Category Archives: Kia

2006 Kia Rio 5 SX (605)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2006  Kia Rio 5 SX. After driving a few cars with manual transmission recently I’m reminded how much work they can be. I’m finding it difficult to justify a manual transmission and then it dawned on me that I’m forced to pay more attention to the driving experience. Yes, auto transmissions are distracting us from the business of driving. But I’d still buy auto any time.

This is obviously a very basic car that demands we take a trip back to the future, where mileage will be more important than power – even in America .

Public Service:

First I have to tell you a short story. I’m traveling down the freeway and notice a car with door guards on all 4 doors. You don’t see them often because it’s not usual for someone to be so concerned about YOUR car in today’s world. Most would consider them rather ugly. It surely won’t protect them from inconsiderate people who open their doors in parking areas without the least concern for the damage they can cause to your car. Kudos to that man, whoever he is.

Interested in a career in the auto service business?

There is a unique training facility available at no cost to students. It’s the Automotive Training Center – a partnership venture between Toyota Motor Sales, USA and the Los Angeles Urban League. You can get more information by calling 323-299-1633 or going to www.laatc.org. They boast a 75% placement of their 1500 graduates since 1993.

Handling & Performance:

This Pea Popper is agile Jack, and nimble too, even if it’s not really very quick – candle or no. The most difficult thing for Americans to overcome in owning a car is that their love affair with the automobile is more passionate than a horse to a cowboy a hundred years ago. That affair is also ruled by ego. We must have it no matter the cost which is no small thing. So if performance is so important to both sexes you can bet that need for speed will force big fuel hungry powerful cars and trucks to continue to be the sweetheart of car buyers in America , if nowhere else on the planet.

I have a suggestion – buy the gas guzzling Suburban to pull the boat to the river and then park it and drive a Rio as a commuter the rest of the week. These things are a kick to drive and small enough to zip into that parking space you’d never squeeze into with that Sub.

Styling:

Once you look at the Scion this Kia Rio by comparison is beautiful. A 10.

Fit and Finish:

Pretty darn good by comparison with high end cars for five times the money. Most people would find it hard to justify the added money for the more finely crafted car.

Cost:

Not bad, but you can do better by buying American. Look at the Chevy Aveo for example.

Conveniences:

Standard equipment excludes power windows, mirrors, door locks, keyless entry and added audio speakers. This is only $600 to consider.

Consumer Recommendation:

This Rio 5 is an example of responsible transportation. It will give your wallet a rest and give you a sense of putting a personal nail in Al Qaeda’s coffin. Cut the need for Middle East oil and become a fanatic too. Launch your own Jihad against OPEC. It’s the civil response to their car bombs.

In any case we need to dump the big cars in favor of Korean cars to support our democratic friends in South Korea . Heck, Japan is even building some of their line in Korea .

Standard equipment does not include antilock brakes and will only cost $400, which is money well spent.

Recognized Competition:

Kia Rio $13,700, Chevrolet Aveo $9-13,000, Ford Focus $13-17,000, Scion xA $12,780,  Suzuki Reno $13-15,000 and Hyundai Accent $12,455.

Good News:

Very good fuel economy, great commuter.

Bad News: 

Standard Equipment:

1.6 liter 110 hp 4-cylinder engine, 4-speed auto trans, power rack and pinion steering, power front disc and rear drum brakes, dual front and side seat and curtain air bags, child rear seat tethers and anchors, air conditioning, audio, tachometer, tilt steering column, leather wrapped wheel and knob, manual 8-way driver seat adjustment with fold down armrest, , tinted glass, 60/40 rear split fold down seat, remote manual mirrors, auto off headlights, fog lights, variable intermittent wipers, rear wiper washer.

Gas Stats:

29 City and 38 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $14,350.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

2003 Kia Sorento 4X4 EX (425)

Overview:

This week I drove the 2003 Kia Sorento 4X4 EX model Sport Utility from, of course, South Korea. Wow, is this world shrinking or what? And you know what? Korea is putting out some pretty nice cars.  I like this Sorento a lot. It is powerful, looks and rides like the more expensive SUV’s and priced extremely well.

