Skip to main content
auto buzz

2912 Kia Soul

The 2012 Kia Rio subcompact sedan was launched in Canada last week with a bevy of surprising options for a car that starts under 14 grand: heated steering wheel, GPS, leather seats, UVO Microsoft-based voice-activated audio system and a cooling glove box, among others. But it, the Rio five-door hatchback and refreshed '12 Soul boxy crossover will all be missing one other high-tech feature originally planned for all three cars: the fuel-saving start/stop system.

The company delayed the system introduction after early media feedback of a rough shock when the engine automatically turns itself off at a stop in traffic, then restarts again, industry journal Ward's Auto reported. Kia is working to "tweak" the system in time for an introduction in the second quarter.

Kia calls the technology its Idle, Stop and Go (ISG) system, and it reportedly saves between five and 10 per cent of fuel in heavy traffic conditions, over and above its official 6.6 litres/100 km Natural Resources Canada city rating (4.9 litres/100 km highway).

But even though Kia Canada has confirmed that ISG is being prepped for an introduction in the second quarter on all 2012 Rios, some '12 Soul buyers received rougher early production ISG systems in the fall. No word yet on whether these buyers will receive the associated "tweaks," as promised by a Kia U.S. spokesperson, but Kia Canada plans to market the ISG system in this country.

Starting at $13,795, the Kia Rio sedan becomes the least expensive new Kia available in Canada, undercutting the five-door Rio by $400, but still about $600 more than its mechanical twin, the Hyundai Accent (which comes with no air conditioning). All use the same 1.6-litre, GDI four producing a stout-for-the-class 138 hp, though the Accent's luxury options are much more limited, with items such as heated front seats and a sunroof on top models.

But that Hyundai Accent sedan tops out at an MSRP of $17,999, compared to a loftier $20,495 list price for the top of the line Rio sedan with leather, heated steering wheel, UVO, auto climate control and a raft of other luxurious features, with navi a $1,200 option on top of that.

Chrysler U.S. dealer dinged over customer service scores

Chrysler's American dealers have been dinged up to $200,000 (U.S.) a store in factory-to-dealer payments tied to J.D. Power customer satisfaction scores in the United States, thanks to bottom of the heap scores that saw Jeep score the lowest of any mainstream brand, with Dodge and Ram joining it in the bottom four scores in the 2011 survey.

A J.D. Power Canada spokesperson said this week that a similar survey is also undertaken regularly by the market research firm in Canada, but that it "is an industry 'club' study and therefore not published to the media (or public)."

"While Canadian SSI data is collected, J.D. Power Canada has different rules surrounding the data than the U.S., so (we) unfortunately can't release or comment on the data publicly," wrote Power spokesperson Beth Daniher this week.

Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne told trade journal Automotive News that its dealers needed to improve customer service, after he suspended the payment program for U.S. dealers at the beginning of the year until at least March. The executive said that, despite the recent sales success, Chrysler still has to improve the sales and customer experience further.

The current Dealer Standards program uses J.D. Power numbers as well as mystery shoppers who visit Chrysler dealerships to interact and rate sales, parts and service personnel as part of an overall customer service assessment.

Chrysler Canada has no such Dealer Standards payment program, Lou Ann Gosselin, the firm's head of communications, said this week. Chrysler's Canadian sales were up 12.5 per cent in 2011, with a 1.4 per cent increase in market share, according to Desrosiers Auto Consultants.

Infiniti taps Guinness Book of World Records to prove its M35h is fastest hybrid

Infiniti is showcasing a drag race between its M35h Hybrid and the much-pricier Porsche Panamera S Hybrid to show off its Guinness Book of World Records mark for quickest accelerating hybrid.

The 380-hp Porsche is 20 ponies more powerful than Infiniti's smaller and lighter mid-size hybrid sport sedan. Infiniti has launched a YouTube video pitting the Mh against the Porsche Panamera hybrid on YouTube, asking "Which is the fastest accelerating full hybrid?"

The M35h's record quarter-mile mark was an average 13.9031 seconds set in California late last summer. It rushes from rest to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds, and averages an estimated 6.9 litres/100 km.

More injury claims turned down in Ontario

A health-care industry group survey found recently that changes to Ontario's auto insurance rules in 2010 have led to a major increase in serious injury claims that are rejected.

Auto insurance companies are now rejecting 42 per cent of serious injury claims, the Alliance of Community Medical and Rehabilitation Providers reported, up from 11 per cent before the changes implemented in September, 2010.

The survey of 1,143 rehabilitation providers found that the denial rate for initial assessment services was also 42 per cent, up from 27 per cent a little less than a year ago.