Kia begins manufacturing personal protective equipment at U.S. plant

Kia's plant in Georgia is assembling face shields for front-line workers.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia has activated its U.S. manufacturing facility, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG), to assemble personal protective equipment. The plant in West Point, Georgia will assemble shields to distribute to front-line workers in the battle against COVID-19 using components produced at Kia facilities in Georgia, Alabama, New York, and California.

The company has a monthly capacity to produce 200,000 units.

"Giving back in meaningful ways is a key component of Kia Motors' 'Give It Everything' strategy in the U.S. Our Accelerate the Good program identifies areas where Kia can make the biggest impact and we are proud to lend our manufacturing capabilities and talents to produce face shields that will protect America's courageous healthcare workers," said Sean Yoon, president and CEO, Kia Motors North America. "Kia is driven by an unstoppable spirit to take on and overcome challenges, and the world-class team members at Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia have come together in support of those who are giving it everything on the frontlines of the pandemic."

The face shields are being assembled by paid volunteers from KMMG and materials are being sourced from vendors including 3-Dimensional Services Group, a Michigan-based rapid response manufacturer supporting prototype and low volume production applications.

Kia joins other coronavirus reaction initiatives by Ford, FCA, and GM. Honda has pledged $1 million to food banks and meal programs. Hyundai has spent $4 million to support drive-thru testing centers. Mazda is offering free car care services for health care workers and Subaru is providing 50 million meals via Feeding America.

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The Kia Sorento Hybrid offers a lot to like for families looking to save on fuel.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The redesigned Kia Sorento looks good. Kia has given the three-row SUV new life, not as a substitute for the Telluride SUV but instead as its own crossover, with plenty of differences to give them their own identity.

The 2021 Sorento comes in two variants, the Sorento and Sorento Hybrid. Each is offered in its own set of trim levels. The Sorento base model is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder internal combustion engine that delivers 191 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. Higher grades get a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated at 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque.

Sorento Hybrid comes in two trim leaves, S and EX. Both are powered by the company's turbocharged 1.6-liter hybrid powertrain that offers up 177 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The SUV prioritizes fuel efficiency over performance, an important distinction that sets the Sorento Hybrid apart from other hybrid variants, including the Toyota RAV4 Prime, a plug-in hybrid that delivers an energetic boost to the RAV4 lineup.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid The Sorento Hybrid is the type of vehicle that can get you to a trailhead, but isn't built to go beyond that.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The power output is fine if you plan on sticking to in-town driving and aren't looking to load up the Sorento Hybrid for a long road trip. In the default Eco drive mode, the car responds to the throttle the most comfortably. Under traditional and harder acceleration, the Sorento Hyrbid's powertrain is noisy and ill-mannered. It's almost like the SUV is telling you, "I'm built for efficiency, not speed". Message received.

Kia's done a good job making the Sorento agile and it drives nicely and makes for a pleasant daily runaround. Unlike what Toyota has done with the Highlander, all-wheel drive is not available on the Sorento Hybrid.

The 2021 Sorento Hybrid comes standard as a six-seater with captain's chairs in the second row. The seats, leatherette in the upmarket trim level, are comfortable enough. There's a decent amount of cargo space with the third row erect or stowed.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid The cabin of the Sorento Hybrid is plush enough for its price point.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The well-thought out cabin design delvers exactly what customers need and in the EX trim level, the car's appointments are near-premium. The SUV has the usual list of standard and available features, but nothing is too fancy: Bluetooth, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice recognition, satellite radio, push button start, keyless entry, a rearview camera, wireless smartphone charger. Nothing looks, feels, or operates like it's cutting edge, but it doesn't have to - this isn't a luxury vehicle.

There is one very nice design touch in the cabin. On either side of the infotainment touch screen are vents that service the front row of the auto. Their output is divided into two each with the bottom vent able to serve the midsection of front passengers' bodies while the upper part goes higher. More automakers should design vents this way.

The Hybrid EX model that was delivered for testing had its lane keeping and centering system not as honed in on lane lines as is optimal, which resulted in crossing over the lines without any alert going off or corrective action being taken by the vehicle's computer.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid Cargo space is always tight in three-row SUVs, but Kia has given the Sorento a good balance between cargo space and third-row legroom.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid starts at $33,590. That's a thousand-and-a-half over the starting price of the Telluride and $4,000 more than the traditional 2021 Sorento.

