Friday, September 6, 2013

Is Kia the New Honda?

Ten to twenty years ago, all my friends, and many family members drove Hondas.  It seems everyone had an Accord or Civic.  When they got married, they traded those Accords and Civics on Odysseys and Pilots.  When their kids began to drive, they learned in Accords and Civics, beginning the cycle anew again.  But lately those same people have started moving on from Hondas to something that starts with the letter 'K'.    

So it makes me wonder:  Is Kia the new Honda?

I know there's some debate about the longevity of Kia products, and the Forte and Optima haven't yet mastered that perfect mix of ride and handling like the Civic and Accord.  But from a function, utility, and value standpoint, Kia has checked all the boxes.  And to my eye, Kia has got their styling right.

The Kia Sorento is much more attractive than the Honda Pilot.  Same goes for the Optima, Forte, and Sportage, which are better looking than the Accord, Civic, and CR-V.  The new Kias have a sense of premium style, which is intentional since they lured Peter Schreyer away from Audi.  When I look at the current Pilot, I feel like Honda just phoned it in.  It looks like it was inspired by a refrigerator box.  The impression of phoning it in is further highlighted by the last two generations of Accords, which were described as "Buick like" by several car magazines, during a time when Buick was catering to the over-50 set.  It culminated with the dismal 2012 Civic, which was bad enough for Consumer Reports to take it off its recommended list, stating it was much worse than the car it replaced, and forcing Honda to scramble to introduce a refreshed version a year later.

But Honda's missteps aren't the only reason Kia has been successful as of late.  Once known as a cheap car of last resort, Kias now boast attractive styling and good value.  Bottom line, the company is building good cars that can stand on their own merits.

When you build a good car, one with features people want, that is attractively styled, a good value and a sell it at a good price, people will come.

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