But Korea, you say? OK, I have to admit it entered my mind too. They simply haven’t been around that long as carmakers. But as I’ve watched these cars and driven them all from that country I have gained confidence over the recent past. But more than that feeling I put my money where my mouth was back in the early 1960’s when I bought a “Datsun” station wagon. Japan was a novice in car production then and it was a gamble. We all know how capable Japan proved to be in this market and industry and I have the same feeling about Korea. I can’t wait until we get some good Korean restraints here in America. If you know of any in the Los Angeles area, please email me.

Not only does this SUV look similar to the Acura, it is put together well both inside and out, it is comfortable and overall a nicer SUV than anything in its price range. It was also more responsive than the supercharged Nissan Xterra I’m driving while writing this review. Impressive – Kia.

Handling & Performance:

Powerful 3.5 liter V6 engine makes this one of the peppiest SUV’s out there. And it’s beefy like it’s larger competitors thus the solid ride and expected durability. It doesn’t have ABS so breaking is average.

Styling: 

I pulled up to the curb and parked, went into the bank and when I came out I noticed the SUV parked in front of my Kia Sorento was a very expensive Acura MDX. I had to do a “Double-Take” to be sure which was which since the color was very close as well. As I stood there looking from across the street it occurred to me that these were nearly twins in outward design. Boy was I anxious to do the comparison on these two.

Fit and Finish:

As good as they get. Verrrry impressed. Way to go South Korea. Do you ever wonder what North Korea produces? As I recall, there isn’t much north of the 38th Parallel.

Cost:

Pricing is Spectacular for the vehicle. When this takes hold it is bound to go up in price, so now is the time if you like this as much as I did.

Customer Recommendation:

If you are in the market for an SUV and $24,000 is your price range for a car, this is a fantastic alternative. Trust me, you have to test drive this one. It is well equipped including unseen things like airbags front and rear and 4-wheel disc brakes and quality assembly. And if you’re still concerned about it, you won’t believe the warranty on the power train. Are you ready for this? Ten (10) years or 100,000 miles. None better in the industry.

The Competition: (alphabetically)

Kia Sorento $19-24,000, Chevrolet Blazer $20-26,000, Ford Escape $19-27,000, Honda CR-V $18-22,000, Hyundai Santa FE $17-24,000, Isuzu Rodeo $18-31,000, Jeep Liberty $18-24,000, Land Rover Freelander $25-32,000, Mazda Tribute $18-24,000, Nissan Xterra $18-28,000, Saturn VUE $16-23,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $19-20,000, Toyota Highlander $24-31,000.

Good News:

Great styling, powerful V6 and very well priced, fantastic power train warranty, great standard equipment package.

Bad News:

Korean’s are new to the automotive world so resale is a big question mark and fuel economy is only fair.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter V6 engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, 4-wheel drive, 4-wheel disc brakes, power steering with leather wrapped tilt wheel, dual front airbags and front and rear side airbags, car seat anchors, air conditioning, cruise control, power sunroof, power windows and door locks, power mirrors, radio with CD and Cassette players with wheel mounted controls, 8-way power drivers seat with lumbar support, 60/40 split folding rear seats with armrests, keyless remote entry, display for compass, temperature, barometer, roof rack, fog lights, tinted glass, underbody skid plates and lots of storage and center console.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 18 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $21,725.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

2002 Kia Sedona Mini Van (363)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the “Just off the Boat”, brand new 2002 Kia Sedona Mini Van from Korea. It is totally manufactured there and only 3% of the parts are from the US and Canada. Perhaps that explains why it can be so well priced for the quality vehicle it appears to be. It was even more impressive because I had just tested the Toyota Highlander similarly equipped for ten grand more.

Naturally one has to wonder if Korean manufactured means there will be problems. Not necessarily, but there is simply not enough history to feel the comfort you get owning  Japanese built cars that are a part of our landscape since the early 1960’s.

My kids looked at it and because they have young families I think this is the best option to the yuppie and very pricey SUV.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent with one exception – it tends to bottom out over dips and needs improvement in the suspension. Lots of power and similar gas mileage in class.

Styling:

Rather common and a good “knock-off” of its competitors.

