The Top Kia Models of the Year, Your Questions Answered


According to the company's figures, Kia Motors sold nearly 650,000 vehicles in 2016. This is a 3.5 % increase from the previous year and signalling the carmaker's best sales year to date. Across the board, consumers dug into Kia models. The Sorento, Soul, Optima, and Forte all sold more than 100,000 units, and scored impressive ratings from reviewers. With a wide range of compact, sedans, crossovers and SUV's, Kia is quickly becoming the go-to carmaker for budget-conscious shoppers who like a bit of sass in their step. If you're thinking Kia but don't know quite which model works best for your needs, you may have some questions about how, why and when to choose.

1

I'm sporty, and I like sporty things. Which Kia should I consider?

If user-friendly SUV's are your bag, the Kia has four models to fit a variety of lifestyles and preferences. The boxy-but-good Sportage offers a 181-hp, 2.4 liter four or six-speed automatic with front or all-wheel drive available, and an interior that suggests a near-luxury ride. The Sorento has SUV looks with minivan value and, with an upgrade to the SXL, a turbocharged 2.0-liter V6 engine. Options to add a second row of seating make this a solid addition to the people carrier canon. The Niro has got a gas-electric hybrid powertrain with impressive mileage numbers, especially for a kicky little crossover. While it's not so quick on the uptick (to be expected from a 139 hp engine), it's got interior details that make it an intriguing compromise for eco-conscious millennials (and their parents!). The best-selling Soul is a cross between a wagon and a crossover (a cross-crossover?) and with its brand new Exclaim (!) model, has a turbocharged engine that gives significantly improved performance and road feel. Kia has made something of a name for itself in the market for its range of SUV-esque vehicles that offer space for families and enough edge for the trendy set, all at a budget that makes them much more accessible than most comparable models.

2

I'm kind of the classy, elegant sort and I'm thinking sedan. Can I find a Kia to suit my needs?

It's not all sporting around with Kia- a few of their models have managed to break into the sedan market, traditionally the domain of old school US carmakers with like Buick and Chevy. The Kia Forte is the base sedan model with a range of engine options, manual or automatic transmissions, and a ton of extras inside. While consumers wait for the Stinger sedan to hit the market in 2018, the Forte has more than enough to keep buyers occupied. The Optima offers five different powertrains and ranks in the top 10 family sedans on Car and Driver and gets high marks from its hybrid system. Plus, it's got enough interior toys, like infotainment systems, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with important safety features like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. You may not be fooled into thinking you're driving a Mercedes S-class, but if you're budget conscious and like to have some perks on the road, there are very solid options from the Kia stable on offer.

3

I'm a struggling artist working as a part time cater waiter and juggler. Does Kia have a car to fit my kit and save me money on fuel?

Kia is well known for being able to give buyers a lot on a low budget, and the carmaker consistently punches above its weight on handling, mileage, and interior features. The Soul is a top seller for a reason: for thousands less than a Mazda CX-3 you'll get tons more interior cargo space and comfortable ergonomic seats to make those long hauls a little less painless. The Niro is smaller in the cabin but makes a bigger impact on the wallet: at a starting price several thousand dollars lower than the Nissan Rogue or the Toyota RAV4, this hybrid gets up to 50 mpg and has enough interior features to make you forget that it's an economy car. However, if economy is really your thing, the compact Kia Rio comes in at a lower MSRP than most other name brands and its cheerful exterior is boosted by a 130hp, 1.6-liter inline-four engine, in both manual and automatic transmission. It may be a tight squeeze in the backseat and trunk, but that might just add to the theatrical aspect of your artistic aspirations.

4

I've been looking for an EV and I'm undecided about which one to choose. How do Kia's models stack up with other carmakers?

Kia has been quietly building up an EV fleet that rivals many of the top carmakers, and it's doing so at a price that might make even the toughest critic a convert. The Niro crossover combines a hybrid powertrain with a subcompact crossover to deliver a 139hp and has three models, each with different mileage outputs. The FE (fuel efficient) gets up to 50 mpg, while the Niro touring tops out at 43 mpg, while the midrange LX and EX-versions promise an impressive 49 mpg. While the hybrid powertrain is mostly designed to make the electric motor assist the gas engine (electric only driving seems to be pretty fleeting in the model), this serves to make it feel more familiar to gas-only drivers, making it a great transition vehicle for buyers who want to make the switch to electric but get intimidated by the technology. On the other end of Kia's spectrum, the Optima sedan offers a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid as powertrain options, which pairs a 2.0 liter four cylinder with a conventional six-speed automatic and replaces the torque converter with an electric motor and clutch. The result of this unconventional conventional approach gives the Optima a smoother ride with less of the whirring noises that often remind EV drivers of the early days of dial-up internet. Compared to the Ford, Honda, Chevy, and Hyundai hybrid models, the Optima offers a classy ride that feels less like a hybrid than its closest competitors.

5

I spend my life between work and trying to find parking on my crowded city block. Is there a compact car that's worth a look?

The Rio is available as both a sedan and a hatchback, though both models offer a surprising amount of legroom and comfort for the driver. To attract a younger and more budget-conscious demographic, Kia opted to eliminate navigation systems in the Rio, and while it does keep the cost down it may be a can't-live-without feature for drivers. However for those more intrepid, there are plenty of ways to connect mobile phones for cellular navigation- Kia gambled that young drivers would hardly mind having to connect their phones to their cars, and it has mostly paid off. Because it was developed for a European market, the Rio handles twists and turns with aplomb and its suspension gives the entire ride a tight and comprehensive feel, with linear steering and a torsion beam at the rear. When you've got to wiggle into that last parking space on the block after a long day at work, you'll be glad you've got some room to spare.

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