Saturday, October 31, 2015

Baja Kia Forte Koup? Hell yeah, I'm down with that!

I had a Kia Forte as a rental car once. Damn good little car, the Kia Forte. It wasn’t the fastest thing on four wheels, but it was well-built and a solid value. You know what would make it even better? Big fat off roadin’ tires, fender flares and racing seats. Obviously, because those things make every car better.
Meet the Kia Forte Koup Mud Bogger, which is a nice name, but I’ll call it what it really is: A Baja Kia. It’s debuting at the palace of broken dreams that is SEMA, a show we’ve largely ignored this year because most of the cars have just been done up with goofy stripes and shit. Everyone’s pretty much phoning in SEMA these days.
Except Kia, those people are cool, so they did up a Forte Koup with 28-inch off-road tires, custom fender flares, racing seats, a panoramic roof with a vinyl pushback top, Line-X coating on the floor, a hand-built roll cage and a four-inch lift with a new suspension.
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Sweet. I’ll take 10, Kia. Expect more photos of the concept to drop when SEMA happens in early November.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Kia Motors Nigeria Bags Trio Awards

Kia Motors Nigeria at the recent the 2015 Nigeria Auto Award won the Most Innovative Auto Company for the year while Jacky Hathiramani, its group managing director, bagged the leadership award, and in addition Kia Picanto was named the Budget Car of the year.
According to the organisers of the award Kia Motors Nigeria came out tops for its second to none innovative strides in sales and world class accentuated after sales service, adding that Hathiramani was awarded the prestigious Leadership Award because he has steered the company to its current status as a leading player and his presence has seen Kia brand increase its turnover multiple times in the country.
Sandeep Malhotra, chief Commercial officer, Kia Motors Nigeria, commented: “Winning innovative company award like this is testament to the thought that goes into all our strategic planning geared towards giving the best service to our esteemed customers and ensuring we offer not only the most reliable and durable vehicles, but also the most cost-effective top-of-the-segment models.”
Admired for its practicality and fun design, the Kia Picanto triumphed among other competing brands to win the budget car of the year. Kia Picanto’s affordability is easy on customers’ budget, it is fuel efficient and maneuverable in cramped city streets or parking lots without compromising value for a guaranteed exhilarating driving experience.
The entry level car has all the practical advantages of a small car as well as a fun-to-drive personality on the road.
Hathiramani said: “We earned the awards through our outstanding professionalism and commitment to quality. Our team has continued to work tirelessly in ensuring exemplary standards of performance in sales and service, and most importantly, in satisfying our customers’ needs. We are proud to receive these awards as they are tribute to excellent customer relations in sales and service and we will continue to offer top-notch services for our esteemed customers.”
In the same vein Kia has remained strong on Interbrand’s 2015 list of 100 Best Global Brands, having stood proudly at number 74 on the international brand consultancy Interbrand’s 2015 list of 100 Best Global Brands.
With this Kia has made Interbrand’s exclusive list for Best Global Brand for the fourth consecutive year. Despite the unfavorable economic environment of the past year, Kia has sustained a brand value increase of five per cent (5%), growing to an estimated value of 5.7 billion USD. This value is an outstanding 530 per cent growth since 2007.
Interbrand attributes this remarkable growth to Kia’s dedication towards “excellent design, high quality and innovative brand management in the global markets.”

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Kia is coming back to the Super Bowl


Kia is coming back to the Super Bowl for the seventh straight year. A spokeswoman confirmed that the automaker has purchased ad time in the Feb. 7 game but declined to share other details.
For its 2015 Super Bowl commercial, Kia plugged the Kia Sorento with an ad by David & Goliath that was pre-released on the Monday before the game. The 60-second ad ran in the third quarter and featured former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan. In the spot, he imagined a high-speed getaway only to be shown taking a slow ride up a steep mountain.
Kia's immediate sports marketing focus is on the National Basketball Association, which begins regular season play on Tuesday.
Four new ads for the Optima midsize sedan feature regular Kia endorser and NBA star Blake Griffin. The ads are by David & Goliath and show Mr. Griffin "in the zone" as time slows down while he excels at basketball. The ads visually portray his calm demeanor by showing him partaking in regular, everyday activities -- like reading a newspaper -- while also dunking.
Kia is an official NBA sponsor. Griffin started his relationship with the brand in 2011.
"Our partnership with Blake has played a significant role in Kia becoming the most recognized automotive brand among basketball fans across the country, and in this new campaign he's back and better than ever with his distinctive deadpan humor," said Tim Chaney, vice president of marketing communications for Kia Motors America.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Kia plans 22 launches over 5 years

