Monthly Archives: August 2017

KIA’S FEISTY STINGER GT CONQUERS THE WORLD’S TOUGHEST TRACK

By: Jim Resnick August 7, 2017
Source: Wired

 

 

Copyright Kia Motors

 

OF ALL THE intimidating high-speed sections of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the most unsettling may be the Fuchsröhe—the foxhole. I come into this stretch of the famed German track at 93 mph, cornering at maximum grip and body lean, compressing the suspension as I go right-left-right and steeply uphill, making a conscious effort to lift my head to keep my eyes at horizon level. The sports sedan taking me through it all gracefully handles each twist of the wheel, each jab at the brake and accelerator, acting as though the Nürburgring is home territory. But this car is no native. It’s the twin-turbo, 365-horsepower 2018 Kia Stinger GT, Korea’s bid to challenge the Germans and everyone else for sports car dominance.

Now, I’ve driven the Stinger a grand total of 38.7 miles. Enough for a full report on its every detail? No. But every foot was driven on the Nürburgring, the 154-turn torture chamber that petrol heads consider the ultimate proving ground, and the place where automakers go to prove their latest sports car is the sports car to have. So don’t ask me how the Stinger GT is on the open road, or about trifles like its stereo system. But ask me about its behavior at shriek-inducing handling limits while bounding around this circuit’s blind corners, over hills and down dales, riding the world’s most difficult blacktop dragon, and I can tell you: This Kia copes with all the looniness, and even does it with some elegance.

This performance from the Stinger, the unexpected grand touring car Kia made to rival sporty sedans from the likes of Mercedes and BMW, is all the more impressive when you learn it weighs nearly 4,000 pounds and is longer than the 3-Series, both handicaps in the “driving machine” stakes.

Standard operating procedure for driving any car on a track as gnarly as the Nürburgring—also known as the Green Hell—is to follow a test engineer or pro driver around the track for a casual lap or two, slowly getting a feel for everything. Kia doesn’t bother with such niceties, instead sending me bombing around what many consider the world’s toughest circuit without hesitation.

The Stinger is an unusual sort of Korean car, conceived and tasked by key players of decidedly European upbringing and lineage. The Kia brand may be known for value above performance, but it’s still young, just more than 20 years old in the US market. It’s hankering to expand, making a recent bid for luxury buyers with the K900 and now, with the GT, taking aim at the sports car segment, a crowded space long dominated by seasoned giants like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes.

That confidence reveals a commitment to competing and maybe even winning, especially from people like Albert Biermann, who left his job running BMW’s M division to plant seeds at Kia that might flourish long after he’s gone—and that are already sprouting nicely.

Looking the Part

The Stinger GT is the latest in a string of lookers from Kia. Designer Gregory Guillaume says he took inspiration from the generously funded grand GTs he marveled at as a boy in the South of France, especially the Maserati Ghibli coupe. It’s a loose connection, but the Stinger comes with a distinct European flavor, and it’s no accident. Through my eyes, I see Alfa Romeo at the Stinger’s rear and perhaps even a glint of Maserati GT Coupe from the mid 2000s up front.

Styling aside, the car’s overall form factor is quite conventional in this modern era. The front seats are very low in the cockpit, keeping the center of gravity low, a boon for stability. That extra length may not be great for performance, providing a long, if not deep, cargo floor, plus enough space for normal-length legs in the rear seats. (Toes need to write a terse letter, though; mine couldn’t fit under the front seats at all.)

Being the Part

To build the Stinger, Kia fit its own suspension onto the bones of its corporate brother Hyundai’s excellent Genesis platform, along with adjustable shocks to cater to more aggressive drivers. The Stinger will offer three engine options: a base 252-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder; the optional 365-horsepower, 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 we tested; and, for Korean and European markets only, a 197-horsepower, 2.2-liter turbo diesel four-cylinder.

Kia claims the V6 engines will send the Stinger to 60 mph in just under five seconds and up to a top speed of 167 mph, and we extracted almost every bit of that at the Nürburgring. The track’s longest straight section had us at between 135 and 140 mph, partly because our lead driver wanted it that way (passing ist verboten) and partly because we wanted to assure ourselves we’d have working brakes when we needed them and not lose them due to overheating. (As proven by the many disaster videos on YouTube, the Nürburgring can be a vindictive amphetamine.)

But the nutrition within the Ring’s bratwurst sandwich is not the long straight where your right foot digs into the synthetic carpet fibers. It’s the corners, in the communication of the steering, in braking effectiveness and how the car accelerates and grips off of corners. And when dishing out these morsels, the rear-drive Stinger GT provides some spicy flavor, while the all-wheel-drive version shaves off some spice due to extra weight and the more elaborate power-delivery system working overtime to generate traction, creating a midsize helping of brake fade. The brakes continued to work hard, though, even at the far end of pedal travel.

The only transmission offered is Hyundai’s own eight-speed automatic which also shifts manually, though it doesn’t match the best dual-clutch units or ZF’s eight-speed automatic gaining favor in European cars like Audi’s S4 sedan. Paddle-operated shifts in the Stinger GT deliver, but not with the crispness of others in the field.

