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  • Review: 2015 Kia Sedona minivan crosses over into crossover and SUV territory

    5/27/2015 1:02:56 PM - by Paul French
    2015 Kia Sedona Orlando,Fl KNDMC5C1XF6023673

    The new Sedona really has the look and stance of a crossover. But will that lure buyers who might otherwise be averse to driving a minivan?

    Family members recently called seeking car advice. Relatively new parents with a toddler, this couple had the following requirements, in this order:

    1. Excellent safety scores

    2. High reliability ratings

    3. Lots of room for cargo

    4. High driving position for good forward visibility

    Had the list ended there, I certainly would have recommended the 2015 Kia Sedona, in addition to the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. After all, this trio of kid haulers makes the most sense when it comes to buying a new vehicle for family duty. But then there was this final requirement:

    5. Crossover SUV

    Does this list look familiar? It might even match your own. With the redesigned 2015 Sedona, Kia appears to grasp the futility of trying to sell a traditional minivan to families. In fact, aside from the fact that it has sliding side doors and lacks an optional all-wheel-drive system, the Sedona might as well be a crossover SUV.

    2015 Kia Sedona Orlando,Fl KNDMC5C1XF6023673

    The Sedona really does up the game when it comes to presenting a minivan that is as handsome as it is useful in countless driving situations.

    Fake skid plates signal Kia’s acknowledgement that the Sedona needs to be a different kind of minivan. So do the Sedona’s protruding nose, pinched rear side window glass, full center console separating the driver and the front passenger, and name conjuring imagery of Arizona’s rugged red-rock country. Except for the Sedona’s exposed sliding door tracks, it isn’t immediately clear to the layperson that this is a van instead of an SUV.

    It sure helps that Kia knows how to craft appealing designs, and this minivan looks terrific. I’m even surprised to report that I like the simulated front and rear skid plates.

    From behind the Sedona’s steering wheel, you literally cannot tell the difference between this minivan and a typical crossover SUV. Horizontally oriented controls and displays, as well as a wide center console with a shifter and traditional storage box, perfectly mimic the look and feel a crossover’s cabin. This combination of design cues makes the Sedona a direct seat-of-the-pants competitor to full-size SUVs such as a Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, or GMC Acadia.

    If an accident proves unavoidable, Sedona owners can rest assured that they’re driving one of the safest vehicles on the road.

    In SX Limited trim, the Sedona’s interior is also plush. Unfortunately, in some ways, the Sedona simply doesn’t look, feel, or sound all that substantial. For example, refinement is lacking when adjusting the second-row seats and folding the third-row seats. They feel balky, sticky, and rickety rather than compliant, smooth and robust. Traits like these fail to inspire confidence in the Sedona’s ability to withstand years of family use and abuse.

    Front seat occupants are comfortable, and seat support is excellent on longer drives. Soft upper door panel trim combines with a soft and wide center console armrest to aid comfort levels. My wife was happy to find a front passenger’s seat height adjuster in our SX Limited test vehicle, but she also kept banging her head on the rakish windshield pillars when getting into the Sedona. Such is the price to be paid for a minivan that looks more like an SUV.

    My test vehicle’s second-row captain’s chairs offered a wide range of adjustment. One feature I really liked is that they could be moved toward the center of the vehicle, placing children further away from the sliding doors where they are safer in a side-impact collision. Older children will enjoy how the captain’s chairs recline and deploy an ottoman-style footrest, making them perfect for viewing movies or playing games on the optional rear-seat entertainment system, or simply gazing at clouds or stars through the Sedona SX Limited’s rear moonroof.

    2015 Kia Sedona Orlando,Fl KNDMC5C1XF6023673

    The interior design and layout doesn't shout the fact that what you're driving happens to be a minivan.

    Third-row seat comfort is dependent upon where the second-row seats are placed, but there is room aboard this vehicle for six large adults. Both rear rows of seats include manual side window shades, and versions without leather upholstery feature YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats.

    Behind the Sedona’s third-row seat, owners can utilize 33.9 cu.-ft. of cargo space. Flip the third-row seat into the cargo well to expand capacity to 78.4 cu.-ft. If you need more room than that, the “Slide-N-Stow” second-row seats slide forward and flatten themselves vertically against the front seat backs, resulting in a maximum cargo volume measurement of 142 cu.-ft.

    While this “Slide-N-Stow” design means the Sedona isn’t quite as commodious as key competitors, the benefit is that you never need to unlatch and lift heavy second-row seats out of the van in order to maximize the amount of room. Besides, not even a huge Chevy Suburban can match the Sedona’s cargo measurements, let alone any crossover SUV.

