October 29, 2010 by Tyler Lipa
While speaking with one of my favorite twitter pals, the kiateam, I decided to make a stop at Gurley Leep Kia, in Mishawaka Indiana, for some seat time in a few of Kiaâ€™s latest models, including the 2011 Kia Sorento, 2010 Kia Forte Koup, and the 2011 Kia Soul. All of these cars represent the new Kia which customers are starting to hold in the same esteem as Japanese rivals Nissan and Honda.Â Each one offers greatly improved build quality and driving dynamics, sorely missing from the Kias of yore.
2011 Kia Sorento
The new Sorento should satisfy the needs of most American families, and it does so at a cheaper starting price than its Chevrolet and Toyota counterparts. I was able to drive the top-of-the-line SX trim, which comes with a 276-horsepower 3.5L V6. The test drive was relatively short so I didnâ€™t have time to completely familiarize myself with the optional navigation controls, but the touch screen was very responsive and I was able to make changes on the fly. The interior offered a very upscale feel with perforated heated leather and white piping. I wasnâ€™t terribly impressed with the faux carbon fiber dash inlays, I would have been happier with aluminum inserts to give it a more modern feel. The powertrain and 6-speed automatic were a great pair for this large crossover. The power came on smoothly. Even in â€śEcoâ€ť mode, the V-6 and transmission felt strong off-the-line.
Overall, the Sorento is very suitable for your average family. It offers decent fuel economy 20/26 mpg city/highway, and enough power to haul most loads. For those who like to take a little more charge when driving, the SportMatic function offers speeder gearshifts, by pushing a button alongside the shifter knob. On the whole, the Sorento is an impressive choice for those looking for a good CUV in the $25,000-$35,000.
2010 Kia Forte Koup
Next up on my Kia whirlwind was the 2010 Kia Forte Koup which is targeted at young people looking for a more aggressive car. The design cues include sharp lines and sportier features than the Forte sedan, such as chrome tipped exhaust and a rear diffuser. I drove the EX trim with the 16-inch alloy wheels and a simple black clothe interior. There were no manuals available, so I was stuck driving the four-speed automatic. I am not much of an automatic fan especially of the four-speed nature because you never seem to be in the right gear and power is always 1,500 RPMs lower or higher than you want it to be at all times. I also have the issue that if you are over six feet tall you can not fit in this car comfortably, or at least I couldnâ€™t.
The Forte Koup attempts at sportiness donâ€™t belie the fact that itâ€™s really just the sedan model with two doors deleted. I would prefer it if it had a stiffer suspension set-up with a more powerful engine and a shorter gear boxed focused on performance that truly set it apart from the sedan. It looks like it should be a wildcat on the road, but it is much more domestic in actuality. For Kiaâ€™s first attempt, they still ended up with a decent competitor to the Honda Civic coupe.
The Soul experienced a mild refresh this year, which added features to the compact hatchback that were missing from the first incarnation of the model. Small things such as pull handles door latches really give the Soul a more professional finish. The interior is very similar to the 2010 but new colors are available for the optional speaker lights. I was able to drive a Java Brown colored Exclaim trim Soul, which comes exclusively with a four-speed automatic. A new font was used on the gauge cluster, which makes it much easier to read at a glance. Being a bit heavier than the Forte Sedan, at about 80 pounds, and with the large 18-inch wheels, the engine sounds a bit course and strains to pull the load. I noticed this less in the plus (+) trim, which had smaller wheels. Refinement has been increased greatly by the new shock absorbers, which even out the ride and controls chassis shudder.
2011 Kia Soul
The Soul has been improved and it is a joy to drive but it is still held back bit the automatic transmission. A manual option is only available on the plus (+) trim and with the 1.6-liter Base trim. The last word on the Soul is that itâ€™s a great hatchback that offers incredible interior space and good driving dynamics for its compact design.