The Stinger’s structural stiffness is undeniable, and not once did it shudder over the many bumps and curbs we visited from time to time. According to Biermann, it offers the same stiffness as the best competition like BMW’s 3- and 4-Series and the Mercedes C-Class, yet in a larger footprint. Here is where Kia shines, providing truly stellar rigidity in the most strenuous circumstances.

The sporty automotive circus is stuffed to its tent tops with self-congratulatory language and attitude, much of it well-deserved. So for Kia—a value-driven brand that has played in the US for a mere 23 years—elbowing its way inside to challenge giants like BMW, Audi, and others is a bold move.

Even if the Stinger GT is an utter failure when it comes to sales—and it shouldn’t be—Kia merits props for boldness. Hitting the US market in October at about $30,000 to start (with the top end around $50,000), this latest Kia will assuredly ruffle a few luxury feathers, or at least shake some leaves in the Green Hell.

The 2017 Kia Niro Is a Great Hybrid. Really.

By Lawrence Ulrich: July 11, 2017
Source: www.thedrive.com

Is there anything that Kia and Hyundai can’t do? The South Korean brands transformed themselves from a punch line to a powerful force in affordable cars, and together, Hyundai and Kia sold 1.4 million cars in America in 2016—more than double the Volkswagen Group’s total sales, and not far behind the behemoths of Nissan and Honda.

Hyundai drew more snickers when it started building luxury cars, but its Genesis brand is finding a foothold with models like the G70. Kia is aiming for bigger game as well with its stylish 2018 Stinger sport sedan, an affordable rival to a BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe and Audi A5 Sportback.

Kia

Now it’s hybrid time. And quite remarkably, the Kia Niro—the brand’s first-ever shot at a dedicated hybrid—represents a genuine leap forward, even if giveaway gas prices may blunt its market significance. The Kia is practical and ultra affordable for a car of this quality, starting from $23,795. It delivers remarkable economy, with a Prius-like EPA rating of up to 50 mpg in combined city and highway driving—an official figure that I crushed in real-world driving, observing well over 60 mpg on one hour-long highway run. And in stylish contrast with the tubby Toyota, or even Chevy’s all-electric Bolt, the Kia doesn’t look like a science geek’s misshapen flask or a cheap econobox. Instead, the Niro is a handsome if self-effacing tall hatchback—or a subcompact wagon if you prefer—with a seating position that’s about four inches lower than a Honda CR-V or other small SUV. That straightforward approach to high mileage, minus the earnest, earth-saving gimmicks, is part of what makes the Kia so compelling. It’s just a car, and a very good one.

The Kia shares a dedicated, front-drive hybrid chassis with the new Hyundai Ioniq. Like the Ioniq, the Niro will spawn a plug-in hybrid and pure EV in addition to this conventional hybrid version. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with dual cooling circuits adopts the frugal Atkinson cycle. Kia claims the engine extracts energy from unleaded gasoline at 40 percent thermal efficiency—a number achieved only by the Prius, or the best diesels. By its lonesome, the engine manages just 104 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque. But a 43-horsepower electric motor rides shotgun between the engine and a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission, and draws from a small 1.6 kilowatt-hour battery hidden below the back seat. Add it up, and you’ve got 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. A second clutch allows brief bouts of all-electric propulsion, but not much beyond 15 or 20 mph. A Prius or Ford Fusion Hybrid has the edge here, with the ability to light-foot it around town at higher speeds without the engine firing up. The Kia still aggressively seeks to shut down the engine whenever you’re coasting or working through heavy traffic; While conventional cars fritter away gasoline, the Kia’s mileage soars.

That dual-clutch transmission, despite a very occasional hiccup as it divvies up gas and electric power, is one of several Kia trump cards. Most every hybrid employs some form of continuously variable transmission. For all their NASA-complex planetary gearsets and control algorithms, there’s no escaping their non-linear operation, those oozy power surges and weird disconnect between the engine’s speed and actual acceleration. In pleasing contrast, the Kia feels like its engine is actually connected to the wheels, because it is. Slide the smartly sculpted shifter into Sport mode—you’ll be doing this a lot, because the Eco mode is doddering and too eager to upshift – and you’ve got direct control over six real gears.

KIa

The pleasure continues inside, where the Kia recalls the boxy Soul. The cabin is an exemplar of generous features, quality materials, easy-peasy controls and a sharp eye for details. Chevrolet should take notes on the Niro interior, and undertake an emergency upgrade for the Bolt and its cheapjack, Barbie-plastic cabin. Even the Kia’s driver’s gauge cluster avoids the cutesy, video-game approach of many hybrids and EVs, while still remaining handsome and thoroughly informative. I also loved the Niro’s low driving position, only about 1.5 inches higher than a typical small sedan. It’s a refreshing change from the jacked-up stance of many crossovers, and it helps make the Kia feel less prone to body roll, more like a car. Ditto for the low load-in height at the rear, no taller than a traditional wagon. And there’s no all-wheel-drive, even as an option, because the Kia frankly doesn’t need it. The Niro feels solid and quiet, with a standard acoustic windshield. It steers with aplomb, smooths out the rough stuff, and delivers just-enough grip, shod with 16-inch, low-rolling-resistance rubber. A top-line Touring model gives up a few mpg, but adds larger and substantially stickier 18-inch wheels.

