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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
|2022 Kia Telluride||SUV||$32,790||8.4||21-23||291||87.0 cu.ft.||5000 lbs.|
|2021 Kia Sorento||SUV||$29,390||8.2||24-26||191-281||75.5 cu.ft.||2000 lbs.|
|2022 Kia Soul||SUV||$17,590||7.8||27-31||147-201||62.1 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2022 Kia Seltos||SUV||$22,490||7.6||27-31||146-175||62.8 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2021 Kia Sportage||SUV||$24,090||7.2||26||181-240||60.1 cu.ft.||2000 lbs.|
|2021 Kia Niro||SUV||$24,690||7.7||43-50||139||54.5 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2021 Kia Stinger||Sedan||$33,090||8.2||20-25||255-365||40.9 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2022 Kia K5||Sedan||$23,690||8.3||27-32||180||16.0 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2020 Kia Optima||Sedan||$23,390||7.8||29||185-245||15.9 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2021 Kia Forte||Sedan||$17,890||7.9||28-35||147-201||15.3 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2021 Kia Rio||Sedan||$16,050||N/A||36||120||13.7 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2022 Kia Carnival||Minivan||$32,100||7.9||22||290||145.1 cu.ft.||3500 lbs.|
|2021 Kia Sedona||Minivan||$30,400||N/A||21||290||142 cu.ft.||3500 lbs.|
|2020 Kia Cadenza||Sedan||$37,850||7.5||23||290||16.0 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2021 Kia K5 GT||Sedan||$30,590||7.9||27||290||16.0 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2020 Kia K900||Sedan||$59,900||N/A||21||365||15.0 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2020 Kia Niro EV||SUV||$39,090||8.3||30||201||53 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid||SUV||$29,590||6.9||46||139||54.5 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2020 Kia Optima Hybrid||Sedan||$29,310||N/A||42||192||13.4 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2020 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid||Sedan||$36,090||N/A||41||202||9.9 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2021 Kia Rio||Hatchback||$16,990||N/A||36||120||32.8 cu.ft.||N/A|
|2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid||SUV||$33,590||N/A||37||227||75.5 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.
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.
Latest Kia videos
Best Minivan Comparison: Kia Carnival vs. Toyota Sienna vs. Honda Odyssey vs. Chrysler Pacifica
Mark Twain may or may not have once said, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." We feel the same about the minivan. Once the go-to for expanding families, the minivan has taken a back seat to the midsize SUV over the last couple decades. However, we are here to tell you that the minivan is back and better than ever. In this video, Ryan ZumMallen and Mike Schmidt from Edmunds take an in-depth look at the best minivans. In this minivan comparison, we test the new 2022 Kia Carnival and see how it stacks up against the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica.