Making A Case For The Kia Forte Hatchback

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of getting a good long look at the redesigned Kia Forte5 SX. Needless to say, it left a lasting impression. The hatchback market is extremely competitive with the Volkswagen Golf and GTI leading the way, Ford bringing their Focus RS over to the United States, the Fiesta’s dominance in the compact hatchback market, the fresh design of the Mazda3 which is turning heads, and Hyundai’s Elantra GT. Where does Kia’s Forte fit in, and can it hold it’s own against the competitors?

The Forte hatchback comes with two trims: The EX and SX. For performance, you would most definitely want to go with the SX, which is turbocharged, packing 201 HP. Unfortunately to get all the bells and whistles, which includes front and rear heated seats, you’re looking at spending $28,000, but it’s worth it. A sporty interior that will grasp the attentions of young millennials and will certainly get them noticed. A spacious interior that has more cargo volume than the Golf and GTI will make it easy for college students to move in and out of dorms, while also making room for passengers when it’s a late night on the town.

The EX on the other hand is more practical, getting much better gas mileage (25 MPG in the city, 33 MPG on the highway), but not lacking in power. With a 2.0L engine, you’ll still get 173 hp, 0-60 in 7.5 seconds (only two tenths of a second slower than the GTI). With a base price of $19,960, it’s much more reasonable, but if you’re looking for leather interior and other comforts, the price could hover around $25,000.

The Kia Forte is definitely a car worth looking at getting if you don’t want a Golf or GTI. While you’re not getting the fastest hatchback with the SX, you’re still getting a turbocharged engine, cargo space, a sporty interior, and a car that will turn heads. It’s the kind of car you want to get if you want to be different and not buy a car your friend owns.

If you’re a fan of Top Gear UK, you’ve probably already seen the Forte make it through a grueling challenge of rugby. The car is no doubt durable, and even for Top Gear, was an eye opener. The Forte is by far one of the most impressive cars I’ve seen in the hatchback market. I wasn’t expecting to see premium features such as backup assist, heated seats, navigation system, leather seats, and sunroof from a car that’s been flying under the radar for so long.

As someone who goes against the trend and leans more towards something different, the Kia Forte5 would certainly be in the top 5 cars under $25,000 I’d choose as a daily driver.

3 Cars That Surprise, But Don’t Attract An Audience

Every young person’s dream is to own a car that gets looks, notoriety, and a crowd that will fawn over the driver and car. But to get that, you’ll most likely have to buy a $50,000 car that has a powerful engine and nice luxurious interior. However, there can be negatives to all this. Not only is there the possibility your car could get stolen, but there might be a group of envious people who seek to harm your car because they can’t own something that gets the attention of everyone. Maybe you are the type that wants luxury and performance, but without the gathering crowd and just enjoy driving a car that you know is just as good as the Audi or BMW parked in the spot next to you.

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here are three cars that will surely surprise you, but are probably not the first options on your list of luxury and performance vehicles.

1) Volvo S60/V60 T5

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Any Volvo could be considered non conspicuous, but with a turbocharged five cylinder engine that supplies 250 hp on the AWD model, the S60/V60 tops the competition in it’s category. Other than a selected few cars, not many can boast that they have a more powerful engine than an Audi A4 or the lower trims of the Mercedes Benz C300. The Volvo seats make this car extremely comfortable, adding to the luxury aspect of the car. There is no lag in acceleration when you press the gas, and there is nothing more pleasing than hearing that turbocharged engine roar.

2) Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

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Besides the WRX/STi, Subaru’s have the same image as Volvo. They’re seen as safe vehicles for the middle-aged adult, can get through snow thanks to it’s AWD system, and are not considered as a luxury vehicle. That’s where the Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited comes into play. The Legacy has a 256 hp H-6 engine that has just a bit more power than the S60. This car comes fully equipped with leather seats and a navigation system. The only knock on the Subaru would be it’s subpar fuel economy getting 20-29 miles per gallon. However, this car comes with the performance and luxury qualities that make this car fly under the radar.

3) Toyota Avalon

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Toyota wasn’t joking when they said this was their best creation ever. The Avalon comes with a V-6 engine that supplies 268 hp, and the best part is, this is standard. When it comes to luxury from Toyota, we tend to look at Lexus, but the Avalon has what it takes to hold it’s own against the competition. This car not only looks executive, but it has an engine that would certainly surprise someone if they had no prior knowledge of the car beforehand.

