Monday, March 30, 2009

2010 Kia Soul: The new darling of the market

Until the Nissan Cube is introduced this spring and then the Toyota Scion Xb some months after that, I am convinced that the new darling of the market in the months to come will be the new Kia Soul. The public should be pleased with its charming and original shape, but its very competitive suggested retail price should be a crowd-pleaser as well. And as we will learn, it is not only very well equipped, but for handling and driving pleasure, it compares favourably with the other vehicles in the category.

Great looking
The Soul's very unique shape is the most striking feature at first glance. In fact, its square shape is unlike anything Kia has produced to date, and the stylists managed to give this box on wheels elegant lines. They gave it a lot of character by designing a rectangular grille in a contrasting colour, raised wheel wells, sculpted side panels and wheels situated far apart with minimal awkwardness. The use of a rectangle in a contrasting colour in the middle of the rear bumper, and lights placed high up on the pillars that frame the rear hatch are just what the doctor ordered to keep the car from looking ho-hum from the back. One interesting feature for a car in this category is that it has an electric control or “soft touch” to open the rear hatch. You have only to press the rubberized plate incorporated in the handle and the hatch opens easily.

The passenger compartment features good quality plastics, fabrics with modern patterns and excellent finish for a vehicle at this price. Getting in couldn't be easier as the seats are neither too high nor too low. By the way, the relatively firm and comfortable front seats are elevated, making for a good driving position. Regardless of the model you select, they are heated.

The rear seats are very spacious for a car this size. The bench seat is raised, so it will be comfortable even for taller people. For even greater comfort, it is even possible to place your feet under the front seat. The trunk capacity is 546 litres when the seat back is in place and 1,511 litres when the seat back is lowered to a 60/40 split. Moreover, the rear hatch opens high enough so that tall people will not have to worry about hitting their heads.

Behind the wheel, the driver will find an elegant and well organized dashboard. The audio and climate controls are all arranged in a central console. In the lower central part, there is a USB input jack to connect an MP3 player to the audio system. And depending on the model, the Soul may come with mood lighting to illuminate the lower part of the dashboard and the speakers in the front doors, which can be lit constantly or set to flash to the beat of the music.

The Soul comes with a choice of two engines. The least expensive model, sold for $15,495, is powered by a 122-hp, 1.6-litre engine and paired exclusively with the five-speed standard transmission. The model is very well equipped, with six airbags, power doors and side windows, Bluetooth hands-free capability and even steering wheel mounted audio controls. However, it is not possible to order either ABS brakes or lateral stability control, both of which come standard on all of the other models, which all feature a 142-hp 2.0-litre engine. In addition to the five speed standard transmission, the other models offer the four-speed automatic transmission on option. I know, I know, a five-speed gear box would be more attractive and help improve fuel consumption, but that would increase the price.

Our road test undertaken when the Soul was launched was basically done with the 4u version with an automatic transmission. I should note that our model came equipped with an arm rest on the right side of the driver's seat. Unfortunately, it is integrated into the seat and its height varies as one lowers the seatback. This could prove annoying for those who lean their seat back more than the average.

All of these glowing comments would be useless if the car performed poorly or wasn't fun to drive. As for performance, its acceleration and pick up are better than average. We climbed fairly steep hills and the little engine produced neither too much noise nor vibrations. As for the automatic transmission, no complaints about the smoothness of shifting from gear to gear or chasing gears needlessly. The advertised fuel consumption of 8.5 l per 100 km is a little high for the category.

Once behind the wheel, the driving position is good and the height adjustable steering wheel help fine tune for comfort. Sure, it would be nice to be able to adjust the depth as well, but you have to take the Soul's price into account.

On the road, this Kia is fun to drive, features a well calibrated suspension, an engine that offers respectable performances, and stable and predictable cornering. When we took it out for a spin, we took on some reasonably winding roads for a spell and the Soul tackled it without any complications. By the way, there is a McPherson strut front suspension to go with the twist beam rear suspension. Add to that a relatively short turning circle, 18-inch tires for good longitudinal stability and cornering grip, and this likable Kia should do more than turn heads. And if you are concerned about the brand's reliability, Kia offers one of the industry's most comprehensive warranties.

Our first impression is that the Soul has everything it takes to win over the public and a very competitive price list. The competition has reason to worry. The Soul is targeting primarily those in the 20-29 years age range, and also those between 40 and 54 years old. But I am convinced that potential buyers in all age groups will fall for this cute little Korean.

