If there was an award for the most improved automobile manufacturer, it would likely be given to Kia. Over the years, they’ve risen from the ashes of bankruptcy, fire and recall issues, to building cars with world-class safety records. Starting as a manufacturer of steel tubing and bicycle parts, that’s no small feat.
With Hyundai Motor Company as its parent company, Kia is now flexing unique luxury car designs, high production numbers and sales around the world, and has found its way into super famous car reviewers' hands. Without further ado, here are some of the best and worst KIA models, ranked.
10 Best: Kia Stinger
The Kia Stinger is a mid-size car that first came out in 2017 and was inspired by KIA’s GT Concept car. Offered in two engine configurations, the Stinger’s base model has a 3.3-liter Twin-Turbo V6 engine, 8-speed automatic and offers 365 hp. Technically in the same small luxury class as Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series, Kia advertises the 2019 Stinger as more powerful than the BMW 4400i Gran Coupe, Porsche Panamera RWD V5, and Audi SS Sportback.
Said to be inspired by the Coca-Cola bottle, the 5-seater comes stock with leather interior, Brembo Brakes, 19 inches wheels, which are all worthy of being gawked at. Famous car reviewer Doug DeMuro rated the 2018 Stinger as the best Kia ever built.
9 Best: Kia Forte
If you’re looking for a decked-out compact car with amazing gas mileage, then the Kia Forte is a great choice. It comes with a standard 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission powered by a turbocharged engine.
Around since 2009, the Forte has seen some major upgrades over its time. The base-level FE starts at $17,790, which is a steal considering it contains many of Kia's best trim and bells and whistles. This includes a cabin size that fits 5 people, front 10-way adjustable seats, smart trunk, touch screen, lane departure technology, and up to 41 MPG highway millage. What else do you need?
8 Best: Niro EV
The Niro EV is an electric crossover that comes with a 239-mile range, which is plenty of juice to get you where you need to go as a daily driver. In typical Kia fashion, it comes with a lot of standard safety features and the EV has 5 trim options available.
In an era where EV cars are designed to look funky to stand out, so people know you're driving an EV car, the Niro EV does a great job as cleverly disguising itself as a regular SUV/crossover. The biggest pitfall of the Niro EV is for the adventurous and Winter driving types, there is no all-wheel-drive option.
7 Best: Kia Sorento
The Kia Sorento is designed for people with big families or folks that haul a lot of things. With a standard 3-row, 7 passenger seating it has plenty of space, specifically 73 cubic feet behind the front seat. The V6 engine, 260 hp, and all-wheel drive make it capable of tackling tough terrain along the route to your hiking, camping or skiing adventure.
When a lot of cost-effective SUVs nowadays are for show only, the Sorento goes. It's also able to tow up to 5,000 lbs, which is more than enough for a standard trailer, bass boat or tiny house. There are 5 trims available, with a variety of upgrades including leather trim, lane assist, and panchromatic sunroof
6 Best: Kia Optima
The Kia Optima may go down in history and the most hyped Kia ever, which is a very good thing for Kia. In the car industry, it's possible for a high-end brand to sell a cost-effective car but not the other way around. Kia is pushing its limits here.
The mid-range Optima EX is a great value for its price point, with a 1.6-liter 4 cylindrical turbo engine and 178 hp. As a mid-size sedan, there aren't many cars on the market with its price point, starting at $26,990, which includes as many safety, tech and driver perks.
5 Worst: Kia Cadenza
The Kia Cadenza is a competent luxury sedan. On paper, it sounds more than reasonable with a 3.3-liter V6 engine pumping out 290 hp. It's larger than the Optima model and is considered by many a competitor with the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon.
However, the Cadenza isn't known for being incredibly composed performance-wise for those specs. Although Kia has been updating the Cadenza since its release in 2014, in some areas they've gone too far. For example, earlier models were known for not being fuel-efficient. Now, the new model is, but at the cost of acceleration and handling. One of the strangest features is that the trunk area is smaller than its rivals and the rear seats don't fold down. Unless you shell out for the loaded version, it also lacks in comfort.
4 Worst: Kia Telluride
The Kia Telluride may have one of the silliest names of all time. At the very least, in the top 10. Is it an attempt to appeal to people that short-form all their emails and text messages? The Telluride does have a lot going for it, with a 3.8-liter, V6 under its hood capable of 291 hp. With 8-seats, it's also big enough to fit a family like the Brady Bunch. It has very few significant flaws.
That said, it seems like the Telluride is trying hard to be an over-the-top, boisterous and Rambo-like car. For those who aren't going to be doing off-road trips, towing a boat and don't have 7 members in their family, it comes across as more gluttonous than decadent.
3 Worst: Kia K900
The Kia K900 is one of the company's largest and fanciest sedans. By spec, it's a very exciting car. With a twin-turbocharged 3.3 liter, V6 that makes 365 hp, it sounds like a dream. Where that excitement depreciates is how it feels on the road. Specifically the low-end model and the general car-to-driver connection to the road.
Where it wins is the cabin and amenities are a bang for your buck compared to similar cars in the luxury sedan space. Performance car enthusiasts looking to drift around corners or speed off the line from 0-60 mph faster than 5 seconds, will need to go elsewhere.
2 Worst: Kia Soul
The Kia Soul is undoubtedly one of the most hated looking cars out there. Despite numerous facelifts, you'll find it on almost every ugly car list. Despite the square reputation, the 2020 version is highly ranked in the subcompact SUV category.
Reviewers are quick to relay that it's adequate, as it does a good job all-around. Where it lacks is it's not the most agile, easy to drive or spacious car in the category. It's the kind of car you either like or you can't stand, like the Nissan Kicks and Toyota C-HR.
1 Worst: Kia Rio
The Kia Rio is a subcompact car that has been on the roster for Kia since 1998. In its time it has been a sedan, hatchback, and wagon. It has also gone from inline-four gasoline, diesel engine and front-wheel drive.
Its claim to fame is it's a good basic form of transpiration. It has a 1.6-liter engine and gets 33 mpg overall, which is okay. It has a touchscreen that is smaller than other models, which is okay. The front chair is adjustable, just not many ways as their other cars. Also okay. It doesn't do anything spectacularly. What is does is take you from point A to point B very safely. For some, that's more than enough.