    Kia has also done a great job of providing spots in which to stash your stuff. From triple-tier storage trays built into the front door panels and a dual glove box design to a grocery sack hook on the front seat back and second-row lower console storage shaped to hold video game cases, the Sedona is ready to accommodate and organize the detritus of daily living.

    It is available with lots of useful safety and infotainment technology, too. For example, all versions except for the base Sedona L include Kia’s UVO (Your Voice) eServices system. Highlights include a Parking Minder that helps the driver find the van in a crowded lot, a Digital Jukebox where you can store your favorite songs, and 911 Connect service that helps to speed rescuers to the Sedona’s location following a collision.

    Safest SUVs and minivans: IIHS Top Safety Pick+ winners

    A reversing camera is standard for all but the Sedona L, and a blind-spot detection system is either available or standard for the EX, SX, and SX Limited trim levels. A surround-view camera, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning systems are reserved only for the most expensive version of the Sedona, the SX Limited.

    If you can’t afford that model, don’t worry. You’re not missing out on much. In my experience, the forward collision warning system sometimes activates when there is no actual threat, yet sometimes fails to activate when I find myself in hard braking situations. I’d say it operates with accuracy about 25-percent of the time. The lane departure warning system works well, quickly prompting a driver to shut it off. Remaining safety features are quite useful, though the blind-spot detection system’s mirror-mounted warning lights really need to be bigger and brighter.

    If an accident proves unavoidable, Sedona owners can rest assured that they’re driving one of the safest vehicles on the road. Curb weights range from 4,411 pounds to 4,720 pounds, and the Sedona earns perfect crash-test scores from both the NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Few vehicles can boast such claims.

    The Sedona is powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 engine coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

    That heft doesn’t negatively impact the Sedona’s dynamic performance. Obviously, you’re not going to take this minivan to a weekend track event, but if you find yourself on a winding mountain road you needn’t worry that this Kia can’t handle itself with dignity and grace. No matter the type of turn or corner, the Sedona’s handling proves predictable.

    When the 6-speed automatic transmission is cooperating, energetic acceleration is another of this minivan’s pleasing driving characteristics. A 276-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 is standard, revving freely and sounding good doing it. Kia has, however, calibrated the 6-speed automatic transmission to return maximum fuel economy at all times.

    Eco, Comfort, and Normal driving modes are available, the transmission essentially proving unresponsive to your right foot when placed in the first two modes. In Normal mode, the transmission is more willing to entertain a downshift for extra power, but it upshifts as soon as is possible, and in hilly terrain this produces an irritating degree of “hunt” on all but the steepest of inclines. As a result of the diligent transmission, my Sedona SX Limited returned 18.9 mpg, almost exactly matching the EPA’s 19-mpg rating for combined driving.

    Outward visibility is excellent in every direction, enhanced by the SX Limited model’s available surround view camera system. So equipped, you should have no problems reversing, parking, or negotiating cramped conditions.

    When it comes to the Sedona’s ride, I’m reminded of the K900 luxury sedan. Kia clearly wanted to smooth out the ride as much as possible, but sharper dips and bumps make the Sedona feel woozy, like it is a step behind what’s happening at the contact patches. I’d prefer sharper attenuation of ride motions to foster a greater sense of connectedness to the pavement and confidence in the driver.

    The Sedona looks, feels, and works well enough to have some crossover SUV buyers crossing over.

    Because with this redesign Kia is not only positioned to build the best minivan in the land, but the Sedona looks, feels, and works well enough to have some crossover SUV buyers crossing over. All Kia really needs to do in order to perfect the Sedona and dethrone the Odyssey and Sienna is to sweat a few more details.

  • 2015 Kia Soul Named One Of The 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000 By Kelley Blue Book's KBB.com

    5/27/2015 12:29:35 PM - by Paul French
    2015 Kia Soul Orlando,Fl KNDJP3A59F7193292

    Kia Motors America's (KMA) popular urban hatchback, the 2015 Soul, is one of the 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000 in 2015, according to Kelley Blue Book's KBB.com. This year marks the fourth consecutive time Soul has been recognized by the editors at KBB.com, and similar to last year, Kia's fun-and-funky urban runabout ranked among the top three on the annual list, which highlights the hippest and most affordable cars on the market.  Editors at Kelley Blue Book once again included the Soul for its stylish looks and tech-savvy content.  With a base price of $15,1901, the Soul offers flexible interior configurations and a unique exterior design with a wide array of available features at a great value.