By Denis Duquet
Car Guide Web

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kia Borrego Brings Strength, Luxury and Sophistication

The new 2009 Kia Borrego is intended for those who enjoy an active yet uncomplicated lifestyle. This new midsize sports utility vehicle presents a bevy of features to the Kia line-up including an available V8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. It reminded me of the Land Rover.

Borrego is offered with a DOHC, all-aluminum 3.8-liter V6 as well as Kia's first-ever DOHC 4.6-liter V8 engine. Both engines are more powerful than any in Kia's line to date.

While the V6 produces a competitive 276 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 267 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm, the all-new V8 generates a class-leading 337 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 323 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm -- more powerful than the Toyota 4Runner, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Jeep Grand Cherokee and GMC Acadia. Borrego runs on regular unleaded fuel compared to the Pathfinder, which requires premium unleaded.

Both engines also are available in either two-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). With class-leading towing of 7,500 pounds when partnered to the V8, and 5,000 pounds with the V6, the new midsize SUV offers unmatched capabilities for a weekend of camping or outdoor lifestyle activities.

The exterior has flared back headlamps, an upright grille and chiseled hood project a strong presence. LED side view mirrors and chrome accents add to its polished look. Contemporary front and rear fascias suggest modern luxury while optional 18-inch alloy wheels offer increased off-road capabilities, allowing consumers to live an energetic life in style whether it's cruising around town or trekking through the mountains.

Available in LX and EX trims, Borrego's spacious cabin comes well equipped with a slew of standard convenience features, including: air conditioning; power door locks, windows and mirrors; keyless entry; cruise control and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 six-speaker audio system to keep its passengers entertained and comfortable. Complementing the audio system, Borrego comes standard with USB and auxiliary input jack and is the first Kia vehicle to offer SIRIUS Satellite Radio.

Borrego offers Kia's first voice-activated navigation system, with a rear eight-inch widescreen television (EX models) for passenger entertainment during long car rides or around-town adventures.

Borrego ups the ante in safety, offering the same high level of standard safety equipment as all Kia vehicles, including additional features exclusive to the midsize SUV. Standard equipment includes front advanced airbags, front seat mounted side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags for all three rows, four-wheel disc brakes with an antilock brake system including Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and traction control system (TCS), electronic brake distribution, brake assist system and a tire pressure monitoring system.

A standard back-up warning system provides an audible warning using ultrasonic sensors to detect and help prevent hitting hard-to-see objects. Borrego also includes Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), which helps prevent the vehicle from rolling backward when trying to pull away from an uphill gradient, as well as Downhill Brake Control (DBC), which helps keep the vehicle moving straight and steady down steep grades. Both functions are new to Kia.

The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $26, 245. The 2009 Borrego offers 17 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. Kia continues to woo American buyers. Check one out.

By Valencia Mohammed
Washington Informer

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kia Soul Rolls Out Across America

Here's something for you marketing majors to think about: your client develops a product geared toward a younger segment of the population -- what demographers call "Generation Y" consumers -- only there is one problem. That product happens to appeal to people far beyond one particular age group.

Scion learned a few years back, soon after their boxy xB hit the street, that it is a car prized as much by baby boomers as it is by the young crowd. While parent Toyota Motor Corporation has viewed this development as somewhat unsettling, one of its competitors isn't too concerned about who buys their product.

Also geared to appeal to that same "Generation Y" crowd, the newly released Kia Soul is working hard on presenting a vehicle that young drivers will really want. Priced from $13,995, the five-passenger Soul is roomy, stylish, and offers a lot of the features young drivers seek: a chrome-accented grille, clear lens auto-off headlamps, solar glass, black door handles and side mirrors, body-colored front and rear fascias with black inserts, black bodyside molding, rear wiper/washer, variable intermittent windshield wipers and 15-inch steel wheels.

Moreover, the Kia Soul is expected to be customized like no other Kia before it. When the car made its debut at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show last November (I was there for its introduction), Kia made sure that it had a dozen different samples of the Soul on display. Each Soul featured had its own unique color schematic, special trim, some with hood treatment, unique wheels, etc. The thrust of Kia's marketing introduction for the Soul was to show that it could be styled in a myriad number of ways.

Built on an all-new front-wheel drive platform, Soul features a high roofline and wide, distinctive stance. With a wheelbase of 100.4 inches, length of 161.6 inches, width of 70.3 inches and height of 63.4 inches, the five-passenger Soul offers a comfortably roomy interior.