 
Kia will introduce 22 models over five years, which will include new generation versions as well as face-lifts.
Kia is planning 22 launches over a five year period. The launches will include “all-new or significantly redesigned” models, as said by Kia Motors America COO, Michael Sprague, to Wards Auto when he revealed the five-year plan to the publication.
 
Kia’s US portfolio will be upgraded with the new Kia Sportage, which is set for its North American unveil at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show next month. It will be followed later by the new Kia Optima hybrid and the Kia Optima plug-in hybrid.
Michael Sprague did not reveal the list of cars that will be launched in the continent, but spyshots of Kia cars in the US have indicated that the company will introduce the revamped Kia Cadenza and Kia Forte.

In addition, the South Korean brand is reported to be readying their own version of Hyundai’s Toyota Prius rival. It could be included in Kia’s five-year plan for the US. Codenamed Hyundai AE, the hybrid car is expected to debut early next year, or later this year.

Regarding the production plans of the ‘Kia GT’ sports car, Orth Hedrick, Kia Motors America’s Vice President of Product Planning, told Wards Auto, “We’re still under study. We don’t have any announcements to make.”



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2016 Kia Optima Review: A Highly-Spirited Performer


When Hyundai revealed that Kia’s purpose is to produce cars aimed at the younger generations, we didn’t exactly understand them. That is until after we took the latest Kia Optima for a spin and it made us remember our younger days.
We met the new Optima at a local Kia dealer and noticed that the car looks too similar to its predecessor. We cannot fault Kia for this because there is no point to fix something that isn’t exactly broken.
While the changes are minor, we really like the new thin grille and the Bi-Xenon headlights. It gives the car a sportier outlook with a pinch of luxury.
Seating inside the Kia Optima is really comforting because the vehicle is more spacious than before. This is thanks to the bumped up body measurements of the Optima and the interior is finished with softer materials.
Under the hood, we tried the new 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which is packed with 178hp and 195ft-lbs of torque. This particular engine is only offered with the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and it performs marvellously well.
The low centre of gravity on the Optima allowed us to sprint through the turns without utilizing much braking. On top of that, cruising on the Optima can be a really peaceful experience thanks to the Apple Carplay feature which can be paired with our iPhone.
The icing on the cake is with the price of the Optima. The sedan we tested has a price tag of $28,000. It might not sound cheap but at least the car is able to justify its valuation.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Monster 2016 Kia Sorento Teased Before SEMA

The Kia Sorento is a perfectly respectable, refined and well-equipped midsize crossover. But it’s hardly the stuff of off-road dreams, at least in stock form. Kia is hoping to change some perceptions with the Sorento it’s building up for the upcoming SEMA Show. Built in conjunction with PacWest, from the single shot released of the front, and a brief 22-second teaser video, to say the crossover has been modified for its Las Vegas debut would be an understatement.
From the front, there are enough LEDs to blind Mr. Magoo, a custom tubular front bumper, including skid plates and a winch, a black mesh grille, front air snorkel, and Nitto Trail Grappler tires. The custom lower control arms from the photo are confirmed by the brief teaser video, which also shows plenty of custom paint and graphics being applied. Through the front windshield, we can see custom upholstered front seats with the “KIA” logo stitched into the headrests.
While we certainly appreciate Kia’s attempt at giving the handsome, but mild-mannered Sorento a shot of adrenaline, we seriously doubt it’s going to revert back to a body-on-frame, live-axle chassis with low-range four-wheel-drive, at least in showroom form. How wild will this concept be? Tune back in on November 3 next week to find out!
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New Kia Rio Commercial Showcases Five Interesting Features

