4 million vehicles in 2015 worldwide despite worries about a weaker Japanese yen and slowing sales in emerging markets.

According to company officials on Thursday, chairman Chung Mong-koo will announce the new sales target on Jan. 2 during a speech at the group’s New Year ceremony in Seoul.

“Our sales and marketing divisions have already started drawing up next year’s plans under the increased sales goal,” said a company official declining to be named.

“In Korea alone, we aim to sell 1.14 million vehicles, including 660,000 for Hyundai and 480,000 for Kia.”

Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors sold a combined 7.24 million vehicles as of November, up 4.8 percent from a year ago. The Korean automotive duo recently said they were set to hit a record 8 million mark at the end of this month.

The 2015 sales target reflects a 5 percent growth from this year. The figure also outpaces an estimated 4 percent growth of overall global car sales next year.

The Hyundai-affiliated Korea Automotive Research Institute predicted that automotive sales in the global market would grow about 3.9 percent to about 87.1 million vehicles next year.

“In the past, a weaker yen took a toll on Hyundai and Kia. But the situation has changed as the two carmakers have secured their own competitiveness,” said Park Hong-jae, head of the institute.

“Considering Toyota’s tendency to seek stability on a falling yen, Hyundai-Kia needs to pour resources more aggressively into emerging markets next year,” he said, adding that the yen-dollar exchange rate could fall to around 120 yen to a dollar by 2018.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Kia Reveals New Diesel Turbo Hybrid Optima

Kia, the Korean automotive brand that has taken Sri Lanka by storm, has unveiled a diesel-electric turbo hybrid version of it Optima luxury sedan, demonstrating the brand’s innovative new mild hybrid powertrain.

Powered by the model’s existing 1.7 litre CRDI turbo-diesel engine, and an electric motor that runs on a 48V lead-carbon battery, the vehicle features a zero-emissions stop-start system, and can be driven in electric –only mode at low speeds while cruising.

"The concept car showcases the extent to which Kia has developed hybrid technology," said Andrew Perera, Chief Operating Officer of Kia Motors (Lanka) Limited. "Although a right-hand drive version is not envisaged, Kia fans in Sri Lanka will be very enthusiastic about this development because it could one day benefit other models."

A new belt-driven starter generator replaces the conventional alternator in the Optima diesel hybrid, meaning the engine can restart with virtually no noise or vibration. The system also allows an innovative electric supercharger for the CRDI engine in additional to the conventional turbocharger, providing improved power and torque at all engine speeds.

Kia’s engineers are targeting a significant reduction in CO2, tailpipe emissions and fuel consumption and a power increase of 15 to 20 per cent for any model that could be equipped with the new powertrain.

One of the highest selling brands in the Sports Utility (SUV) segment in Sri Lanka with the Kia Sorento and the Kia Sportage, Kia Motors attributes its popularity to its design-driven aesthetics, class-leading features and performance and value-for-money proposition. Popular Kia models in the passenger car segment in Sri Lanka are the Kia Optima, Kia Cerato, Kia Rio and Kia Picanto.

The new generation Kia Optima, known in some markets as ‘Magentis’ was launched in Sri Lanka in August 2011, and has remained a benchmark for luxury driving, superlative design and motoring safety.

Test Drive: 2014 Kia Forte5

Kia's 2014 Forte family is three vehicles strong, and while the Forte sedan and Koup manage to visually set themselves apart from the Forte5 hatchback, that latter model is such a fantastic car, it practically makes its siblings irrelevant.

The Forte5 essentially offers everything found in the Forte and Koup, but features a more versatile package. It's been said time and again by car critics and fans alike for years, and it's as undeniably true now as it was decades ago: when you have the choice, always opt for the hatchback.

The Forte5, along with the Koup, receive a redesign for the 2014 model year, and both can also be fitted with a new 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That engine replaces the naturally-aspirated 2.4-litre powerplant found in the 2013 Forte5, and is an alternative to the carryover 2.0-litre four-banger.