Available in Soul, Soul+, Soul! (exclaim) and Soul sport, pricing for the versatile five door begins at $13,300 (plus $695 destination) for the base model, while Soul+ starts at $14,950 and tops out at $17,100 with all options. Soul! begins at $16,950 and peaks at $17,900 with all available options, and Soul sport starts at $16,950 and tops out at $18,600 with all options included.

Kia wanted to bring an appealing sub-$20,000 vehicle to the market and they seem to have accomplished that task with the Soul.

Kia made sure that the Soul came standard with all of the features young drivers are demanding in their cars today including an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system outfitted with SIRIUS Satellite Radio capabilities, USB and auxiliary input jacks that offer full iPod(R) and MP3 controllability when used with the optional iPod accessory cable.

Other standard interior features include: air conditioning, a tilt steering column, power door locks and windows, an external temperature display, a dual-level glove box, 12-volt power outlet, rear window defroster and a dome light with delay out. Each Soul comes with black cloth seats and a versatile 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

When I mentioned to Kia representatives that the Soul was appealing to a middle-aged man like myself, they didn't seem to be concerned at all. I'm not likely to add hood trim nor would I go for fancy wheels, but I sure do like the price and the interior room.

by Matthew C. Keegan

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2009 Kia Borrego V-6 - First Drive Review

Shoulda had a V-8? Not necessarily. An earlier arrival? Absolutely.

We don't have to tell you that we're total power hogs here at Car and Driver. But alas, even the most gluttonous among us also recognizes that now is the time to promote prudence in our lives; and as long as a given automobile's base powertrain is sufficient, we won't make the hard sell for the steroid-enhanced version.

The 2009 Kia Borrego is one such case where the base engine--a 276-hp, 3.8-liter V-6--is good enough to render the larger 337-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 somewhat moot, unless one needs to tow 2500 pounds more than the 5000 that the V-6 model is rated to tug. On a recent test of a four-wheel-drive Borrego V-6 in Southern California, not only was its 267 lb-ft of torque plenty to pull the three-row body-on-frame SUV without complaint, but the six's smooth, refined character recalls the Hyundai Genesis's 290-hp V-6 with which it shares much of its design and components. With lots of people and cargo aboard, we can see the V-6 getting a little slow, but with just a driver--which, let's face it, is the way these things are driven most of the time--the base engine is quite sufficient. The only other Borrego we've tested was a 4870-lb V-8-powered 4WD model, which delivered a none-too-impressive 16 mpg (we averaged similarly unimpressive 18 during our stint with the V-6).

Hard Ride

Happily, all Borregos feature double-wishbone front and independent multilink rear suspensions, which, based on our previous test as well as this one, offer respectable handling. However, skateboard-stiff spring/shock settings make for a jumpy ride quality and allow road impacts to rumble about the underpinnings almost as if a solid rear axle was fitted underneath. During our time with the V-6 model, we drove from Los Angeles to San Diego and back--right past Kia's slick new U.S. headquarters, in fact--on the wretched, chewed-up patchwork of asphalt known to Southern California commuters as I-5. We found ourselves praising the motor but cursing the suspension at the termination of each two-hour journey, even stopping to get out in Irvine to get a break from the jostling.

Spacious, But Not Special

The interior of this particular $36,295-as-tested model presented us with a full boat of high-line features--including a $1500 Navigation system (with a delightfully straightforward interface), a $1500 leather package, and a $1800 Premium package that added a sunroof, a 10-speaker Infinity sound system, rear A/C, and gleaming 18-inch chrome wheels. In spite of its flush surfaces and tight assembly tolerances, though, the interior materials and bland gauge cluster don't seem any more upscale or modern than those of the outgoing Kia Spectra compact car. At least there are not too many hard plastic surfaces to offend, but nor are there too many chrome cuffs or high-line finishes to delight.

A Vehicle Whose Time Has Come--And Gone?

With its jarring ride quality, so-so interior, and (admittedly handsome) 1990s-styling, the body-on-frame Borrego is a capable--if not terribly special--truck whose day may indeed have come before it was even conceived. On one hand, the V-6 model is sufficiently powerful and accommodating, but so are most three-row crossovers these days, almost all of which offer better ride quality and fuel economy. The V-8 model's towing capacity is better, but no more so than the other full-size utes that one can get for about the same price these days.

Ten years ago, people actually valued off-road abilities and endured mediocre interiors. These days, fuel economy greater than a combined 18 mpg seems more front-and-center on people's minds, and interior quality is an expectation, not an aspiration. Also, these days buyers have many choices in the segment--such as the Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse, and Mazda CX-9, for example--one or more of which are bound to be better matches than the Borrego.

