Kia Buying guide from Edmunds

Kia SUVs, Cars, and Minivans

If you are interested in buying a Kia SUV, car or minivan, Edmunds has you covered with this comprehensive buying guide for every Kia you can buy today.
By Edmunds | Last updated October 5th, 2021

Kia cars

Following the same playbook as Honda and Toyota many moons ago, Kia started out making economy cars on the cheap but has long since graduated to the ranks of mainstream automakers. Budget-friendly runabouts are still on the menu, but today's Kia lineup also boasts competitive midsize sedans and a range of SUVs that tend to feature impressive luxuries and tech for the price.

Know before you buy

Many car shoppers will know Kia for its generous warranty coverage, which typically extends to 10 years/100,000 miles for powertrain components. What they may not know is that even leaving that warranty aside, Kia vehicles are often among the top finishers in Edmunds' expert rankings. Probably the best current example is the excellent Kia Telluride three-row midsize SUV, which won our Top Rated SUV award right out of the gate. But we're also big fans of the Kia K5 midsize sedan, while many other Kia cars compare favorably to top rivals in our test results.

Popular Kia models

As noted above, today's Kias come in many different shapes and sizes. We'll break them down here by vehicle type.

SUVs

Kia Telluride
The three-row Telluride has been nothing short of a smash hit. Delivering roomy seating for three in a stylish package that works just as well for a night on the town, the Telluride is the rare family SUV that can be everything to everyone. No wonder dealers have been marking this rig up ever since it came out. It's quite simply the most desirable mainstream three-row SUV on the market.

Kia Sorento
One size down from the Telluride, the Sorento can be equipped with a third-row seat that has historically been rather cramped. Thanks to a redesign for 2021, however, the current Sorento offers significantly more room in the third row, so the Telluride is no longer the automatic choice for buyers wanting adult-friendly space in all three rows. The Sorento is both easier to park than the Telluride and easier on the wallet, and if the base engine leaves you underwhelmed, the optional turbocharged engine can launch you to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds, or 0.8 seconds quicker than a Telluride in our testing.

Kia Soul
Is it really an SUV? Reasonable folks could differ, but it's a fact that the Soul offers as much maximum cargo capacity as many subcompact SUVs. What it doesn't offer is all-wheel drive, but unless you need that feature, the Soul might cover all the bases with its funky styling and versatile hatchback configuration.

Kia Seltos
Perhaps smarting from questions like ours above about whether the Soul is really an SUV, Kia responded with the Seltos, which pairs compact dimensions with tougher styling and available all-wheel drive. We have no problem calling it an SUV, even if most Seltos drivers won't be blasting through sand dunes like the Seltos in Kia's ad campaign. Overall, the Seltos is a competitive if not outstanding entrant in the subcompact SUV category, offering a bit more space than you'd expect. 

Kia Sportage
Known to Kia fans as the original Kia SUV, the Sportage soldiers on today as an intriguing alternative to best-selling small SUVs like the Toyota RAV4. The two-row Sportage fills the gap between the Seltos and the Sorento, which for many shoppers means it's a just-right size for navigating the concrete jungle.

Kia Niro
Another "SUV" that makes us go hmmmm, the compact Niro is at the very least a handy hauler that's a cinch to park and easy on gas. Actually, easy is an understatement. Thanks to its standard hybrid powertrain, the Niro gets up to 50 mpg per EPA estimates, so it's more like a Toyota Prius dressed up as an SUV-looking hatchback. If that's not green enough for you, try the Niro EV, a fully electric variation on the same theme.

Cars

Kia Stinger
Related to the Genesis G70 luxury sport sedan, the Stinger does its corporate cousin one better with a handy hatchback trunk. Head-turning styling comes standard inside and out, and the optional turbocharged V6 engine can really haul the mail. Kia's SUVs get most of the attention, of course, but if you're open to a regular car instead, the unexpectedly cool Stinger should come as a welcome surprise.

Kia K5
The K5's name is probably its biggest drawback at the moment, as few shoppers will be aware that this new midsize sedan is effectively the latest Optima. Imagine Honda dropping the Accord name and calling it "F3" instead — it would take people a while to get the memo, right? But over time, we expect the K5 will develop a loyal following of its own, just like the Optima before it. It's got all the features and performance that family sedan shoppers are looking for, and it's smooth and refined on the road. We liked it so much that we ranked it just ahead of the Accord as our #1 midsize sedan.

