Kia is Killing It

5137_kia“Kia is killing it,” I said to my colleague when I saw the results of Kia’s 2015 car sales to date.

Kia is on an historical roll with car buyers. Its U.S. headquarters issued a statement that June sales capped off “the greatest first half performance in company history.”

How has this small car company captured a hold on the hearts of American car buyers? As the head of a publications syndicate, Motor Matters, I manage a team of professional automotive writers whose articles are read by thousands of consumers across the country.

To get perspective, I delved into our article archives from the past 18 months to track what my field reporters have been writing on the Kia brand. My writers meet face-to-face with Kia decision makers and road test its vehicles.

Here are 7 conversations and driving impressions that capture the momentum Kia has been building with consumers. (– posted by Connie Keane

1.) Kia is Tops in 2015 Car Quality Study

— Kia, along with Hyundai, outpaced all other brands in the recently released 2015 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.

The Initial Quality Study measures the number of problems that the owners of new vehicles experience in the first 90 days of ownership. The study quantifies the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles. The lower the score, the higher the quality.

This is the first time in the 29-year history of the study that Kia led non-premium brands in initial quality. The brand was helped by significant improvements to the Kia Soul and Cadenza, according to J.D. Power.

To put the improvement into context, the South Korean automakers improved initial quality by 11 percent. Japanese brands improved by 1 percent and domestic and European automakers improved by 3 percent. — Cheryl Jensen


2.) Wow, Those Hamsters Are on a Roll

— “First, the marketing around the Soul has been spot-on,” claims James Hope, spokesperson for Kia Motors America. “The hamsters nailed it for us and we successfully tied in different contemporary music like Electronic Dance, Indy-type, Rock, and Pop. That advertising appealed across demographics like millennials and boomers.

“The car was lightning in a bottle for our brand. We could differentiate ourselves from Hyundai. And the breakout from them turned out to be a really good move for Kia. — Kate McLeod

3.) Kia’s Corporate Ambition: Luxury Buyers

1_ Kia K900_ 2015_ 001— The 2015 Kia K900 is the company’s first plunge into luxury. The interior has natural wood accents, a 16-way driver’s seat and a panoramic sunroof.

The K900 is also Kia’s first V-8-powered sedan. The optional V-8 produces 420 horsepower; the base V-6 model produces 311 horsepower; both engines are shifted by an eight-speed automatic transmission.

As Scott McKee, director of corporate communications for Kia, noted at the K900 reveal in California, “We don’t follow convention.”

“We have a tech-obsessed customer, intent on design and quality and we think that we can tick off all of their boxes. And we believe that shoppers are looking for new and upcoming brands.”

Kia has also endowed the model with an exceptional array of standard comfort and convenience features, along with an outstanding warranty. We’re talking 10 years or 100,000 miles on the powertrain, five years or 60,000 miles bumper to bumper, plus five years or 60,000 miles of free roadside assistance. — Holly Reich

4.) Kia Optima Channels Audi

— If you see more than a hint of Audi in the crisply extruded lines of the Optima, it’s because Kia’s head of design – Peter Schreyer – spent a number of years formulating the current styling language of the premium German brand. As a result, Kia’s models are now gifted with looks far exceeding what is typically expected in their price range.

2016 Kia Optima SXIn other words, Optima looks way more expensive than it actually is.

Given the price of the Optima (starting at $21,659), it isn’t really fair to expect it to be as sophisticated as an Audi. Where the Kia differentiates itself is in its ability to offer – at a reasonable price point – a handsome appearance with decent performance, along with an outsized list of comfort and convenience features. Further, it is finished with soft-touch materials pretty much everywhere some part of your body would come into contact with it. — Lyndon Conrad Bell

5.) 2016 Kia Sorento: Silent Contender

— The first thing you notice about the 2016 Kia Sorento is what you don’t notice: Ambient noise. In an age when many cars, crossovers and trucks have reached new depths of silent running, the Sorento stands out.

Sure, there are muted sounds that make their way through the chassis and insulation, but they’re mostly from the lousy urban streets and freeways that are the inevitable result of lack of maintenance. But place the new Kia 2016 Sorento on newly paved asphalt and even those sounds are nearly nonexistent.

2016 SorentoThe near absence of mechanical, road and wind noise was augmented by comfortable, well bolstered seats up front. Quality materials and workmanship with classy piano black trim characterize an interior in which instruments and controls are well located and intuitive in use.

The V-6 engine is a smooth, quiet performer with good low rpm torque and strong acceleration. Power gets to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission that shifts unobtrusively. It has a manual shift mode operated by paddles mounted on the steering wheel. — Frank Aukofer

6.) All-New 2015 Kia Sedona: On the Go Hauler

— So the Sedona is an all-new 2015 model, in which Kia has invested a total effort, redesigning it to look less like a minivan and more like the resoundingly popular crossover utility vehicles (CUVs).

4_ 2015_Kia Sedona_EXWith new styling, packaging, and interior design, Kia calls the Sedona a multi-purpose vehicle rather than a minivan. But there’s nothing to be ashamed of, a the minivan is arguably the most useful vehicle on the planet, with superior passenger and cargo space, fuel economy, and handling compared to big SUVs.

A 3.3-liter direct injection gasoline V-6 engine sends 276 horsepower to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Ride, braking, and handling are competent, with a rigid chassis and negligible body lean around curves. The interior is whisper quiet with little intrusion of road, mechanical, or wind noise. Fit and finish look and feel are exceptional. — Arv Voss

7.) Urban Home Run: Soul from Seoul

— Kia is on a good track with the Soul. Followed by the Optima, the Soul is Kia’s best-seller. Today, the Soul continues to pull Kia forward in design, driving dynamics and technological features.

On the outside, the square shape, straight posture, wraparound greenhouse, high taillights and standout fender flares distinguish the Soul from the field of other urban hatchbacks.

01_ Kia Soul _ 2014On the inside, the Soul uses the visual inspiration of droplets falling into a still pond. Tom Kearns, chief designer at Kia’s California studio explained, “The design is organic, like the human body, and we feel it makes the interior that much more appealing to the driver and passengers.” — Holly Reich

Michael Sprague, chief operating officer, Kia Motors America, summed it up, “The Soul is still fun and funky and true to its roots. It embraces passions with technology music and community. But bottom line, the Soul is a state of mind, not an age.”
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