Car and Driver

Monday, March 9, 2009

2009 Kia Amanti: Affordable luxury

The Kia Amanti is a full-size car at a medium-size price. As such, value is one of the car's key attributes. The Amanti is pretty proficient in most areas, but nothing really stands out.

We've been extremely impressed with the tremendous progress Kia has made since entering the US market. In a very short time span Kia products have gone from bargain basement punch lines, to first class cars that compare favorably to the titans Honda and Toyota. When you include their extremely competitive prices and outstanding warranties, Kias are tough to beat.

Kia's rapid progress makes the Amanti seem a little behind the curve. As the Kia flagship the Amanti needs an infusion of the excitement evident in Kia's latest offerings.

The Amanti is very well equipped in its base form. Upgrades come in the form of major packages: leather, premium, and electronic stability. A nice power sunroof is optional, although it requires the leather package and the electronic stability package. The premium package requires leather, stability and the sunroof, so the Amanti choices are essentially base model or fully loaded.

Walkaround: Amanti styling is an amalgam of cues cribbed from other cars. A fun diversion is trying to figure out which cars influenced different areas. The grille reminds us of the Chrysler 300 and the headlights and driving lamps have a Mercedes look. The roof (especially the rear of it) is reminiscent of a Lincoln Town Car. The whole greenhouse area is rather tall, which makes us think of the Popemobile. Kia styling in general is attractive and progressive, but the Amanti looks like a holdover from a previous era. Interior: The interior is an Amanti highlight. The roomy cabin is very quiet. Engine, wind and road noise are almost non-existent. Material quality is excellent and well executed. The overall interior feel is that of a luxury sedan or comfortable den.

Front seat leg and headroom are excellent even for tall drivers. The front seats are big and comfortable. Opting for the leather package adds heated seats with a driver's seat memory function. Rear seat legroom and headroom are also excellent for tall passengers. The nicely contoured seats are quite comfortable. Ingress/egress is great. Interior storage features are spacious and plentiful.

A big trunk is accessed via a large trunk lid. This makes carrying lots of luggage or golf clubs easy.

Under The Hood: The Amanti is only available with one engine and transmission -- a 3.8-liter V-6 and a 5-speed automatic. The engine produces 264 horsepower, which is routed through the front wheels. EPA rates fuel economy at 17/24.

Behind The Wheel: In keeping with the quiet interior and sedate personality the ride quality is on the soft side. Driving an Amanti is sort of a trip back in time, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Not everyone wants a sedan that rides and handles like a Corvette.

Whines: The Amanti would be much more appealing if its styling were closer to that of the Kia Optima.

Bottom Line: An attractively priced Korean Buick with an outstanding warranty.

By Bruce Caldwell

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kia Borrego Awarded New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) 2009 Winter Vehicle Award

Kia Midsize SUV Named Best-in-Class Sport Utility Vehicle Between $25,000-$35,000

# Borrego offers notable combination of power, fuel economy, towing capacity and warranty
# Midsize SUV also recognized for adaptability in cold-weather conditions

IRVINE, Calif., March 3, 2009 -- Kia Motors America (KMA) today announced the 2009 Kia Borrego has been given the "Best-in-Class Sport Utility Vehicle $25,000-$35,000" award as part of the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) 2009 Winter Vehicle Awards competition. Also selected as the "Best Kept Secret" in the Editors' Choice Awards and given a "Best Bet" distinction by The Car Book 2009, Borrego (which tied with the 2009 Honda Pilot) was honored for its powerful V8 engine, towing capacity, impressive fuel economy, outstanding warranty and ranked higher than the Volkswagen Tiguan, Jeep Commander, Dodge Durango, Land Rover LR2, Hummer H3 and Hyundai Veracruz.

"Having Borrego recognized by NEMPA as a top winter vehicle is a testament to the vehicle's true capabilities," said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing, KMA. "Characteristics including ample passenger and cargo space, towing capacity and impressive fuel economy make it a viable option for those who live in a cold-weather region without having to sacrifice price or comfort."

Voted on by members of NEMPA, winners of the annual NEMPA Winter Vehicle Awards must be all- or four-wheel-drive and are awarded for the vehicle's ability to meet the needs and comfort of the typical New England driver in cold-weather conditions. Borrego's winter-friendly features including seat heaters, Downhill Brake Control (DBC) and Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) also were taken into consideration during voting. The NEMPA organization is comprised of the top members of the automotive media in the New England area.