Kia Optima
Discontinued after the 2020 model year, the Optima lives on today as the excellent K5 described above. But if you're in the market for a used midsize sedan, the Optima could be a compelling option. Equipped with a variety of powertrains over the years, the Optima had become a high-tech family sedan by the end of its run, offering plenty of fancy features at lower prices than most rivals.

Kia Forte
The Forte is Kia's answer to the Civic and Corolla, and it's a good one. Boasting impressive fuel economy and easy-to-use tech, the Forte makes a strong case for itself as one of the small sedans to beat in today's marketplace. There's even a sport-oriented GT trim that delivers 201 turbocharged horsepower and a host of additional performance upgrades.

Kia Rio
Available as a hatchback or a sedan, the Rio is Kia's price leader, but that doesn't mean you should skip it. It's the perfect size for the city and returns the stellar fuel economy you'd expect, topping 40 mpg on the highway. It also packs an impressive roster of features for the money.

Minivans

Kia Carnival
Replacing the Sedona as Kia's minivan offering, the Carnival shoots for SUV-like styling and scores from certain angles — a laudable feat by the design team given the long body and sliding rear doors. The driving experience, however, is standard-spec minivan at best, so don't go in expecting more. Aside from that styling, the Carnival stands out for its generous tech features and remarkably comfortable front seats.

Kia Sedona
Until the Carnival came along, the Sedona was Kia's minivan for many years. Its most recent redesign in 2015 promised SUV-lite design cues, just like the Carnival, although the latter is clearly more successful in this regard. We always thought the Sedona was a perfectly respectable minivan, even if it couldn't quite match other minivans in terms of cargo capacity. Discontinued following the 2021 model year, the Sedona should deliver strong value as a used minivan.

Compare Kia vehicles
Vehicle
2022 Kia TellurideSUV$32,7908.421-2329187.0 cu.ft.5000 lbs.
2021 Kia SorentoSUV$29,3908.224-26191-28175.5 cu.ft.2000 lbs.
2022 Kia SoulSUV$17,5907.827-31147-20162.1 cu.ft.N/A
2022 Kia SeltosSUV$22,4907.627-31146-17562.8 cu.ft.N/A
2021 Kia SportageSUV$24,0907.226181-24060.1 cu.ft.2000 lbs.
2021 Kia NiroSUV$24,6907.743-5013954.5 cu.ft.N/A
2021 Kia StingerSedan$33,0908.220-25255-36540.9 cu.ft.N/A
2022 Kia K5Sedan$23,6908.327-3218016.0 cu.ft.N/A
2020 Kia OptimaSedan$23,3907.829185-24515.9 cu.ft.N/A
2021 Kia ForteSedan$17,8907.928-35147-20115.3 cu.ft.N/A
2021 Kia RioSedan$16,050N/A3612013.7 cu.ft.N/A
2022 Kia CarnivalMinivan$32,1007.922290145.1 cu.ft.3500 lbs.
2021 Kia SedonaMinivan$30,400N/A21290142 cu.ft.3500 lbs.
2020 Kia CadenzaSedan$37,8507.52329016.0 cu.ft.N/A
2021 Kia K5 GTSedan$30,5907.92729016.0 cu.ft.N/A
2020 Kia K900Sedan$59,900N/A2136515.0 cu.ft.N/A
2020 Kia Niro EVSUV$39,0908.33020153 cu.ft.N/A
2021 Kia Niro Plug-In HybridSUV$29,5906.94613954.5 cu.ft.N/A
2020 Kia Optima HybridSedan$29,310N/A4219213.4 cu.ft.N/A
2020 Kia Optima Plug-In HybridSedan$36,090N/A412029.9 cu.ft.N/A
2021 Kia RioHatchback$16,990N/A3612032.8 cu.ft.N/A
2021 Kia Sorento HybridSUV$33,590N/A3722775.5 cu.ft.2000 lbs.

Finding the right Kia for you

Best for families

Our pick: Kia Telluride

The Telluride is a midsize SUV that does just about everything well, including schlepping your family and their gear wherever they need to go. Thanks to spacious three-row seating, ample cargo capacity and a smooth, quiet ride, the Telluride is an excellent minivan substitute. Unlike any minivan, though, the Telluride is also a cool vehicle to drive around in by yourself or with a friend or two.