There are plenty of options out there if you don’t want to buy an Audi, Mercedes Benz, BMW, or Lexus, or want all the hype and drama that comes with the people who are drawn in by what you have. The S60/V60 T5, Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited, and the Toyota Avalon can fulfill all your wants and must haves when looking at a car to buy. These three cars constantly fly under the radar, but you can have fun with them at the same time.

More Car Buyers Are Leasing and That’s Good For You

The percentage of Americans leasing cars has boomed to 20% over the past few years. Rough economic times, better leasing offers, and car manufacturers creating better vehicles has helped spur the growing number of consumers leasing instead of buying new. Some car dealers may prefer that most consumers would much rather buy, and that leaves the opportunity for those who buy certified pre-owned vehicles with an endless array of quality cars at reasonable prices. As with most trends in the economy, there is always an opportunity for someone to walk away with a great deal, and right now it’s time to take advantage of the leasing craze that is growing across the country.

Tesla just unveiled a leasing program for their Model S, which will now make monthly payments cheaper for the consumer.

From the Wall Street Journal

With sales of its electric sedan declining in its home market, Tesla Motors Inc. this week launched U.S. incentives that cut its monthly lease price and aim to convince potential customers that buying the car is a safe financial bet.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said the Silicon Valley car maker is joining with U.S. Bank to cut monthly lease payments by as much as 25%. In a blog post on Saturday, he credited the bank’s lower cost of capital for the lease-rate cut. He also unveiled a “happiness guarantee,” promising to take back cars within the first 90 days of ownership “if you don’t like your car for any reason.” The return policy doesn’t allow a buyer to swap for another vehicle.

While some would say this is because of declining sales, this is happening across the board for most auto manufacturers. Leasing is becoming the new normal, especially with the uncertainty of the long term health of the economy. You might ask, “So where are the opportunities?”. Here are three cars that are under $25,000 and are from luxury brands that can be found on dealership lots. Best of all, they’re certified pre-owned and the mileage is below 31,000.

1) Volkswagen GTI/Wolfsburg Edition

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It’s not too uncommon to find Volkswagen Golfs, but to find multiple GTIs spanning from the years of 2011-2013 is very surprising. Even better for the consumer, there are a few Wolfsburg edition GTIs on the market that are under $25,000, one of which has only 5,000 miles on it. These are gems, and with the turbocharged engine that supplies 200 hp, you get performance and cargo room which is always a plus.

2) 2011 Lexus IS 250

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To see these under $25,000 with close to 20,000 miles is certainly an eye opener. A local Lexus dealer outside of Boston has a few of these, and even though they are the base models, they’re still fully equipped and in great condition. Navigation system and backup assist make you feel like you’re getting away with more than what you paid for, but these are the types of deals that are out there. Seeing a Lexus IS on the market in great condition and not overly driven, it makes you question why there are certified pre-owned Toyota Camry’s and Chevrolet Malibu’s in the same price range.

3) 2011 BMW 3 Series

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Just as the Lexus IS, the model year may be the only reason why these luxury cars have depreciated in value. There are BMW 328i X-drives that only have 25,000 – 30,000 miles on them and priced under or at $25,000. Once again, this is a luxury sedan that will make your mouth water because to see a BMW in unbelievable condition at that price was unheard of a few years ago.

When seeing offers and deals like this, it really makes you consider going the certified pre-owned route. The automotive market is evolving, and unlike 10-15 years ago, going used isn’t a bad thing, especially when you have three solid vehicles at reasonable prices. This is only the beginning though. Seeing that there is no reason to believe the leasing trend is going to slow down, there will be more opportunities down the road. Who knows what will be on the market a year or two from now, and maybe there will be better offers than there are right now.

Latest GM Recalls (List Of Models) 10/22/14

Here we go again with another round of recalls, this time involving 162,240 GM cars. This recall is extremely important as the Takata airbags are being blamed for some gruesome injuries. Without any further delay, here is the list of GM models that are part of the latest recall. If you own one of these, don’t hesitate to bring the car back to the dealer.

