Monthly Archives: November 2016

First Drive: 2017 Kia Soul Turbo

Source: Automobile Mag by Conner Golden – November 22, 2016

I, for one, welcome our new compact crossover overlords. Don’t tell anyone, but somehow, automakers found a way to trick consumers into purchasing slightly-softer, slightly taller variants of their respective compact car-based hatches. This burgeoning segment already spawned some of the funkiest and head-scratching cars on the market, ranging from the baller-on-a-budget Mercedes-Benz GLA to the handsome, devil-may-care Mazda CX-3. Of these fun-sized “SUVs,” Kia’s Soul has consistently ranked at the top of our list and the addition of a new turbocharged powertrain just sweetens the deal.

If you’re expecting the aggressively named 2016 Soul Turbo to scrape fenders with the GTI or Focus ST, you’ll be disappointed. Korea’s performance offensive arrives in the near future sporting a fancy “N” badge; for now, the medium-hot Forte SX Turbo and Veloster Turbo are the closest hot-hatch competitors. Instead, Kia situates this new powertrain as the “premium” option, aimed at those that wish for additional passing power and extra gumption for highway merging but remain highly unlikely to willingly venture toward anything remotely resembling a track-day.

Underneath the gently massaged exterior beats the 1.6-liter turbocharged I-4 offered in the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata/Tucson. 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque is a sizeable jump from the next most powerful Soul engine, up 41 hp and 45 lb-ft more than the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter. Despite the hop in power, there’s also a slight boost in efficiency to an EPA-rated 26/31 mpg city/highway.

Despite rumors surrounding an all-wheel drive variant, power is routed to the front-wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Sorry, purists, no do-it-yourself option here — the take-rate for a manual would have been so low, we don’t blame Kia one bit for the omission. Regardless, the dual-clutch is a perfect compromise, returning speedy shifts without the chalky, hesitant personality some twin-clutch gearboxes are cursed with.

2017 Kia Soul Turbo rear three quarter

For when you absolutely, positively have to eke every ounce of performance out of the Soul Turbo, Kia developed a Sport mode specifically for this powertrain. In Sport, everything is predictably sharper, including higher shift-points for the transmission, heavier steering, and eager throttle-mapping.

Aside from some slight tuning changes made to the damping and springs, the Soul Turbo’s chassis remains more-or-less the same as the regular Soul. To compensate for the boost in power, the Turbo gains marginally bigger 12.0-inch brake rotors in the front, while the rear rotors remain 10.3 inches in diameter.

Out on curvaceous Nor-Cal roads, the Turbo was surprisingly poised. It’s not nearly as fun as a purpose-built hot-hatch or even the sunny Mazda CX-3, but the Kia is entertaining enough to satiate the occasional backroad craving. Due to the electrically assisted steering rack, feedback is unfortunately kept to a bare minimum. Torque steer is noticeably absent as well, however, a welcome change from the more-aggressive Forte SX Turbo we drove earlier this year. Despite our best attempts, the standard all-season tires remained silent and free of any vocal dissent.

Separating the Turbo from the rest of the Soul lineup is some additional glitz both inside and out. A new, paddle-less flat-bottomed steering wheel is a welcome addition, along with catchy contrasting stitching on the seats and wheel. As many other drivers noted, the Turbo’s 18-inch wheels are strikingly attractive, appearing not too far removed from the wheelset of the fantastic 2012 Track’ster concept.

2017 Kia Soul Turbo front interior

More importantly, the Soul remains one of the most usable and spacious offerings in the segment, with an impressive 61 cubic feet of stowage with the seats folded down, besting the cramped Mazda and the cavernous HR-V. Backseat passengers have plenty of leg and headroom, while the front-seat occupants enjoy an exceptionally high roof.

You can only get the 1.6-liter powerplant in the Exclaim trim, meaning each Turbo arrives with a bucketful of interior features. Even when loaded to the gills, the Soul Turbo is affordable; ours was kitted out with Apple Car Play/Android Auto, panoramic sunroof, Harmon/Kardon audio system, and navigation, and still came in a tick above $27,000.

We like the regular Soul, but love the new Soul Turbo. It’s a usable and non-compromising power upgrade over the naturally aspirated models that returning better fuel economy and offers improved backroad manners. As far as we’re concerned, the fact that it remains under $30,000 is just icing on the square-shaped cake.

2017 Kia Soul Turbo Specifications

On Sale: 2017
 Price: $23,500 (base)
 Engine: 1.6L DOHC 16-valve turbocharged I-4/201 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 195 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,000 rpm
 Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission
 Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD CUV
 EPA Mileage:  N/A
 L x W x H: 163.0 x 70.9 x 63.5 in
 Wheelbase: 101.2 in
 Weight: 3,232 lb
 0-60 MPH: 7.5 seconds (est)
 Top Speed: 125 mph (est)

Ratings and Review: Change your attitude about Kia, and you’ll find the 2017 Sorento to be just about perfect

Source: New York Daily News by Liz Kim – October 19, 2016

It’s so unfair. Almost a quarter of a century has passed since Kia made its inauspicious debut to the U.S. market with a tiny econo-box called the Sephia, and yet it still struggles with negative brand association. Especially lately, the company is creating alluring, high-quality vehicles with just as much style and refinement as models from other automakers, but this appears to be lost in terms of American car culture.

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As a recent case in point, Kia was the punch line to a joke on Saturday Night Live. How is any car buyer, save for the few people whose egos are composed of carbon fiber, supposed to ignore this? How does someone justify spending $46,565 on a midsize crossover SUV equipped with a Kia badge? After all, that’s a big chunk of change in a segment full of choices, many of which are excellent vehicles and some of which wear a luxury nameplate.

NYDN_2017-Kia-Sorento-SXL-Silver-Front-Quarter-Left-Scrub

Cover up that Kia badge, and the 2017 Sorento SXL could be mistaken for a luxury SUV.

(Christian Wardlaw)

Thus, the stage is set for my review of a 2017 Kia Sorento, equipped with the top-of-the-line SXL trim level and all-wheel drive. For a week, I used the Sorento to shuttle kids to school, to run suburban errands, and to zoom from one end of the metropolitan Los Angeles area to the other. Could this be the Kia that can change hearts and minds and allow the company to credibly occupy the upper price ranges of mainstream vehicles? Could a loaded 2017 Sorento overcome that distinctive whiff of inferiority that automatically accompanies mentions of Kia?

Let’s find out.

Design: 8.5 rating

NYDN_2017-Kia-Sorento-SXL-Silver-Rear-Quarter-Right

Kia nails every one of the Sorento’s exterior design elements, creating one of the best-looking SUVs regardless of price.

(Christian Wardlaw)

While some car companies have adopted more angular and jarring design languages (read: polarizing), Kia sticks with rounded edges and mellifluous curves. Some may call the Sorento handsome, others might see it as bland, but few will deem it unattractive.

Slip inside the Sorento’s cabin and prepare to be dazzled by perforated, diamond-quilted, premium leather with trendy exposed stitching. Especially in my test car’s Ivory color, the upholstery is at once impressively luxurious and dismayingly impractical, as any parent knows that an off-white interior color combined with children equates to a depressingly dingy environment thanks to grimy, sticky little hands and filthy, flailing feet.

Still, in terms of scent and appearance, this upscale leather makes a clear statement that a Sorento SXL is not a cheap vehicle.

My only quibbles with the Sorento’s interior are the unbroken expanses of black dominating the carpets, the headliner, and especially the dashboard. While silver accent trim helps to lift the mood, the dashboard needs a contrasting strip of material for improved visual interest.

Comfort: 7.0 rating

NYDN_2017-Kia-Sorento-SXL-Ivory-Nappa-Leather-Front-Seats

The Sorento SXL’s front seats are quite comfortable and include heating and cooling.

(Christian Wardlaw)

Pleasingly plump, the Sorento’s front seats deliver good thigh support and decent bolstering. In the SXL, the driver’s seat supplies 14-way power adjustment while the passenger receives 8-way adjustment, and both seats are heated and cooled.

Should you seat three people in the second row, shoulder space is tight. Also, while the second-row seat reclines and slides forward and back on tracks, it may still prove cramped for taller people with long legs. My SXL test vehicle included heated outboard seating positions, retractable sunshades, a useful 115-volt three-prong power outlet, and a USB port to quell battery-life anxiety. A panoramic sunroof bathed the cabin in natural light.

The Sorento may boast a third-row seat, but bear in mind that it should be deployed only in emergencies, and then only for the small of stature. It’s nearly impossible for adults to squeeze between the second-row seat and roof pillar in order to get back there, and restricted room will likely bug anyone of greater than average height.

Before you try to squeeze your kids in, note how close the rear hatch glass is to the head restraints, and then fervently whisper a few Hail Marys that the Sorento doesn’t get rear-ended during the trip.

Controls: 9.0 rating

NYDN_2017-Kia-Sorento-SXL-Dashboard

Simple design and controls that adhere to long-standing conventions make the Sorento’s dashboard a delight to reference and use.

(Christian Wardlaw)

Simple trumps complicated, and Kia obviously kept this in mind when designing the Sorento’s dashboard.

Let’s celebrate knobs. Kia supplies them for increasing stereo volume, tuning between radio station, and for adjusting cabin temperature, providing the Sorento’s driver with the ideal solution for making such changes without taking his or her eyes off the road.

Let’s celebrate buttons. Kia supplies them for accessing the main infotainment system menus, selecting climate system functions, and activating the heated and cooled seats and the heated steering wheel. Large and equipped with intuitive markings, these buttons provide clear and quick reference while driving.

Let’s celebrate switches and stalks, too, the kind that operate exactly as you expect them to. And I can’t forget to mention the Sorento’s transmission shifter, a solid tool exuding quality, and one that works in traditional fashion. Even the manual shift gate is intuitive, the driver logically shifting up for an upshift and down for a downshift.

To say that you’ll instantly feel at home in a Sorento is an understatement.

Utility: 7.5 rating

NYDN_2017-Kia-Sorento-SXL-Cargo-Area

Cargo space behind the third-row seat is tight, but with it folded down there is plenty of room for a family.

(Christian Wardlaw)

Kia touts the Sorento as a midsize crossover SUV, and it qualifies, but just barely. Feeling narrower and snugger than some direct competitors, the Sorento also has more cramped cargo space.

Remember how I mentioned that this seat is positioned close to the rear liftgate? That’s reflected in the numbers; with the third-row seat in use, the trunk measures just 11.3 cubic feet. That’s tiny by small car standards, let alone a midsize crossover.

Fold the third-row seat down and you’ll have 38 cubic feet of volume, which is better aligned with the reason you’re buying a crossover in the first place. With the second-row seats folded, you’ll get 73 cubic feet of narrow but tall space. This number is barely larger than a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, and is smaller than almost every midsize crossover on the market.

Technology: 9.5 rating

NYDN_2017-Kia-Sorento-SXL-UVO-Infotainment-System

Kia’s UVO infotainment system is easy to use, and rich in features.

(Christian Wardlaw)

Accessing entertainment and information is easy in the 2017 Sorento, because Kia’s excellent UVO infotainment system requires a short and shallow learning curve.

Pairing a smartphone is easy, and for 2017, the Sorento adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration technology to make it simple and intuitive to use the more popular apps on your device. Primary menu buttons provide quick access to the system’s full functionality, allowing owners to set the Sorento up to specific preferences.

Beyond the usual cadre of satellite radio and connectivity features, UVO eServices provides free access to a number of connected services. Simply pair or connect your smartphone to the system, and through your data plan it provides Google Send-To-Car navigation instructions, 911 Connect emergency services, and a Parking Minder and Find my Car feature to help you to remotely locate the Sorento.

Furthermore, parents can squash youthful bad judgment with the Sorento’s programmable geographic boundary, speed and curfew alerts, while worrywarts can rely on maintenance reminders and an automatic vehicle diagnostics review to set their minds at ease.

Safety: 10 rating

NYDN_2017-Kia-Sorento-SXL-Ivory-Nappa-Leather-Rear-Seats

The Kia Sorento is an exceptionally safe SUV, and this second-row seat is roomy enough for three of your children.

(Christian Wardlaw)

From both crash avoidance and crash protection standpoints, the 2017 Kia Sorento is a veritable fortress on wheels.

Safety-related technologies that help drivers to avoid accidents include blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure monitoring and a forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking. Together, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors and a surround-view camera feature that knits together an image to present a top-down view of your immediate surroundings can keep your Sorento free from parking lot mishaps.

Should a collision prove unavoidable, you should know that the 2017 Sorento is a rock star in the crash-testing department. It earns a 5-Star rating from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a “Good” rating in all parameters of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing which, in combination with its forward collision prevention systems, translates into a “Top Safety Pick+” designation.

Rest assured that you’re putting the people you love the most into one of the safest vehicles in the midsize crossover SUV class.

Power and Performance: 8.0 rating

NYDN_2017-Kia-Sorento-SXL-Silver-Front-Quarter-Right

For plenty of power and performance, choose the Sorento’s 3.3-liter V-6 engine.

(Christian Wardlaw)

Under the Sorento’s hood, a 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6 supplies smooth, quiet, muscular power while a 6-speed automatic transmission feeds the energy to the SUV’s front wheels. An all-wheel-drive system is optionally available and towing capacity measures 5,000 pounds, which is more than many competitors.

Despite riding regular surges of copious acceleration, my test vehicle got 19.4 mpg on my test loop and returned 20.8 mpg during a week heavy with highway driving. This compares favorably to the EPA’s ratings of 17 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg in combined driving.

Ride and Handling: 8.0 rating

NYDN_2017-Kia-Sorento-SXL-Silver-Profile

Dynamically, the Sorento exhibits a soothing ride and sophisticated handling.

(Christian Wardlaw)

If you placed masking tape on the Sorento’s steering wheel Kia badge and took this SUV for a spin around town, you would swear you were driving a more modern version of my sister’s first-generation Lexus RX. The Sorento has the same refined suppleness and soft, quilted ride quality that soaks up bumps before they can reach the cabin, despite the big 19-inch wheels that come standard with the SXL trim level.

That plushness comes at some cost when it comes to cornering, however, as the Sorento exhibits lean and wallow when pushed into a set of curves with too much speed. Still, with excellent brakes, heavy but mostly precise steering and tires that provide a good level of grip, the Sorento provides predictable, easily controlled handling.

Our Recommendation

NYDN_2017-Kia-Sorento-SXL-Silver-Rear-Quarter-Left-Rocks

You’re looking at one of the better midsize crossover SUVs your money can buy.

(Christian Wardlaw)

In the 2017 Sorento, Kia builds a stylish midsize crossover, a practical SUV, and an undeniably safe family hauler. Combine these traits with the SXL’s upscale detailing, the reliability reflected in the best warranty you can get, and the value that comes with regularly discounted prices and car loan terms, and there is genuine value to be found in a Kia Sorento.

Still, other people can be judgmental dimwits, can’t they? If you can get past what it used to mean to be a Kia owner, you can thumb your nose at the people looking down theirs while you stroke the fine perforated Nappa leather upholstery of your sumptuous Sorento SXL.

Total Vehicle Score:168/200 points

Overall Vehicle Rating: 8.4

Top 10 Most Reliable Car Brands

Source: Auto Guide by Jason Siu – October 25, 2016

Top 10 Most Reliable Car Brands

The 2016 Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Survey has been released and there are a few surprises. Designed to rank automakers based on the predicted reliability of their product lines, the annual survey gathers data from over 500,000 Consumer Reports subscribers that bought or leased a new vehicle between model year 2000 and 2017. This year’s survey includes more than 300 individual nameplates.

There are some familiar faces in the top 10 most reliable car brands, while others are new to the list.

10. Honda

2017 Honda Civic

Honda stumbled a bit this year, dropping two spots to 10th place with an average reliability score of 57 across seven models. Honda owners told the publication they have been stymied by problematic infotainment systems and transmissions. But perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that the Honda Civic is no longer recommended by Consumer Reports.

9. BMW

BMW i3

BMW rose two spots to ninth place, with the same average reliability score as Honda at 57. The German automaker, however, had eight models as part of the survey with the i3 and X5 newly recommended, meaning they’re models with improved reliability.