Borrego is offered with a DOHC, all-aluminum 3.8-liter V6 as well as Kia's first-ever DOHC 4.6-liter V8 engine, also all-aluminum; both engines are more powerful than any in Kia's line to date. While the V6 produces a competitive 276 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 267 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm, the V8 generates a class-leading 337 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 323 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm -- more powerful than the Toyota 4Runner, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Jeep Grand Cherokee and GMC Acadia. Borrego runs on regular unleaded fuel compared to some other competitors that require premium unleaded, and achieves best-in-class fuel economy of 15/22 city/highway for its V8 with two-wheel drive, and a respectable 15/20 city/highway for its V8 with four-wheel drive.

2009 Product Line

Kia Motors America offers a dynamic and diverse product line of 11 vehicles to meet the needs of all lifestyles. The 2009 vehicle line features the functional Rondo CUV and award-winning Sedona minivan along with a wide variety of popular passenger cars, including the refined Amanti full-size sedan, purposeful Optima midsize sedan, versatile and compact Spectra and Spectra5, and sporty yet fuel efficient Rio and Rio5 subcompacts. The vehicle line also features the affordably luxurious Borrego, rugged Sorento and value-packed Sportage SUVs. The 2010 Soul will further complement the lineup when it arrives in dealerships this spring.

About Kia Motors America

Kia Motors America (KMA) is the sales, marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 640 dealers throughout the United States. For 2008, KMA recorded its 14th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share. Kia Motors subscribes to a philosophy of building high value, high quality, safe and dynamic vehicles. Kia Motors prides itself on producing vehicles that are exciting and enabling and evoke the Kia tagline "The Power to Surprise."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kia Soul Finds 'New Way to Roll'

Kia Motors America is ready for its close-up, prepping an expansive ad campaign for its new crossover vehicle, Soul, that begins Friday.

Tagged "Soul. A new way to roll," the 60-second spot will play in movie theaters served by National Cinemedia and Screenvision, with the latter buy targeting cinemas located on or near 50 college campuses.

Created by David & Goliath, Los Angeles, the ad depicts a computer-generated Levittown populated by giant hamsters. As the rodents spin in place on their hamster wheels, waiting for the traffic light to change, the drudgery of their gridlocked exercise is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of a red Kia Soul. When the car pulls up to the intersection, the passenger-side window rolls down to reveal a posse of three hipster hamsters who are clearly enjoying their ride.

The theater ad will run through April 1, whereupon the print and television campaign will kick off, said Tim Chaney, director, marketing communications, KMA.

"We're doing a buy across the major networks and cable, and it's a nice balance of prime time and some late night," Chaney said. "Because we're going after the younger demo, we're doing quite a bit of cable." Kia's cable buy includes Adult Swim, Discovery Channel, MTV and Comedy Central.

The carmaker has also lined up a major integrated sponsorship, buying time on the 2009 MTV Movie Awards. In addition to 30-second spots, the Soul will also play a part in the night's festivities, Chaney said.

With details still being ironed out, Kia did not offer particulars about the print campaign. Chaney said print ads would run through the end of 2009, across a range of youth-oriented lifestyle, entertainment and music titles, as well as in a selection of niche publications.

On the digital side, Kia is covering a vast expanse of the online waterfront, buying into search and social media.

While some automakers are taking a more somber approach to marketing their 2009 lines, Kia will present a playful, upbeat note throughout the Soul campaign. "There's a lot of heavy stuff going on in the world right now and it's starting to seep into advertising," Chaney said. "We just didn't want to get caught up in that. We think the people who are going to be drawn to Soul are more likely to respond to a lighthearted message."

In addition to showcasing the Soul's fuel efficiency (31 MPG) and low price (MSRP starting under $14,000), the theater spot also emphasizes the car's sound system, which features pulsating lights that twitter and flash to the beat.

"We don't want to do a traditional car ad, particularly because of how marketing savvy this target audience is," Chaney said. "We don't think we'd get anywhere with them if we were to just hit them with a lot of car specs."

While Kia did not disclose the media budget for Soul, Chaney characterized the overall buy as "pretty significant ... right up there with the most we've ever spent on a launch." One major difference between the Soul offensive and those that came before it is that broadcast will play a much smaller role this time around.

Kia spent $302 million on measured media last year, up 36 percent from $222 million in 2007, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

"A new way to roll" heralds the first of a number of launches Kia has planned between now and 2011. "The new face of Kia is all about style and personalization," Chaney said. "The Soul launch symbolizes the first wave of design-oriented products we have in store in the next few years."

-By Anthony Crupi, Mediaweek