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First Drive: 2014 Kia Cadenza

The Korean maker targets the premium segment.

by on May.22, 2013

The 2014 Kia Cadenza.

Kia has grown quickly in recent years by offering consumers an array of interesting and well-designed vehicles that belie the brand’s original image as the maker of stripped-down econoboxes even while Kia maintains its focus on value.

The introduction this month of the Kia Cadenza is yet another big step in the evolution of the Korean brand, Kia taking its first step into $35,000-plus price range was once reserved for major luxury. Much like the Genesis offered by sibling Hyundai, the new Cadenza offers a level of refinement and features until now not associated with the Kia brand.

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Moreover, the Cadenza, like the Hyundai Genesis, is a very attractive vehicle. Its long, low silhouette endows the new Kia sedan with a long, elegant stance that conveys the sense this is a luxury vehicle. The front and rear fascias are very handsome with a nicely tailored appearance set off by the distinctive lamps at all four corners of the vehicle.

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First Drive: 2014 Kia Forte

The art of making an affordable, fun-to-drive small car.

by on Feb.13, 2013

The look of the 2014 Kia Forte sedan builds on the maker's now-familiar tiger-nose design.

Car making is an art.

But it seldom reveals the kind of breakthrough genius or inspiration that infused, say, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Instead the creativity and improvement seem to come in increments.

The new 2014 Kia Forte is a case in point on how well-thought out incremental changes can improve a vehicle substantially.

Sitting on an all-new chassis that is longer, wider and lower than the previous-generation Forte, the updated version of the Forte delivers slightly better performance and some incremental improvements in the suspension and steering that make it more fun to drive out on the open road. It’s also roomier and a lot more pleasant to look at.

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And that we can credit to Peter Schreyer, the maker’s new president but, more importantly, one of the industry’s most creative designers.  His arrival at Kia in 2006 marked a grand transformation of a brand whose products could then best be described as cheap and cheerful. The former Audi styling chief introduced Kia’s distinctive “tiger-nose” theme that today positions it as one of the industry’s design trend-setters.

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First Drive: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan

Kia continues stylish reinvention of its lineup with revamped subcompact.

by on Sep.21, 2012

Kia's Rio continues a string of strong designs from the Korean automaker's design group.

It’s good to be Kia right now. Kia and its sister company, Hyundai, have received a lot of attention lately for groundbreaking styling along with class-leading fuel economy in some segments.

In fact, we’ve often said in this space that once the Koreans figure out the black art of proper suspension tuning, the pair could rule the automotive world.

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Well, with this little Rio subcompact, it would appear that Kia has come to grips with finer points of ride and handling development.

So, does that mean the little Rio is ready for world dominance? Let’s find out.

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First Drive: Kia Optima Hybrid

Korean automaker’s fuel sipper loves the freeway, but how is it around town?

by on Apr.12, 2012

The Kia Optima Hybrid advances the state of the art for hybrids by allowing the gas engine to shut off at higher speeds.

As automakers get better at making electrified cars, the line is going to start to blur between hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles and electric cars.

Take this Kia Optima Hybrid. The early hybrids could hardly attain or maintain any speed with the gas engine shut off. Soon, hybrids were able to maintain 25 mph on electric power alone and then the mid-40s. But the goal for any hybrid is to drive longer distances with their gas engine turned off.

It just makes sense. If the gasoline engine isn’t running, the car uses less fuel.

So we were somewhat surprised to watch the EV Mode light glow – at 80 mph – for brief stretches along I-94 near Ann Arbor after returning from a concert. The engine never stayed off for long, and even the hint of a hill caused the engine to restart.

Yes, we reviewed that!

What was truly amazing was the Optima’s complete seamlessness with which it transitioned back and forth between gasoline and electric power, even at freeway speeds. There is literally no way to discern when the engine starts, other than watching the tachometer lift off 0 rpm and EV Mode light go dark.

The gasoline-electric powertrain has come a long way in just 13 years since the first Honda Insight hit the U.S. market in 1999. (more…)

Kia Forte: Smart and Fun for a Nice Price

by on Feb.02, 2012

The Kia Forte is fun to drive, but comes at a budget-friendly price.

Sometimes in life, things are not as they appear.

Take this Kia Forte. What looks like your basic compact economy sedan, is actually a stealth sports sedan in disguise. It handles the curves well, has quick, confidence-inspiring steering and just enough power to be interesting.

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For many young folks just leaving college, it could be just the right ride. After years of eating ramen noodles for dinner, scrounging for money to pay tuition and asking mom and dad for cash infusions, they finally get out on their own, only to find out that their entry-level job really doesn’t leave them with much more money than they had in their college days.

Quickly, ideas of buying a fashionable sports sedan fall by the wayside. The really cool wheels will have to wait until you make partner.

Kia would like to think that its small Forte sedan is just the ticket for sports sedan fans on a budget.

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First Look: Kia GT 4-Door Coupe Concept

Images, name leak out before Frankfurt debut.

by on Sep.09, 2011

New images of Kia's Concept reveal it is named the GT.

How much to reveal ahead of time? That’s always the challenge for an automaker heading into a crowded event like next week’s Frankfurt Motor Show.  Say too little and your new offering could get lost in the crowd.  Too much and the gathering media hordes might not have reason to show up at your news conference.

Kia was trying to walk a fine line, revealing just enough to tease folks to show up for the launch of a sexy new 4-door coupe-like concept it will be unveiling in Germany.  Whether intentional or not a second wave of pics have wound up in the public domain, one of them revealing that the prototype will be named the Kia GT Concept.

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And word has it the show car will directly influence the future flagship coming for the Korean brand.

The concept features an unusually short front overhang with scooped side intakes framing the signature Kia grille – here moved higher up than on the brand’s current models.

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