    "Since first coming onto the scene in 2009, the Soul has been an out-of-the-park homerun for Kia, and the second generation retains its iconic design while including modern cues and premium features to enhance our brand's value proposition," said Tim Chaney, vice president of marketing communications, KMA. "It's these refinements, along with its funky persona, roomy cabin and ample cargo space, that have upped the Soul's allure, making it even more popular with consumers." 

    New for 2015 on the Exclaim model is an available interior Umber Color Package, which is available with either the Fathom Blue or Cloud White exterior colors. Included with the option package is premium Nappa leather seating surfaces and door armrest accents. Outside, Gloss Black wheel inserts further set the Umber Color Package apart.

    "Some cool vehicles aren't very versatile, but the Kia Soul made our list of the 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000 just because it is so versatile," said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's KBB.com. "On the road the Soul's funky, squared-off shape won't be mistaken for anything else, and standing out is cool. At the same time, its collection of useful features and its interior versatility at a very affordable price add significantly to its overall cool quotient."

    The 2015 Soul is offered in three trim levels: Base, Plus and Exclaim. Motivation for the Base Soul is delivered by a gasoline direct injection (GDI) 130-horsepower (at 6,300 rpm) 1.6-liter all-aluminum DOHC four-cylinder engine. The GAMMA engine produces 118 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,850 rpm. The Plus and Exclaim models enjoy the more powerful 2.0-liter NU power plant with GDI technology.  Power is rated at 164 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 151 lb.-ft. of torque at a 4,000 rpm. The 1.6-liter engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic. The Plus and Exclaim models are available exclusively with the six-speed automatic gearbox.

  • Kia's thoroughly modern Sorento aims for a broader audience

    5/27/2015 12:24:05 PM - by Paul French
    2016 Kia Sorento, Sparkling Silver, 26757880

    The long-awaited great leap forward for the South Korean auto industry is in full swing and the new Sorento SUV — direct competition to a crowd of powerhouse players like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the soon-to-be-updated Ford Explorer — is demonstrating some very positive moves for that nation’s car makers.

    This is a vehicle that really does embody Japanese-inspired technology and American ruggedness and people-hauling capacity, but is priced well below that of its primary competitors (starting at $24,900, actually).

    Not kidding about the accommodations: the back seat is gigantic and the third row survivable for short jaunts, and a full-cabin sunroof is also a pleasant way of providing more light and openness to rear-seat riders.

    The new Sorento also includes three engine choices, a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 290-HP 3.3-liter V-6, as well as a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, providing 240 horses and middle-of-the-range fuel economy.

    I spent my extra time in an SXL-level AWD model with the smaller turbocharged engine, and hit about 23 combined MPG, much as advertised — enjoying the added off-the-line boost the Sorento gets with that engine.

    Power overall is quite good and I especially enjoyed Sorento’s stature while literally crashing through the snow. Feel is poised overall and it’s certainly comparable to its domestic competitors in ride quality.

    However, the looks are so striking and futuristic and heavily chrome-laden that they might cause a few potential buyers to shake their heads. We hope that they’ll also evaluate the entire package and find them to be a pretty cool move, rather than a deal-breaker.

    It’s certainly a lot of bling to deal with up front, including those unusual four-lens fog lamps, a bubbly grille and even an aluminum plow blade-styled strip on the lower bumper lip.

    Inside, the hard plastics of the old days have been replaced by soft-touch materials, and the thoroughly modern cabin is designed very much like a huge version of the new Kia Soul — with a broad dash broken up in the middle by an oversized pod, looking like a 1950s TV set, containing the navigation and audio head unit.

    My SXL had red-ish Nappa leather throughout, plus glossy highlights on the steering wheel, very comfortable ventilated and heated leather seating (even in the second row). A tasteful blend of piano black surrounding panels and other flat black plastic makes it all look quite nice, contemporary and maybe only just a little overwhelming in the button department — drive modes, the 4x4 lock, emergency brake, parking sensor and multi-camera view controls.

    Most of the latter are part of a $2,500 technology package that also includes xenon headlamps, lane-departure and forward-alert collision warning systems, predictive cruise control and a handy around-view camera system.

    It’s absolutely quiet on the inside and the precise feel of the steering and the muted balance of the suspension really does make it feel like a whole new deal for Kia.

    Size is up overall — about 3 inches longer, and a 3-inch-longer wheelbase — and by dropping the floorpan about 2 inches, the whole vehicle has become roomier.

    Some new touches are more subtle than others — like the carpeted walls of the rear cargo area, making it a more secure spot for carrying all of your stuff.