To anyone considering the Forte5, know this: the turbocharged engine is eminently better than the 2.0-litre, and it's worth shelling out the extra cash. It also makes the Forte5 far more compelling than the competition.

You don't have to be a car person to be aware of the many sedans that populate the compact car segment - names like Corolla, Civic, Elantra, and Mazda3 are a dime a dozen on Canadian roads, and for good reason.

Hatchbacks are a different story in terms of sheer numbers, although the competition is just as tough. The Forte5 is up against the Hyundai Elantra GT, Mazda3 Sport, Ford Focus, and Toyota Matrix, to name a few, and the Elantra GT and Mazda3 Sport in particular are as excellent and well-rounded as a car gets.

Still, the Forte5 is no slouch, and it has that wonderful thing called a turbocharger. The only other turbo-equipped competitor is the Ford Focus, but to get a model with that engine, you have to move up to the $30,000 high-performance ST trim.

Although my SX Premium test vehicle is admittedly close to that $30,000 price tag, it comes absolutely loaded with virtually every feature you can get in a Forte5. For those who love the 1.6-litre engine but don't want to spend as much cash, the lowest-priced turbocharged Forte5 starts at a more reasonable $23,795.

The Forte5 is so much more than a peppy powerplant though. It boasts a roomy cargo area, regardless of whether the rear seats are in position or folded down (and if only they folded completely flat!). There's plenty of room for four adults, though even the fifth seat in the middle of the rear bench actually isn't bad - even for adults - for short jaunts.

I do some long distance driving during my time with the Forte5, and while my backside does become a little sore during the longest road trip I take, the seats generally hold up very well.

The interior is relatively quiet, and the engine doesn't fuss, even when I'm pushing it as I pass slower vehicles on the highway. Six-speed automatic transmissions are par for the course in this segment (unless you're the Toyota Matrix), but I love that Kia offers a six-speed manual as standard with the more expensive SX trim.

My test vehicle is equipped with the auto, though, and while not nearly as engaging as a three-pedal vehicle, the transmission offers quick shifts, and it never seems to be out of sorts and unsure what gear it should be in.

I still think Kia has some of the most user-friendly vehicles around today, and the Forte5 is no exception. I love being able to pair and set everything in a matter of seconds and be off doing the fun stuff - namely, driving - with nary a delay. I also think it's a lot safer to be focused on the road and not fussing with technological do-hickies while behind the wheel. Those standard steering wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls don't hurt, either.

The Forte5 really is one of those vehicles that is difficult to complain about. It may not be spectacular at any one thing, but it's also rock-solid at most things, making it a truly compelling package.


2014 Kia Forte5
Trim level: SX Premium w/ Auto
Price as tested (before taxes): $28,395
Options on test vehicle: none
Freight/PDI: $1,485
Configuration: front engine/ front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder / six-speed automatic w/ sequential shift
Power/torque: 201 hp/ 195 lb-ft
Fuel (capacity): Regular (50L)
Fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 9.7 city, 6.7 hwy
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 8.2 over 486 km
Warranties: 5 years/ 100,000 km (basic), 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Mazda3 Sport, Hyundai Elantra GT, Ford Focus, Toyota Matrix

Report Card (out of 10):
Fuel Economy: 7 – Don't have to drive efficiently to get good numbers here.
Equipment level: 8 – Lots of standard goodies even on the base model.
Price: 8 – A great price when you consider what's included on the top trim.
Styling: 8 – The best-looking vehicle in the Forte family - seriously.
Comfort (front): 7 – Plenty of room for tall drivers.
Comfort (rear): 7 – Quite spacious for a compact hatchback.
Handling: 7 - Forte5 is fun to drive, though I'd love to see a performance version.
Performance: 7 – I'm a big fan of that new turbocharged engine.
Storage: 7 – A roomy, easy-to-access storage area.
Overall: 8 – Nary a weakness to be found with this wonderful machine.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

NBA All-Star Blake Griffin Ad Campaign


“Showdown” is First in a Series of 60- and 30-Second Ads Debuting on Network and Cable and Can Be Viewed Today Here

• Series of spots titled “Blake Griffin in, The Optima” set to run throughout the 2014-2015 NBA season
• Multiplatform campaign includes online, television and social media elements

IRVINE, Calif., Dec. 22, 2014 – NBA All-Star Blake Griffin and his comedic talents are back in a starring role in a series of new television commercials for Kia’s best-selling Optima midsize sedan. Continuing the signature, satirical comedy of previous efforts, Griffin is cast in the lead role for several big-budget action movies set in the Old West, ancient Rome and an aircraft carrier in the series of three 60-and 30-second spots. Much to the concern of his directors, Griffin begins improvising and replaces his scripted mode of transport – be it horse, chariot or fighter jet – arriving instead in the Kia Optima, and making each movie better if he does so say himself.  The first spot, “Showdown,” begins airing online today and on television on Christmas day during NBA programming with the others debuting throughout the NBA season.

“As a global brand ambassador, this marks Blake’s fourth campaign for our best-selling Optima and he keeps getting better and better,” said Tim Chaney, vice president of marketing communications, KMA.  “The Optima has been Kia’s most popular vehicle since the time when our partnership with Blake began, and he has helped us foster connections with basketball fans across the country, increase awareness and enhance our brand image.”

Created by David&Goliath, Kia's advertising agency of record, the Griffin spots can be viewed as they roll out on all of Kia’s social and digital platforms, including and  In addition to the spots, an exclusive virtual staring contest with Blake Griffin will launch on the recently redesigned Tumblr page,

Griffin Advertising Background
Blake Griffin’s comedic talents and deadpan delivery have made a connection with Optima buyers and basketball fans over the past two NBA seasons.  Kia’s partnership with Griffin was born in 2011 following his famous dunk over an Optima to win the Sprite® Slam Dunk Competition.  As a global Kia brand ambassador, Griffin has helped grow the brand’s presence in both basketball and pop culture through national marketing campaigns, commercials and social media.  During the 2012-2013 NBA season, Kia’s ad campaign featured Griffin offering helpful suggestions to younger versions of himself as Kia’s available UVO voice-activated infotainment system1 took his futuristic Optima on a time-traveling musical journey through the mid-1990s and early 2000s.  In the 2013-2014 NBA season, Griffin and funnyman Jack McBrayer became a crime-fighting dynamic duo in “The Griffin Force” to try to save the world one Kia Optima at a time.

Dynamic and Sporty 2015 Optima SXL
The popular Optima – Kia’s sales leader in the U.S. – is an eye-catching sedan that is available in two powerful Theta II powerplants featuring gasoline direct injection (GDI) technology:  a 2.4-liter GDI four-cylinder or an optional 2.0-liter GDI turbo engine.  A 2.4-liter hybrid powertrain is also available.

The cabin of the 2015 Optima, features upscale and high-tech amenities.  The optional SXL trim brings Optima to another level of sporty refinement, adding unique 18-inch chrome wheels, new LED fog lights, red brake calipers, an electronic parking brake, chrome accented side sills, and premium Nappa leather-trimmed seats.  The Optima SXL is built at Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia*, in West Point, Georgia, and is offered at a starting MSRP of $35,5002.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

New Additions to Kia

Kia Motors has expanded its line-up of Sportage, Sorento and K2700 models by adding a new, high specification model to each range.

Unique to the South African market, the new Sportage Explore, Sorento Adventure and K2700 Sebenza offer additional appeal and excellent value for money through the inclusion of a selection of Kia genuine accessories as a standard specification.

Kia Sportage Explore

Whether you choose to explore South Africa alone or with family and friends the new Sportage Explore will be the perfect companion. And thanks to the inclusion of satellite navigation, you will never have to ask for directions either.

Also included in the Explore package is a tow bar with a stylish oval styling bar that perfectly complements the Sportage’s stylish design.

Integrated side steps make climbing into the car easier. Explore decals adorn the tailgate, while the interior has an Explore-branded service book wallet and carpeting.

Kia Sorento Adventure

As with its Sportage sibling, the Sorento Adventure is equipped with satellite navigation to make every on- and off-road adventure just a little bit easier, while the exterior is rounded with a towbar, also with a stylish oval styling bar, a bold nudge bar at the front for a more rugged visage and integrated side steps.

Adventure decals feature on the tailgate, while the interior has an Adventure-branded service book wallet and carpeting.

Kia K2700 Sebenza

Additions to the K2700 Sebenza are both aesthetic and practical and include the fitment of a bull bar at the front to deal with life’s little knocks more easily.

The addition of a towbar with integrated step not only allows you to increase payload through a trailer, but also eases access to the load bay.

The interior includes a branded service book wallet and carpets.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2016 Kia Sorento Road Test

Quick Summary
The 2016 Kia Sorento represents a complete redesign for this family crossover, which sees it growing up both literally and figuratively. It is bigger in most dimensions, increasing room for passengers (especially those in the third row), while also boasting more sophisticated styling, driving manners and interior trappings. As a result, what was previously a bigger, more spacious alternative to compact SUVs is now a smaller, less cumbersome alternative to some of the larger three-row vehicles in the segment.

What Is It?
The 2016 Kia Sorento is a midsize SUV available in five- and seven-passenger configurations as well as five trim levels: L, LX, EX, SX and SX-L. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on the L and LX trim levels. A 3.3-liter V6 is an option on the LX, standard on the SX and one of two available engines on the EX and SX-L. The other available engine is a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Note that all V6-powered Sorentos come with seven-passenger seating, while all turbo Sorentos and the base L are five-passenger. The four-cylinder LX can be had as either. All-wheel drive is available on every trim level and even the most basic trim comes with generous feature content.

How Big Is It?
In many ways, the previous-generation Sorento could be viewed as a slightly bigger alternative to compact SUVs like the Toyota RAV4. For 2016, the Sorento moves up in the world and in many ways can now be viewed as a slightly smaller alternative to larger three-row crossovers like the Toyota Highlander. With 3 inches added to its wheelbase and overall length, the 2016 Sorento gains some welcome interior volume that moves it well clear of so-called compact SUVs (most of which aren't that compact anymore anyway).

The second row gains 2 extra inches of legroom, while still reclining for added comfort and sliding to bring the kids closer up front or to provide extra legroom for the folks in the third row. As for those folks, they no longer have to be children to occupy the Sorento's aft-most quarters. A pair of 6-footers will technically fit back there with their knees awkwardly pointing toward their chins due to the low-mounted seats, but adults of average height will be good for short trips and more importantly, kids will be more comfortable. Plus, there are air vents back there to prevent things from getting stuffy.

Behind that 50/50-split folding third row are an additional 2 cubic feet of cargo space, creating a more useful space for a pair of small suitcases or several grocery bags. Folding the seat down or opting for the five-passenger configuration yields 38 cubic feet, which is basically on par with bigger compacts like the Honda CR-V and midsizers like the Ford Edge. With all seats folded, the Sorento provides 73 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, which is bigger than both of the above.

Now, the Highlander is still longer and wider, boasting 10 extra cubic feet of maximum cargo space and enough room to squeeze a middle seatbelt into its third row for eight-passenger capacity. However, the distance between it and the Sorento has noticeably shrunk, and for families in search of a three-row vehicle, the Sorento should certainly be cross-shopped against Toyota's big crossover that netted a top "A" rating from the Edmunds editors.

What Is the Interior Like?
Although the last-generation Sorento's dimensions differentiated it from compact SUVs, its interior design and quality were in keeping with that less expensive segment. Plastics were hard, the design was rather plain and even when loaded up with every leather-lined and heated extravagance possible, the cabin never attained a truly luxurious feel.