Second opinion: Kia Carnival

Suppose you're not looking for a minivan substitute — you want the real thing. The Carnival obliges with its sliding rear doors and cavernous cargo bay, yet it also sports SUV-like styling and a surprisingly luxurious interior. If family-friendly functionality is your top priority, no other Kia can touch the Carnival.

Best for long commutes

Our pick: Kia K5

The K5 sedan's supple ride and hushed cabin make it an excellent pick for lengthy drives, as does its turbocharged four-cylinder engine lineup. The standard and most common engine is the 1.6-liter turbo, which generates a satisfactory 180 horsepower. But if you step up to the GT trim, you get a 2.5-liter turbo that cranks out a whopping 290 hp. In our testing, we found that the GT's output can be a bit excessive in some situations, but whichever engine you choose in your K5, you'll be getting a great road-trip machine.

Second opinion: Kia Niro

For many car shoppers, performance is less important than fuel economy, which is where the hybrid-powered Kia Niro comes in. A small crossover than can touch 50 mpg per EPA estimates, the Niro will save you a bundle on gas compared to virtually any other car on the road. Is it exciting to drive? No, but it's competent.

Best for cities

Our pick: Kia Sorento

Although the Sorento SUV is far from the smallest vehicle in Kia's lineup, we think it has the best collection of attributes for urban use. It's just short of midsize on the outside, so it's easy enough to maneuver in tight spots, yet it offers three rows of seating inside. It also looks sharp and drives the part, especially if you specify the optional turbocharged engine that pumps out more than 280 horsepower.

Second opinion: Kia Sportage

The two-row Sportage SUV packs plenty of passenger space into a compact package, making it well-suited to urban use. You'll have no problem parking or weaving through rush-hour traffic, yet there is no penalty in terms of comfort — adults fit in the second row with room to spare. Sometimes it seems like cars just keep getting larger these days, but the Sportage is a rare just-right size.

Best for performance

Our pick: Kia Stinger GT

If you want the best-performing Kia on the planet, look no further than the in-your-face Stinger. Blessed with sleek fastback styling, the Stinger GT backs up its aggressive looks with a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6. That's a lot of oomph. At our test track, a V6-powered Stinger leapt from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds flat. It's entertaining on a winding road, too.

Second opinion: Kia Forte GT

As cool as the Stinger is, it might feel a bit bulky to some drivers. Fortunately, there's a smaller GT in Kia's lineup: the Forte GT. Its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine puts out a relatively modest 201 horsepower, but the sporty Forte can really scoot when the turbo's in full effect. Various other dynamic upgrades ensure that the Forte GT will hold its own whenever the archrival Honda Civic Si comes calling.

Kia reliability

Call us biased, but we think there's no substitute for Edmunds' own consumer reviews if you're trying to identify common problems and reliability issues. Kia vehicles have great warranties, of course, but even if a given repair is covered, it means your car will be out of service for some period of time and you'll have to deal with that inconvenience. Ideally, you want to know what you're getting into before you buy, and that's where Edmunds' consumer reviews can be invaluable. If there's a common problem to watch out for, chances are it's already been reported in multiple consumer reviews.

To access the consumer reviews for a given Kia, simply find the star rating at the top of the vehicle page — here's the Telluride page, for example — and tap or click the stars to dive in. It's important to note that consumer reviews generally apply to the entire generation for that model, meaning the span of years during which the model has been in its current form (typically five years or so). So don't just read the latest year's consumer reviews, unless the latest year is the first year of a new generation. Instead, keep reading through previous years' consumer reviews until you reach the beginning of the generation — you can usually tell by the photos — and you'll get the best feel for how real owners feel about the vehicle.

If you're looking for external sources, Consumer Reports' reliability ratings may come to mind, but they're kept behind a paywall, so many will try to find information elsewhere. JD Power is also a well-known name in reliability data, but it's important to note that JD Power has two different owner satisfaction studies that measure different things. The JD Power Initial Quality Survey (IQS) is often cited as a reliability rating, but it's actually a survey of complaints from the first 90 days of ownership that may have nothing to do with reliability — the complaint could be about fingerprints accumulating on the touchscreen, for instance. Also, 90 days is hardly enough time for significant long-term reliability concerns to surface.