Kia doesn’t put out run-of-the-mill car commercials—and the newest 2016 Kia Rio commercial is no exception. The creative 50-second spot splices together five very short commercials, rolling them into one longer commercial. In fact, each of the five segments is so tiny that they even feature tiny people!
In the first 10 seconds, the commercial expounds on the Rio’s incredibly spacious interior. How big is it, do you ask? Well, it’s big enough for multiple Ant-Man-sized people to have a beach day on the sand-colored leather.
The second segment, which might be our favorite, highlights the new Rio’s awesome safety technologies—specifically the “Back Warning System.” Kia hints that this system is actually a set of Vikings keeping an eye out for your well-being, blowing into their warning horns to ensure you don’t hit the car behind you.
Kia then highlights the Rio’s cooling glove box feature—the perfect road trip feature. This glove box is so cold, that it is the perfect environment for tiny men to explore.
The final two spots focus on the Rio’s spacious trunk and high-strength steel body. In the latter, a Gerard-Butler-in-300-esque Spartan attempts to take on the Rio, coming out on the losing end.
Kia has given us some pretty interesting commercials before. While this one doesn’t feature a hamster committing disability fraud, it still is a refreshing change from the typical car commercial.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kia makes a big noise about sound

Silence may be golden to some people, but it’s not always a desirable trait in a car. 
The sound of a sweet engine note can be music to a driver’s ears, however it can be spoiled by unwanted mechanical or non-mechanical noises. 
It’s something Kia Motors has focused considerable research on in the pursuit of enhanced vehicle enjoyment, and the company’s engineers have recently developed sophisticated technology to help in the drive towards superior motoring sound.
Kia has specialist units within its Research & Development center in Korea that are dedicated to minimizing uncomfortable noise and maximizing harmonious sounds with Research Lab and Noise Vibration Development Team being at the leading edge of state-of-the-art sound technology.
Between them, these units study the intricate network of components that goes into a modern car, including the engine, transmission, drive train and chassis that contribute to noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), which largely affect the driving experience. Not an easy task when a car comprises more than 30,000 individual parts.
Their research has been targeting two areas:
  • Active Noise Control (ANC) – Automatic active noise control technology effectively offsets unpleasant noises by sending out counter-waves after analyzing the wavelengths of internal noises. By adopting this advanced technology, Kia technicians have been able to decrease the number of noise prevention parts in many of its current Kia models, which in turn contributes to weight reduction and improved fuel efficiency.
  • Active Sound Design (ASD) Kia recently became the first in Korea to develop Active Sound Design, which enables drivers to select engine sound styles. ASD creates customized engine sounds by utilizing a built-in sound controller. This provides drivers with the ability to choose from diverse sound settings, including ‘regular’, ‘sporty’ and ‘quiet’, enabling them to enjoy a more personalized driving experience.
Being able to manipulate noise generation in a car will not only improve the enjoyment for the vehicle owner, but could also provide positive benefits to other occupants, leading to more relaxed and safer motoring. 
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Kia Sees China Gain From Small Engines Eligible for Tax Cut

Kia Motors Corp. predicted it will gain by adding smaller engines to its models in China, after the government in the world’s largest auto market cut purchase taxes by half for vehicles with smaller powertrains.
The Seoul-based carmaker will begin offering a 1.6-liter turbo engine for its K5 sedan and Sportage sport utility vehicle and plans a new K2 hatchback next year that should benefit from China’s purchase-tax reduction, Chief Financial Officer Han Chun Soo said Friday. Almost 70 percent of Kia’s China sales are small vehicles, he said.
The new engines will be crucial for Kia’s efforts to revitalize sales in China, as declining demand in the market contributed to profit falling 16 percent in the third quarter. Deliveries have slowed for the broader auto industry as economic growth moderated and a stock-market rout deterred buyers.
“We expect our plant operation ratio and market share to recover after benefiting from a tax break on our smaller vehicles,” Han said on a conference call to discuss the carmaker’s earnings. Profitability in China will improve next year thanks to a new Sportage sport utility vehicle in early 2016 and the K2 in the second half, he said.
Kia shares rose as much as 1.8 percent and traded 0.4 percent higher at 54,700 won as of 12:09 p.m. The benchmark Kospi index rose 1.2 percent.
Hyundai Motor Co., which owns 34 percent in Kia, said Thursday that profit fell for a seventh consecutive quarter, as a slump in China deliveries overshadowed gains from SUV sales in the U.S., Europe and South Korea.
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Monday, October 26, 2015

