Car Review: 2014 Kia Forte EX

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When a car company redesigns an already great-selling sedan, there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. The new 2014 Kia Forte EX sits on an all-new chassis that is longer, wider and lower than the previous-generation Forte, offering more room, performance and premium amenities than previous models. We had the chance to test drive the new Forte and came away with some of the following impressions.

EXTERIOR

The crimson red paint color on the skin of the Forte looked as good as just about any finish on a car in this class. With an aggressive stance, broad shoulders and a windshield rake that can only be described as sporty, the all-new Forte looks as good parked as it does at speed. Influenced by European sport sedan styling, the Forte’s modern aesthetics were born in California at Kia’s American Design Center in Irvine. Dramatically swept headlight lenses cut deeply into the front fenders and incorporate projector headlamps. LED positioning lights create distinct eyebrows, making the Forte instantly recognizable in a crowd. Gentle sculpting along the Forte’s lower flanks taper the sheet metal inward, affording the car a taut, nimble appearance without diminishing its road presence. Around back, the up-kicked fender line and trunk design, with its deep horizontal crease, lend width and charisma while allowing the complex curves of the tail lights to flow over the car’s haunches.

INTERIOR

Opening the wide doors reveals a cabin sculpted in organic curves. Gentle character lines evoke ripples radiating from a pebble dropped into a pond. The driver-centric cabin is canted 10 degrees and features high-quality materials and soft touch points. Large, easy-to-read instruments dominate the binnacle, and secondary controls fall easily to hand. The optional 4.2-inch color LCD screen nestled between the white-on-black gauges in the EX provides trip and ancillary vehicle information front and center to the driver. Tasteful chrome bezels ring the HVAC rotary knobs and the optional push-button start. Additional chrome accents, standard Bluetooth hands-free phone integration and power windows, mirrors and door locks enhance the all-new Forte’s premium feel. Optional leather seating trim, power sunroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control with rear seat vents and HID head lights take the Forte to new levels of sophistication. Although our test vehicle came with cloth seats and no sunroof, we were more than pleased with the quality of the materials and the fit and finish of the interior space. Speaking of space, the roominess is plenty and quite deceptive until one sits inside the 2014 Kia Forte EX.

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Car Review: 2014 KIA Sorento EX AWD

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The redesigned Sorento that is built in Georgia has come out of the gate with fanfare and strong sales. The Sorento delivers an impressive roster of premium features and amenities that impressed us throughout our week of testing.

EXTERIOR

In a segment more often known for bland utility, the new 2014 Sorento sports dynamic and sophisticated design elements, inside and out. Redesigned front and rear fascias enhance the Sorento’s road presence with a lower, broader appearance up front and a visually wider stance at the rear. The ubiquitous Kia tiger-nose grille is enhanced with an anodized silver metal or black mesh appearance, and the lower valance has been opened to expose an aggressive cross-hatched maw. Front LED positioning lamps create dramatic eyebrows, while projector-style headlights peer from behind tapered clear lenses. Available fog lights on all trim models have been upended and pushed to the far corners of the front bumper for better forward and side visibility. Horizontally positioned rear LED combination lamps embrace the turn signal and back-up lights, emitting a warm corona that makes the 2014 Sorento instantly recognizable from behind. Our Sorento EX AWD sported 18-inch alloy wheels, but there are also 17-inch and, a first for Kia’s best-selling CUV, larger 19-inch wheels. The look of the 2014 KIA Sorento EX AWD resembles some higher end CUVs, but still establishes her own presence with a sophisticated and modern design.

INTERIOR

There is elegance everywhere in the 2014 KIA Sorento EX AWD, and we took notice from the time we stepped in the cabin. A redesigned instrument panel deftly combines technology with proven ergonomics. Standard on EX and optionally available on the LX trim, the large center gauge cluster features a 7-inch TFT LCD that projects a digital speedometer flanked by easy-to-read analog instruments for the tachometer, fuel level and engine temp. The TFT LCD readout also displays trip and vehicle information, along with navigation updates. The center stack’s appearance and layout has been modernized and button positions have been rearranged for a more user-friendly experience.

The new design also provides room for Kia’s new, larger touch screen. Diagonally spanning eight inches, the optional screen on our test model integrates navigation, SiriusXM Traffic with real-time road information updates, a premium Infinity audio system, SiruisXM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, vehicle settings and UVO eServices, Kia’s next generation of infotainment and telematics. Other new available features in the 2014 Sorento include Kia’s first-ever programmable power liftgate, a redesigned and enormous panoramic sunroof with a one piece power-operated shade, integrated second row sliding sunshades, available dual ventilated air-cooled front seats, a 115-volt power inverter and illuminated door handle pockets. Our beige leather seats were first class and provided heated seats that you could not place a dollar value on in zero degree Ohio temperatures!

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Car Review: 2014 Kia Soul

Cold, rainy and dreary sounds like a reasonable weather forecast for October in the mid-western United States, at least by my experiences. I landed in Minneapolis prepared for the weather and ready to experience the latest in Kia’s product refreshes for the model year.

Kia had invited us to the product launch of the latest version of the trendy Kia Soul. Why Minneapolis? Kia wanted to highlight the youthful edge of the new Soul against the backdrop of the “Totally Transformed” city. Minnesota in the fall is a great testing ground for a new car.

It’s been an amazing few years for Kia. In 2008, the company had a market share of 1.9%, selling around 270,000 vehicles that year. They were virtually non-existent in the top 20 markets in the US, with no signature cars or trucks to raise them above the pack. Things were bad; something dramatic needed to be done to transform the company from an also-ran to a competitive force in the market.

