Monthly Archives: June 2015

Video Review: With the Sorento, Kia Moves to the Top Shelf

JUNE 10, 2015

REMEMBER when Kia was all about cheap generic economy cars? Today, its design team is led by former Audi and Cadillac rock stars (Peter Schreyer and Tom Kearns ), and among its most popular vehicles are the family-size Optima and Sorento.

Kia has tested its upward mobility with the Cadenza and the K900, perhaps aiming too high. The third-generation Sorento squarely hits its target market. Front-drive versions can be had for as little as $25,795. Budget buyers shouldn’t test-drive the higher-end SX Limited model. Dialing back to lesser models once the luxury touches are experienced will be tough. An all-wheel-drive edition with the Technology Package is a significant bump at over $45,000.

If that seems steep, the math works out when comparing the Ford Edge, Nissan Murano and Toyota Venza. An SXL with Technology Package includes a huge panoramic roof, vented seats up front, radar-assisted cruise control and an around-view camera system that simulates a small helicopter hovering over your car (without the fuss and paranoia of a real one). Kia’s iPad-like user interface can teach a thing or two to the luxury brands.

Pay twice as much and you won’t get better design. Neighbors shouted from across the street, “Whoa, fancy car!” One morning in a neighborhood littered with Lexus and Mercedes, a robe-clad woman burst out of her house determined to find out what the “beautiful car was.”

If she test-drives a Sorento, she will find a very comfortable and quiet vehicle with room for five passengers (a third row is available on V6 models). The cabin is richly trimmed and cargo space is generous, but the back pillar creates a blind spot the size of LeBron James. Spirited maneuvers summon some body roll, but it’s a crossover, not a Porsche Cayman.

Kia has added steering feel, something the outgoing model desperately needed. The Sorento’s size slots in nicely between a CR-V and a Highlander, perfect for parents who want room but not a bus.

The Sorento offers three engine options and comes with a refined 6-speed automatic. The naturally aspirated 4-cylinder with 185 horsepower seems anemic on paper. The V6 with 290 horsepower is the tow champ, tugging up to 5,000 pounds. I’m driving the 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that pumps out 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A sprint from zero to 60 m.p.h. in 8 seconds is punchy enough for many drivers. The government rates the all-wheel-drive turbo model at 19 miles per gallon city, 25 highway. That is right in the middle of the other two engines, though I’m seeing 19 m.p.g. in mixed driving.

Equipped with all-wheel drive, the Sorento will venture into places that, quite frankly, most owners will never go. For daily commutes involving boulders, deep water and locusts, buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Kia is no longer about bargain-basement pricing, and the Sorento has value and design that sure look good.

A version of this article appears in print on June 12, 2015, on page B6 of the New York edition with the headline: With the Sorento, Kia Moves to the Top Shelf. 

Kia climbs to #2 in 2015 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study

Kia BUZZ Editorial Team

We are thrilled to announce that Kia Motors ranked second among 33 automotive brands in J.D. Power’s 2015 Initial Quality Study (IQS). Only Porsche, a premium brand, outranked Kia, meaning that Kia is now ranked #1 among mass market brands.

Now in its 29th year, the annual J.D. Power IQS measures the quality of vehicles based on the number of problems reported by vehicle owners within the first 90 days. This is by far the finest performance Kia has achieved in this study to date. Honored were the Kia Soul and Sorento, which received the highest scores in the compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) and midsize SUV segments, while the Rio, Optima, Cadenza, Sportage and Sedona (Grand Carnival) ranked among the top three in their respective categories.

2015 Soul

We believe the J.D. Power report leaves no doubt that Kia builds world-class vehicles, and the results are especially gratifying as the IQS study truly reflects the voice of our customers,” said Michael Sprague, Chief Operating Officer and EVP, Kia Motors America. “Kia’s rise is one of the industry’s greatest success stories and is driven by the hard work of thousands of team members around the world, as well as our long-term strategy to concentrate on quality, strengthen the brand and elevate the ownership experience.”

See the chart below for the full J.D. Power 2015 IQS rankings.

IQS Table Results

2016 Kia Sorento V-6 AWD

2016 Kia Sorento V-6 AWD

Audi meets Lexus in the reduced aisle.

INSTRUMENTED TEST

Few brands have ascended from near oblivion as convincingly as has Kia. Run your eyes down the flanks of the resculpted 2016 Sorento and it’s hard to envision products that were once bait for subprime buyers shopping for low monthly payments. Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty introduced more than a decade ago helped erase some memories of bottom-of-the-barrel quality and subpar resale values in preceding years. But the advent of Peter Schreyer’s design put a face on the rapid improvements to driving dynamics, feature content, and build quality that really started coming together in the 2011 Sorento. Suddenly Kia products transitioned from used-car stand-ins with good bang-for-buck value into something a bit more refined and aspirational.