First Drive: 2016 Kia Optima

Like makers of other products, car manufacturers conduct market research to determine what kinds of people are likely to buy their vehicles. When they present the results of that research at a launch event for a new or redesigned vehicle, we journalists are shown photos of beautiful people surfing, browsing antiques, or entertaining friends in their expensively-furnished urban homes. The reality, of course, is that no matter how much money someone spends on a new car, they (and it) will probably spend more time stuck in workday traffic or rushing to their kid’s hockey practice than they do buying pricey, artfully distressed furniture.
Kia, however, takes a more realistic view of who it expects to buy its redesigned Optima family sedan. People shopping for this type of car apparently enjoy walking and hiking, traveling within Canada, going to movies and–are you sitting down for this?–baking from scratch. These are all perfectly fine activities, but certainly more ordinary than what we normally hear from an automaker promoting its newest design which, for Kia, doesn’t push boundaries. Styling evolved from the outgoing Optima (introduced in 2011) hides the fact this car has been significantly re-engineered, riding on a wheelbase stretched 10 mm. There’s also 10 mm more overall length, but most dramatic is a body 30 mm wider, an increase emphasized by styling that, as one writer in the room said, makes the car look “a foot wider.” That is what Kia’s designers were going for, said Kia Canada’s PR boss: to create a dramatic look that impresses when viewed in other drivers’ rearview mirrors.
There are other elements worth looking at, too: simple taillights effectively link the Optima to other recent Kia designs like the Sedona minivan and Sorento SUV, and all models trade fog lights (which are not offered on any trim) for functional air ducts (they’re more obvious on SX and SXL models) to aid aerodynamics and help cool the front brakes. They also make the car look a bit more Camry-esque than Kia would probably like to admit.
Maybe there’s something to that resemblance. Kia names Camry as one of its key competitors here, along with the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and the Optima’s platform twin, the Hyundai Sonata. Interestingly, Kia includes a drivetrain choice that its Hyundai parent has not yet built into the Sonata line: a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder engine matched with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The same combo is, however, available in Hyundai’s Veloster Turbo and in certain versions of its new Tucson crossover.
Kia seems aware that this is a bit of a daring choice for a family sedan: for now, that pairing is available in just one trim, called LX Tech (The day after we published this, Kia Canada let us know that, in order to avoid confusion caused by the similar names of the LX Tech and EX Tech packages, they will instead call 1.6L models LX ECO Turbo. –Ed.), found third from the bottom of seven packages available. In this application, the engine makes 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, more or less matching the Tucson’s output, but giving up more than 20 hp to the Veloster.
Turbo motors in family sedans aren’t news any more, but a dual-clutch transmissions certainly is: Kia is second only to Volkswagen in dropping one into a mid-priced sedan. Sadly, this one’s performance doesn’t live up to the hype created by the best of the breed: it lacks the seamless shift feel of VW’s six-speed DSG, and even with the drive mode selector set to ‘sport’ (the other options are ‘normal’ and ‘eco’), automatic downshifts don’t happen as promptly as they should.
That’s all a shame, because the 1.6L turbo deserves a better dance partner. With peak torque happening from 1,500 rpm through 4,500, it feels stronger from a stop than its horsepower figure might suggest, and more potent overall than the 2.4L four-cylinder (185 hp/178 lb-ft) carried over to power four other Optima trims.
The one to rule them all, of course, is a 2.0L turbocharged mill also brought forward from the outgoing Optima. It’s a bit less powerful than before, with 245 hp and 260 lb-ft, but remains a sweet performer, handily running the Optima up and down the hilly roads around Aspen, Colorado, where Kia staged the Optima launch event.
Kia left 2.4L models out of the mix for this preview drive, which is no surprise: turbo motors are much better at adapting to the relative lack of oxygen at high elevations like Aspen’s 2,400 meters (8,000 feet) than are engines that breathe without forced induction.
Both 2.4L and 2.0L models get a traditional (rather than a fancy dual-clutch) six-speed automatic transmission that is generally a better performer than the 1.6’s seven-speed. Curiously, 2.0L cars are the only ones to get steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. No big surprise, given that the SX and SXL trims using that engine are considered the ‘sport’ sedans of the bunch, but in that context, the six-speed disappoints with its slow reaction times and lack of a rev-matching function in manual downshifts. Instead, the seven-speed, which does have a rev-match feature, can only be worked manually via the shift lever.