The original Soul was launched as a 2010 (2009 in Asia) model, aimed at filling a gap in Kia’s model line that appealed to young aspiring drivers. Competing directly with other boxy subcompacts like the Scion xB and the Nissan Cube, the Soul etched out a respectable niche.

But the real story of the Soul begins with Michael Sprague, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications, approving the now-viral “Hamster” advertising campaign. The edgy feel and catchy music of the ad spots appealed to the youthful market Kia was courting in a way the competition never seemed to match.

Propelled by the successful marketing and other popular models such as the Optima, Kia has increased sales by 250% since 2008. The Soul was huge on Kia’s bottom line.

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Car Review: 2013 Kia Sportage SX AWD

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There is no denying the Hollywood good looks of the 2013 KIA Sportage SX AWD, but can this crossover deliver on the road? After a week behind the wheel, there is no doubt that there’s so much more than just curb appeal to this sleek ride from KIA, with impressive power, outstanding fuel efficiency and loads of comfort and convenience features.

EXTERIOR

The 2013 Kia Sportage offers a high beltline, sweeping angles and pronounced wheel flares, conveying an indomitable road presence with an aggressive, hunkered-down stance. The full-sectioned body, defined by a spearing shoulder line throughout the length of the car, helps to visually connect the headlamps and tail lights. The crispness of this line, together with its lowered body, creates a distinct sense of precision while the pronounced C pillar conveys an air of solidity and balance when viewed from the side. Like all vehicles across the Kia lineup, the Sportage’s front end proudly displays the face of the brand’s signature tabbed grille and dramatic swept back headlamps. The dynamically sculpted hood, framed by a distinctive windshield design, adds to Sportage’s fresh appeal. The rear view offers a clean and contemporary look with dynamic tail lights set within the rear lift gate.

Our red test model was a top-of-the-line Sportage SX with a powerful yet fuel-efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged GDI engine producing 260-horsepower, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust, sculpted side sill moldings and unique SX grille. One of the better looking exterior designs for a crossover regardless of price!

INTERIOR

The good looks carry over with ease into a modern and smart interior that has much more room that one might imagine. KIA has created an inviting and comfortable environment with a host of convenience and technology features in the 2013 KIA Sportage SX AWD. With the signature three-gauge instrument cluster set prominently within the dash, Sportage’s interior exudes a contemporary design and sporty driving experience.

An impressive collection of technology features come standard on the 2013 Sportage, including an AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sat audio system with available Sirius XM Satellite Radio and three months complimentary service, standard auxiliary and USB audio input jacks with MP3 capability, Bluetooth hands-free phone, and streaming audio connectivity with steering wheel-mounted voice activation controls that allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

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Car Review: 2013 Kia Optima SX Premium

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For Kia, the Optima has been somewhat of a trailblazer, as many cars on the road today seem to incorporate something from the Optima in their design cues. Since being completely redesigned in 2010, Kia’s dramatic and eye-catching Optima midsize sedan has become a sales leader for the brand and garnered a long list of awards and accolades. Optima returns to the lineup in 2013 with the same unbeatable combination of head-turning design, fun-to-drive performance, modern amenities and long list of standard safety features, in addition to strong consumer appeal and record sales. We were looking forward to a week behind the wheel of the 2013 Kia Optima SX Premium to see first-hand if all the hype was warranted.

EXTERIOR

The 2013 Kia Optima SX Premium is such a striking looking vehicle and with the snow white pearl paint that our test model was sporting, I couldn’t help but admire this flashy set of wheels. The 2013 Optima projects a refined, performance-oriented aesthetic with a sleek silhouette, aggressive stance and sculpted elements that evoke passion and communicate Kia Motors’ dedication to creating stylish and dynamic vehicles. The Optima’s aggressive face proudly features the brand’s signature tabbed grille complemented by projector headlamps, while Optima’s coupe-like profile is accentuated by a sweeping chrome arc that flows seamlessly from the A through C pillars – a distinctive design element that visually lowers the car while enhancing its proportions. Optima’s roofline connects with its pronounced shoulder line, leading to its sculpted flanks and accentuating its extended wheelbase. Boldly flared wheel arches and a raked cabin create a sedan with a graceful muscular presence. Many have tried to replicate this look, but there is only one Optima from the front to the rear.

Every 2013 Optima comes well-equipped with a generous roster of standard features, with the LX trim offering dual exhaust with chrome tips, solar glass, exterior mirror turn signal indicators, front fog lights, exterior heated mirrors, chrome accented exterior door handles and 16-inch alloy wheels fitted with 205/65R16 tires and a six-speed automatic transmission. The volume-leading EX trim offers larger 17-inch alloy wheels fitted with 215/55R17 tires. Moving to the SX, consumers will find stylish 18-inch polished alloy wheels with 225/45R18 tires, unique front and rear lower bumpers and side sills, a rear lip spoiler, aero wiper blades and HID headlights with auto leveling. Elevating to the all-new top-of-the-line Limited trim that Bullz-Eye tested brings Optima to another level of sporty refinement, adding unique and luxurious 18-inch chrome wheels, daytime running lights, red brake calipers, chrome accented side sills, chromed side mirrors and rear spoiler.

INTERIOR

Ever since the new Kia Optima launched in 2010, the folks at Kia have continuously improved the interior cabin, and 2013 is no different. With sleek modern lines and a host of thoughtful features, the interior of the Optima exudes performance and was designed with drivers in mind. From the instrument panel that’s contoured toward the driver to create a cockpit-like feel, to the precise gauges and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, Optima’s interior provides the experience of a performance vehicle without sacrificing comfort or roominess. A sport-inspired Sportmatic shifter delivers crisp shifts, while an available panoramic sunroof provides an open-air feeling.

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