SUV Review: 2021 Kia Seltos

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Dec 312021

Like the ever-expanding small sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment, Kia’s SUV lineup grew a bit larger in 2021 with the introduction of the Seltos, the middle sibling between the Soul and Sportage models. Latino Traffic Report recently test drove the 2021 Seltos EX with all-wheel drive (AWD) and found that it’s much more than a triplet, it’s a true individual.

Available in five trims, the as-tested EX also sits in the middle of the Seltos lineup. The all-new model bears a distinct exterior, holding onto the tiger nose grille, but its headlamp design could get it mistaken for a Ford, at first glance. Although the test model did not include it, the optional two-tone roof would have individualized the Seltos a bit more.

The advantage of a smaller SUV is improved fuel economy and the Seltos does have an impressive EPA estimated fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.  

It’s achieved with a powertrain that includes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder MPI engine producing 146 horsepower and 132 lb.–ft. of torque, matched to an Intelligent Variable Transmission. It averaged 32.2 mpg on the week-long test drive.  A 1.6-liter Turbo GDI engine is available on other trims. Three drive modes, Normal, Eco, Sport, also help maximize the fuel economy and performance.

Inside, the Seltos fluctuates between plain and flashy. The 3.5-inch gauge cluster displays information in an understated black and white, but the stereo includes molded speaker covers in an interesting fractal pattern, heated front seats in a black Sofino leatherette and cloth combination, an eight-inch touchscreen compatible to Apple Car Play or Android Auto, and steering wheel-mounted controls. XM satellite radio, however, was missing. The SX trim adds mood lighting that changes color and intensity based on volume level.

As the name implies, utility is required for an SUV and the Seltos offers 60/40

split rear seats that fold flat as well as recline. Enhanced by a dual-level cargo floor, cargo room reaches 62.8 cubic feet.

The EX trim not only brings AWD for enhanced on-road confidence, it also includes a larger list of standard features, especially on the safety side, like the blind spot collision warning and avoidance assist, rear cross traffic alert (a nice complement to the standard forward collision warning), and a rear seat reminder that alerts owners to check for valuables in the rear seat before exiting the car. Other options included on the test model were a power sunroof, a smart key with remote start, a wireless phone charger, and 17-inch alloy wheels with a striking machine finish.

Starting price on the 2021 Seltos is $23,110. The as-tested price came to $26,885.

Sí: The Seltos offers good fuel efficiency and utility.

No: The display is plain and a blind spot monitor is not standard equipment on all trim levels.

Electric Vehicle Review: 2019 Kia Niro EV

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Nov 252019

Not satisfied with reversing nearly every clean air and water regulation enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since its inception in 1970, the federal government has decided to take on California’s clean air laws. Despite these efforts, new and improved electric vehicles (EVs) will keep rolling off production lines, due in large part to California’s successful emissions standards.

Initially, EVs did present certain challenges. With minimal electric ranges, the first EV models helped coin a new phrase, “range anxiety.” Tesla reversed that with ranges of 300-plus miles and other manufactures followed suit. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) recently tested the 2019 Kia Niro EV EX Premium and its range of 200-plus miles will set minds at ease.

Kia first introduced the gasoline-electric hybrid version of the Niro in 2017. It was followed by the Niro PHEV plug-in hybrid in 2018 and in 2019, the Niro EV completed the lineup.

Knowing that this vehicle uses no gasoline is a thrill, but that it does it without immediately losing power or range elevates the experience. Powered by a 201-horsepower electric motor with 291 lb.–ft. of torque, lithium ion polymer battery and assisted by an onboard charger and adjustable regenerative braking via paddle shifters, the Niro EV has an estimated electric range of 239 miles.

When testing other EVs, LTR has seen the starting range quickly evaporate once the throttle or any other function like air conditioning was engaged, but not on the Niro. After charging overnight on a 120-volt plug in the garage, the range read 263–285 miles and dissipated at a normal rate, much more like gasoline, even with the air conditioning running. Of the four drive modes that come standard, Normal, Sport, Eco + and Eco, most of the test drive was conducted in the latter.

