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Kia's brand perception still painfully lags behind reality

Sat, 11 Oct 2014 14:58:00 EST

I can't tell you how many times I've been driving with friends or family in a decidedly nice Korean press car, only to have a passenger notice the logo on the steering wheel and exclaim, "Wait... this is a Kia?" For every time I roll my eyes at a story with a lede about how Hyundai "is really gaining momentum these days," I get equally annoyed when people comment on how Kia is finally starting to make decent cars. This is hardly news. The brand has been pumping out really solid stuff for a while now.
But as it turns out, not everyone knows that. According to Ward's Auto, speaking to Kia marketing chief Michael Sprague, the automaker recently placed third-to-last in a recent ALG Brand Perception of Quality study, only besting Suzuki and Smart. Wow.
Ward's notes that Kia recently earned a credible sixth place in J.D. Power & Associates' Initial Quality Study, and yet still fell way behind pretty much every other brand in the ALG study. The Korean automaker's cars have also won numerous awards in recent years, and have generally earned positive reviews from the media, Autoblog included.

Kia GT five-door approved, will tackle A7, Panamera

Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:15:00 EST

Kia might finally be entering the four-door coupe market in the near future with a production version of its GT Concept from the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. According to Edmunds, Kia execs at that Paris Motor Show confirmed that the swoopy model finally has been given the green light to go on sale, and that would likely be sometime in 2016 in the US.
Kia would reportedly focus the GT on the US market, but a European version with a diesel is also a possibility. As with the K900 premium sedan, the brand is taking on some established competition with the new model, including the likes of the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera. Judging from the rest of the Korean company's range, an attractive feature for many buyers would likely be a price several grand lower than the challengers in the segment.
"Four-door coupes aren't necessarily sales champs, but right now they are popular, just as the retro theme was the "in thing" 15 years ago," said auto industry analyst Dave Sullivan from AutoPacific to Autoblog. Something like the GT would also help with Kia's increasing focus on improving its design design because it can "make a statement about what your brand stands for."

2015 Kia Sorento shows its new face in fashion-forward Paris

Fri, 03 Oct 2014 05:01:00 EST

It seems like we've been catching glimpses of the 2015 Sorento for ages now, but Kia has finally revealed the European version of its revised crossover at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.
For the latest Sorento, Kia a few of the elements from the Cross GT concept and adapts them for the road. The production model has the brand's familiar mesh grille up front and headlights that wrap around the body with large foglights below. It features a modified version of the concept's swept-back stance that thankfully removes the awkwardness from the original design. Kia says that shaping the latest crossover was truly a global effort with input coming from Korea, Germany and the US.
For Europe, powertrains amount to a trio of four-cylinder engines with a 2.4-liter gasoline unit with 185 horsepower, a 2.0-liter diesel with 182 hp and 2.2-liter diesel with 197 hp. They're all available with a six-speed automatic, and a six-speed manual is offered on the petrol mill and 2.2-liter oil-burner.

2015 Kia Rio freshens up for France

Thu, 02 Oct 2014 14:40:00 EST


We've always felt that the current-generation Rio is styled with European flair, so good on Kia for showing its refreshed new look here at the Paris Motor Show.
The B-segment hatchback's aggressive looks get modestly more so for the new model year, with a revamped tiger nose grille and new light fixtures, along with a pair of hash marks in the fog lamp area. To us, the current car, introduced for 2012, still looks quite fresh, but we like the subtly new light fixtures and suite of new wheel designs.

Kia bringing updated Rio, Venga to Paris

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 08:28:00 EST

The Rio may not be the most popular Kia in the United States - not by a long shot - but it was the brand's top seller globally last year. Little wonder, then, that although the current fourth-generation model was only introduced in 2011, the Korean automaker is already rolling out a facelifted version.
Set to be revealed later this week at the Paris Motor Show, the 2015 Kia Rio has been updated inside, out and under the hood. The front end gets a new grille, bumper and foglights, there's a new bumper around back, and a fresh array of alloy wheels ranging in size from 15 inches to 17. There are also two new colors on offer, and the interior has been updated with a new center stack and chrome trim.
Powertrain options depend on local market demands but range from 74 horsepower to 107, driving the front wheels through a five- or six-speed manual or four-speed automatic and available with stop/start ignition. The updates were announced for the European-spec model; we're waiting for confirmation on what, if any, of these revisions will reach US showrooms, so watch this space.

