Archive for October 2012

Hyundai Azera Rides Its Redesign to Become Fastest-Seller in Segment

Since undergoing a comprehensive redesign for the 2012 model year, the Hyundai Azera has received a warm critical reception for its luxury and performance, and now it has become the fastest-selling model in its full-size segment. According to J.D. Power’s Power Information Network, the Azera spends an average of just 16 days on the lot, compared to 28 days for the Toyota Avalon, 65 days for the Nissan Maxima and 70 days for the Ford Taurus. Just as impressively, the new Azera also has a 61-percent conquest rate of car buyers coming from other brands.

Hyundai’s redesign for the Azera focused on creating a spacious and luxurious interior. Heated leather seats are standard in the front and back, while ventilated front seats are optional. The full-size sedan also offers best-in-class headroom and legroom for front passengers, and all occupants can enjoy an optional panoramic sunroof that lets in plenty of natural light and fresh air. While some of the Azera’s competitors require pricey upgrades for advanced tech features, the Hyundai model comes standard with a seven-inch touchscreen navigation system, a rear-view camera and Bluetooth connectivity.

“By the time you’re done paying for all the features you want in many full-size cars, you’re looking at a much more expensive vehicle, but the designers of the new Azera focused on luxury even with its base model,” said Scott Levy, general manager of Rosen Hyundai, a Hyundai dealership near Chicago. “Regardless of the trim that Chicago commuters choose, they are going to have a much more comfortable ride to and from the city in the Azera.”

Even passengers relegated to the backseat can find a lot to like about the 2012 Hyundai Azera, including an automatic rear-window sunshade and segment-first manual side-window sunshades. Cars.com recently cited the shades’ ability to keep heat out of the cabin, as well as the model’s spaciousness in the back, when naming the Azera to its list of top vehicles for backseat passengers.

Under the hood, the redesigned Azera houses a direct-injected V6 that generates 33 more horsepower than its predecessor for a total of 293 horsepower. At 3.3 liters, the engine boasts the smallest displacement in its segment, yet it also has the highest specific output at 88.8 horsepower per liter. Featuring a six-speed automatic transmission, the 2012 Azera’s powertrain returns up to 29 mpg on the highway.

For the 2013 model year, the Azera will get a slight upgrade in fuel economy, earning one extra mile per gallon during freeway driving to make it Hyundai’s first V6-powered vehicle to net 30 mpg on the highway. An extra mile per gallon has also been earned in combined city and highway driving, raising the 2013 Azera’s rating to 24 mpg, higher than the Maxima and Taurus.

“Fuel economy is becoming ever more important to car buyers no matter the segment, and putting the Azera in the 30-mpg club on the highway gives it an edge over many of its competitors,” added Levy. “There is no other car in the Azera’s segment that can deliver that kind of efficiency while still offering such an appealing interior and engaging performance.”

 

Kia to Kick Off Series of Redesigns with New Forte, Updated Sorento

 

With two years worth of monthly sales records, Kia has become the fastest-growing auto brand in America, and it will look to boost that momentum following the U.S. debut of two models at the LA Auto Show in late November. The Korean automaker will unveil the redesigned 2014 Kia Forte compact car and the updated 2014 Kia Sorento crossover at the show before both vehicles arrive at dealerships early next year.  

Lower, longer and wider than the current generation, the all-new 2014 Kia Forte has been designed to compete more directly against the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Ford Focus. According to AutoGuide.com, the compact is expected to feature a 1.8-liter engine that will help it exceed 40 mpg, and buyers will be able to choose from sedan, coupe and hatchback models. Meanwhile, the refreshed 2014 Sorento will offer better fuel economy and tighter handling with its revised powertrains and new chassis, though specific details have not been released.

“The redesigned Forte should help Kia take a larger slice of the lucrative but highly competitive compact segment, while the 2014 Sorento will improve upon the features that have made the SUV one of their best-sellers,” said Scott Levy, general manager of Rosen Kia of Elgin, a Chicagoland Kia dealer. “Kia has seen incredible success during the past four years or so, and these new vehicles are part of a broader push from the automaker to transition into a new stage of growth.”

