Say “KIA NIRO” three times quickly and it can sound like “Canyonero,” that fantastically flawed 35-seat sport-utility vehicle from The Simpsons, a vehicular ode to glorious excess gone awry. The new Niro is essentially the polar opposite of that—a lean, frugal wagonoid, albeit with a twist of the upright and rugged.
Kia gave us plenty of warning that it would eventually build a car like this. Back in 2011, Kia’s Frankfurt show stand featured a rear-drive GT concept, and then, three years ago, Kia unveiled the rear-drive Stinger GT4 two-door concept in Detroit.
Kia has released a set of sketches that preview the new Picanto hatchback. A rival to cars like the Ford Figo and the Hyundai Grand i10, the new Kia will be revealed in its latest avatar at the Geneva Motor Show in March, before sales commence internationally. Continue reading “New Kia Picanto Sketches Out”
Kia plugs in to the current vogue for, err, plugging in, by giving the new Optima a hybrid drivetrain
With KIA’s ongoing seven-year warranty charm offensive set to be bolstered by a fairly hefty product barrage, the presence of two new models per launch may become something of a norm over the next few years. In this case, incoming consists of two new Optima variants: a Sportswagon – which acknowledges the overwhelming popularity of estates in the shifting sands of a European D-segment in which the sibling saloon has somewhat risen without trace – and a PHEV, which recognises the burgeoning lure of all things hybrid and the hushed thrill-potential of an all-electric commute.
Both models build on the facelifted, no-mates Optima saloon launched in January; a handsome affair featuring a new nose and rump, a smarter interior and a revised platform. The Sportswagon may be identified by an extra box on the back, good for a Mondeo-trouncing 552-1686 litres of loadspace, whilst the PHEV sports a blanked-out upper grille, an active, aerodynamics-enhancing lower grille and the azure trim of shallow, 20ft seas atop parrotfish poo sand.
The undeniably spacious and well equipped interior represents a notable hike in quality over the previous outing, which always felt at least one generation behind that svelte exterior. This effort – the gentle reek of Bangle BMW dashboard horizontality notwithstanding – is hallmarked by clear instrumentation and switchgear, and a good quality touchscreen, yet still let down a tad by brushed-metal-finish trim styling which still feels a lit tie dated.
A comfortable driving position is abetted by copious standard equipment in the Grade 3 Sportswagon we drove, including an 8in touchscreen with sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity, electric, heated everything, lashings of safety technology and a beefy Harmon Kardon stereo. The PHEV spec adds Android Auto and (shortly) Apple CarPlay connectivity, and the kitchen sink.
We drove the Sportswagon powered by Kia’s 1.7-litre, 139bhp turbodiesel mated to a six-speed manual transmission and, notwithstanding some disappointingly agricultural aspects to the engine’s performance when worked harder, it’s a perfectly decent drive; light, accurate and slightly notchy gear change, hilariously light steering which, nonetheless, is accurate enough, and respectable levels of grip.
Good looks and performance allow it to mingle with the best of the bunch
In the past few years, Kia vehicles have been a delight to drive, thanks to their top-notch quality and much-improved engineering.
Because the last Sportage had left quite an impression, I’ve been looking forward to the new model. It’s a pity it will hardly ever be considered by compact-crossover buyers. Discussions as to the top pick in that segment still heavily revolve around the likes of the Honda CR-V, theToyota RAV4, the Subaru Forester, and the Mazda CX-5. Can’t blame them, really. It’s all about marketing.
Proof that Kia has been upping its game is how its cars look. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Peter Schreyer as chief designer of Hyundai-Kia, with his designs becoming even bolder with each new model. While the third-generation Sportage bore some resemblance to the Volkswagen Golf, particularly in the C-pillars, the taillights, and the execution of the reflectors and indicators on the bumper, its successor graduates to something more audacious, although it still models itself on a Volkswagen Group offering — the Porsche Cayenne.
The front end has swept-back headlights and a grilie that’s set much lower, just like with Porsche’s SUV.
Even the ridges on the hood are a recognizable cue from the German carmaker. Central to these ideas influenced by Stuttgart is the ‘tiger nose’ grille, Schreyer’s signature. The rear is also suggestive of Porsche styling, with its red strip garnish.
The overall shape, meanwhile, is very much similar to that of the old Sportage. Hopefully, this will be retained for the next generations to give the model an identifiable profile. Standard on the GT Line are the LED foglamp clusters, which look like Porsche’s four-point LED DRLs, and 19-inch alloys wrapped in 245/45 tires. They kind of remind me of the wheels on the pre-facelift Subaru Forester XT.
The moment you get in, the first thing you’ll notice is the flat-bottom steering wheel, which hints at one of the Sportage’s most satisfying traits. The gauges with white digits and red needles, as well as the use of minimal buttons, appear verymuch inspired by Volkswagen and Audi. There’s a bit of the Cayenne, too, in the upright A/C louvers and brushed aluminum surfaces.
With German functionality in mind, there are convenient cubby holes on the center console (we get an extra one because we don’t get the e-brake) and two 12-volt adaptors. A tight fit and finish underlines the cabin experience; it has to feel solid for the whole treatment to flourish.