Fit and Finish:

Great imitation of the quality so common of Japanese cars.

Conveniences:

Front and rear air, lots of nooks and crannies and other features listed below you tend to get only in more expensive products.

Cost:

Fantastic.

Recommendation:

I believe this will be a real contender in this Mini Van segment that is growing in popularity, and for good reason. Take advantage of the Grand Opening and test drive this if you’re in the market for a Mini Van. Would I recommend it to my kids? You bet, because I believe the risk to be small in today’s readily available technology used by most in the world now with the benefit of a cheaper labor market.

The competition (Order of Preference**):

(1)Kia Sedona $19-21,000, (2)Dodge Caravan $16-33,000, (3)Chrysler Voyager $16-23,000, (4)Nissan Quest $23-27,000, (5)Toyota Sienna $23-28,000, (6)Honda Odyssey $24-28,000, (6)Pontiac Montana $24-34,000, (7)Ford Windstar $20-34,000, (8)Chevrolet Venture $21-33,000, (NI)Mazda MPV $21-26,000,.

Good News:

Great price, nice touches like fold up center console façade that allows space when you don’t need the cup holders etc. Lots of thoughtful nooks and crannies. 7 passenger seating, roomy.

Bad News:

Light suspension tends to bottom out easily, heavy rear door, bulky support members  block view, only fair mileage.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 195 hp V6 engine, 5-speed auto trans, dual sliding side doors, power steering, dual air bags, 2nd row child seat anchors on removable captains chairs, 7 passenger seating, dual air front and rear, power windows, locks and mirrors, AM/FM with Cassette and CD, 8-way power driver seat and 4-way power passenger seat, 3rd row sliding split folding removable seats, overhead console w/ trip computer, lights and clock, cruise control, 3 power outlets, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, wood grain accents, keyless entry system, cupholders for all rows and rear wiper washer.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 20  Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $19-21,000.

** – Order of Preference is based on a formula of price relationship to dimensions and standard features and the best overall warranty.

NI – Not included in ranking

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

2001 Kia Spectra GSX (329)

Overview:

This week the Kia Spectra GSX provided a comfortable ride for a short vacation to Arizona. I was pleasantly surprised because the trip took us about 1500 miles from Los Angeles, California to Arizona. We stayed in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix, then on to Sedona and the Grand Canyon. After a nice breakfast at the El Tavor on the south rim we were off to Laughlin, Nevada. No, I didn’t leave my money in the casino’s there, in fact a won a few bucks. Boy that’s a first. Well, anyway, the last leg of our trip continued over historic route 66 through Kingman, Barstow, Needles, San Bernardino. I started humming that wonderful old song, “ I got my kicks on Route 66”, and took another trip down memory lane. But in the “good old days” I might be singing the advertising jingle, “See the USA, in your Chevrolet, America the greatest land of all… nothing can beat her, life is completer in a Chevy…and seeee it in your Chev – ro -lay”.

I found few flaws in this little Kia from Korea except for a slight clicking in the suspension while going over bumps and the remote trunk lever didn’t release all the way. Just an adjustment, but it does bug you. More importantly however, the cloth seats were well padded and formed to add comfort to such a long drive. That wasn’t the case in the Chevrolet Cavalier I tested recently. I took that one to Portland, Oregon and found myself shifting a lot and that detracts from the journey.

Handling & Performance:

The inline 4-cylinder engine is peppy.  In fact, in 5th gear with cruise on, I was cooking along at 80+ and it never wanted to kick off, but just pulled without hesitation. I’d like a longer 5th gear for better mileage and easier on the engine that labored at 4000 rpm at highway speeds. Although the car is small and a little light, it was stable at higher speeds, and very good gas mileage on the road. I got more than the EPA numbers and made it from Los Angeles to Scottsdale on less than a tank of gas.

Styling:

Styling is real nice, and has a flair and look of more expensive cars, much like the BMW 3 series. In any case it was more than the price tag would indicate. They also designed in a good-sized trunk that is really a hatchback. Pretty slick… I liked it.

Fit and Finish:

Generally it was very good for this price range car.