There are currently only two other three-row hybrid SUVs on the market, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the Ford Expedition Hybrid. The three models and their varied price tags and third-row layouts service very different customers but they generally all get lumped together. The Sorento Hybrid is, by far, the lowest priced model of the three, and it feels like it when you're inside. There's nothing wrong with that. Dodge sold a lot of Journeys despite the fact that it wasn't the best or most expensive SUV out there.

Think of the Kia Sorento Hybrid as the Dodge Journey of three-row hybrid crossovers and you won't be disappointed.

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The Carnival is three-row vehicle excellence you didn't see coming.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Wait, wait, wait. If you were under the impression that the Kia Carnival isn't a minivan, well that's just means that the automaker's marketing department has done their job well. Look, it doesn't matter if you think it's a minivan (it is) or if you're buying the whole multi-purpose vehicle speak. The point is, the 2022 Kia Carnival is very, very good.

The exterior Carnival was crafted at Kia's design studio in California by artists that clearly understood what Americans want out of their minivan - they want the outside to not look like one. For the cabin design, the design team in South Korea took over and managed to tall all the things the general buying public loves about the functionality of a three-row minivan and pack it into the package created in SoCal.

2022 Kia Carnival From the side, it's hard to tell if the Carnival is a three-row SUV or a minivan.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

With its large but lowered SUV looks, the Carnival looks more like a Chevy Traverse than the Kia Sedona it replaces. When parked, it caught more than a few eyes, which honestly isn't surprising. It doesn't quite look like what people have see before (similar to how the Kia Telluride appeared when new) but it also isn't easy to figure out whether it's a van or a SUV.

Kia sells the Carnival in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX, and SX-Prestige. They provided an SX and SX-Prestige for simultaneous review. Those two models have a starting price of $41,100 and $46,100, respectively. The base model Carnival LX starts just over $32,000.

Every grade comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. That's plenty of power though in the heavier SX-Prestige grade the Carnival feels heavier to drive and seems slower off the line. It is heavier than the LX base model by around 400 pounds and 126 pounds heavier than the Carnival SX.

Like a good-driving SUV, the Carnival delivers a proper amount of steering feedback and turning is precise. It's just as easy to cruise at high speed in the Carnival as it is to maneuver around a parking lot. You can't say that about any full-size SUV on the market today. The Kia has good outward visibility and is easy to get into and out of a parking space.

2022 Kia Carnival The Carnival's setup is more like an SUV than the typical minivan.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Like other minivans, the center console of the Carnival divides front row occupant seating, but this is more in the style of an SUV than, say the Toyota Sienna, where you feel like you're sequestered to your own cabin. There's plenty of small item storage but there isn't the nifty under-stack place for handbags or shopping bags like what can be found in the Chrysler Pacifica.

Having the car's instrument cluster and infotainment screen under one housing is just as attractive in the Carnival as it is in Mercedes-Benz models. The base model gets an 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen and a mostly analog cluster with a driver information display. Any grade above the SX gets a 12-inch infotainment touch screen but you have to opt for the fully loaded SX-Prestige to get a matching 12-inch fully-digital instrument cluster. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and multiple USB ports are standard.

As in other Kia products, the infotainment system is easy to operate and clear to read. The all-digital instrument cluster isn't anything worth upgrading to on its own. Sure, it's a high-tech addition that works as advertised, but you're not really missing anything by not getting it.

2022 Kia Carnival The all-digital instrument cluster is only available on Carnival SX-Prestige models.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

There are other reasons to get the SX-Prestige though. It comes standard with a 12-speaker Bose sound system (other models have six or eight speakers), a rear seat entertainment system and rear seat voice recognition (both also on SX), a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated second- and third-row seats, second-row VIP lounge seats, and pure leather seat trim.

The Carnival seats seven or eight, depending on trim level. When opting for the VIP lounge seats, owners lose the ability to have removable seats, which are standard on every other trim level.

If your kids are in car seats, the second-row amenities (aside from the entertainment system) probably aren't a deal breaker. For you, a Carnival SX is likely loaded with more than enough comfort and convenience features to please. Parents with teens who are prone to complain on road trips will want the SX-Prestige version.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The Kia Carnival and the Kia K5 are the best Kias out there right now. The Carnival is the brand's best full vehicle effort in years. It ticks nearly every box, including the "don't make it look like I'm driving a minivan" one. If you're in the market for a people mover, like the looks of an SUV, don't like climbing in and out of an SUV, and don't require off-roading capability, you could do much, much worse than the Carnival, for much, much more money.

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