On the outside, it stands out from its siblings with a unique front fascia with a closed off grille for improved aerodynamics. It stands out among EVs with a Combined Charging System (CCS) DC fast-charge plug located in the front of the vehicle.

Early electric vehicles were small and light to help extend the range but the Niro brings the convenience of a crossover utility vehicle with seating for five and a rear seat that folds flat to expose 53 cubic feet of cargo room.

It’s also loaded with standard features, like a blind spot monitor, that help justify its starting price. Technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, smart cruise control, forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert (essential in any parking lot and assisted by a whirring sound so that it can be heard by pedestrians), a smart key with push-button start, and AM/FM/MP3/SiriusXM audio system are all standard.

As the premium trim, the test model also included more exclusive features like a power sunroof, heated and ventilated leather front seats, Harmon Kardon premium audio, navigation with an eight-inch touchscreen, and a rear parking sensor.

Pricing for the Niro EV starts at $39,545. The as-tested pricing came to $47,155.

Sí: The Niro EV beckons to the open road with an impressive range and with a quick charger that extends electric power.

No: Already a bit pricey, not sure the added features for the Premium trim warrant more than $10,000 extra from the base.

CUV Review: Kia Sportage SX AWD

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Oct 302017

The Sportage, Kia Motors America’s longest-running nameplate, got a redesign for 2017. On a recent test-drive for Latino Traffic Report in Austin, TX, the compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV), specifically the Sportage SX AWD, impressed with its standard and available technology, setting it apart in the segment.

The European-looking Sportage inspires a comparison to other European brands—I found myself referring to it as the “baby (Porsche) Cayenne.” The signature tiger nose grille, however, confirms that it’s a Kia.

Driving along FM 2222, Austin’s curviest road, the Sportage handled the twists and turns solidly, enhanced by the Driver Select Mode set in Sport. Other modes include Normal and Eco. The improved ride and handling comes from a stiffer structure, new suspension, and advanced driver assistance systems. Included on the test model, the available intelligent all-wheel drive (AWD) can be added to every trim ($1500) and features a 50/50 locking center differential.

Offered in three trim levels (LX, EX, and SX Turbo), the Sportage can be powered by a choice of two four-cylinder engines—a 2.4-liter engine that produces 181 horsepower and 175 lb.–ft. of torque or a 2.0-liter inline-four turbo with 240 horsepower (237 on AWD models) and 260 lb.–ft. of torque, that powered the test model. Both engines have been retuned for better fuel efficiency and are matched to an updated six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.0-liter turbo should get an estimated city/highway fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. I averaged 24.7 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

Longer by 1.6 inches, the new Sportage has a roomier interior with seating for five. It’s also available with additional appointments for a more luxurious cabin and a range of technologies including UVO eServices and telematics, AppleCar Play, and Android Auto matched to a seven- or an eight-inch touchscreen.

Thanks to an innovative dual-level cargo floor and a widened luggage area, cargo capacity behind the second row has grown from 26.1 cu.-ft. to 30.7 cu.-ft. The 60/40-split second row also folds flat and reclines for added convenience.

The SX test model included leather seating with ventilated and heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, Harmon Kardon audio with Clari-Fi (rare features for this trim level), dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, and a panoramic sunroof with an opening that is 4.1 inches longer than the outgoing model’s.

The top-of-the-line SX also included the latest safety technology, like a blind spot monitor, front and rear parking assist, and rear cross traffic alert. While these features are not available on the base model, LX, they can be added to the mid-range EX.

The base model includes a rearview camera, air conditioning, a five-inch color touchscreen AM/FM/MP3/SiriusXM (three-month subscription) audio system, Bluetooth, hands-free phone operation and streaming audio, and USB auxiliary input jacks.

Panoramic sunroof.

Convenience features like cargo net hooks, remote keyless entry, and steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls are also standard. The SX added a smart power tailgate that opened automatically when it sensed the key fob.
Pricing for the 2017 Kia Sportage starts at $24,095. The as-tested pricing for the SX AWD came to $34,895.

Sí: The Sportage offers added value with features you wouldn’t find in this segment.

No: Fuel economy is fairly unimpressive, especially for a turbo-charged compact CUV.


