Auto blogWed, 17 Sep 2014 11:59:00 EST
Minivan sales have stagnated in recent years, and Kia tells me that no fewer than 15 models have been completely eliminated from the market since crossovers rose to prominence. So why in the world is the company not only sticking by the Sedona, but also actively investing in it, giving it a complete overhaul for the 2015 model year?
The Korean automaker isn't convinced that the minivan's "family box" reputation is truly warranted, and it sees an opportunity to snare younger, more active buyers by designing, engineering and marketing the Sedona as something versatile, edgy and comfortable. While that logic may seem both a bit familiar and somewhat far-fetched, Kia says forty-five percent of minivan buyers don't actually have kids and are instead simply looking for space, so the approach should be based at least in part on sound reasoning.
I spent an afternoon in Northern California behind the wheel of Kia's new non-minivan with a healthy does of skepticism about its new strategy, but an open mind, as well. Does the Sedona's execution live up to Kia's lofty criteria and expectations of what a nontraditional minivan should be? Will buyers ditch their CUVs for something with a little more junk in the trunk? Read on to find out.
Kia is the latest in a string of automakers to announce plans to build new or expanded factories in Mexico. The Korean company has signed a $1 billion deal to establish a plant in Monterrey in the state of Nuevo León, with construction starting in late September. If everything proceeds on schedule, the facility should be complete in the first half of 2016 and be able to produce 300,000 vehicles a year.
The $1-billion investment will create a "new, highly automated manufacturing plant," according to Kia's announcement, a facility covering 1,235 acres of land. Confirming earlier rumors, Kia will produce compact models there, but the company won't reveal specific model names, just yet. When complete, the factory in Mexico will boost the automaker's annual capacity to 3.37 million vehicles a year with 1.69 million of those in Korea and 1.68 million abroad. It will also join Kia's plant in Georgia (where the Optima and Sorento are made) as the business' other North American location.
Kia hasn't kept plans for the Mexican factory a very close secret and openly admitted it was "being considered as a possible location" to Autoblog. The country was chosen partially because of its free-trade agreements (read: NAFTA), that make it less costly to move models elsewhere, not to mention its easy access to the North, Central and South American markets. The new plant should also alleviate some of the tight supply issues Kia has had in the US.
The Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra have long followed similar paths, with each available in a four-door sedan, a five-door hatch and (most recently) a two-door coupe bodystyle. The recent death of the Hyundai Elantra Coupe in the US may be threatening to change the narrative on these two affordable compact lines, of course, but the Korean two-doors have a lot in common under their distinct skins. Their most recent iterations came to market under the power of the same 2.0-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder paired with six-speed automatic transmissions and riding atop MacPherson strut front suspensions and torsion-beam setups out back. Each arrived weighing between 2,800 and 3,000 pounds and could be had in base form for less than $20,000. Considering this, the empirical performance stats figured to be similar.
There's an important distinction to be made, however. Rather than offer a simple two-door version of a four-door car, like Hyundai did with its Elantra Coupe, Kia has gone to lengths to craft a vehicle with its own unique attitude and attributes. Kia has embraced a sportier stance with its two-door Forte Koup, offering up a standard six-speed manual and going further in an effort to craft a more unique, aggressive coupe design.
That drive to be different was further accentuated last year, when Kia raided Hyundai's parts bin and plucked out the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the Veloster Turbo. The resulting car is decidedly different than any other Forte we've tested, while also feeling like a better all-around product than the smaller hot hatch it stole its engine from. To see just how much better, we drove the Forte Koup SX for a week and set about seeing how this enhanced model stacks up as a performance offering.
It's official: Kia's adorable Soul-hawking Hamsters have crossed that line. It was one thing when they first hit the scene, and we got a small chuckle out of their trimmer looks for the refreshed, 2014 Soul. This, though, is too much.
This is Kia's latest commercial for the 2015 Soul EV, and it starts off typically enough. The hamsters seem to be tinkering in a laboratory attempting to modify a standard, gas-powered Kia. But then, some Weird Science-like trickery occurs and, well, the results are rather disturbing.
You'll need to watch yourself if you want to experience the horror. Take a look, and then head into Comments and let us know what you think.
Korea is not without its domestic automobiles that would be suitable for transporting a visiting head of state: the Hyundai Equus comes to mind. Failing that, a Genesis sedan would do the trick. Maybe even a Kia K900 or a Renault Samsung SM7. But those familiar with Pope Francis and his taste in transportation won't be surprised that His Holiness has chosen something decidedly more modest for his visit to South Korea.
