Are There Any Bad Cars Left? Kia tops J.D. Power Initial Quality Study

2017 Kia Sportage EX EX

If there’s one piece of advice I find myself sanctimoniously preaching to prospective car shoppers, it’s this: There’s no such thing as a bad car anymore.

Long, long ago, in the early 1990s, Kia Motors expanded to the United States, bringing with it little economical runabouts like the Sephia sedan and the Sportage crossover. There was just one problem: These cars weren’t exactly what we’d describe as “good.” Sub-100-hp engines, crude transmissions, and interiors featuring more plastics than Mean Girls. The little Sephia couldn’t even deliver great fuel economy, barely eking out 27 mpg highway with its automatic transmission. A ‘94 Ford Escort could manage 5 mpg better with nearly identical power specs.

But oh, how times have changed. Despite a poor first impression, Kia has emerged as a shining example of the fact that there really are no more “bad” cars. Every year, J.D. Power conducts its Initial Quality Study, wherein car owners are surveyed to determine which vehicles deliver the best experience within the first 90 days. By placing first on J.D. Power’s 2016 U.S. Initial Quality Study, Kia earned the honor of being the first non-premium brand in 27 years to take home Gold.

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10 Economical Options for the Sensible Graduate

personal_car_rental

As Boston-area folks know all too well, another year’s worth of college students will soon graduate and move on to their next stage in life. Whether that next stage will be an entry-level job, more school, volunteer or charity work, or getting right to work on their first (next?) startup, we wish this year’s graduates nothing but the best with whatever comes next.

We ran a recent survey that determined more than half of graduating college students plan to buy a car, and we were happily surprised to learn that over half of them expect to buy it themselves. Two-thirds of those getting a new car plan to buy a used one, and almost half expect to spend $15,000 or less, though we also learned that graduating college students don’t understand a car’s true costs. Over half plan to work in the city, and 71% plan to commute by car.

So here’s a graduation present from CarGurus: a list of 10 cars available used at an average cost of $15,000 or less that are all fine commuting cars and should hold their value relatively well. We deliberately avoided sports cars, which might tempt even a valedictorian to drive unsafely and would cost substantially more to insure. We hope all recent graduates plan to continue learning in their next stage of life, and we look forward to celebrating some of their successes in the no doubt impressively near future.

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10 Best SUVs for Less Than $15,000

2009 Subaru Forester

CarGurus spent two days previewing the 2016 New York International Auto Show, and if one trend stood out more than others, it was America’s apparent obsession with crossovers and SUVs. This could be due to low fuel prices, or perhaps it’s more a consequence of our country’s longstanding enthusiasm for adventure and frontiers. Whatever the reason, from the introduction of the Maserati Levante and the over-the-top Lincoln Navigator concept to Mitsubishi’s last-ditch effort with the Outlander PHEV, this message was clear: automakers are hitching their wagons to crossovers and SUVs.

Since the public apparently has a hankering for high-riding, do-anything transportation, we decided to find the best used crossover vehicles using CarGurus’ user-submitted reviews. To keep things interesting, we set a price limit of $15,000, but eliminated any cars more than 15 years old or with an average of more than 100,000 miles. If you want to submit your own ranking reviews on CarGurus, we’d love to hear what you have to say!

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Sell the Honda, Buy a Kia?

2014 Kia Soul

A friend of mine had a beautiful, low-mileage Honda Pilot for sale.

This is the kind of guy who keeps the paperwork on everything he buys and has required service performed at the recommended intervals and only at authorized locations. He buys reasonable, practical items, but only gets the top-of-the-line versions of them.

Let me give you an idea of what kind of guy this is. When I purchased a used hot tub from him, he handed me a manila folder with every piece of paper it came with and receipts for every service and part, sorted by date. And laminated.

So when this guy sells a car, the buyer gets a pristine example of what a used vehicle should be.

When he told me he wanted to sell his Honda and get a Kia, my reaction was two-fold.

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Kia’s Quality Up, But Buyers Haven’t Noticed

2014-kia-cadenza

Remember the Sephia?

The oddly named Kia was one of the first cars the company sold in the United States. Its low cost and low quality quickly became synonymous with the Kia name. In the overview on CarGurus, there are “complaints of numerous repair problems, particularly with the brakes and transmission, along with a cheap plastic interior, an easily dented body, small backseat, and labored acceleration when the A/C is on.”

While the vehicles produced by Kia in recent years have increased in quality to rival some luxury automakers, the perception of Kia is still stuck on the early impressions of cars like the Sephia.

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Kia’s Track’ster Stealing the Show at Chicago

Kia Trackster concept

Now this is one smart and smart-looking concept. It’s based on the Kia Soul, but with 250 hp instead of the standard 164. There are two big problems, however:

1. The company says there are no plans to put it into production. (Then why was it shown at Chicago if not to assess this?) 2. Kia’s marketing people should stop fooling with apostrophes. It is confusing and stupid.

An apostrophe indicates either a possessive (see my title) or that something has been left out. But in fact, what’s been added to the Soul is style and much more power.

The Track’ster brings many welcome changes to the Soul, which I always thought supremely ugly, like a giant stepped on the rear roof. This car looks better, largely because of the rear-end hatch treatment. The Trackster (no apostrophe) is longer and wider with big fender flares, and it’s a coupe, with tools and racing gear behind the seats.

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