"For $24,000, is the Kia Sportage or Kia Optima a better deal?"
Dawn B., Plano, Texas
"For $24,000, is the Kia Sportage or Kia Optima a better deal?"
Dawn B., Plano, Texas
Hyundai-Kia's troubled home-turf labor relations continue. The latest chapter has Korean labor unions voting to strike over wage and benefit disputes with the South Korean automaker. The result could mean a production stoppage in its home country.
Hyundai-Kia, which together rank fifth in global sales, is the sixth on the U.S. sales pole, with year-to-date sales down 0.3%. Still, the automaker builds popular cars like the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata, as well as the Kia Optima and Soul. All four rank in the top 35 best-sellers so far this year — and although the automaker operates two assembly plants in the U.S., all Soul and a significant chunk of Optima, Elantra and Sonata vehicles hail from South Korea. A production stoppage could hamstring dealer supply in a matter of weeks.
The midsize sedan is one of the most popular segments in the U.S. It serves as a family car, commuter, road tripper and more.
Because of this popularity, automakers offer a dizzying amount of styles and options for their midsizers. This differing content makes it hard for car shoppers to compare apples to apples from one automaker to the next.
We analyzed the segment for the features most drivers would want in a car of this class and uncovered some surprising results.
Each year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues recalls on millions of vehicles. In 2012, NHTSA recalled just shy of 18 million, and 15.5 million in 2011. While some recalls affect just a handful of vehicles, others impact millions.
So far this year, the biggest recall is technically not a recall at all. In June, we reported that NHTSA had requested Chrysler fix 2.7 million Jeep SUVs — 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee and 2002-07 Liberty models — due to a potential fuel-system problem that could cause fires in a rear-end crash. Jeep initially refused, insisting the vehicles "met and exceeded all applicable requirements" of federal standards pertaining to fuel-system integrity. NHTSA then gave Chrysler a June 18 deadline to either issue a recall themselves, or be ordered to do so.
On the day of its deadline, Chrysler announced it would launch a campaign to inspect and, if necessary, fix the 2.7 million Jeeps — never officially referring to the action as a "recall." Still, that's what it was, and therefore it earns the distinction of being the biggest one this year.
According to research, the biggest recalls affecting the U.S. market in 2013 are:
Debuting this week at the 2013 New York International Auto Show is a refreshed 2014 Kia Optima. The changes to its appearance are few but across its four trim levels, the new Optima has added and updated features in an attempt to stay competitive in the booming midsize-sedan market.
The Optima's exterior has alterations to the front and rear including the brand's signature tabbed grille. There are also refreshed rear diffusers, a sweeping trunk lid and new front-LED positioning along with fog lights and newly designed taillights.
Tech features include push-button start, a new 4.3-inch LCD instrument cluster and an optional 8-inch multimedia screen featuring Kia's UVO eServices, an eight-speaker Infinity sound system, HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and SiriusXM Traffic. An optional blind spot warning system includes rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors. Kia says newly designed seats should improve comfort.
When the 2014 Optima arrives at dealerships in third quarter of this year — pricing will be announced closer to the sale date — it will offer car shoppers a choice among LX, EX, SX and a new SX Limited trim levels. Base-model features include dual exhaust with chrome tips, solar glass, side mirror turn-signal indicators, front fog lights, heated side mirrors, chrome-accented exterior door handles and 16-inch alloy wheels. Upgrades reserved for the top-level SX Limited trim include unique 18-inch chrome wheels, LED fog lights, red brake calipers, an electronic parking brake, chrome-accented side sills and premium Nappa leather seats.
South Korean automaker Kia has announced some updates to its 2013 Optima Hybrid model; changes to the sedan should make it more fuel efficient and more powerful. Most of the updates are mechanical: The hybrid now has a 47-horsepower electric motor, a stronger stop-start generator and a more powerful lithium-polymer battery. This translates into slightly different numbers for the Optima Hybrid: Total system horsepower drops a bit to 199 from 206, but combined torque is increased significantly from 195 pounds-feet to 235. That should make for more responsive off-the-line acceleration.