Long-term Review: Kia Sedona Pt. 2

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Feb 282016

2016-02-28 16.37.00-1

A six-month test drive can lead to many adventures. The Kia Sedona minivan I drove from August through February for Latino Traffic Report got me through good times and bad, but then, what else would you expect from a family vehicle?

Redesigned in 2015, the Sedona offers a handsome option in the minivan segment. I received the Sedona SX-Limited (SX-L), the top-of-the-line trim level, and from the beginning, it impressed me with its elegance, comfort, and handling.2016-03-01 17.34.05

As with all Kias, it packs more features than normally associated with its segment, like ventilated as well as heated front seats, heated second-row cushions, a dual sunroof, and a driver mode select button (Eco, Normal, or Comfort), that helped improve the ride and handling as well as fuel economy.

The minivan should earn an EPA estimated 17miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, averaging around 23 mpg. All Sedonas come with a 3.3-liter V6 engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sport-matic simulated manual shifting. I traveled nearly 5,000 miles, spent $333 on gasoline and my final average fuel economy, utilizing the Eco mode, ranged between 20–24 mpg.

After six-months I took a few quick road trips to Bryan, Texas and San Antonio to visit family over the holidays. The majority of the mileage, however, accrued through city driving, particularly during a three-week stint as a holiday mail carrier for the United States Postal Service (USPS). For the most part, I drove rented cargo vans, but there were a couple times when the Sedona came through, in a pinch. This gave me ample opportunity to test the fold flat seating and take advantage of the Sedona’s 142 cu. ft. of cargo volume.2015-12-21 10.16.18

The optional first-class lounge chairs with footrests in the second row on the test model had manual levers that made them clunky to manipulate. The third row, however, folded flat more easily and quickly.

The navigation system, standard on the SX-L, also proved essential and easy to use as the postal routes I was given lacked serious detail. Not only did I come away with an appreciation of the system but also the mail carriers of the USPS—they work hard for the money

The cargo room also fit a six-foot Christmas tree with ease. Added convenience came with the smart power liftgate with a sensor that automatically opened in three seconds when I approached from behind with the keys in my pocket and I didn’t have to wave my foot under the bumper like other systems require.2015-12-11 16.16.27

The keyless system with burglar and panic alarm, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satellite stereo system, back-up warning, Bluetooth wireless technology, and cruise control are also standard. Only weeks into the loan, however, the Sedona was vandalized outside of the neighborhood post office. The police officer who took down my report after the robbery explained that the alarm did not engage during the break-in because the vandals didn’t open the door, they just reached in to get what they wanted.

One feature that was lacking on the Sedona, however, was a rear entertainment system for viewing DVDs that most minivans offer—they’re a must-have for families on a road trip. According to Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning, it is available as a dealer-installed option.

Pricing for the 2015 Sedona starts at $26,995 but you won’t be able to get features like a power liftgate or sliding doors or upgrade it with any options. The as-tested price, with $2,700 of additional equipment like lane departure warning and a surround view monitor, came to $43,295.

2016-02-28 16.31.33 HDR

: The Kia Sedona Is a handsome option, with versatility and a good list of standard and available features.

No: A rear entertainment system is a must for a minivan and it should be a factory option rather than dealer installed.


Review: 2016 Kia Sorento SX

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Oct 152015

2015-07-01 sorento2

Offering the versatility of a minivan, the crossover utility vehicle (CUV) gives shoppers a jazzier option for the family vehicle. First introduced in 2002, the Sorento represents Kia’s larger entry in this segment. On a recent test drive for Latino Traffic Report, I drove the newly redesigned 2016 model, specifically the Kia Sorento SX. Sporting a more refined exterior, the dapper CUV provides more versatility, technology, and value.

With a choice of five trim levels—L, LX, EX, SX and SXL, the third generation Sorento maximizes bang for the buck, starting with a nicely equipped base model. Driving the model just shy of the top-of-the-line SXL offered even more stuff.

2015-07-01 sorentoseatsFamilies will appreciate the choice of seating for five or seven, with two- and three-row configurations respectively; both versions include split seats that can be folded flat, expanding cargo room to 73.5 cubic feet.