Conveniences:

There is no scanner function on the radio, which was a pain finding stations on the highway. I’d want to have that feature. Otherwise, for the dough, it is well appointed.

Cost:

Yes, you get what you pay for, but cars like this are great buys. You can literally have a new car for what you’d pay for a used upscale anything. If you don’t have an ego to feed, you can drive a Kia or any of the competition noted below and feed your face and family better. I wonder if my kids read any of my reviews? From what they drive, I can’t really tell, but then kids rarely take their parents advice, right?

Recommendation:

Next car you buy, Jenny and Mike, consider a Spectra or one of the other worthy opponents. Then you can have me over and throw a few more shrimp on the Barbie.

The competition:

Chevrolet Cavalier $13,160-16,365, Daewoo Nubira $11,399-14,799, Dodge Neon $12,715, Ford Focus $12,220-15,355, Honda Civic $12,760-16,910, Hyundai Elantra $12, 499, Mazda Protégé $12,215-15,315, Mitsubishi Mirage $11,877-14,717, Nissan Sentra $11,649-14,899, Plymouth Neon $12,715, Pontiac Sunfire $14,175-16,295, Saturn SL $10,570-12,895, Subaru Impreza $15,995-19,495, Toyota Corolla $12,568-13,383, Volkswagen Golf $14,900-17,900.

Good News:

Well-priced, good economy, comfortable ride even on long trips, new car at used car price.

Bad News:

This is one of the few cars built in Korea and the quality is yet to be established, and that may also lower the resale value.

Standard Equipment:

1.8 liter inline 4 cylinder engine, 5-speed manual trans, power front disc rear drum brakes, dual airbags, child safe rear door, cloth seats, split folding rear seat, remote mirrors, AM/FM radio and cassette, air conditioning, power door locks and windows, tilt steering. Options included: Stereo with CD player upgrade, cruise control, power mirrors, rear wiper.

Gas Stats:

23 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP  $12,995

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is movello@earthlink.net.

2000 Kia Spectra GSX (312)

Overview:

This week I went once again “back to basics” in a Kia Spectra GSX. Is it back to the future? Is the world changing in the sense that simple is better? Will we find the cost of living pushes us to buy transportation that provides enough and spend the rest of our money on, say food and shelter or our kids college education. Yep, I agree that we should let the kids fend for themselves in this “ME” generation.

Well, there is no question the price says basic, but you know what, this Kia from Korea is a pretty sound car. Is it enough? Yes, I think so. It is roomy and comfortable and you’re going to be surprised, just like I was. And although I was  favorably impressed, I did have some concerns. Little things like the windows sticking a bit that indicated a poor fit and it made a clunking sound when it sealed shut all the way. There was also a wiring harness hanging on my foot just over the brake pedal. Nit picking, you say? No, and I’m not making a big deal about those but they are simple warning signs that attention to detail may be a problem later on in ownership. But then, the price – what do you expect. Well, a dear friend has a Toyota Corolla SE that I think is a notch above this Kia, but they have had more time to fine tune their product and I believe the Koreans will do the same in time. The Toyota is similarly priced and should be looked at closely in your comparison shopping.

Handling & Performance:  

Really good. This car will flat impress you in most areas. It was a little sluggish off the line, but I’d rather have the automatic and lose a little on the “jack rabbit” starts.

Styling:

What else can you say except “conformity”. There isn’t much creative genius out there any more. All cars look like cloned cousins. It used to be you could tell one from the other but the differences are becoming a blur these days. But then what are cars for, transportation or making a statement? I have my own ideas on that one but you can answer it better than I can.

Fit and Finish:  

Pretty darn good.

Conveniences:

Enough, already.

Cost:

I like it and now with the competition you can get a very respectable car at a price most folks can afford. Put a Toyota badge on this car and you have the image of greater quality. Put a BMW badge on it and it will instantly have snob appeal. Put a Ferrari badge on it and I’m in love again.

Recommendation:

Go for a test drive and you’ll definitely be pleasantly surprised. But it is no surprise that the line up of competition is impressive too. I’ve tested all except the Ford Focus and would like your comments on that car. e-mail me.