  • 7 Reasons Why Buying a Kia is a Smart Decision

    5/26/2015 12:09:54 PM - by Paul French

    7 REASONS WHY BUYING A KIA IS A SMART DECISION

    I find it fascinating how Korean companies Kia have become synonymous with both value and quality, and how these companies have raised themselves from a “sub-par status” to a genuine contender in today’s market. Once considered a cheap alternative to buying Japanese, these two firms have invested insane amounts of capitol in the American market since the mid-1990s. They also have spent large sums on developing their own brand identities, creating their own high-tech R&D departments, and purchasing legitimate materials that rival those found on vehicles costing twice as much. So how is it that these Korean companies have gone from worst to first?

    Kia’s history started with bicycle manufacturing in the early 1950s, and by the 1970s the company had shifted to the manufacturing of motorcycles, cars, and trucks. It later partnered with Ford in the 1980s to make versions of Ford/Mazda collaboration cars, and by 1994 Kia had outgrown its humble roots and began selling the Sephia and the Sportage in America. But the Asian financial crisis forced Kia to file for bankruptcy, at which point Hyundai took over the company and to this day remains majority stakeholder. Over the next decade Kia grew slowly but steadily and became a genuine contender as it fixed its earlier miscues, opened a U.S. corporate headquarters and design center, and solidified its dedication to the American market in 2010 with the opening of its Georgia manufacturing plant.

    Source: Kia

    It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for these Korean car makers, and back in the 1980s and 1990s many Americans avoided these “Japanese wannabes” for fear of poor craftsmanship and public ridicule. These fears were rightly founded, as early models from either maker was typically appalling on every level. But after equally rocky starts, and incessant criticism from both critics and consumers alike, these Korean firms began to gather some steam in the American marketplace and are now giving companies like Honda, Toyota, and BMW genuine cause for concern as the world realizes that it is OK to buy Korean.



    1. Good value

    What started out as just a cheap Korean economy car has blossomed into quite the value-packed product, as Kia continues to offer more for less. Features that were often reserved for high-end luxury makers like Lexus and BMW can now be found on many models, and it is not uncommon to run across amenities like genuine Napa leather interior, heated rear seats, automatic high-beam assistance, and ventilated front seats. All of these features come at a fraction of the cost of their Japanese and European competition.

    2. Amazing warranties

    Sick of people calling its products crap, Kia rolled-out an industry first 10-year/100,000-mile warranty in 1998. Labeled as “America’s Best Warranty,” this warranty covers the powertrain, a 5-year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper coverage, 5-year/60,000 miles roadside assistance, five years of rust protection. Kia saw an 82% sales jump the year after the program was put in place.

    3. Turbocharged and hybrid-powered

    Kia was quick to hop on the hybrid bandwagon a few years back, and with the aforementioned lifetime battery warranty and favorable reviews, it is no wonder that the hybrid versions of these cars are selling well. The hybrid versions of the Optima is no slouch either, with the vehicle topping-out around the 200 horsepower mark. But some of us don’t give a hoot about fuel efficiency, and just want some uncompromising power. Korean auto makers were tapping into this trend way before most, so while auto makers are scrambling to put turbos on their engines to increase power bands, Kia has already been established as turbo specialist.

    Eric Schaal/Autos Cheat Sheet



    4. Cute and quirky

    Kia has something for those of us who aren’t into turbos and hybrids, and surprisingly it is still fun and fuel-efficient. With budget-minded Generation Z buyers demanding tech-savvy, compact economy cars, it is no wonder that cars like the Soul are proving to be popular with today’s car buyer. These cars are affordable, adorable, and completely quirky in their own technology-laden little ways.

    5. Individualistic options abound

    Tired of blending in and looking like everyone else on the block? Korean car companies have been listening to Americans gripe about this for decades, so they have rolled-out tons of customizable options as well as luxury vehicles like the K900 and Cadenza.

    Source: Kia



    6. Sharp styling

    Once considered a hideous laughingstock of the automotive community, modern Korean cars are actually becoming quite sharp looking. From the use of LED illumination, to redesigned lines and interior cues, all the way to performance aero kits, recent models from both manufacturers are truly a step above previous generations. A dozen years ago no one was ogling a Korean car save for the sticker price on its windshield, nowadays fully-furnished models are cause for statements like, “There’s no way that’s a Kia.”



    7. Improved quality

    Long gone are the days when people complained about inferior Korean quality. These cars are made in America, offer fantastic value for the money, and every year land tons of awards for their overall quality. This shift all started back in 2004, when Kia shocked everyone when it tied with Honda for initial brand quality in a study by J.D. Power and Associates. It then placed third overall in J.D. Power’s 2006 Initial Quality Survey, trailing only Porsche and Lexus. Meanwhile Kia has been busy cleaning-up as well, winning awards recently for its safety, design, and ingenuity.

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