Instead of a more luxurious sedan, the Bishop of Rome has elected to be driven in a Kia Soul, giving the high-roofed hatchback a bigger boost (in the Catholic world, at least) than any quantity of animated hamsters ever could.
The Soul, which was likely reinforced somewhat if the Swiss Guard got its way, was ready for the Holy Father upon his arrival. Francis slid into the back, rolled down the window and waved back at the welcoming party, including President Park Geun-hye. The Pope will reportedly be driven around in the Kia over the course of his five-day visit.
We've seen the spy shots (twice) and we've seen the teaser images, but now Kia has finally revealed the finished form of its upcoming new Sorento crossover.
Taking some styling cues from the Kia Cross GT concept from the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, but with better proportions, the new Sorento packs a more pronounced grille in an altogether more aggressive (though not necessarily better-looking) front end than the model it replaces. Sheet metal is more sculpted all around, and despite the wrap-around taillights, the rear end looks familiar.
The new Sorento stretches 3.7-inches longer overall, on a 3-inch longer wheelbase, but sits half an inch lower, promising more interior space and of course updated equipment and features. The Eco Dynamics badge on the tailgate suggests the availability of green tech like stop/start ignition and such. Kia will reveal the new Sorento in Korea later this month ahead of its debut at the Paris Motor Show in October.
We recently spotted it testing, and now Kia digitally dropped all of the cladding and obfuscation from its next-generation Sorento crossover to tease its true face. For the new model, it certainly looks as if the company's designers will evolve the current CUV's shape to be a bit more curvaceous than before.
According to Kia, the new design has a lower roofline and higher beltline than the current model, and the side windows certainly look a lot narrower than they are now. These renderings also hint at the next Sorento's more rectangular, vertical front end with the Korean automaker's now recognizable "tiger-nose grille." At the back, the styling appears to be a bit more rounded with the rear glass and taillights wrapping around slightly.
We won't have to base our opinions on renderings for long. Kia says that it will unveil the new Sorento in Korea at the end of August and will debut it to Europeans at the 2014 Paris Motor Show in early October. Scroll down to watch a video showing off some more renderings of the upcoming model and read Kia's teaser release.
After a string of recent announcements from automakers, Kia may be the next business to break ground on a factory south of the border. The Korean company is reportedly nearly finished with negotiations to build a $1.5-billion plant near the city of Monterrey in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. The state's secretary of economic development confirmed the news to Reuters and anticipated talks to be completed in the first two weeks of August. Unnamed insiders also said that the location was aiming for an annual production capacity of 300,000 vehicles.
Rumors from a month ago first suggested the possibility of the new factory. It would reportedly build two models of small cars, and assembly could potentially begin as soon as 21 months after breaking ground. Currently, Kia only has one North American plant, in Georgia, that builds the Sorento and Optima.
In the last few years, Mexico has become of hotbed of North American automobile production. Mazda, Honda and Volkswagen all recently opened new or expanded factories to build cars there. There are even more on the way with a joint venture plant from Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti and BMW's announcement of its own $1 billion undertaking in Mexico.
Kia is recalling certain 2014 models of its adorable Soul due to a bad adhesive used in the steering system. According to the bulletin from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the "thread-locking adhesive" that attaches the plug between the pinion gear and steering gear assembly could come loose.
Should that happen, the condition could lead to a "loss of steering," which, of course increases the likelihood of a crash. The 51,641 affected cars were built between July 21, 2013 and January 17, 2014. There have been no reported accidents, let alone injuries or deaths due to this issue.
Kia is in the process of notifying owners of the affected vehicles as well as dealers in possession of the faulty Souls.
Some models stick around the market longer than others. The Kia Sorento, for example, lasted for a good eight years in its first iteration, and the second-generation model has been around for five years now. Sure, it had a facelift a couple of years ago, but if it's going to make it in the highly competitive midsize crossover market, Kia is going to have to do better than that.
And that appears to be just what it has in store. Following the previous spy shots we brought you from the Nürburgring the better part of a year ago, the next-generation Sorento has now been spotted shlepping a trailer up a mountain.
Expected to debut as soon as the Paris Motor Show in October, the third-generation Kia Sorento appears to have grown longer in order to better accommodate third-row passengers. You can also expect the latest technologies on board and maybe, just maybe, a plug-in hybrid powertain option. Watch this space for more and scope out the spy shots in the gallery above for a closer look.