The competition:

Chevrolet Prizm $13,960-16,010, Daewoo Nubira $10,900-14,160, Dodge Neon  $12,640, Ford Focus $12,125-15,260, Honda Civic $10,750-17,545, Hyundai Elantra $11,799, Mitsubishi Mirage $11,877-14,717, Nissan Sentra $11,649-14,899, Saturn SL $10,685-12,895, Suzuki Esteem Wagon $13,399-16,399, Toyota Corolla $12,568-13,383.

Good News:

The price is extremely good. The gas mileage has to be a plus with the price of gas and the expectation that it will not ever be as good as in the past.

Bad News:

Some quality issues. Short company history here in America.

Standard Equipment:

1.8 liter 4 cyl engine, 4-speed automatic trans, power steering, power front disc and rear drum brakes, dual airbags, cloth seats, split folding rear seat, power mirrors, AM/FM with cassette, air conditioning, power window and door locks, tilt steering, alloy wheels.

Gas Stats:

22 City and 32 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP  $12,995. Options on this model included 4-speed auto trans, CD player, Cruise control and rear wiper for an added $1834.00.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

1999 Kia Sportage (239)

Overview: 
Slow down, you move too fast…gotta make the morning last. Remember that song from the past. Well, that’s the feeling I got from this weeks Kia Sportage SUV. After a week in a Hummer the Kia felt like a Cadillac for the first day. Kick back and relax after the brief reminder of my National Guard days when we played weekend warrior. Fooling around with half-tracks and the like. That feeling returned some years later during my Naval Air days when we’d step out of our military aircraft into the docile and luxurious comfort of our personal automobiles. For many of you that picture will bring back memories for you as well. Remember hurrying back to the barracks to slip into those civies and “hit the beach” before they could find extra duty to screw up your weekend? Those were also the days when some people put signs on their lawns that read “Dogs and Sailors Keep off the Grass”. We weren’t all that bad. Can you guess what year that was?

Hint: those were the days when you only needed guns and rocket launchers on military vehicles and road rage was played out in places where you “expected” hostility. Times have really changed. Today, the military are wearing “baby blue” helmets and civilians are wearing military fatigues. I think we should reinstate the draft and help a few more Private Ryan’s mature before their time.

In any case, the year was 1959 and Elvis was almost unknown except for his hometown of Memphis where I was stationed. Cars were big, rough and noisy and by comparison this Kia is a pussycat, but a welcomed one I have to admit. Even the simplest of cars today give us reliability we could only dream of back then. The engineering is much better as you’d expect, and that means greater efficiency of operation. We really do have it much easier today. I think dad must have felt the same in his new 1946 Chevrolet after driving model T’s.

For all its simplicity, this Kia Sportage looks like other more expensive SUV’s just like the competition noted here. And for the differences in size and power you get from full size Utilities, the price tags of these mini SUV’s may be just enough to grab your attention. The mini sport utilities are aimed at buyers who don’t need the hauling and trailering capabilities of their larger relatives.

The 1999 Kia Sportage is available in six trims: 2-Door convertible, 4-Door, and 4-Door EX, each in either 2WD or 4WD. I tested the 4-door 2WD model.

I’ve driven most of those listed here and the race is too close to call. You should drive them all if you want or need a smaller, more affordable SUV.

`The competition:

Chevrolet Tracker $13,635 – $15,935, Honda CR-V $18,550 – $20,450, Isuzu Amigo $15,810 – $20,250, Jeep Wrangler $14,345 – $20,135, Subaru Forester $18,695 – $22,495, Suzuki Grand Vitara $13,499 – $18,999, Toyota RAV4 $15,678 – $17,778.

Good News: 

Roomy and solid feel, comfortable, decent handling, smooth ride and affordable

Bad News: 

Radio controls are too small, engine too small and has to work hard, poor mileage.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter inline 4-cylinder 130 horsepower engine, 5-speed manual transmission, dual airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, power windows, locks & mirrors, exterior-mounted spare tire carrier, theft-deterrent system, dual cupholders, split folding rear seat and tilt steering wheel.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 23 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $14,795, and with the addition of 4-speed auto trans, air conditioning, allow wheels, Stereo with CD player the total came to $18,224.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com