the 2013 Kia Soul Named Class Valedictorian

BRAINTREE, MASS. (08/27/2012)– As summer begins to wind down and students start to think about purchasing textbooks and meal plans, the subject of a new vehicle for school may come up in many households. Fortunately for parents, Kelley Blue Book’s has made searching for the right ride easier by listing its 10 Best Back-to-School Cars of 2012, with the Kia Soul finishing first thanks to its unique style, functionality and low price tag.

All vehicles on the Best Back-to-School Cars list are available for less than $16,000 according to Kelley Blue Book’s Fair Purchase Price, making them more affordable for high school and college students, as well as tuition-paying parents. Kia’s urban crossover earned its top spot with the help of its refreshed exterior and spacious interior, which includes up to 53.4 cubic-feet of cargo room with the rear seats folded down. The editors at also noted the Soul’s engine and transmission upgrades for the 2012 model year that boosted power, responsiveness and fuel efficiency.

“The compact Kia Soul is a great pick for Boston-area college students because it still has plenty of room for moving boxes, intramural sports equipment or friends during weekend road trips,” said Dave Campbell, general manager of Quirk Kia, a Kia dealer in Massachusetts. “There are also loads of different colors and other ways to personalize the Soul, meaning it will stand out on campus come September.”

With eight available exterior paint colors, three interior fabric print options and a myriad of accessories from which to choose, the Kia Soul can be suited to a variety of students’ tastes. Three different trims offer even more choices, including upgrades like LED positioning lights and power-folding mirrors with integrated turn signals. Younger, tech-savvy drivers will also appreciate options like the UVO Powered by Microsoft infotainment system, a rear-camera display and SiriusXM satellite radio, while Bluetooth connectivity is now a standard feature for each 2013 Soul.

Currently available at dealers, the 2013 Kia Soul comes standard with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower and returns 35 mpg on the highway. Meanwhile, buyers that upgrade to the 164-horsepower 2.0-liter unit will only lose one mile per gallon in comparison. Though the Soul’s mix of responsiveness and efficiency should please students, parents will take comfort in the many standard safety features, including full-length side-curtain airbags and Front Active Headrests that move forward during collisions to prevent whiplash.

Beyond the praise it is receiving from industry experts, the Kia Soul is also proving that it can please its actual owners after their purchase, recently topping the Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle category in the 2012 J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. The J.D. Power study used surveys of more than 74,000 purchasers and lessees of 2012-model-year vehicles to determine which rides are most gratifying in their segment after 90 days of ownership.

“This year’s J.D. Power APEAL Study found that more buyers are downsizing their vehicle, but that doesn’t mean they want to downsize their expectations regarding features and looks,” added Campbell. “Buyers of the Kia Soul are a perfect example of that trend, because they are finding that the compact crossover still has the style, versatility and technology that they want.”

Courtesy of

Skidding and Hydroplaning in Rainy Conditions

Losing control of your car on wet pavement is a frightening experience.

Skids are scary but hydroplaning is completely nerve-wracking.

Hydroplaning happens when the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car’s weight can push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires.

Taking these simple tips into account can save your life.

  1. You can prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves. Steer and brake with a light touch. When you need to stop or slow, do not brake hard or lock the wheels and risk a skid. Maintain mild pressure on the brake pedal.
  2. If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. You must be prepared to turn the steering wheel again and again until the front of the vehicle is traveling in a straight line. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you steer into the skid.
  3. Avoid hydroplaning by keeping your tires inflated correctly. Maintain good tire tread. Don’t put off replacing worn tires. Slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.
  4. If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally. The car’s computer will automatically pump the brakes much more effectively than a person can do.
  5. A defensive driver adjusts his or her speed to the wet road conditions in time to avoid having to use any of these measures.

Courtesy of

Quick Drive: 2013 Kia Optima SXL

The Kia Optima SXL is a handsome vehicle, both inside and out. Our Snow White Pearl tester looked espially classy, and the black and chrome accents didn’t make it look too gaudy. Even with the eighteen-inch chrome wheels—a part of the Limited Package that comes with the SXL—it didn’t look at all offensive, and actually appeared to be a tasteful use of the shiny stuff. Even the housings for the (power folding) side mirrors look nice on this car. Plus, the Limited gets a set of LED daytime running lights and red brake calipers to help set it apart form the rest of the crowd in a subtle yet fashionable way.

The interior of the Optima SXL is a nice place to spend time. The leather seats are heated in front and back, and the power front seats also have a cooling option included—a really nice feature for those Nappa chairs on a hot summer day. The leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel feel nice in hand, and the wood grain on the top section of the tiller sparkles pleasantly in the sun. The paddle shifters on the back of the wheel don’t feel particularly substantial, but they are easy to reach and use.

The turbocharged Optima feels quick, and has no trouble at all reaching highway speeds or getting around other cars. Despite having 274 turbocharged horsepower, the power delivery of the 2.0-liter engine feels nicely stable. It doesn’t really exhibit lag or peaks when climbing the rev ladder, but rather pushes the car to speed smoothly and predictably. Its tidy delivery of power means that occupants experience smooth acceleration that doesn’t sacrifice promptness. Also, when driven around town, the power is really easy to manage, offering civil driving that requires no concentration to get right. Plus, being able to drive the car sanely and smoothly will only help to reach its stated 22/34-mile-per-gallon fuel economy figures.

In the corners, the Optima behaves itself the way a classed-up family sedan should. There isn’t a lot of body roll, and what movement there is helps to suss out proximity to the grip limits. Turn-in isn’t super sharp, and the steering feels tuned to offer a smoother turning experience rather than a twitchier response one associates with more sport-minded vehicles. The little bit of play on-center feels appropriate, and doesn’t require a lot of corrections when cruising in a straight line at high speeds.

So, once again, Kia is proving that it is a brand not to be glossed over by those looking for a high-quality car. The Optima SXL is fairly fast and fun, very comfortable, and extremely rich in content. The one drawback to the Limited, though, is that it comes with a bit of a hefty price tag. Starting at $34,500 before delivery, it includes the Premium Touring Package, Technology Package, and Limited Package, meaning you’re not going to have to tack on anything else to be happy with the car. Still, one can get into a turbocharged Optima for a base price of $26,800. At the SXL’s base price, you’re just two grand shy of a BMW 3-Series. It kind of makes you rethink your priorities, doesn’t it?

2013 Kia Optima SXL
Engine: Turbocharged inline-4, 2.0 liters, 16v
Output: 274 hp/269 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 6.6 sec (est)
Weight: 3385 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 22/34 mpg
Base Price: $34,500


Courtesy of Winding Road Magazine (Online) 8/20/2012