The test model came with the available all-wheel drive (AWD) system and the 3.3-liter V6. According to EPA estimates, the V6 should achieve 17 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. I averaged 21.8 mpg.

The V6 produces 290 horses giving it an increased towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. when equipped with the AWD system that automatically routes power to the wheel with the most traction.

Two other engine options include and a new 2.0-liter inline-four turbo and a gasoline direct injection (GDI) 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder. The most fuel-efficient of the mix will be the front-wheel drive 2.4-liter with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.2015-07-01 sorentodash

All three engines are matched to an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission featuring Sportmatic simulated manual shifting. The standard Driver Mode Select allows drivers to choose among sport, normal, and eco modes, further improving driving performance on all models. I gravitate toward eco just to enhance fuel economy but a quick flick to sport does add oomph.

While standard safety features include traction and electronic stability control, the SX model did come with the optional rear-parking sensor, rear cross traffic alert, and blind spot detection. Happily, the Sorento received the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 5-star overall safety rating.

2015-07-01 sorentoroof2Oddly, the around view monitor, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning are unavailable on most trim levels and optional, even on the top-of-the-line model.

While the base model starts with cloth seats treated with Yes Essentials for easier maintenance, the SX included leather seating and heated seats for the driver and front passenger. Cruise control, air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo with a CD player and MP3 connectivity, Sirius Satellite radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted controls, and a fuel economy indicator, are also standard.

The SX added dual-zone air conditioning, push button start, a panoramic sunroof, navigation with an eight-inch display screen, and a smart, hands-free power liftgate.

Although I didn’t get to test it, the all-new Kia App Store offers apps that can be downloaded for free from iTunes or Google Play.2015-07-01 sorento.lic

Built in the United States at the plant in West Point, Georgia and on sale now, the 2016 Kia Sorento has a starting price of $25,795. The as-tested price came to $40,595.

Sí: The Sorento is an elegant CUV from Kia with a good list of standard features.

No: Safety features like lane departure warning, and forward collision warning should be available on more than just the top-of-the-line model.

Kia Sedona-Long-term Review Pt. 1

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Oct 012015

2015-09-05 sedonaWhen it comes to versatility and convenience, minivans remain outmatched as a family vehicle. While the segment may not be the sexiest, it has attracted some new players, namely, the Kia Sedona. All new for 2015, the Sedona combines a handsome exterior with roominess and flexibility on the inside. I received the Sedona SX Limited (SX-L) in August for a six-month long-term loan. After only a few months on the road, the Sedona has impressed me with its elegance, comfort, and handling.

2015-10-23 11.35.38The beauty of a long-term loan is the chance it affords to explore all aspects of the vehicle in day-to-day driving conditions. This real world experience got a little too real, however, when the Sedona was vandalized while parked at the local post office, only weeks into the loan. The driver’s side window was broken and certain contents were stolen from inside, all in broad daylight and in a matter of seconds. The test drive was suspended for about a month until the window could be repaired.

Once back on the road, the Sedona has been quite a pleasure to drive. As with all Kias, it packs more features than normally associated with its segment, like ventilated as well as heated front seats, heated second-row cushions, a dual sunroof, and a driver mode select button (Eco, Normal, or Comfort), that helps improve the ride and handling as well as fuel economy.

2015-11-11 17.07.58I’ve only taken a few quick road trips but the miles per gallon have remained above the EPA estimated 17 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, averaging above 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. All Sedonas come with a 3.3-liter V6 engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sport-matic simulated manual shifting.

The keyless system with burglar and panic alarm, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satellite stereo system, back-up warning, Bluetooth wireless technology, and cruise control are also standard.

2015-12-02 sedna.seats3As the top-of-the-line model, the SX-L offers another unique feature, first class lounge chairs in the second row that give it seating for seven. Equipped with footrests, they recline as well as slide forward to improve access to the third row. They don’t however fold flat for extra cargo room and the manual levers can be a bit clunky to deploy. The third row, however, folds flat easily and quickly, expanding cargo room behind the second row to 78.4 cubic feet. The lower trims do include a second-row bench or traditional captain’s chairs.