8. Infiniti

2016 Infiniti Q70

Nissan’s luxury arm, Infiniti, was most improved rising 16 spots to eighth place. Four models were taken into consideration to give the brand an average reliability score of 62. The publication notes that Infiniti is a bit of a mixed bag, however, with the Q70 sedan scoring 91, but the QX60 getting a score of 33.

7. Hyundai

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Korean automaker Hyundai saw the Santa Fe join the newly recommended list, helping the brand move up two spots to seventh place. Hyundai had seven models as part of the survey, averaging a reliability score of 66.

6. Mazda

2016 Mazda CX5

With an average reliability score of 68, Mazda dropped two spots to sixth place with five models surveyed. The Japanese automaker didn’t have any vehicles that joined the no longer recommended list, nor did it have any newly recommended models.

5. Kia

2017 Kia Forte

Kia may be the more affordable of the two Korean automakers on the list, but Hyundai’s sister brand fared better in the annual reliability survey. “Kia builds cars that are slightly better than Hyundai,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports‘ director of automotive testing. It’s likely due to the fact that Kia introduces models a bit later than Hyundai, once many initial bugs have been addressed. The company rose one spot to fifth place, with four models surveyed netting an average reliability score of 69.

4. Audi

Audi A3

Audi dropped one spot to fourth place, with seven models averaging a reliability score of 71. Both the Q3 and Q7 models have proven to be reliable, but the A3 ranked below average, making it no longer recommended by the publication.

3. Buick

2017 Buick Lacrosse

Buick moves into the top three brands this year, with its core product line mature and most problems having been ironed out. The American automaker has introduced several new vehicles, however, which could have an impact on future brand performance. For this year, it rose four spots with four models averaging a reliability score of 75.

2. Toyota

2016 Toyota Tacoma

To little surprise, Toyota is in the top two this year, with 12 models averaging a reliability score of 78. Despite high marks throughout, Toyota was hindered by the redesigned Tacoma, which was unreliable in its first year. The Japanese automaker continues to use tried-and-true methods to build its vehicles, taking a conservative, evolutionary approach.

1. Lexus

Lexus RX 350

Topping the list as the most reliable car brand this year is Lexus, scoring 86 with nine models surveyed. Both Toyota and Lexus have been consistently reliable throughout the years of the annual survey.

2017 Kia Cadenza: Best Car to Buy Nominee

Source: The Car Connection by Andrew Ganz – October 18, 2016

The 2017 Kia Cadenza isn’t by any means the brand’s first outing into the luxury car world, but it’s certainly the brand’s best effort yet. A near facsimile of what Lexus used to offer, the Cadenza doesn’t necessarily advance the luxury game—but it does prove that the Korean automaker’s push upmarket is here to stay.

It would be easy to fault Kia for its lack of focus in moving upscale. The first Cadenza looked good, but in an oversized Optima sort of way. And then the K900 popped up, boasting a big V-8, rear-wheel drive, and a decidedly mid-1990s feel. You’ll score 1,000 points in automotive bingo if you spot a K900 on the road (driving by a Kia dealer doesn’t count).

DON’T MISS: Our 2017 Kia Cadenza expert review

2017 Kia Cadenza
2017 Kia Cadenza

But let’s talk about the Cadenza a little longer. Outside, it’s an evolution of its predecessor in profile, but the difference is in the details. The 2017’s grille, for instance, is intricate and convex, and it mates well with the sedan’s complex headlamps and foursquare fog lamps.

Inside, there’s no reminder that this company used to build the dour Sephia. Even the Premium is well outfitted with leather seats (power and heated up front) and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. But it’s the Technology model that represents supreme value with a host of safety tech headlined by automatic high beam LED headlamps, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control, as well as air conditioned seats and a wireless cell phone charger for right around $40,000.

2017 Kia Cadenza
2017 Kia Cadenza

Under the Cadenza’s hood sits a largely unchanged 3.3-liter V-6 rated at 290 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, figures down a bit from before but compensated for thanks to a new 8-speed automatic transmission offering two more gears than last year. The 8-speed was designed internally by Kia and its parent company, Hyundai, and it’s a winner in this application.

It’s not a sedan that will stoke the flame for enthusiasts, but the Cadenza’s sophisticated feel and quiet, refined demeanor mean that it’s a serious contender for The Car Connection’s Best Car to Buy 2017.