According to Kia’s fuel consumption estimates (calculated using Natural Resources Canada test procedures), the 1.6L is the Optima’s most efficient motor, at 8.4/6.1 L/100 km (city/highway), besting the 2.4L (9.4/6.5) and 2.0L (10.9/7.4). Couple that with its satisfying performance, and it becomes a compelling choice. Kia says the new Optima’s body structure is 50 percent stiffer, a fact we think explains improved over-the-road feel compared to the old car, whose chassis tended to feel unsettled over broken pavement. While it’s been a few years since we’ve driven the last-gen model, this one felt notably quieter at highway speeds.
Less noise will translate as more refinement in the eyes of most Optima shoppers, but to us (and also presumably, to some of the most enthusiastic drivers reading this) it makes the car seem less involving for a driver who wants an active role in the task of getting from A to B. Also, in spite of revised electric power steering systems (SX and SXL cars get a different setup than the rest of the line) that Kia says transmit more road feel to the driver’s hands, we were left underwhelmed by steering that wasn’t as well suited to the twisty canyon-side roads on our drive route as the company’s reps would have had us believe.
What we did like was the Optima’s suspension: the ‘sport-tuned’ springs and shocks of the SX and SXL are (for a change) not overly firm, while the softer setup in LX and EX models never felt wishy-washy, as was once the habit of Korean cars. Elsewhere in the chassis, SX and SXL cars get larger front brakes (12.6 inches, versus 12-inchers in lesser-trimmed models), and red painted calipers are a sharp-looking touch.
We found the Optima’s interior comfortable, but we’ll wait till we’ve spent a full week in the car to pass judgement on long-haul comfort.
Typically for Kia, the Optima comes with a long list of standard kit the company says makes the car a stronger value than its competitors. The base LX package isn’t too interesting, with the 2.4L engine, the usual power windows/locks/mirrors/air conditioning, plus heated side mirrors, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, windshield wiper de-icer, cruise, and keyless entry.
LX+ trim is more appealing, adding 17-inch wheels, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, 12-way power driver’s seat, backup camera, intelligent keyless with auto-open trunk, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and power-folding side mirrors.
LX ECO Turbo is the sole trim that comes with the 1.6L engine and seven-speed automatic, and it arrives equipped similarly to the LX+, but reverts to 16-inch wheels with low rolling resistance tires, and adds rain-sensing wipers, LED running lights and taillights, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The 2.4L-powered EX trim builds not on LX Tech, but on LX+, adding a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, rear cross traffic alert and parking sensors, interior mood lighting, leather seats, heated rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear seat air vents, and pull-up sunshades in the rear doors.
Confusingly, there’s a second trim with a ‘Tech’ suffix: where Kia says the LX Tech is all about what’s under the hood, EX Tech’s extras are inside the car, where you get navigation, upgraded 10-speaker stereo, ventilated front seats, and a power-adjustable front passenger seat. Then it’s into the SX, which brings mostly cosmetic stuff (inside and out) beyond the 2.0L turbo motor, bigger brakes, and xenon headlights.
At the top of the ladder, the SXL adds smart cruise control with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high beam assist, 360-degree view camera, and smart-looking quilted leather seats.
Notably, there is no hybrid in the new lineup, but with Hyundai having just launched a very good second-generation gas-electric Sonata, we figure that car’s tech will find its way into Kia’s latest sedan some time next year.
Kia hasn’t finalized pricing yet–or rather, they had, but Ted Lancaster, Kia Canada’s chief operating officer, told us he wasn’t happy with the numbers, and asked the company’s product planners to take another crack at them.
What he was able to confirm was a starting price in the mid-$23,000 range, and a top tag between $37,000 and $38,000 for the SXL. He said the final prices will be dictated by taking a “strategic look at where we’re priced in the segment,” adding he’s not concerned with the Optima being the least expensive car in its class, preferring to continue the brand’s trend of out-equipping the competition.
We won’t have to wait long for a pricing announcement: the new Optima is set to reach dealerships across Canada by the end of October. This model’s biggest challenge will be attracting new buyers with a car that shrouds notable engineering improvements behind a subtle styling update. The key will be putting people who weren’t sold on the old car behind the wheel once more to see there’s more to this redesign than meets the eye.
Our most pressing question is how the limited availability of the 1.6L engine will affect sales. We see it as one of the car’s biggest selling points (notwithstanding the underwhelming transmission), but wonder whether buyers who want the EX Tech’s convenience features will end up buying elsewhere because they can’t combine them with Kia’s latest drivetrain technology. Generally, we think the majority of family sedan buyers will find little to fault in the new Optima–no matter what they like to do in their spare time.

