When Steve Ballmer left the CEO’s office at Microsoft, he went and spent a good chunk of the fortune he had amassed buying the Los Angeles Clippers. If instead, he had chosen to become an automotive marketing executive, I could picture him stomping around the stage at a dealer meeting in a sweat drenched shirt shouting “Utilities! Utilities! Utilities!” As consumers increasingly opt for either traditional SUVs or more modern crossover utilities, automakers are scrambling to add more nameplates. For Kia, 2016 seems like the perfect time to launch an all-new version of the oldest continuous model in its lineup, the Sportage compact crossover.
I give up, the crossover utility vehicle is new station wagon. There I said it. For what seems like forever, I’ve been advocating the station wagon over SUVs and crossovers. However with the distinct exception of Volkswagen’s Jetta/Golf Sportwagen, Americans steadfastly refuse to buy them, even when an automaker like GM builds one as awesome as the late Cadillac CTS-V. Thus I am giving up the battle and accepting defeat. Buying cars is often an irrational choice but modern crossovers like the latest Kia Sorento have overcome most of my complaints and are about as rational as many customers will get.
Forty years ago, with the addition of three little letters to the compact Golf, Volkswagen established a market segment that persists to this day. The quick and sustained success of the GTI has since inspired virtually every automaker to create their own interpretation on the “hot hatch” idea. Over the years hot hatches have waxed and waned in popularity but they have never completely gone away and in recent years they have had something of a resurgence with cars like Ford’s Focus ST, Fiesta ST and my most recent ride, the Kia Forte5 SX.
A few weeks ago I spent a week with the 2015 Kia Soul EV and came away very impressed by what the South Koreans had achieved. It wasn’t that long ago that Kia was known as a brand that built cheap and frankly not very good cars and SUVs. I liked the first-generation Soul when I drove it several years ago and was even more impressed with the new battery-powered version. There’s just one problem, if you live outside of California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Texas or Georgia, you can’t buy one. But fear not, there is a Soul for the rest of us that is still powered by internal combustion of gasoline.
If the mainstream media in America talks about battery electric cars at all, it usually has something to do with the latest outrageous pronouncement from Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. However, unless you live in the wealthy enclaves of Silicon Valley or southern California, chances are pretty good that you’ve never even seen a Tesla Model S much less driven one. Most of the rest of us will never be able to afford a Model S even we could find a place to buy one. For the rest of us that want to drive emissions-free there are a number of very good and increasingly affordable options including South Korea’s first entry into the segment, the Kia Soul EV.
If you have a family with more than two youngsters, chances are better than even that the best vehicle for you is not actually an SUV or a crossover, but a minivan. Sadly, despite the fact that minivans are among the most useful vehicles ever created, they just don’t have that cool image that even the hopelessly uncool among us strive for. That’s really a shame because the current generation of minivans including the 2015 Kia Sedona are really great vehicles.
Twenty-seven years ago, the first Kia-built cars arrived on American shores badged as the Ford Festiva. At the time, it was hard to imagine that barely a quarter century later, the manufacturer of those low-budget, minicars would be producing a full-size luxury sedan could credibly be compared to some of the best cars in the world. After spending a week with the 2015 Kia K900 V8 VIP, I’ve come to some conclusions about whether the South Korean automaker has succeeded.