Korean war on wheels
EVERY time I get to thinking about Kia I’m reminded of my younger brother Keith.
As the eldest in our family, I was a bit like Hyundai.
I had some good ideas, and I got there first, but Keith always managed to take what I’d begun and improve things.
When I started as a paperboy I was happy to clear about $20 a week but he lifted that to more than $40 on the same route and put it all in the bank. No frippery or splashing on motor magazines, that’s for sure. He was also way better at anything practical, tougher on a football field and first to head out from home.
Just last week I was driving the new Hyundai Sante Fe and was impressed by the design, space, quality and seven-seater practicality. The steering felt wonky and the ride was floppy but, all-in-all, it was a very impressive thing.
This week I’min the latest Kia Sorento and it’s almost the same as the Sante Fe— no surprise there, since they’re among the Hyundai-Kia clone cars— but a bit better.
I think the driver’s seat sits way too high for comfort and control but the Sorento’s suspension is massively better and the steering is good.
It also feels more together and a little quieter. The extra refinement in the Sorento means I will always recommend it before the Santa Fe.
It’s much the same as the Kia Sportage, which I prefer over the Hyundai ix35.
It’s the same in the Kia Rio that trumps the Hyundai i20 and holds the Carsguide Car of the Year crown. And it’s the same in the mid-sized Optima, which is way better than Hyundai’s i45.
Look at the sales figures this year. Hyundai is up by 4.9 per cent over 2011, holding fourth in the charts.
Kia is only 11th but its numbers are up by 26.9 per cent.
Kia has the obvious advantage of building up from the basics set by Hyundai in everything from cabin size to engines. It scores with the styling work by design ace Peter Schreyer and also has Aussie suspension guru Graeme Gambold on the books. The Schreyer-Gambold double-punch lands every time, which could partly explain a major change at Hyundai that puts former Holden marketing boss John Elsworth into the driving seat this week.
He’s going to lead a more locally focused management team and its task will be to deliver what Australians want in their cars, while holding the prices and value at the level Australians expect from Korea.
He could do a lot worse than to take a look and a drive in something with a Keith— sorry, Kia— badge.
Family feud: Kia’s Sportagewonour four-car SUV comparison