You can see where this is going. The 2016 Sorento moves up in the world figuratively as well. Although the $25,795 base L trim is a shell of the fully loaded SX-L we drove, every Sorento nevertheless gains an abundance of soft-touch materials with richer textures on its dash and doors. Like an increasing number of redesigned vehicles, stitching has been applied to the dash top to supply a degree of elegance, while available two-tone color schemes (including those that feature a tasteful light gray across the lower dash portion) create a much warmer, distinctive environment. The top-of-the-line Sorento SX and SX-L models we drove give up nothing in terms of luxury compared to other optioned-out competitors (the title of class best is certainly possible) and really aren't that far away from luxury-branded models.

The same could be said of its interior design, which is interesting to look at without sullying Kia's reputation for user-friendly controls. The Sorento LX and EX trims come standard with a 4.3-inch touchscreen, while the 8-inch screen you see here in photos includes a navigation system and is optional on EX trims and standard on the SX ones. Based on past experiences with other Kias, both are intuitive to use, with the latter in particular benefiting from large virtual buttons.

What Engines Are Available?
The Sorento is once again available with four- and six-cylinder engines, but for 2016 it gains an intermediate 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that provides better fuel economy than the V6 along with a smooth power delivery that some drivers may prefer. It produces 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Kia estimates that it will return 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway) with front-wheel drive and 1 or 2 mpg less with all-wheel drive. As with every Sorento, a six-speed automatic transmission is standard.

The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder now features continuously variable valve timing for improved efficiency. It produces 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, which is a bit less than the last Sorento, but is on par with the four-cylinder available in the Highlander. We didn't get a chance to drive a Sorento with this engine, but given that the vehicle weighs 110 pounds more than the last version, expect it to be slightly slower than before. Kia estimates fuel economy of 25 mpg combined (22/29) with front-wheel drive. This would be 2 mpg combined better than the last Sorento and 3 better than the four-cylinder Highlander, but is 1 mpg shy of the Toyota RAV4 and 2-3 mpg lower than other bigger compact SUVs. Again, it falls somewhere in between the two segments.

Kia expects the base four-cylinder to once again be the volume choice, but given the 2016 Sorento's clearly more upscale positioning, it also expects the more powerful engine options to gain in popularity. And given the base engine's power deficiency, we'd certainly recommend opting for the turbo-4 or (especially if you want the third row) the 3.3-liter V6, which produces 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. Kia estimates it'll return 21 mpg combined (18/26) with front-wheel drive, which would match the combined figures of the V6-powered Highlander and larger three-row Hyundai Santa Fe.

Notably, though, the Sorento boasts much stouter towing capabilities than the Highlander and other midsize crossovers. With the V6, it can tow 5,000 pounds to the Toyota's relatively measly 1,500. Even the base engine can tow more at 2,000 pounds, while the 2.0-liter turbo is good for 3,500. In the midsize segment, relatively few offer significantly more capability, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee (7,500 with the V6 or even more with the V8 or turbodiesel) and the truck-based Toyota 4Runner (11,100 pounds). The Hyundai Santa Fe matches the Sorento.

How Does It Drive?
A stiffer structure for 2016 and numerous improvements to the suspension have resulted in a more comfortable, composed and sophisticated ride. The Jeep Grand Cherokee was tabbed as a benchmark for ride quality by Kia's engineers, and although it can't match the heavyweight Jeep's feeling of road-crushing solidity, it certainly contributes to the overall sensation that the Sorento now belongs in a different, higher-priced segment. Even with the optional 19-inch wheels, the Sorento did a good job of soaking up rugged pavement during our test-drive.

Every 2016 Sorento comes standard with Driver Mode Select, which alters transmission shift points and steering effort in Normal, Sport and Eco settings. Although we noticed the more eager downshifts and later upshifts in Sport, it was difficult to tell much of a difference in the steering (it's much more noticeable in Hyundai's multimode steering settings). This is more of an observance than a problem, as the Sorento SX's steering proved to be precise, competent and seemingly vice-free for the segment.

