By Ted Orme
Like the Japanese before them, Korean automakers started modestly but are now challenging their Asian rivals head on for a growing slice of the worldwide auto market pie. Yes, there were quality/reliability missteps early on that resulted in 10/year/100,000 mile powertrain warranties necessary to regain respect for Hyundai and Kia models. In recent years, however, these two closely aligned companies – Hyundai bought a controlling interest in Kia in 1998 and still maintains a major share – have produced stylish high value models that have garnered lots of praise. And with this growing public approval and increasing market share, the Koreans have moved steadily upscale.
Many still identify Kia with the plucky little Rio, Soul and Forte. It’s time to readjust our thinking. For me, that started with one of my favorite mid-sized cars, the Optima. Now comes the 2014 Kia Cadenza I tested recently, which is a serious challenger in the $35-40K entry level luxury sedan segment. On its heels will be the real Kia flagship, the rear-drive, 420 horsepower V-8 powered 2015 K900 aimed directly at the rear-drive premium-luxury sedan segment.
First impressions are important, particularly as you go