2016 Honda Pilot vs 2016 Kia Sorento

It’s almost winter time and the family needs to get to the mall for some last-minute holiday shopping, but there’s a blizzard outside.
Hidden curbs buried under fresh powder are just waiting to rip off unsuspecting bumpers and high-side the family sedan. The slippery ice-covered ramp leaving the mall’s parking garage laughs hysterically as two-wheel-drive vehicles attempt to ascend it. Not wanting to create a suburban spin-off of the movie Alive, it has been decided to stay indoors. Looks like Christmas is cancelled.
This harrowing disaster could all have been avoided with a three-row crossover like the Kia Sorento or Honda Pilot. Think of these large family haulers as being minivans with more ground clearance and optional all-wheel drive because, well, that’s exactly what they are.

Size vs Style

The Kia Sorento underwent a refresh last year and emerged with a stylish new exterior. This year, it’s the Pilot’s turn and although it may not have the same style as the Sorento, the big crossover’s look is completely different. Gone is the boxy body of old, as the Pilot now features a curvaceous shape more in line with Honda’s other crossovers, the CR-V and HR-V.
And with the new design has come a growth spurt. The 2016 Pilot isn’t just bigger than last year’s model, but it’s also over seven inches longer than the Sorento. Yet, even with this size advantage, the Pilot holds a narrow advantage when it comes to curb weight. Still, the Sorento does feel smaller on the road, offering more agility and quicker responses.
The Pilot is large and feels like a baby bus behind the wheel. Thankfully, the ride quality is anything but bus-like. The suspension is so soft and wafts down the road in a way the comparably choppier Sorento cannot match. Outside noise in the Pilot is kept to a minimum, enhancing the feeling of refinement.

Big V6 Power

Aside from the new shape, the other big news for the 2016 Pilot is the drivetrain. Gone is the 3.5-liter V6 of old, replaced by a new 3.5-liter unit, this time utilizing direct injection. This helps bump power up to 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic can send power to the front or all four wheels, unless the decision is made to splurge for the Touring or Elite trim of the Pilot. Then a nine-speed automatic transmission, based on the one found in the Acura MDX is equipped.
With the nine-speed, the Pilot delivers impressive straight line performance. Best of all, it happens in such an incredibly smooth, refined way – like every mechanical component is slathered in Crisco. Power for the Sorento comes courtesy of a 3.3-liter V6 that’s up 10 horsepower on the Pilot, but down 10 lb-ft. of torque. Equipped to a six-speed automatic transmission, power delivery to the road is not as robust as the Pilot’s despite the similar power to weight ratios. The actual operation of the transmission and engine are not as buttery smooth either.

Surprising Fit and Finish Champion

Fit and finish in the Pilot is a bit odd. The further back one sits in the Pilot, the worse it gets. Up front the materials are nice, soft and appealing to the eye. But by the middle row it’s a mix of good and bad, while everything in the third row is hard, ugly plastic. Other issues in the Honda have to do with the infotainment screen that is set at too much of a tilt, producing glare from the windshield and the moon roof. And of course it’s operating the button-free, sometimes infuriating, HondaLink infotainment system.
Switch to the Sorento and everything is laid out in just as logical fashion. But, the infotainment screen is slightly recessed to eliminate glare and there are actual buttons along with a volume and a tuning knob for easier operation. For front seat comfort, the Pilot wins as they are more agreeable and lack the hard spots found in the Sorento’s seats. Second row passengers are spoiled a bit more in the Sorento, though, as the materials back there are just as good as they are up front and there is a true panoramic moon roof, not a dual roof set up like in the Pilot.