It's important to note, though, that the SX trims we experienced have a different steering system than the other trims, with the electric motor mounted to the steering rack rather than inside the steering column. This typically results in improved steering feel, so it's safe to assume that the SX and SX-L will be better to drive than their lesser brethren.

The overall handling is solid, and the Kia's smaller dimensions and commendable visibility make it feel less cumbersome to drive than a Grand Cherokee or Highlander. Inclement weather on our test-drive kept us from a more thorough evaluation, but it did tell us that the new Sorento is impressively quiet, even in intense wind gusts and a steady downpour.

What Features Do You Get?
The base L trim for $24,900 isn't luxurious, but it does provide welcome features like alloy wheels, LED running lights, stain-resistant fabric, satellite radio, a USB/iPod interface and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. The LX trim adds a few extras like an acoustic windshield for a quieter cabin, two rapid-charge USB ports, a rearview camera, a 4.3-inch touchscreen and UVO eServices (Siri hands-free, numerous smartphone apps and secondary driver security functions like geo-fencing and speed warning), but it's in the EX trims where the Sorento begins to truly resemble a high-end SUV.

Bigger wheels, more interior sound-deadening, dual-zone climate control, leather seating and steering wheel, and heated power seats are some of the items standard on the EX, while many of the SX trim's standard features like a panoramic sunroof, push-button start, navigation, 10-speaker Infinity sound system, second-row sunscreens and power liftgate (with proximity hands-free opening) are optional. The SX and SX-L essentially add power-adjustable driver thigh support and a variety of exterior and interior trim upgrades, while the SX-L in particular opens the door up to the Tech package that includes adaptive cruise control, lane-departure and collision warning systems, and an "around-view" multi-angle parking camera.

How Much Does It Cost?
The five-passenger Sorento essentially splits the price difference between the pricier midsize SUVs like the 2015 Ford Edge and smaller, less-equipped compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V. Seven-passenger versions also start off between $1,000 and $3,000 less than bigger models like the Toyota Highlander and Hyundai Santa Fe. In general, it represents strong value.

However, that doesn't mean its upper trim levels are inexpensive. A fully loaded SX-L V6 with the Tech package hits the register at $46,720, which is actually slightly more than a similarly equipped Highlander. Now, most other loaded competitors are on par or even more, but that price tag still speaks to Kia's belief that its redesigned Sorento is a higher-quality product worthy of a higher price.

What Are Its Closest Competitors?
The Toyota Highlander is presently our highest-rated three-row family crossover, boasting a well-rounded blend of road manners, passenger space, interior quality and feature content. The fact that we've compared the Sorento so heavily to Toyota's big crossover speaks to how good it has become.

In terms of its exterior and interior dimensions, the Sorento fits between its two corporate cousins: the five-passenger Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and seven-passenger Santa Fe. The Sorento's base price and feature content are similar to the smaller Sport, while its third-row and cargo space are less than the bigger Santa Fe. Both Hyundai models can't quite match the cabin quality of the newer Kia.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is the five-passenger midsize SUV that Kia used as a benchmark for the new Sorento. Although the Jeep's greater weight, tremendous off-road capability and more powerful available engines make it considerably different, it is another comfortable, composed and thoroughly competent choice for those who don't need three rows (and if they do, the mechanically related Dodge Durango is a good alternative as well).

Why Should You Consider It?
Its improved driving manners, classy design and elevated cabin quality make the Sorento a viable competitor to the best crossovers in the class. A wide range of features and configurations make it flexible enough to meet most budgets.

Why Should You Think Twice?
The price point of its base model may seem appealing, but the base four-cylinder engine doesn't possess a lot of power for such a large vehicle. On the other end of the spectrum, a loaded Sorento tops $46,000, which puts it deep into luxury territory.