Kia has made leaps and bounds in quality as well as with driver engagement in just a short couple of years. The automaker has broadened its appeal with midsized crossovers as well as hatchbacks focused at a growing youth driven market. Their products still have a ways to go in terms of chassis and engine refinement, but it makes up for it with daring style and with new focus on the carmakerâ€™s brand image. I am looking forward to the future of Kia especially with Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer at the helm of design.
October 21, 2010 by Mirko Reinhardt
Most young Americans don’t know a lot about Fiat, the Italian industrial giant that has been making cars since the late 19th century. What everybody knows though is that Fiat stands for “Fix It Again Tony” â€“ due to the brand’s reputation for questionable quality. Fiat – which actually stands forÂ Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino â€“ would like to put America on notice. Most of automakerâ€™s newer cars get good reliability ratings. That is at least one of the reasons Fiat has decided to reenter the U.S. market.Â Â Spearheading this effort will be the Fiat 500, a version of which I spent some time with. So is it any good?
The first thing you notice when you walk up to the Fiat is that it’s a retro car, like the Mini or the New Beetle. There are circular headlights, big chunky chrome door handles and a red cloth ragtop. All this combined with the shape is meant to evoke the 1957 500, one of Fiat’s most iconic classics. As far as I’m concerned: job well done.
Opening the door and climbing into the sports seats (cloth upholstery, with leather side bolsters; full leather by Poltrona Frau is available as an option) reveals that the attention to detail isn’t only skin deep.Â Â Big chunky buttons made from a bakelite-ish material, a cream-colored leather steering wheel and shifter, and more chrome accents than you can shake a pizza at, drives the ’50s theme home. The USB plug, the multi-function steering wheel and the complex concentrically stacked gauges remind you, however, that this isÂ infatti 2010. Looking back there are rear seats, but not a lot of legroom. For small children it should be OK. For anybody else, not so much, but this car is 140-inches in length after all.
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May 11, 2010 by Nicholas Fay
Sports cars tend to be second vehicles due to a lack of practicality and thirst for gas. Combined with a high initial price point and the need for frequent maintenance, they are relegated to weekend driving duties and never usually make it more than a hundred miles or so from the home. Still, some sports cars break the mold and provide a refreshing alternative option to the usual offerings. The Porsche Boxster is one of these vehicles.
From its introduction in 1997, the Boxster has provided an interesting option for those in the market for a sporty roadster. Priced mid-range, above a Mazda MX-5 but well below a Ferrari F430 Spyder, the Boxster fits into the market created by the BMW Z3\Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK. Styling was originally representative of the 550 Spyder from the 1950â€™s and, in Porsche tradition, has been more evolutionary than revolutionary. A high belt line corrals the sculpted wheel arches and is set right around shoulder height for average drivers.
On the inside, Porsche has thankfully done away with the sea of hard plastics which plagued the previous 986 model. The standard seats are full leather upholstered and have ample bolstering for aggressive driving. Storage space is plentiful, provided you donâ€™t carry many items larger than the size of a paperback book. Flip up side cubbies are perfect for sunglasses and the odd pack of gum, but donâ€™t look to toss a travel mug in there. An LCD screen for the infotainment system is now standard equipment on the 987 Gen II; unfortunately, it can never be turned off and is a bit annoying during night driving. The gauge cluster is a set of three dials with the tachometer in the right place, front and center. While the steering wheel is pleasant to hold, it is a little thin for some drivers.
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April 26, 2010 by Colin Bird
If youâ€™re an urban family, finding the right hauler â€“ something that is easy to park, see out of and goes light on fuel â€“ is not exactly an easy proposition. At Chevrolet, the hope is that youâ€™ll take a look at their large crossover: the Traverse.
Since Chevrolet ditched its horrid Uplander minivan, the Traverse is really the only vehicle at the brand for large families, with the exception of not so city practical SUVs, of course. Â The Traverse isnâ€™t a small family hauler; at 205.0 inches long, 78.4 wide and 70.4 tall, the Traverse is larger than its most successful competition: the Toyota Highlander, Toyota Sienna, Honda Pilot, and Honda Odyssey.