For better Kia reliability data, we recommend the JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), which looks at problems experienced in the past 12 months by owners of three-year-old vehicles. In the latest VDS, Kia ranked third in overall vehicle dependability, trailing only Lexus and Porsche. That's heady company for a brand once known for its bargain-bin pricing.

Kia recall information

All manufacturers issue recalls from time to time, and Kia has been no exception. As of this writing, the most recent recall (NHTSA Campaign Number 21V577000) affected the 2022 Telluride and had to do with the LCD gauge cluster's potential failure to launch upon vehicle startup. Prior to that, 2021 Sorento and 2021-2022 K5 models with the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine were recalled for a faulty fuel pipe connection that increased the risk of fire (NHTSA Campaign Number 21V519000). In another recent recall, 2021-2022 K5 models with the 2.5-liter turbo were recalled for a possible sudden increase in steering effort while cornering (NHTSA Campaign Number 21V447000).

More about Kia Motors - Who makes Kia? Where are Kias made?

Kia is based in South Korea and closely related to Hyundai, with which it shares many platforms, powertrains and parts. Although some US-market Kia models are made in South Korea, others are made in West Point, Georgia. Yep, you read that right. Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) is based in the far west of Georgia, right at the Alabama state line. The K5, Sorento and Telluride are all built at KMMG.

Edmunds says

Kia has rightfully shed its image as merely a value-oriented automaker. Today's Kias compete toe-to-toe with the best in their respective segments. In multiple segments, Kia is leading the way.