The forthcoming Forte and Sorento are two of seven new or updated Kia models that will go on sale next year in an effort to increase the brand’s U.S. market share. For 2012, Kia is already expecting its market share to rise to 4 percent in the United States, which would be up from 3.8 percent in 2011.

On pace for its best-ever year of U.S. sales, Kia says that it should sell more than 500,000 units for the first time in 2012. Despite its planned updates, the current Sorento remains popular, expected to surpass 100,000 models sold this year. The Optima has already passed that sales mark, and Kia anticipates that the Soul will as well, potentially marking the first time the lineup has seen three models move that much volume in a year.

In 2008, Kia kick-started its recent success stateside with a $1.4 billion investment into U.S. facilities, a move that was accelerated the next year when its now-iconic hamsters debuted in commercials promoting the quirky new Soul compact crossover. The furry brand advocates returned to television last month in a new ad campaign promoting the Kia Soul, which is also due for a redesign in 2013 for the 2014 model year.

“The hamsters really helped introduce Kia to a lot of Americans, and now that the brand has found more mainstream success, they serve as a reminder that driving is supposed to be fun,” added Levy. “You can bet that none of the redesigned Kia models coming out next year will let their owners forget that fact.”

 

Nissan Leaf Named Best Car for Commuting by TrueCarScore.com

 

Creeping through rush-hour traffic is certainly not the most fun thing to do in a car, but many commuters spend a good part of their day driving to and from a city for work. Fortunately for those drivers, TrueCarScore.com recently compiled its Top 10 Cars for Commuting list to help make the miles pass by a little less painfully. It was the all-electric 2012 Nissan Leaf that topped the list, due in part to its impressive 106 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) in the city.

The Top 10 Cars for Commuting list was determined by taking each vehicle’s True Car Score, which consolidates ratings from publications like Consumer Guide, Edmunds.com and MSN Autos, and then factoring in city fuel-economy ratings. Most Leaf owners are likely not surprised by their vehicle’s latest accolade; collectively, they have now racked up more than 100 million miles together globally. In the United States alone, owners have driven more than 61 million miles in the Leaf.

“The Leaf is saving commuters a lot of money, not only because they can pass up the pump, but also because the car’s motor only runs when you’re pressing the pedal, so you don’t waste energy in stop-and-go traffic,” said Jeff Rosen, general manager of Rosen Nissan Milwaukee, a Wisconsin Nissan dealer. “The average American drives less than 29 miles a day, and many Milwaukee commuters drive much less than that, meaning they can take the Leaf to work and back without ever having to worry about charging up.”

Aside from the absence of gas costs, the Nissan Leaf has many other standard features designed to make commuting more pleasant. Heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel are welcome touches during winter-morning drives into the office, as are the heated outside mirrors that melt frost for improved visibility. Leaf drivers can also use the Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity to stay productive during their commute, while automatic LED headlights and a navigation system can help them stay on track should they try a new detour.

Power for the Nissan Leaf comes from an 80-kW electric motor that produces 107 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. All of that torque is delivered as soon as the driver steps down on the pedal, resulting in smooth and consistent acceleration. With a full charge of its advanced lithium-ion battery, the Leaf has an EPA-rated range of 73 miles, though Nissan estimates that the vehicle can drive up to 100 miles in city driving.

As zero-emission cars gain wider adoption, Nissan is using its experience with the Leaf to develop other electrified drivetrains. At the 2012 Paris Motor Show, the automaker recently introduced the Terra SUV concept, a hydrogen-fuel-cell electric vehicle that uses a fuel-cell stack to power an electric motor similar to that found in the Leaf. To give the sustainable crossover all-wheel-drive capability, Nissan installed electric motors in each of the rear wheels as well, allowing the Terra to distribute power between them as needed.

“The Terra concept is really the ultimate no-sacrifice green vehicle,” added Rosen. “Drivers that are conscious about their wallet and the environment could still go just about anywhere with its innovative all-wheel-drive system. Once the right fuel-cell infrastructure is put in place, we expect to see the Terra’s technology being used both on and off road.”