The Traverse has turned into a great seller for Chevrolet, but how does it handle in a city environment?
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April 19, 2010 by Colin Bird
About a month back, I got the leg work in motion to start reviewing cars from General Motors and, hopefully, other automakers in the future. Before the first review goes up, I wanted to go over some of the criteria you will see in my reviews.
First, I find that most car reviews are done on a closed track, or out in the suburbs. Essentially, I find the way auto buff mags, TV shows and some blogs decide to review test vehicles to be utterly useless for a car shopper.
My car reviews will be the exact opposite, and will have a realistic city driver focus. With nearly 200 million people living in densely populated regions in North America, city driving isnâ€™t some niche market. None the less, I think many automakers miss key points when catering to their city buyers, which will be brought to light in my reviews.
Every vehicle will get a star rating in the following categories (read beyond categories for more star rating information). A proper â€ścity-friendlyâ€ť vehicle will score well in the following categories:
- Visibility [3 points]: This is by far the most important aspect of city driving. A proper city driver will have a clear, unobstructed view out front and clear sightlines throughout the vehicleâ€™s entire greenhouse. Electronic assistance from radar systems, cameras and blind spot detection systems will also improve a vehicleâ€™s score, but are not a substitute for a physically-unobstructed view.
- Ease of parking [2.5 points]: If you live in the city, youâ€™ll know that one of the biggest challenges is finding a parking space. Vehicles that make your life easier in this respect will get higher scores. We are looking for vehicles that are easy to parallel park, have enough room to open up the doors in tight city parking lots, and are easy to back up out of diagonal spots without sideswiping bikers or passing vehicles.
- Gas mileage [2 points]: Automakers love touting their highway mileage, but if you live in the city you know youâ€™re likely to get barely half that figure. Vehicles that do well here will have to withstand heavy stop-and-go traffic at an average speed of 15 mph, while maintaining something resembling their EPA city mileage estimates.
- Versatility [1.5 points]: The urban jungle requires a great deal of flexibility, whether that means squeezing your Chevy Suburban into a compact only spot or driving in the bike lane. Vehicles that are adaptable in the cityscape will get a good score here. Weâ€™re looking for things like affordable power folding mirrors, automatic dimming rearview and side mirror lights, automatic reverse titling side mirrors to see your curb side â€“ stuff like that.
- Ride Compliance [1.0 points]: Cities, especially ones in the snowbelt, are generally pothole ridden. City comfort should be supple on any potholed street, but hard braking shouldnâ€™t cause any sway in the suspension. Speed bumps should be easy and smooth, even when going over them at 5 mph.
Each of the above categories will get a star rating. The number of stars will represent the total percentage of possible points the vehicle will get in each category. The points will be totaled to give us the ultimate score.
[100% of allotted points]
[70% of allotted points]
[50% of allotted points]
- Approaches the set standard
[30% of allotted points]
- Falls below the set standard
[0% of allotted points]
- Falls far below the set standard
By combining the total score of the above categories, we get a simple 0-10 score of the vehicleâ€™s effectiveness in the city, as follows:
0 points: This vehicle only works out in rural areas
1-3 points: This vehicle is best for sedate suburban living, moving from McMansion to corporate business park on the interstate.
4-6 points: This vehicle is adequate for inner-ring suburban living, or for people who commute from suburbia to downtown parking garages.
7-9 points: This vehicle is an effective city dweller, capable of street-only parking and maneuvering tight spaces effectively.
10 points: This vehicle was bred for the city, capable of cutting off bicyclists and taxi drivers without danger, fitting into the tightest parking spaces, and traversing any pothole, all the while getting superb gas mileage in the process.
Note: Scores will be based comparatively to vehicle segment class and to its competition.