Cadillac

• Deville

Chevrolet

• 2013-2014 Cruze
• Trailblazer
• Impala
• Monte Carlo
• Venture

GMC

• Envoy and Envoy XL

Oldsmobile

• Aurora
• Bravada
• Silhouette

Pontiac

• 2003-2005 Vive
• Bonneville
• Montana

Saab

• 2005 9-2X

Acura Going AWD To Compete With Subaru and Audi?

CIAS 2013 - 2014 Acura RLX
MSVG / Foter / CC BY

According to a report by Automotive News, Acura is looking to make AWD standard on all their models and go the route of Subaru and Audi. But is it too late for the Honda-owned luxury car manufacturer?

While going AWD creates benefits for the consumer, Acura has to distinguish themselves from Subaru and Audi first. What is the Acura brand? Who are they marketing to, and are they a luxury car company, or more similar to Subaru who market to consumers that need AWD to deal with snow and difficult terrain?
Subaru has already built up a strong tradition of manufacturing durable and long lasting AWD sedans and station wagons, and their Impreza and Legacy are in a league of their own that’s very difficult to break through and compete.

Audi on the other hand is pure luxury that offers AWD as standard, but their cars are predicated on luxury more than off-road capability. Their sedans and smaller crossovers are competing against BMW and Mercedes Benz, and it would be a mistake for Acura to jump into the fray and compete against the best the automotive world has to offer.

Acura needs to change their image, or promote the brand that displays a definte direction so consumers know exactly what they’re buying. Introducing a crossover SUV wouldn’t be a bad place to start, and then figure out where their sedans compete in the automotive market. 

AWD is the right answer, but to the wrong question. Consumers don’t know where Acura fits in the luxury market, and they have no idea whether it’s a luxury brand or not, especially with the changes they’ve made to their lineup by getting rid of the TL and TSX. Acura has a lot of questions to answer and evaluate where their brand stands among its competitors, but when it comes to standardizing AWD on all their models, they’re on the right track.

Chevrolet: From “Like A Rock” to “The Dollar Menu”

2014 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ
AlBargan / Foter / CC BY-ND

Chevrolet has been launching campaigns to attract an assortment of consumers for years by offering cheap prices for those who have poor credit or can’t afford buying a new car due to their financial situation. While that is a noble cause, one that has probably been successful, there are major implications the auto manufacturer faces by making such offers. After the launching of their latest marketing campaign, “Chevrolet’s Dollar Menu”, they’ve unofficially solidified their fate as being the McDonald’s of the automotive world.

The deal is one dollar down payment in a lease offer for the Chevy Cruze and Chevy Silvarado, making them the cheapest lease offers on the market today. Forgetting about the incentives, limited mileage because of a lease, and the deal itself, let’s take a step back for a minute and let this sink in. A dollar menu for an auto brand, not a fast food restaurant, but an American auto manufacturer.

With all the recalls Chevy has had to endure, and now offering some of their lineup for a dollar, they’ve now opened themselves up to the perception of being the car equivalent of McDonald’s. When it comes to the food McDonald’s offers, you could say, “It’s cheap, but in the long wrong could cause obesity”. Chevys are now cheap, but could break down 2,000 miles later. This is not the best approach for a struggling auto maker and completely makes the brand look bad by subliminally saying, “Our cars are lemons and no longer of good quality”.

Chevrolet was once a proud American auto maker, the Camaro and Corvette were highly coveted by young adults, the Silverado was a very popular and durable pickup truck, and the Impala and Malibu were decent four door sedans that could hold their own against their American counterparts. Even the commercials sent better messages by going with the slogan “Like a rock”. In a matter of 15 years, Chevrolet has gone from being a respected manufacturer, to being the prime example of not buying American when it comes to cars.

Instead of the dollar menu approach and sounding like a fast food restaurant, Chevy should try a strategy similar to Honda. The Honda Fit is being marketed as an affordable, yet fun and efficient compact hatchback that fills every need for young adults, as they’ve been the target of this recent advertising effort. Chevy has the Spark, Sonic, and Cruze, all with starting prices under $20,000, and this should be the basis of a marketing campaign. Honda isn’t playing the Chevy game by being a Burger King or Wendy’s, and instead has a sound marketing strategy to a specific audience who are in the market for the hatchback.