Christmas is approaching and I look forward to testing the Sedona’s tree carrying ability. The loan ends in February. Stay tuned for updates on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Pricing for the 2015 Sedona starts at $26,995 but you won’t be able to get features like a power liftgate or sliding doors or upgrade it with any option packages. The as-tested price, with $2,700 of additional equipment like lane departure warning and a surround view monitor, came to $43,295.2015-09-24 14.36.46

Reviews–2014 Kia Soul !

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Jan 072015

Kia Soul in front of carriage house in Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Kia Soul in front of carriage house in Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Some vehicles hit the mark so directly with a singular design that subsequent redesigns focus on what’s under the hood rather than the outside. Such is the all-new 2014 Kia Soul, a compact five-door hatchback that has captured its segment with the right combination of utility and fun, prompting Kia designers to tread lightly.

At the recent launch in Minneapolis, it was clear that they opted to keep the same bug-like front fascia as well as the silhouette. The most notable exterior changes include a trapezoidal air intake at the front, new oversized tail lamps and a more contoured liftgate, plus the blinkers on the old model that gave the headlamps a baggy-eyed look, are gone. More substantive changes include a stiffer chassis that is longer and wider, adding interior room and an improved ride vis-à-vis heavily revised front and rear suspension systems.

Also adding to the Soul’s upgrades is the standard Flex Steer system that allows the driver to select from three distinct steering settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport for added oomph in certain situations, e.g. entering a freeway.

2013-10-05 soul.pkng

Kia Soul at the Mall of America.

After the launch, I clocked extra seat time in the Soul by way of an extended stay in Minneapolis. I retraced many of the steps ostensibly taken by one of my favorite television characters, Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore). I saw the Victorian mansion used in exterior shots for her apartment, the building that contained the WJM television station, and the downtown bronze statue that marks the spot where she flings her hat in the air during the opening of the show.

No trip to Minneapolis is complete without a trip to the Mall of America, located adjacent to the beautiful Radisson Blu where I stayed. Despite the Soul’s slight size increase, I still managed to squeeze into the tiniest of parking spaces in the parking garage.

There were moments that involved the navigation system supplied by the Sun and Sound Package ($2,600). The navigation (with XM/Sirius Traffic) remained on target plus, it allowed for a passenger to program directions while the car is moving. I understand why other systems freeze once the vehicle moves, namely to avoid driver distraction, but if you do have a front-seat passenger, the Kia method is also nice.

Available in three trim levels, Base, Plus, and Exclaim, I drove the latter that not only included additional standard equipment, but also more than $5,000 of added features—the previously mentioned Sun and Sound Package also included a panoramic sunroof and automatic climate control. The Whole Shebang Package ($2,500) came with push button start, leather seating, heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. Visiting in early October, I was able to appreciate the fall colors and a slight crispness in the air, as well as those heated seats.2013-soul.rear.minn

The base model receives the 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline direct injection (GDI) with 130-horsepower and 118 lbs.–ft. of torque. The Exclaim, however, comes with a new, more powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 164 horses and mated to the six-speed automatic that’s optional on the base model. Unfortunately, a six-speed manual is only available on the base model.

EPA estimated fuel economy on the Exclaim is 23 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. I averaged 18.7 mpg.

Seeking to upgrade the interior, designers incorporated circular cues along the door panels, the power windows, and door lock, a round gear shift knob, and push-button start (its location is exclusive to Soul in the Kia lineup). More new features include an improved UVO infotainment system with a high-definition capacitive touch screen and access to Pandora Internet radio.

Power windows, door locks and heated outside mirrors, a telescoping steering wheel, and a six-speaker AM/FM/MP3 audio unit are all standard on the base model. Bluetooth hands-free wireless technology, SiriusXM satellite radio with three months complimentary service, and USB/AUX inputs round out the Base Soul’s audio/infotainment equipment. A CD player is unavailable.2014_kia_soul_4

The Exclaim adds a high-gloss piano-black center console, cooled glove box, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, and auto-dimming rearview mirror.

While the Soul’s redesign may not be radical, it is refined, which is further accentuated on the Soul Exclaim.

Pricing for the 2014 Soul starts at $15,495. The as-tested price for the 2014 Soul Exclaim came to $26,195.