The 2016 Sorento continues that trend. The tiger nostrils in the crossover’s grille flare more widely now on what is the third-bestselling Kia behind the Optima sedan and Soul hatchback. The look is decidedly upscale with elegance and balanced proportions inside and out and a preponderance of premium-look and -feel materials cheering the cabin that—we’ll just say it—would do an Audi or Lexus crossover proud. A three-inch stretch in overall length this year takes the Sorento to roughly the same size nose-to-tail as the 2015 Lexus RX350. But the Sorento offers three rows of seats (standard on V-6 models) to the RX350’s two. Certainly, the aft chairs of the Kia are for wee folk, yet the Sorento manages to offer four more inches of third-row legroom than the 3.7-inch-longer Toyota Highlander.

In addition to the base 185-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 290-hp 3.3-liter V-6 for upper trim levels, Kia offers a new 2.0-liter turbo four with 240 horsepower on tap and 260 lb-ft of torque in a broad swath starting at 1450 rpm. The turbo four likely will replace the V-6 in future iterations as Kia moves to meet tougher fuel-economy targets. But for now the direct-injected 3.3-liter V-6 is the best choice for all-around performance and drivability, especially in the all-wheel-drive 4313-pound SX model we tested. It’s also a good match for the Sorento’s smooth personality. It has ample torque, a pleasing sound, and pulls enthusiastically to its 6500-rpm redline. The six-speed automatic offers clean, crisp shifts.

This crossover is no slouch, either. Our $40,595 Sorento V-6 AWD test vehicle reeled off a 7.2-second zero-to-60 time, edging out both a Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.6-liter V-6 4×4 and a Toyota Highlander 3.5-liter V-6 AWD we’d previously tested. And even though the Sorento prioritizes ride comfort over high-limit handling, the Kia’s 0.80 g of lateral grip was far stickier than the Grand Cherokee’s 0.73 g. Shod with 235/55-19 Michelin Premier LTX all-season rubber, the Sorento stopped from 70 mph in 179 feet, 6 feet shorter than a 2016 Acura MDX, 7 shorter than the Highlander, and 12 shorter than the Grand Cherokee.

That said, the 2016 Sorento—in V-6, turbo four, or any other guise—won’t be challenging the Germans for fast-lane or twisty-road domination. Rather, the made-in-the-U.S.A. 2016 Kia Sorento is a crossover that’s very comfortable in its own skin. Despite employing column-mounted electric-steering boost, the Sorento is still not quite as talkative as the best German systems, although weighting is now quite good. But the Korean is quiet, very well appointed inside, has comfortable and supportive front seats, is stable and composed at speed, and feels very solid. While the base L and mid-level LX and EX trims deliver a lot of standard equipment for the dollar, the SX and Limited dip more than a toe into premium territory—for thousands of dollars less than premium-brand entries. We’d call that a winner.

Kia Motors Earns Best-Ever Ranking In 2015 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study

Third Straight Year of IQS Improvement Places Kia Second Among 33 Brands

  • Kia Sorento and Soul awarded for highest scores in compact multi-purpose vehicle and midsize SUV segments as five other Kia models rank among top three in their respective categories
  •  With nearly 20-percent improvement, Kia owners had fewer issues with their vehicles than nearly all other car and truck brands

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IRVINE, Calif., June 17, 2015 – With more units in operation in the U.S. than ever before, Kia Motors reached another historic milestone today when J.D. Power recognized the brand as the second-highest scoring nameplate industry-wide in its 2015 Initial Quality Study (IQS). Kia’s IQS score improved by 20 points over its previous best-ever performance in 2014, vaulting the growing automaker up four positions to second overall among 33 automotive brands and highest among all mass-market nameplates.

Kia’s ascension was powered by segment-leading performances from two of the company’s best-selling vehicles – Soul and Sorento – while the Rio, Optima, Cadenza, Sportage and Sedona models all ranked in the top three of their respective categories.

“We believe the J.D. Power report leaves no doubt that Kia builds world-class vehicles, and the results are especially gratifying as the IQS study truly reflects the voice of our customers,” said Michael Sprague, Chief Operating Officer and EVP, Kia Motors America.  “Kia’s rise is one of the industry’s greatest success stories and is driven by the hard work of thousands of team members around the world as well as our long-term strategy to concentrate on quality, strengthen the brand and elevate the ownership experience”

Kia’s U.S. sales have more than doubled over the last six years as the brand has made significant investments in the market and steadily climbed J.D. Power’s annual IQS rankings. After the Soul was ranked number one in the compact multi-purpose vehicle segment in 2012, Kia broke into the overall top 10 in 2013, with the Soul and Sportage (tie) taking top honors in their respective segments, and then rose to sixth in the industry in 2014.  The company’s $1.1 billion manufacturing facility in West Point, Georgia – Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia – produces the Sorento and Optima, and achieved its highest-ever quality ranking among plants in North/South America in the 2015 study. Additionally, the Kwangju plant where the Soul is produced ranked number one for the Asia Pacific Region.

Now in its 29th year, the annual J.D. Power IQS analyzes responses from vehicle owners in 26 segments.  IQS is determined by vehicle owners evaluating the driving experience, engine and transmission performance, and a broad range of quality-related problems within the first 90 days of ownership.