The Sportage is powered by a 2.0-liter common-rail direct-injection diesel delivering 182hp and 402Nm. It actually doesn’t feel like a diesel, owing to its smoothness and quietness. My time with the car was spent mostly within the city, and the engine returned around 9-10km/L.
On my way to Magallanes one afternoon via SLEX, the fuel-consumption meter read 12.5km/L just before I exited the highway. Considering I only traveled a short distance of SLEX from moderate traffic on EDSA, the Sportage should easily reach 17km/L on longer highway trips.
As I said earlier, the steering wheel is an indication of how the Sportage maneuvers. It steers with sports-car-like heft and afirm feel, the wheel wanting to return to the center quickly and offering a nice resistance. There’s a drive mode to suit however you want to drive. Just taking into account how this car goes, its Cayenne-inspired looks are a bonus.
LIFE ON THE INSIDE
- The flat-bottom wheel not only looks and feels good, it also hints at the car’s bearing.
- Instruments with white digits and red needles are all too familiar. But we’re not complaining.
- Buttons are kept to a minimum for an uncluttered look, just like Volkswagen and Audi.
- Unadorned head unit serves as a high-res monitor, too, for the backing-up camera.
- Brushed aluminum and other high-quality surfaces abound. The cabin feels very premium.
I was thoroughly impressed with the Sportage during my week-longstint with it. But does it have enough to persuade the buyers looking at the segment’s usual suspects? What are its advantages over its peers? It has a striking appearance, that’s one. It drives really well, that’s another. And it’s propelled by a super-smooth diesel.
Considering those three points, we have to say the Sportage and the Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv-D, the hottest car in the segment at the moment, are aimed squarely at each other. Mazda is on a hot streak, so that speaks highly of the Korean carmaker. And you know what? The Sportage might have a chance.
Kia Sportage GT Line 2.0 DSL
Kia’s subcompact moves up in both looks and quality
It started life as a quirky, odd-looking conveyance that allowed its owner to getaround and nothing more. This was pretty much the story of the Rio. The first two generations of this Kia subcompact, which shares its genes with the Hyundai Accent,were no-frills and nondescript.
All this changed when the third iteration debuted in 2012. The body’s lines, especially on the hatchback variant, screamed poorman’s Audi or Volkswagen— and we mean that in a good way. Now, the latest fourth-generation Rio takes that even further as it enters the scene with a bolder, more premium vibe.
There is still a strong resemblance to the rest of Kia’s offerings, and even to the previous model. This time, however, the signature ‘tiger nose’ grille is a tad thinner. The same goes forthe swept-back headlamps with L-shaped LED DRLs. The sleek appearance is complemented by new foglamps and a larger lower intake on the front bumper.
The side profile and the rear end, too, are evolutionary in design. The former now has a discreet character line. The latter, on the other hand, features a more upright window and equally slim taillights.
Aside fromgetting wider (1,725mm), the car has like wise gotten longer by 15mm to 4,065mm, and the wheelbase has been increased by 10mm to 2,580mm. Moreover, the longer front hood and overhang give it more visual depth. Finally, the overhang at the back has been shortened, and that, along with the slimmer G-pillars, provides a more confident stance.
Kia claims that the bigger dimensions have paid off handsomely in the cabin. There is now more room, even for taller passengers. And the materials used are equally more upscale. There is even a large, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment interface nestled high up on the center of the dash. The cluster itself is angled toward the driver. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — once exclusive to premium marques—are now available here. And there is a whole suite of safety gear, like autonomous emergency braking, to keep things in check.
As for engines, the 1.25- and 1.4-liter gasoline and the 1.4-liter diesel mills are carried over from the previous model. A new 1.0 -liter three-cylinder turbocharged T-GDI mill joins the fray, giving more power (up to 120hp) yet promising even better fuel economy.
Penned in Germany and California, the new Rio is a considerable step up to the subcompact class. With this, you hardly need anything more for the daily drive.
Kia Optima Sportswagon
Model tested: Kia Optima Sportswagon GT-Line S 1.7 CRDi DCT
Price: £30,595 Engine: 1.7-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 139bhp
There’s only one engine available in the Optima Sportswagon, with the firm’s 1.7-litre CRDi diesel fitted to 2, 3 and GT-Line S models. It’s the latter we test here, which gets Kia’s DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard. However, at £30,595, and with less power than its rivals, the Optima SW needs to be on top form to succeed.
Like its saloon sibling, the Optima Sportswagon’s lines give it an elegant look. The design remains faithful to the Sportspace concept seen at the Geneva Motor Show in 2015, so the wide grille with Kia’s trademark dip in the middle links the car’s headlights.
The design details have been toned down slightly for the Optima Sportswagon, but the basic shape is similar, A narrow, wide air intake sits beneath the main grille, accentuating the car’s width, while two upright vents at the corners of the front bumper incorporate some silver strakes to differentiate it from the rest of the range, breaking up the bodywork.
