THERE was a time when customers gravitated towards Kia because the cars were reliable and wouldn’t break the bank.
But exterior style? Interior comfort and sophistication? Not really.
This year marks the 30th anniversary since the Korean firm landed in the UK with its Pride hatchback, and a new chapter beckons.
The company set up a European headquarters in Frankfurt, poaching top European designers (including the genius behind the original Audi TT) and engineers. The style council stepped in and the Kias of today have moved upmarket. They’re not cheap, but are proving better value for money than many rivals.
In the past decade, sales have nearly doubled from 56,114 in 2010 to 97,323 in 2019. With 17 models and variants, one in every 20 cars now sold in the UK is a Kia. Which brings me to Kia’s new award-winning seven-seater Sorento SUV which I have been road testing around Surrey.
It’s the fourth generation Sorento since 2002 and has a choice of engines; two electrified 1.6-litre turbo petrol powertrains, self-charging hybrid or plug-in hybrid, or a 2.2-litre diesel. Prices range from £39,110 to £47,210 for the hybrid, £41,520 for the diesel and £44,995 to £53,095 for the plug-in hybrid, or ‘PHEV’, which I drove. It has presence on the road and flexibility off it, thanks to various terrain modes.
With a six-speed automatic gear-box, the PHEV’s 1.6-litre petrol engine is linked to a hybrid electric motor and 13.8kWh lithium ion battery to produce a maximum 265 hp. It accelerates from rest to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds up to a top speed of 119 mph.
The interior looks upmarket and is comfortable, mine even had quilted leather seats.
■ PRODUCTION of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS Grenadier 4X4 (pictured) has been pushed back to July 2022 ‘at the latest’ because of ‘unavoidable delays’, as it undergoes testing in Austria. The news comes months after Ratcliffe, one of the world’s richest men, scrapped plans for a new plant in Bridgend, Wales, in favour of an existing Daimler-Benz/ Smart factory in France.
■ TOYOTA is to spend more than £1 million covertly marking more than 100,000 parts on older cars which could be the target of catalytic converter theft.
The service is free to owners and, with the use of invisible Smartwater, aims to help police catch criminals. The car giant is working with police to provide an initial 50,000 kits. The markings mean a stolen part can be traced to a specific crime.
Simply call your local Toyota or Lexus retailer to sign up.
■ THE perky new Fiat 500 (pictured) has been named electric car of the year in the inaugural Electrifying.com awards.
Priced from £20,495 (after the £2,500 plug-in car grant) and with a choice of ranges up to 118 miles or 199 miles, it also won best small car. Judges praised its affordability, retro-chic design and driving range. Its 85kW battery reaches 80 per cent charge in just 30 minutes and gives a 30-mile boost in about five minutes.
Ginny Buckley, founder of the electric car website, said: ‘Fiat has taken a much-loved car and reinvented it for the electric revolution. And who can resist the first mainstream electric convertible?’
Other winners include MG5 EV (best value) and Skoda Enyaq (family).