The new Optima Hybrid is also now available in two trim levels, base and EX, with differences in equipment levels and even fuel economy. The base model is more efficient than its predecessor, earning an EPA rating of 36/40 mpg city/highway. The EX model -with additional equipment like a navigation system, backup camera, eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system, panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats and 17-inch aerodynamic wheels — gets 35/39 mpg. Both models now feature more trunk space as well, thanks to a repackaged battery pack that no longer intrudes as much into the cargo area.
At Cars.com, we focus on new cars, but when it comes to overall car sales, used cars own the field. CNW Marketing Research reports shoppers bought more than 40 million of them in 2012, the highest total since 2007. For every new car sold, nearly three used cars changed hands.
Shoppers are still taking the used route despite near-record used-car prices, which soared so high that we suspended our $10,000 used-car recommendations — once a regular Cars.com feature — for two years. Blame the recession, which slashed new-car sales and the resulting supply of late-model used cars that are typically traded in for them.
Used-car prices are coming back to earth, according to Manheim's Used Vehicle Value Index, but that's not to say used-car prices are low again. They have ebbed enough to give $10K cars another go.
A recent automotive trend has my kids jumping for joy: seat heaters for rear passengers. This feature seems to be an indicator that things are movin' on up for those in the back. What's even better is this feature, once common only in luxury cars, is now available in cars that cost less than a bazillion dollars.
The Chicago Auto Show is traditionally big on floor space and short on new product debuts, and the 2013 edition is no different with just a handful of all-new production and concept cars making their premieres. Editors Mike Hanley, Aaron Bragman, David Thomas and Joe Bruzek crisscrossed the expansive show floor in search of the hits and misses.
Mike Hanley: Winner
It would have been nice to see some frame or powertrain improvements, but the styling changes nicely update the truck. The taller hood makes for a bold front end, and the stamped badge on the tailgate is something you'd typically see on a concept truck. On the show floor, the changes work. Whether it stands a chance in the real world with updated domestic competitors is another thing.
Aaron Bragman: Loser
Lots of us thought that the new 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra updates were tepid, but this makes GM's changes look revolutionary. Two elements one can point to — the new grille and the new interior, and neither one looks good. The new headlights and body-colored grille make the Tundra look like a bigger Honda Ridgeline, which is not a positive change. The interior is practically a direct rip-off of the current Ford F-150, and with no changes to the structure or powertrain (a five-speed automatic transmission? Still?), one wonders why Toyota even bothered to change anything.
David Thomas: Winner
I like the updates to the Tundra because it maintains a modern look versus the traditional styling of the domestic trucks on the market. The Tundra is what you think a truck in 2013 should look like. The different treatments to the grille are interesting, too, and everyone seemed to love the stamped-in name on the tailgate. Inside may be a "ripoff," but it is well-executed.
Joe Bruzek: Loser
Is Toyota giving up on the Tundra? It looks that way with hardly significant styling improvements and rip-off of the F-150's interior styling plus no mechanical changes to the truck's capabilities. The Tundra's old interior at least differentiated itself from other pickups with a unique, clean and swoopy design instead of the blocky industrial look it now uses.
The Superman-inspired Kia Optima Hybrid, revealed today at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, might have been the Man of Steel's sweet-16 present from daddy Jor-El if only Krypton hadn't been destroyed. The Supes-style sedan is instantly recognizable, adorned in the hero's signature blue with red accents on the grille, wheels, rear bumper and elsewhere, with glowing red undercar lighting and "heat vision" headlights.
To further guard against mistaken identity, the Last Son of Krypton's signature S shield is displayed in multiple places, most prominently on the hood and seats, and a shadowy black image of him is incorporated into the rear windshield. Despite all their similarities, Superman gets his power from Earth's sun while the Kia Optima Hybrid runs on gas and electric — and cannot fly. The car is the sixth in a planned eight-car Justice League series born of a partnership between Kia and DC Entertainment. Check out the gallery below.
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