Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Asia's car stars première at L.A. show

Newest from Kia to Mitsubishi, have plenty to offer

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Ever since the first Japanese cars were unloaded in the Port of Los Angles in the late 1950s, California new-car buyers have always been receptive to Asian automakers.

And at this year's Los Angeles auto show, automakers from Japan and Korea had plenty to give to its faithful West Coast fans.

Kia

With 27 straight months of record-breaking American-market sales, South Korea's Kia debuted new versions of two of its top sellers, the compact Forte Sedan and the Sorento mid-size crossover.

Lower, longer and wider than the 2013 model, the new 2014 Forte Sedan debuts on an all-new platform offering two four-cylinder engines: a 148-horsepower 1.8-litre and a direct-injected 2.0L with 173 hp.

As per any new Kia, the Forte looks more expensive than its price would suggest. Luxury-car features include three-mode (normal, comfort and sport) steering, rear back-up camera and heated and cooled seats.

It's not considered all-new, but Kia says more than 80 per cent of its 2014 Sorento is new or significantly redesigned. Fresh exterior styling, a redesigned cabin with more room and upgraded engines (direct-injected four with 191 hp and a 290-hp direct-injected six) are included, as well as Kia's second-generation UVO telematics and infotainment system, programmable power rear liftgate, second-row sliding sunshades and a blind-spot detection system.

Toyota

Toyota took the wraps off its new, Canadian-made Canadian-made 2014 RAV4 compact crossover.

With sharper styling (which is appearing on most new Toyotas), the front- or all-wheel-drive four-door loses its previously optional six-cylinder (the lone power plant will now be a 176-hp four). Also gone are the 2013 version's decrepit four-speed automatic transmission (the 2014 model has two more gears), the exterior-mounted spare tire (now found underneath the car) and its distinctive side-hinged trunk door (now conventionally hinged at the top).

Subaru

Ready to take on the Toyota is the new 2014 Subaru Forester. Not varying too much from the current model in size, the new Forester is still Impreza-based but gets butchier styling. The compact crossover's powertrain upgrades are far more significant.

The 2013 rendition's 170-hp, 2.5L boxer four-cylinder continues as the base engine. But a turbocharged version of the 2.0L unit found in the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S sports-car twins, now making 250 hp, is the new upgrade mill.

Mazda

Mazda's been making much ado about its Skyactiv, the Japanese automaker's not-a-hybrid, gas-engine, fuel-efficient technology.

But during the North American reveal of its new 2014 mid-size Mazda6 sedan, the company also confirmed that in addition to a Skyactiv-G (as in gas) 2.5L four-cylinder with 184 hp, an optional diesel mill -- the first-ever Japanese passenger car in North America to have one -- would become available.

No power or torque specs are available yet, but the 2014 Mazda6's 2.2L Skyactiv-D (as in diesel) is expected to offer 20 per cent fuel-economy savings over its gas-engine counterpart.

On the crossover front, Mazda revealed its three-row, seven-passenger 2013 CX-9, which will get new exterior styling. And the new Mazda6's 2.5L Skyactiv-G will be an option in the 2014 CX-5 compact crossover -- a 29-hp bump over the base 2.0L four.

Honda

Honda had already released exterior shots of its "emergency refreshed" 2014 Civic sedan, but interior upgrades include more premium materials, a redesigned instrument panel and centre console, added chrome and optional rear-view camera.

Honda also says the new Canadian-made 2013 Civic (which arrives in showrooms in early December) will also have a quieter cabin, and upgrades to its steering and suspension aim to improve its driving characteristics.

Honda's premium Acura brand debuted the 2014 production version of its flagship RLX luxury sedan.

A front-drive version with a 310-hp six-cylinder and Acura's Precision All-Wheel Steer (that adjusts the angle of the rear wheels independently for better agility and braking) goes on sale next spring. A 370-hp hybrid version -- using the same 3.5L gas six, but with three electric motors (one in the automatic transmission and one on each rear wheel, which delivers all-wheel drive with independent torque vectoring) -- will follow later in 2013.

In an effort to promote the new RLX as Acura's technological showpiece, the sedan comes with a high-end Krill audio system, Adaptive Cruise Control (including a low-speed follow function), cloud-based AcuraLink and a multi-angle back camera.

Mitsubishi

Finally, an all-new 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander, about 90 kilograms lighter than the outgoing model, made its North American debut on the West Coast.

A 2.4L four- and 3.0L six-cylinder will initially be available in both five- and seven-passenger iterations. In early 2014, though, the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle arrives with front- and rear-mounted electric motors combined with a gas motor to effectively offer AWD.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2012 F9

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