KIA Motor Corporation is the oldest and second-largest carmaker in South Korea.
Kia was founded in 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry. Back then, the company manufactured steel tubing and bicycle parts, which then led to the production of South Korea’s first domestic bicycle, the Samchully, in 1951.
It was in 1952 that Kyungsung changed its name to Kia Industries and started building motorcycles, lorries and cars for Japanese automotive companies.
Today, Kia produces more than three million vehicles a year at 14 manufacturing and assembly plants in five countries.
Kia has been in Malaysia since 1996, with Naza Kia Malaysia Sdn Bhd as the official distributor.
Recently, Naza Kia organised a test drive to Johor Baru on four models launched this year, which are the Sorento High Spec diesel, Sportage GT CRDi diesel, Optima GT and the Rio 1.4 MPI.
A total of 32 media personnel took part in the test drive, with two assigned to each car.
On our journey to Johor Baru, we were given the Sportage GT CRDi diesel and Sorento High Spec diesel to test drive. When we were heading back from Johor Baru, we drove the Rio 1.4 MPI, followed by the Optima GT. On both days, we drove on a mixture of highway and trunk roads.
The “Dynamax AWD” Kia Sportage GT CRDi diesel is powered by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine mated to a six-speed conventional automatic gearbox. It produces 182hp and 400Nm of torque from 1,750 to 2,750rpm.
It comes with 19-inch rims, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights, fog lamps, rear lamps, 7-inch TFT colour LCD meter, reverse camera, dual-zone auto air-conditioning, paddle shifters, five-inch touchscreen infotainment system with six-speakers, cruise control, drive mode select, electronic parking brake, leather seats, electric front seats and keyless entry with push start.
The Sportage GT CRDi diesel is priced at RM159,888, inclusive of insurance and six per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The Sorento High Spec diesel variant, on the other hand, comes with a 2.2-litre CRDi Turbodiesel engine that is hooked to a six-speed automatic gearbox. It develops 197hp at 3,800rpm and 440Nm of torque from 1,750 to 2,750rpm.
It comes with 19-inch chrome alloys, powered tailgate, shark fin antenna, roof rack, LED combination tail lamps, front fog lamps, keyless entry with push start button, LED daytime running lights, HID projector headlamps, adaptive front lighting system, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control air-conditioning, rear air vents, multifunction steering wheel, seven-inch TFT LCD instrument cluster, manual rear passenger sun blinds and powered front seats as part of the core equipment list of the seven-seater.
It is priced at RM191,888, inclusive of insurance and GST.
The Kia Optima GT retails for RM179,888 which includes insurance and GST. Similar to the Sorento and Sportage, the Optima GT also has a five-year unlimited mileage warranty.
it is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder T-GDI petrol engine paired with a six-speed conventional torque converter automatic transmission. It delivers 242 hp at 6,000 rpm and 350 Nm of torque from 1,400 to 4,000 rpm.
The front wheel drive D-segment sedan is equipped with LED headlamps with dynamic bending lights, LED daytime running lights, LED combination tail lamps, leather upholstery, powered front seats with memory function for the driver’s seat, electronic parking brake, seven-inch LCD infotainment system with six-speakers, panoramic sliding sunroof, wireless charging tray, reverse camera, keyless entry with push start button, smart tailgate, 4.3-inch TFT instrument cluster display, rear air vents, multifunction steering wheel, paddle shifters, turbo-torque display screen and drive mode selector.
Lastly, the Kia Rio 1.4 MPI comes with a 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated Dual CVVT four-cylinder engine coupled with a four-speed automatic transmission. The mill produces 99hp at 6,000rpm and 133Nm of torque at 4,000rpm.
The B-segment hatchback comes with halogen projector headlamps, U-shaped LED daytime running lights, fog lights, LED tail lights, rear USB charger, infotainment system with a five-inch colour display, a 325 litres of boot space, 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels, keyless entry with push-start button, 3.5-inch multi-info display, auto lights and wipers, automatic climate control with cluster ioniser air-conditioning, sunroof, black fabric upholstery, six speakers and a rear-view camera. The Rio is priced at RM79,888, inclusive of insurance and GST.
Safety features such as six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock braking system, tyre pressure monitoring system, brake assist, vehicle stability management, hill start assist, emergency stop signal, Isofix child-seat mounting points as well as the front and rear parking sensors are available in the Sorento High Spec diesel, Sportage GT CRDi diesel and the Optima GT.
Meanwhile, the Kia Rio 1.4 MPI has most of the safety features mentioned above, except for the emergency stop signal and the tyre pressure monitoring system.
The Sorento High Spec diesel, Sportage GT CRDi diesel and the Optima GT are also rated five-star for the Euro NCAP crash safety rating. All Kia models come with five-year unlimited mileage warranty.
We started our journey to Johor Baru from Kia PJ Red Cube and drove the Sportage GT CRDi diesel. The Sportage was very powerful and comfortable. Kia did a great job with its interior, especially the dashboard design that looks stylish and is neatly wrapped in leather.
The 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine was very responsive, smooth and powerful. It made overtaking and switching lanes very easy, with no lag at all. The gear shift was smooth and fast.
On the highway, the Sportage was well planted even on high-speed corners. The light medium weighted steering was responsive and provided accurate feedback of road conditions.
When we were on the trunk road, the suspension comfortably absorbed most of the damaged and rough roads, giving the driver and passenger a peaceful and relaxing ride.
There was also very minimal engine, wind and tyre noise during high-speed driving.
After lunch, we switched to the Sorento High Spec diesel. The seven-seater’s suspension did a great job at smoothing out the rough and damaged road conditions. There was also good grip on high-speed corners with very minimal body roll.
The Sorento is very spacious. It has plenty of head, shoulder and legroom for a large-frame adult. There was noticeable wind noise penetrating the cabin when we drove on the highway at high speed. However, it can be easily overcome by a conversation or even by the radio.
The following day, we drove the Rio 1.4 MPI from Johor Baru to the Ayer Keroh rest and service area.
We were impressed with the dashboard design, the sun roof and the safety features. Even though it was a B-segment hatchback, the Rio offers generous headroom and legroom for a large-frame adult.
Compared to the three other models available, the Rio has the smallest engine capacity. However, in city and highway driving, it was very smooth and powerful.
It handled high-speed corners well but the suspension did not offer the same comfort as the other two SUVs.
Wind and tyre noise was well isolated from the cabin, but we were able to hear the engine roaring when we were driving on the highway at high speed. What caught our attention was the sunroof, as it is hard to find a sunroof in a B-segment hatchback.
After a short tea break at the Ayer Keroh rest and service area, we switched to the Kia Optima GT and made our way back to Kia PJ Red Cube.
The Optima was very powerful, sporty and comfortable. It had no issues to dash up over the legal speed limit. Once set in the sports mode, the engine and exhaust roared aggressively and sounded like a Porsche.
The Optima cornered like it was on rails - going through the corners cleanly and exiting the corners accurately. It absorbed most wavy road conditions and potholes like a sponge.
Space is not an issue with the Optima as it offers ample head room, shoulder room and leg room for a six-footer adult. Wind and tyre noise was nowhere to be heard as we enjoyed the engine and exhaust sounds when we accelerated during the drive.
We are impressed that Kia has improved so much. The company now builds quality vehicles that look good from the outside to the inside. So don’t be surprised to see more Korean-made vehicles on the road in the near future.