The Sonic is a fun, hot, little hatchback for Chevy, and they should roll with it as being the backbone of affordable cars in their lineup. In all honestly, if a Cruze is only $1 down, I don’t think I’d be willing to pay the $169 a month as it doesn’t seem worth it, and would then think that the Sonic or Spark should be offered for $.50 or $.75 down on a lease offer.

When it comes to the automotive world, there should never be a dollar menu. ‘Like a rock” was a better slogan as it promoted a durable and quality vehicle lineup by an American automaker. Chevy has a lot of work to do when it comes to brand image after the countless number of recalls, but if they really want to be respected again, they need to drop the dollar menu immediately.

Auto Marketing: Are Car Manufacturers Becoming Too Much Alike?

Let’s go back in time for a minute to the late 1990’s to early 2000’s in the automotive world. What has changed since those days? Are consumers more confused now than ever? Are car manufacturers becoming too much the same, losing that individuality and no longer catering to the loyal customers they’ve had for probably generations? These are the questions that no one is asking, and in an industry that is constantly changing, why have blurred lines appeared where consumers can’t decide on what the better brand is, and instead just go along with tradition?

In the late 90’s if you wanted luxury you probably would buy a Mercedes Benz, BMW, or Cadillac. For the average family vehicle that was reliable and safe you’d go with the Honda, Toyota, Subaru, or Volvo. The young and dangerous teenager who wants speed would maybe look at a Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, or Pontiac Firebird. And for the person that wanted a pickup truck, Dodge, Chevy, GMC, and Ford were constantly advertising on TV to appeal to that specific person.

However, today there is such a variety of vehicles in the same price range that often get forgotten, not because they’re of poor quality, but they’re neither marketed correctly nor presented as an individual car manufacturer that stands out from the competition. For example, the average consumer who has no loyal ties to one specific brand will look in multiple categories such as, fuel economy, safety, performance and price. Yet most likely, they’ll only compare the car brands and models that are most prevalent in their lives that have been marketed to them constantly over the years.

As I wrote in a previous article, the 2015 Chrysler 200 is priced from $21,000 to $31,000, putting it in the same price range as the Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta, Honda Civic and Accord, the Mazda 6 and the list could continue on for a while. What the average consumer who wants performance while still owning a four door sedan doesn’t realize is that the 200 comes with a V6 engine that supplies 295 horsepower, completely blowing away the competition in it’s class in performance. Any one of the cars listed are also subjected to the same reality that poor marketing and a person’s personal preference completely drives their buying habits.

Let’s take a look at the new crossover SUV market that is constantly growing that includes the BMW X1 and the all new Audi Q3. Besides looking good, and for BMW and Audi the brand recognition, what do they really have to offer that other manufacturers can’t? Because luxury brands are now entering markets that are now rivaling Ford, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Mazda, consumers will now look to just the luxury brands and skip over what the traditional brands in that price range offer.

What used to be a black and white market has now become an array of colors, and while that is great news for the consumer, the manufacturers may end up losing in the end. If the consumer wants a small compact sedan, they’re going to be attracted to the Audi A3 or Mercedes Benz CLA without looking at what the other auto brands have to offer. The sports car market has remained the same over the years, as there is still a price margin wide enough where younger consumers will look to the American muscle cars over the BMW 2 series and others in that category.

The auto market has certainly become competitive, but along with it is the loss of individuality. Most have LED lights, leather seats, MP3 capability, power windows, keyless entry, and other technologies and comforts that were only found on the most luxurious of brands in the late 90’s. There needs to be better marketing strategies from auto manufacturers, whether that be target advertising, or mass marketing that reaches a variety of different people. BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz will be catering to a whole new audience; the audience that once bought Hondas, Toyotas, Volkswagens and Fords. TV commercials aren’t enough anymore as brand recognition is enough for consumers to get fixated on one manufacturer.

Right now there are multiple options at all different price ranges, but the consumer doesn’t know it. These auto manufacturers need to become unique again and cater to the specific audience they knew would buy their brand for many years to come. For the time being, the German luxury car segment is taking over, and if the other manufactures don’t step up their game, they’ll be in a for a rude awakening if and when Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz introduce the smaller vehicles they’ve been selling in Europe.