The Optima Sportswagon’s wheelarches and shoulder line aren’t as chiseled as the concept’s, but for a production car the creases running back from the headlights and down its flanks are a nice design detail thar give it a solid look.This line rises gently to the tail-lamps, while the window line kicks up and in towards the D-pillar, providing the Kia with strong shoulders and elegant, elongated proportions.
A diffuser-style insert in a contrasting colour to the body houses two oval tailpipes and breaks up the rear bumper and tailgate, while the bright silver roof rails are yet another styling touch that means the Kia cuts an attractive figure on the road.
Inside, the styling is a little more subdued. It’s reminiscent of the saloon, so the centre stack features an eight-inch touchscreen above the primary infotainment controls on this GT-Line S model, while the ventilation buttons sit underneath – with the silver accents around the edges of these sections, it looks very similar to a BMW 3 Series.
Material and build quality are solid, while the plastics that cover the dashboard and centre console are soft to touch. However, elsewhere in the cabin the design and plastics aren’t a match for its rivals. But as you’d expect from the top trim level, you get a fair amount of kit for your £30,595.
Sat-nav, all-round parking sensors, Bluetooth with voice recognition and Kia’s connected services that work in conjunction with the sat-nav and climate control are standard across the range. GT-Line S also gets a Harman/Kardon stereo, park assist, wireless mobile phone charging, electrically adjustable heated and ventilated leather seats, adaptive cruise and keyless go. In fact, the only option is metallic paint – as on our test car – which costs £545.
Kia’s 1.7-litre diesel is down on power compared with the 2.0-litre engine fitted to both the Skoda and VW. And while the 139bhp unit delivers an identical 340Nm torque output to its rivals at the same 1,750rpm, you have to rev it harder to match the other cars’ acceleration due to the Optima’s heavier 1,635kg kerbweight.
At the track the Kia served up respectable performance, but when you’re not on full throttle its competitors feel faster. The DCT box manages shifts smoothly, even if it’s not as quick as the VW Group dual-clutch transmission in the Superb and Passat, and helped the Optima cover 0–60mph in a respectable 10.2 seconds given it’s 9bhp down on its rivals, and nearly 200kg heavier than the Skoda. Yet it loses clear ground to its rivals in terms of ride quality. The Kia’s suspension set-up doesn’t feel as calm or collected as the Superb’s, even on smooth surfaces.
Over bumpy, rippled tarmac the difference is even more noticeable, as the Optima’s body gets jiggled about as the dampers struggle to isolate the movement of the wheels. On motorways the ride is better, but the overly light steering feels at odds with the firmer set-up. Plus, the weight doesn’t change as you enter a corner, so while there’s plenty of grip, it’s not relayed to the driver through the steering.
You can still drive the Kia quickly in plenty of safety, but under normal conditions, if you’ve got passengers on board, they might not be as comfortable as in the Skoda or Volkswagen.
Six airbags are standard, and while the SW hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, the Optima saloon was awarded a hill five-star crash safety rating. Along with a host of other systems, autonomous emergency braking is standard.
With Kia’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, there’s peace of mind if you intend to keep the car for more than the usual three years, too, while as the coverage package is transferable, it’ll sweeten the deal if you sell the car before the warranty is up.
Running costs 3.3/5
Large estates like these make up a significant part of the company car market, so despite competitive C02 emissions of 120g/km, the purchase price counts against the Kia. As a result the Optima will actually be the most expensive car to run for business users, with higher-rate taxpayers having to cough up £2,932 eveiyyear. This is £231 and£343 more than those choosing the Skoda and VW respectively, with the latter’s lower emissions helping keep costs down.
Kia’s £329 three-year servicing pack is well priced. Its rivals only offer two-service/two-year deals, so the price per check-up on the Optima works out at £110. It might only be a small margin, but the Skoda and WV come out at £140 and £144 respectively.
Estate cars have to offer practicality, which tends to come from a cavernous boot. While the Optima’s 552-litre load bay will be sufficient for day-to-day use, it might not be for a family holiday. It’s down on the Superb’s 660-litre offering, while the 650-litre Passat also serves up more space.
The SW’s cabin is spacious/but this practical side means it earns its spurs as an estate, with big door bins, two large trays in the ccnrre console, a lidded cubby and divided compartments under the boot floor. A sliding panoramic sunroof makes the cabin feel airy.
Details including levers to fold the rear seats remotely make the Optima easy to live with, but its rivals also pack plenty of neat convenience features.
Kia has announced a round of updates for its Soul crossover, with the highlight a new 201bhp 1.6-litre turbo engine. Also joining the range in the 134bhp 1.6 T-GDI engine from the Cee’d hatchback. Visually, the entire Soul line-up has been updated, too, with new front and rear bumpers and a revised tiger nose grille, plus new foglamps and reflectors.
Inside, new five, seven or eight-inch touchscreen infotainment systems are now available, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The Carens MPV has also been updated with a subtle new look and some extra kit. As on the Soul there are new bumpers, foglamps and a reshaped grille. Both cars are on display at this week’s Paris Motor Show before arriving in UK showrooms later this year.