Latest Kia videos

RYAN ZUMMALLEN: Let's drop the act-- fanny packs are back; brussel sprouts taste good now; and minivans are cool. Not just cool for families, or cool for road trips. They're just cool, in general. Today we're going to compare four of our top ranked minivans-- The Kia Carnival; Chrysler Pacifica; Toyota Sienna; and Honda Odyssey. Keep watching to find out what's right for you. Before we dive in, do a sick burn on that Like button, and hit Subscribe so that you can see our videos before all of your friends. If you're thinking about selling your car, go to edmunds.com/sellmycar to get a cash offer on your ride right now. So The 2022 Carnival replaces The Sedona, but this has a much more SUV-like style to it. It's powered by a V6 engine making 290 horsepower-- the most in class. It has a 10 Year, 100,000 Mile Powertrain Warranty-- which is also the best in its class. The Pacifica Hybrid has a new look for 2021, but that's not all that's going for it. It has the best value in its class, with available tax rebates; incentives; HOV car pooling access; and EV battery that gives you 32 miles of range. And its normal Hybrid Mode achieves 30 miles per gallon. Plus it has a 10 Year, 100,000 Mile Battery Warranty. On the downside, the hybrid does not have all-wheel-drive. And Chrysler recommends you don't tow with this Model. The Sienna is redesigned for 2021, as well, and now comes standard as a hybrid. Plus you can also option all-wheel-drive, if you want. Its EPA rating is 36 MPG, combined. That's best in class. It's also the only minivan to offer free routine maintenance for two years, and 25,000 miles. It has a 10 Year, 150,000 Mile Battery Warranty and optional all-wheel-drive. The Odyssey has long been a benchmark for minivans. Its strong V6 engine and stable handling make it enjoyable to drive. And it's packed with modern safety and tech features. Each of these starts around $32,000 to $34,000, but you should expect to pay about 40,000 for the most popular trims and options. So what stands out inside The Carnival? Well you get excellent materials, and pretty comfortable seats on this SX Prestige trim. There's also lots of interesting textures, and soft surfaces throughout the interior it's kind of a bummer that there's no pass through storage under here like on some of the other minivans that we have, but you get huge vibrant screens with menus that are easy to control using all of these buttons. Although I wish they were a little bit bigger. You also get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The large screen is perfect for seeing the bird's eye view to make parking a breeze. Unfortunately the piano black soft touch buttons blow it-- smudge easily-- and they don't have haptic feedback. Lastly, we wish Kia's Smart Trunk feature activated more predictably. In The Pacifica there's a new top trim called The Pinnacle-- with quilted leather seats and pillows. There's huge sliding doors, and easy access to the third row. Leg room is just about average, though. It's Uconnect Infotainment System has clear graphics, quick responses, and good native apps. Unfortunately, the hybrid battery means you don't get the Stow 'n Go feature that lets you fold rear seats into the floor. In The Sienna, it's easy to get in and out thanks to good interior packaging, and large door openings. There's also a large central touch screen, but it glares in direct sunlight. Thankfully, there's a digital surround view camera, and a digital rearview mirror available, if you want. The in-cabin fridge and vacuum cleaner that we love so much is discontinued for 2022, due to supplier issues. Now, the second row seats slide the farthest, and have the most leg room. But, due to the integrated airbags, you can't take them out. This is the only van in the class that you can't remove the second row seats on. We have mixed feelings about the kick open side doors and rear hatch, because sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. In The Odyssey, the second row seats are at just the right height, and they also recline. As the driver, you get so-so visibility over the hood, and pretty bulky pillars. There's also no surround view when you're backing up. It has stow-able rear seats, but the cabin vacuum cleaner is discontinued-- at least for this year, due to supplier issues. And, the infotainment system feels dated. Now that we know a bit about our magnificent minivans, let's see how they drive on the road. All right, behind the wheel of The Kia Carnival. As we said, The Carnival is powered by a V6 engine, and it feels plenty strong for this vehicle. There are no issues with feeling underpowered, or getting off a line to slow, anything like that. In fact, if you step on it, the transmission will downshift pretty quickly-- and it'll even give you a little bit of a roar. [ENGINE REVS] Hear that? [REVVING CONTINUES] Under the hood, all good marks for The carnival. It also delivers a nice smooth ride. To be fair, the suspension is a little bit more firm in The Carnival than some of our other minivans, and when it comes to steering and handling, this feels more like an SUV. Whereas some of those other vehicles really do mimic how it feels to drive a smaller car. When it comes to fuel economy, The Carnival is EPA rated at 20 to miles combined-- which is right in line with other front wheel drive minivans in the class. However its highway rating is down 2 MPG, compared to The Odyssey and The Pacifica. And if you're really that concerned about fuel economy, you should probably be looking real hard at The Sienna. Sienna time. The Toyota minivan is smooth, but ultra slow. Its brakes are also a little tricky to use sometimes-- not quite as consistent as the other competitors, here. But the steering is light and easy, which is great when you're tooling around the Gymboree parking lot. On the plus side, it's EPA rated at 36 MPG, combined. Fuel economy is exceptional. Believe it or not, The Odyssey is borderline fun to drive. With precise steering and braking, it all just feels cohesive and well-put-together. Even the 10-speed automatic transmission is sorted out nicely. Its EPA rating is 22 MPG combined, which is true of all Odysseys, because there's no all-wheel-drive or hybrid version. When in EV mode, this Pacifica plug-in hybrid offers instant torque that moves the van sharply and smoothly. It likes moderate acceleration, but will oblige if you need a little mid-range punch. The ride is compliant, and generally smooth across varying road surfaces. But it's not as nimble as The Honda Odyssey or The Sienna. And the turning radius feels noticeably larger. This new Pinnacle trim comes with quilted leather seats, which are basically the pumpkin spice latte of auto interiors, but I still like them. I'm kind of basic. Each of these minivans have done a solid job of keeping up with the times. When it comes to our Edmunds minivan rankings, The Carnival is tied for fourth place with the non-hybrid Pacifica. Yes, it has distinct styling, but The Carnival also has an underwhelming driving experience and unrefined tech features. The Sienna, third on our list, remains a competent choice with lots of storage, and outstanding fuel economy. The Odyssey, at number two, has tons of versatility, and a car-like driving experience. And, taking the number one spot, is The Pacifica Hybrid, because it's packed with the latest technology. It has great mileage and, potentially, the best overall value in its class-- due to fuel savings and tax credits. Hey, thanks for watching. And give us a Like and hit the Subscribe button, so you don't miss any more of our videos. If you're selling your car, go to edmunds.com/sellmycar to get a cash offer right now. [FUNKY ROCK MUSIC]

Best Minivan Comparison: Kia Carnival vs. Toyota Sienna vs. Honda Odyssey vs. Chrysler Pacifica

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