Monday, May 29, 2006

Test-driving a Kia

My wife and I are not car people. We just want reliable transportation from one place to another, and our 1999 Ford Windstar easily meets our needs. Or at least it has until its engine light developed an expensive habit of illuminating itself to the tune of thousands of dollars of repairs in the past year. Still, the car is just fine, and at only 57,000 miles we're happy to continue driving for many more years.

But when does a used car become more hassle to repair than it's worth? That’s what's bothering me, and so recently we've started looking around. We're okay with a used mini-van, and Consumer Reports says the 2003 Sienna is the best. But even the pre-owned ones are over $20K -- sometimes over $30K -- not that much cheaper than the brand new ones!

But what if we could get a brand new one that was just as good? That's what Consumer Reports thinks about the Kia, and today we went to Lee Johnson Kia in Kirkland to give it a test drive. Our conclusion: it's nice, very nice--certainly better than our Windstar on just about every dimension. It's quieter, with more power, better turning radius, better breaking. More interior room, etc. etc.

They are apparently trying hard to convince people of their reliability, so they throw in a 100K 10-year "limited powertrain warranty" and a 5-year basic and anti-perforation warranty plus roadside assistance. I've looked through the fine print and I don't see any obvious catches. It looks like you really don't need to worry.

So what do you think? Anybody have experience with the Kia? Which is better, the Kia or a used Sienna?

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