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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Car Review: 2013 Kia Rio5 SX

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We still don’t know just how good the B car segment can be, but we sure are getting close. This market is growing and automakers like Kia are serious about gaining market share with entries like the 2013 Kia Rio5 SX. We spent a week testing a signal red model and came away with plenty of impressions.

EXTERIOR

The Rio SX M/T is inspired by Kia’s championship-winning motorsports efforts and the recently-introduced Rio B-spec race car. Enthusiasts are snapping these up as a limited quantity of around 500 Rio SX M/Ts will be initially offered for sale during the 2013 model year. There is no shortage of style with the new Rio SX 5, which sports exterior colors Red and Electronic Blue and comes with LED taillights, front LED accent lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The LED accent lights look very upscale, and the sleek skin on this car with the 17-inch alloys really gives this modestly price car a very sporty look. The chilly weather in the Midwest this March made us appreciate the heated power folding mirrors morning, noon and night.

INTERIOR

Inside, the Rio SX M/T adds a 7-inch navigation touch screen with a Sirius XM Traffic system and push-button start with Smart Key. Other standard SX features include sport-tuned suspension, rear camera display, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, Bluetooth wireless technology, and an AM/FM/CD/ MP3 Sirius XM Satellite audio system. Our test model had black cloth seating and was very comfortable and smooth to the touch. The cabin design is modern and well planned with a balanced dashboard. Added features included air conditioning, power windows and door locks, USB and auxiliary input jacks, 60/40 split rear folding seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, steering wheel controls, tilt and telescopic steering column, supervision meter cluster and metal finish trim and metal pedals. I will say that the back seats don’t offer much legroom, so adults might be a tight fit.

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2012 Kia Soul Gallery

Bullz-Eye is having some fun testing the 2012 Kia Soul in some pretty decent Midwest weather. The look of the Soul is distinct and surely gets some looks on the road, and for those who like getting noticed, that’s a good thing! The model we are driving is loaded and has a very reasonable sticker price of $22,100, which is good news for the pocket book. Keep an eye out for our upcoming full review of the 2012 Kia Soul.

  

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