This week I'm in the latest Kia Sorento which is almost the same as the Sante Fe but a bit better.
Every time I get to thinking about Kia I'm reminded of my younger brother, Keith.
As the eldest in our family, I was a bit like Hyundai. I had some good ideas, and I got there first, but Keith always managed to take what I'd begun and improve things.
When I started as a paperboy I was happy to clear around $20 a week, but he lifted that to more than $40 on the same route and put it all in the bank. No frippery or splashing on motor magazines, that's for sure. He was also way better at anything practical, tougher on a football field, and first to head out from home.
Just last week I was driving the new Hyundai Sante Fe and was impressed by the design, space, quality and seven-seater practicality. The steering felt wonky and the ride was floppy, but all-in-all it was a very impressive thing. This week I'm in the latest Kia Sorento and almost the same as the Sante Fe - no surprise there, since they're among the Hyundai-Kia clone cars - but a bit better.
I think the driver's seat sits way too high for comfort and control, but the Sorento's suspension is massively better and the steering is good. It also feels more 'together' and a little quieter, and the extra refinement in the Sorento means I will always recommend it ahead of the Santa Fe.
It's much the same as the Kia Sportage, which I prefer over the Hyundai ix35, the Kia Rio that trumps the Hyundai i20 - and currently holds the Carsguide Car of the Year crown - and the mid-sized Optima which is way better than either the i40 or i45 from Hyundai.
Look at the sales figures this year and Hyundai is up by 4.9 per cent over 2011, holding fourth in the charts. Kia is only 11th, but its numbers are up by 26.9 per cent. Kia has the obvious advantage of building up from the basics set by Hyundai in everything from cabin size to engines, but it scores with the styling work by design ace Peter Schreyer and it also has Aussie suspension guru Graeme Gambold on the books.
The Schreyer-Gambold double-punch lands every time, which could partly explain a major change at Hyundai that put former Holden marketing boss John Elsworth into the driving seat this week. He's going to lead a more locally-focussed management team tasked to deliver what Australians want in their cars, while holding the prices and value at the level Australians expect from Korean.'
He could do a lot worse than to take a look, and a drive, in something with a Keith - sorry, Kia - badge.