Kia showcasing Optima T-Hybrid concept in Paris [w/video]

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:35:00 EST

At the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, Kia showcased a new diesel hybrid powertrain. And at the rapidly approaching Paris Motor Show, it will present that new technology in the Optima sedan concept you see here.
Called the Kia Optima T-Hybrid, the concept mates a 1.7-liter diesel with both a turbocharger and electric supercharger to a small electric motor and a 48-volt lead-carbon battery. The mild hybrid setup allows it to travel in electric-only model at low speeds and at cruise, regenerating brake power to recharge the battery. Kia said it chose the lead-carbon battery pack over lithium-ion because it's easier to recycle and does not require active cooling.
Because the powertrain is still under development, Kia isn't saying what kind of fuel economy or emissions figures it gets in the Optima T-Hybrid concept, but it is targeting a "significant reduction" in emissions and fuel consumption, while delivering 15 to 20 percent more power. Check out the system in action in the video below.

Sales incentive growth clustered around brands with few CUVs, trucks

Wed, 24 Sep 2014 14:31:00 EST

While it's arguably been around the longest, the dominance of the four-door sedan has been under threat for many years. As a further sign of the hurtin' that SUVs and crossovers have put on today's four-doors, a new report from Automotive News points to the increasing use of incentives by brands reliant on cars and light on CUVs and pickups.
Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen and Kia have all been stung by double-digit increases in their incentives-to-transaction price ratio, according to AN, which cites data from TrueCar. Honda's ratio is up 14 percent, while Toyota, VW and Kia are up 18, 15 and 19 percent, respectively.
"Most of the incentive growth we have seen is in product segments with low demand - midsized or large sedans," TrueCar CEO John Krafcik told AN. "As this trend goes on, the brands with three-sedan strategies are going to be in worse shape on incentive spending than the crossover brands."

Hyundai spooks investors by paying $10B for new Gangnam HQ location

Thu, 18 Sep 2014 17:45:00 EST

Doing things Gangnam style apparently costs a serious chunk of change, because Hyundai is reportedly paying roughly $10 billion for 19.6 acres (79,342 square meters) of land in the trendy district of Seoul, South Korea, to serve as the location for its new headquarters. That eye-popping number represents the highest amount ever paid for a plot of land in South Korea, according to Reuters. The hefty price tag reportedly scared investors enough for stock prices to sink dramatically.
Shareholders were apparently upset because the massive outlay could instead have been put back into the company for research and development or other improvements. Instead, the company reportedly bid triple the land's appraised value, says Reuters. The announcement caused Hyundai's stock price to plummet a massive 9 percent, and there were losses from Kia and the company's parts arm, as well. All told, the three of them lost nearly $8 billion in value from the falling share prices - almost enough to pay for the controversial land.
Hyundai currently has its headquarters on the outskirts of Seoul, but seems keen to move to the high-end Gangnam district to show off its rising status. It plans to build a new office complex, hotel, convention center and theme park on the site. According to an analyst speaking to Reuters, that could all cost an additional $6 billion to complete.

2014 Kia Cee'd GT

Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:57:00 EST

Kia may be an automaker with a lot going for it these days, but it's not yet one that takes pains to appeal to performance enthusiasts. Aside from its Pirelli World Challenge team, it doesn't support any major racing programs to speak of. And despite having showcased such concepts as the GT4 Stinger and the Provo, it doesn't really offer much in the way of performance models.
That is, at least not in North America. But at the Geneva Motor Show last year, Kia got itself into the Euro hot hatch game with the launch of the Cee'd GT (and its three-door compatriot, the Pro_Cee'd GT). It's based on the Korean automaker's European-market Volkswagen Golf rival that's now in its second generation and which, in its previous base iteration, served as the Reasonably Priced Car that celebrity guests drove on Top Gear before it was replaced by a Vauxhall Astra. Now with a GT moniker attached, the Cee'd has warmed up to the point that it'd potentially be better suited towards a proper romp down twisting B-roads than serving as a celebrity punching bag.
Since Kia's first genuine performance model (like the model upon which it's based) isn't offered Stateside, we jumped at the opportunity to drive it while on a recent trip to the UK. Read on to see what we found.

Kia Soul getting turbo power, possible AWD

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:29:00 EST

It's been a long time coming, but it appears we might finally see a turbocharged Kia Soul next year. Kia officials reportedly confirmed the hotter Soul to Motor Trend recently, and also stated that the company is (still) investigating the use of all-wheel drive for the next generation of its boxy hatchback.
The turbo Soul will arrive with the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder found in the Forte, rated at 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. According to Motor Trend, Kia wanted to launch the hotter Soul this year, but didn't have the retuned steering or suspension calibration, as well as the larger brakes, ready in time. Transmission pairings weren't discussed, but Kia does mate both its six-speed manual and automatic units to the 1.6T.
As for all-wheel drive, this isn't the first time we've heard reports on this front, and it seems like a pretty natural fit, to us. Adding AWD would allow the Soul to better compete with vehicles like the Nissan Juke and the upcoming Chevy Trax and Jeep Renegade. But as of right now, a four-wheels-driven Soul hasn't been given an official go-ahead.