Kia

The Niro isn’t fast by any means, ambling to 60 mph in just over 9 seconds in my hands. Yet for this type of car and driving mindset, the languid pace didn’t bother me in the least. I never struggled to keep pace with traffic, or even pass it. Like other mildly motivated cars, the Kia mostly reminds you of how slow the average American drives; and how it doesn’t matter if you have 100 horsepower or 1,000 horsepower if you’re stuck in traffic, or in a line of fast-lane dawdlers at 62 mph. The Niro’s brake pedal also feels natural, with a smooth transition from motor-driven regenerative braking to the mechanical stoppers. But the brakes themselves could be stronger, as I nearly locked up the front brakes during a forced panic stop on the highway.

Kia

And man, is this Kia a teetotaler. Pussyfooting the gas pedal like a Prius veteran, I kept the Niro at 62 mpg on a 50-mile highway run, and that in hilly terrain. Boosting the pace to between 65 and 75 mph on another long stretch, I still saw 48 mpg. All told, the Kia returned 53 mpg combined over several days of driving, and that included some miserable, short city runs in Brooklyn and Manhattan that sapped my economy.

Displays can help coach a driver toward thrifty operation, including a simple power meter in the gauge cluster. And instead of amassing silly, digital green leaves (as in a Ford hybrid), a center screen display breaks your driving time into three categories – Economical, Normal and Aggressive – and assigns a percentage to each. Playing goody-two-shoes – or maybe goody right-shoe — to boost my grade, I was upset when simply climbing a steep hill upped my “Aggressive” score to three percent of the total. Intrigued at this digital bioryhthm game, I tried to drive the Kia in batshit-crazy fashion, just to see how bad my score could get. My “aggression” maxed out at 38 percent, no matter how many times I mashed the gas, suggesting that the Niro’s programming needs work, or that the car just didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

Kia

The Kia will definitely spare guilt feelings over profligate spending, with a base price of just $23,785. That fare slightly undercuts a Prius or Ford C-Max Hybrid. It positively kneecaps the Nissan Rogue and RAV4 hybrids, which cost a respective $3,000 and $5,000 more. My Niro EX model was laden with goodies, a short list including an excellent 7-inch color touchscreen; Apple Car Play and Android Auto; adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking. The Niro EX started from $26,595 and went out-the-door for $28,895. A stylish, smooth-driving hatchback that can top 50 mpg, for under $30,000? With VW diesels gone to the scrapheap in the sky, that’s going to be hard to beat.

Kia

Give Toyota credit: Across two decades, the Prius’ unbeatable mileage and reliability have set the hybrid trend and made it America’s best-seller by far. Its smug green styling and wince-worthy driving dynamics have set a more-unfortunate trend.

The Niro has the potential to break that cycle, to convince people that a hybrid can deliver on the high-mileage promise without making its owner look like a twit or a starving student. And of all the companies to pull this off, it’s Kia. Not Ford, not GM, not Nissan or Subaru. What’s Kia going to design next, a supercar? Whatever you do, don’t laugh. As recent history indicates, Kia will just take it as a challenge.

 

 

Lawrence Ulrich, The Drive’s chief auto critic, is an award-winning auto journalist and former chief auto critic for The New York Times and Detroit Free Press. The Detroit native and Brooklyn gentrifier owns a troubled ’93 Mazda RX-7 R1, but may want to give it a good home. Email him at Lawrence@thedrive.com.

 

Kia takes Three J.D. Power (APEAL) Awards

By Wheels.ca August 6, 2017

Source: Wheels.ca
 

Kia is the only non-premium brand to earn three segment wins in this year’s J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study with the Niro (shown), Soul and Cadenza.

 
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Kia has earned three J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) awards with the Kia Niro, Kia Soul, and Kia Cadenza, all garnering awards in their respective segments.
 
Kia is the only non-premium brand to register wins in three segments (in a three-way tie with two premium brands), earning accolades in the Small SUV segment (Niro), Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle segment (Soul) and Large Car segment (Cadenza).
 
The announcement follows on the heels of Kia Motors recently being ranked highest in the industry in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) for the second year in a row and all three Kia APEAL study segment winners were also IQS segment winners.
 
Amid tough competition, the new Niro crossover hybrid performed a substantial 51 points above its segment average.
 
The Cadenza also outperformed strong competitors in the Large Car segment, surpassing the segment average by an impressive 27 points.
 
The Soul, a long-running favorite among consumers looking to stand out from the crowd, garnered its fifth APEAL award (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017), making it the vehicle with the most APEAL accolades in Kia’s lineup of award-winning offerings and is the only vehicle in the Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle category to score above its segment average.
 
The J.D. Power APEAL study measures new-vehicle owners’ overall satisfaction with their vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership.
 
The results are divided into 10 categories and weighted accordingly: exterior, interior, storage, audio, seats, heating and ventilation, driving dynamics, powertrain, visibility and fuel economy.
 

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