Third Row and Cargo Discrepancies

It’s obvious there is a size difference between these two vehicles once the third row of the Sorento and Pilot are sampled. With the Pilot being longer, wider and taller than the Sorento, it’s no surprise the backseat is more accommodating. Although legroom is similar between the two vehicles, there is a whole lot less headroom in the Sorento. Actual seat comfort is good in both crossovers and kids should fit in either without issue. But full-size adults are only going to fit in the Pilot.
And getting in and out of the Pilot is also easier. With wide rear door openings, there is ample maneuvering room and Honda’s fantastic one button tilt and slide middle seat function makes entry and exit even easier. The Sorento has a much smaller opening for third-row passengers to squeeze through and Kia’s single lever mechanism to move the second row seats works well enough, but is not as slick as Honda’s single button.
The smaller size also hurts the Sorento’s cargo area. With just over 11 cubic feet of space, the Kia can’t compete with the Honda’s 18 cubic feet of space. As well, the Pilot features an adjustable load floor for more flexibility. And when more space is required, the Pilot’s 108.5 cubic feet behind the front seats crushes the Sorento’s 73 cubic feet.
For the price of $47,300, the fully loaded Pilot Elite all-wheel drive comes equipped with modern technology like active lane keep, adaptive cruise control, a rear entertainment system and dual moon roofs. For $800 less than the Pilot, the Sorento Limited comes equipped with most of the same technology as the Honda, minus the active lane keep and the rear entertainment system. It does however come with an around view cameras that really help when parking.

The Verdict: 2016 Honda Pilot vs 2016 Kia Sorento

If you aspire for a luxury crossover, but can’t quite foot the bill for one, then maybe the smaller, yet stylish Kia Sorento is for you. Otherwise, the Pilot excels at just about every family hauling task you can throw at it, making it the better choice. Plus, it should have no trouble tackling the local big box stores and parking lots during a winter blizzard. Good news, kids, Christmas is back on.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Kia: Winning The Sedan War With Its Luxury-Laden 2016 Optima

Ask anyone familiar with the current Kia Optima, “What do you think of Kia’s midsize sedan?” and you’ll hear phrases like ”great styling” or “looks like a luxury car” or “lots of value for the money.” Not a bad set of impressions, and proof Kia nailed the last Optima redesign in terms of exterior styling and feature content. In fact, if the Optima struggles with anything it’s awareness, with many Americans still oblivious to the Optima’s compelling value statement. These folks likely assume the Optima is a European luxury sedan when they see one on the road, an understandable error given Peter Schreyer, Kia’s head of design, worked at Audi for 15 years before transferring to Kia in 2005. Schreyer created one of the most attractive vehicles in the midsize sedan category when the third-generation Optima debuted in 2011.
This helped the Optima achieve 150,000 in annual sales, the first-ever Kia to reach that number in the U.S. market. This is critical because at Kelley Blue Book we’re watching the decline of car sales in favor of trucks, though Kia is fighting the trend with its attractive and value-packed Optima. But like any great design exercise the real challenge comes when its time for an update, forcing Kia to decide how much, or how little, to change. One look at the all-new 2016 Optima and it’s clear Kia went subtle versus sweeping. The short, wide grille (Kia calls it the “tiger nose” grille) remains, as does the fastback roofline and wrap-around taillights, though they’re now available with optional LEDs as part of the new car’s push into luxury and technology. The Optima’s wheelbase, length and height are up about half an inch, and it’s wider by 1.2 inches. These shifts give the car a bit more presence on the road and bit more space inside (104.8 cubic feet of cabin space versus 102.2 cubic feet in the outgoing model).
The 2016 Optima’s roomier interior means its got more space than benchmark models like Honda’s Accord and Toyota’s Camry. Material quality is comprehensively improved, with Nappa leather in Merlot and Aubergine shades available on top-trim SXL versions. Real stitching on the steering wheel, dash and door panels is contrasted with metal accents, and subtle touches like the damped center console door and clean center stack controls drive home the premium character Kia wants to broadcast with this car. The interior does feel quite roomy, though rear headroom was tight and rear seat thigh support somewhat compromised for folks over 6-feet tall. Kia has to balance that sleek roofline with rear headroom, and they’ve done a commendable job given the opposing nature of those goals. The front seats were reconfirmed for 2016 and their comfort is superb, with optional heated and cooled front seats available on premium models. 
Cradling this larger, more luxurious cabin is a revised chassis with 150 percent more high-strength steel and an increased use of structural adhesives for 58 percent greater torsional rigidity. The 2016 Optima also features a revised suspension with dual lower-control arms in the rear, twice as many subframe bushings (4 versus the previous 2) and, on SX and SXL models, a rack-mounted electric power steering assist motor for quicker steering response and greater feedback. Increased insulation around the dash, acoustic laminated front windows and larger cross-member bushings all contribute to a quieter, smoother ride with improved handling dynamics. After driving the new Optima on a series of twisty roads in the Nevada mountains outside Las Vegas we were impressed with the car’s balance of performance and luxury, even on base LX models. 
The base Optima LX is powered by a carryover 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that sends 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. This engine is connected to a six-speed automatic, though an all-new 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine, making 178 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, is also offered in the 2016 Optima LX. This new turbo engine connects to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, marking the first dual-clutch transmission offered in a Kia. The mid-grade Optima EX also uses the 2.4-liter engine and six-speed automatic, while the upscale SX and top-line SXL trims feature a 2.0-liter turbo four that makes 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This 2.0-liter also uses Kia’s traditional six-speed automatic, but steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are included in the Optima SX and SXL. 
Several new features appear on the 2016 Kia Optima, including upgraded safety and convenience options like smart cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, directional high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights (they turn with the steering wheel), and a standard rearview camera. These features join blind spot detection and rear-cross traffic alert, both of which were previously offered on the Optima. Another new-for-2016 feature is a Harman Kardon 630-watt, 14-speaker audio system with Quantam Logic surround sound and Clari-Fi technology. Clari-Fi basically adds in the missing audio information from compressed digital audio, and while it sounds like a black art that could result in horrible artifacts it’s actually extremely effective at making your MP3 and other digital files sound like full-bodied recordings. Android Auto will also be available on the 2016 Optima at launch. Kia reps told us Apple AAPL +1.74% CarPlay for the Optima will come “later.” 
Pricing for the 2016 Kia Optima starts at $21,840 for an LX model with the 2.4-liter engine and standard features like 16-inch wheels, a 6-way adjustable driver and passenger seat and a 5-inch central touchscreen. The Optima LX-T gets the 1.6-liter turbo engine and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission for $23,900. A $2,600 tech package for the LX turbo add navigation, satellite radio, front and rear USB ports and LED taillights. The Optima EX starts at $24,890 and comes with the 2.4-liter engine, 17-inch wheels, 12-way power driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel and heated leather front seats, dual-projection headlights, LED side marker lights, LED taillights and power-folding exterior mirrors. The Optima SX comes with all the EX features plus the more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, 18-inch wheels, red brake calipers, a sport-tuned suspension, swiveling headlights, unique bumper and side sill designs and a rear spoiler for $29,690. 
The top-end SXL adds chrome exterior trim, automatic high-beams, a panoramic sunroof, smart cruise control, the 630-watt Harman Kardon audio system, LED interior lighting, electronic parking brake, Nappa leather seats, 10-way power driver’s seat, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, blind spot detection, rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and a surround view monitor for $35,790. 
Kia had already established the Optima as a midsize sedan with near-luxury styling and amenities before this redesign. As Kia’s best-selling model the automaker needed to tread carefully when updating the car. The 2016 Optima reflects Kia’s desire to take a good thing and make it better, with enhanced styling, performance, technology and luxury offered at a value-packed price. For shoppers wanting maximum luxury at minimum cost it makes a compelling case in the highly-competitive midsize sedan segment.