• Apr 20th 2011 at 2:00PM
  • 199
The 2012 Kia Rio, which debuted at the 2011 New York In... The 2012 Kia Rio, which debuted at the 2011 New York International Auto Show (Kia).
In June of 2010, website 24/7 Wall Street chimed in with a list of "Ten Brands That Will Disappear in 2011." On the list, because the editors clearly knew little about the industries about which they were writing and some of the companies they were condemning, was Kia Motors.

It was nonsense. Disappear? Kia is a brand on the come. It was then, and still is now. It is part of the Hyundai Motor Group "chaebol," which is a South Korean conglomerate of associated companies. Not only has killing Kia never occurred to management (whom 24/7 did not bother to talk to), but this week the company is introducing a new Kia Rio sedan and five-door hatch, as well as an update of its successful Kia Soul five-door sub-compact at the New York International Auto Show.

The star of Kia's show stand, though, may not be the new models, but the Kia Optima sedan, which went on sale in showrooms last Fall, and is easily the most surprising new car out of the dozens of new vehicles driven by the AOL Autos staff lately.

What is so surprising about the Optima? The overall look and feel of the sedan, whose previous design that barely qualified as a disappointing rental car (as in...really? an Optima? Do you have anything else?) is as premium as a Volkswagen or Honda, but costs thousands less. Kia designers, for example, cleverly angled the cockpit controls ten degrees towards the driver. It is an effect that BMW used to employ on some cars and differentiates the Optima nicely from the Hyundai Sonata with which it shares an engineering platform and engines.



It is striking, though, how Kia, which is still striving to get on shoppers' radar after almost two decades in the U.S., crafted the interior of the car with such high quality materials and tight- fit-and-finish that it's hard to believe it doesn't score higher on some quality rankings. Toyota, for one, can't claim to do it as well.

Now, what's all this noise about Kia disappearing? The 24/7 Wall Street site was on the right track when it named GM's Saturn to one of its lists. But the killing off of Saturn was in the wind for some time as the automaker was headed for bankruptcy and critics consistently pointed to GM's redundant brands. Ditto the website's prediction about Borders Books, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy now.

In condemning Kia, the website's editors reckoned that Hyundai would go the way of GM and came to the conclusion that it did not need two overlapping brands. Kia and Hyundai have vehicles that do compete in the same space: Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent; Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata; Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.

But there is plenty of differences between the two companies and their brand personalities have clearly diverged. Most importantly, though, for Kia's future, is that the company wants the two brands to operate globally to capture as much market share as possible. Hyundai and Kia have unique approaches to design, from steering wheel design to climate control and navigation controls. And as well-received and awarded as the Hyundai Sonata has been, the Optima's design is in many ways more pleasing. [See entire Autoblog review on the 2011 Optima]. The little brother out-performs the older sibling.

If Kia has an issue to overcome, it's quality as measured by some of the third party firms. While Hyundai has made huge leaps in quality in the last decade, reaching and, at times, passing short-term quality measures done by J.D. Power and Associates on Toyota and Honda, Kia has been climbing at a slower rate. In last year's J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, which measures quality based on surveys from owners of vehicles filled out after three months of driving, Hyundai was well above industry average and number-eight overall, while Kia was 17th and below industry average. Company officials believe Kia will climb in the rankings when owner surveys on the new Optima come out and give the brand a boost.



The Rio has long been popular and really caught on with buyers during the 2008 economic meltdown that was accompanied by rising gas prices. The new models are wider and longer than the vehicles they replace, yet deliver better mileage -- a bit more than 40 mpg on the highway. To achieve that economy Kia turned to new Direct-Injection technology, as well as Idle Stop-Go, which instantly shuts off the engine when idling, and then automatically restarting when the driver's foot lifts off the brake.

The updated Kia Soul, meanwhile, is expected to get about 35 mpg in highway driving.

Last year, Kia Motors sold over two million models globally, an increase of 26%. In North America, Kia sold 410,150 vehicles, an increase of 18.5%. That was more vehicles sold in North America than Volkswagen.

Going away? The only direction Kia seems to be headed is up.


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  • 199 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I bought an 03 sorento second hand and love it! It had a defect in the pully system and they fixed it for free! I can't complain at all! I got it with 53,000 miles on it and im at 107,000 and still strong! I will def get another one when needed!
      jb2545jb
      • 4 Years Ago
      When I see someone driving one of these cheap cars I think My God they must be broke , else why ?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @jb2545jb
        they are not cheaply built, they are priced the way they are because of how thier economy there works, just like china's economy, be glad china is selling cars here or everyone would be driving a new car for 5,000 not 13,000
        • 4 Years Ago
        @jb2545jb
        I remember our daughters boyfriend bought a Kia ....She wouldn't see him any more , said she was embarrassed to ride around in that cheap car ......In all honesty I'm glad because it didn't look to safe and sounded like my leaf blower ..
        • 4 Years Ago
        @jb2545jb
        Broke!?? More like DAMN SMART!!! The new Sorento is built in West Point, GA (which is in America if you didn't know!), is competitively priced, has a 10 year-100,000 mile warranty, AND gets 21 mpg city / 28 mpg hwy for a mid-sized SUV!!!!! So you can think that us Kia owners are broke because WE know you have NO common sense! And any new Kia owner reading this is laughing at you....HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!
          Earnie
          • 4 Years Ago
          Hey jackgoesoffroad, is that a Jesus fish by your name? Before you start calling people "fool", you might want to remove it. Your comment is not too Christ like. BTW, the money made by workers in Georgia is probably spent in America. The company pays taxes to America. I heard Darrell Waltrip say on a NASCAR broadcast, that the only car in a NASCAR race that was built in the U.S. was the Toyota. So, there ya go....
          jackgoesoffroad
          • 4 Years Ago
          Are you trying to justify being broke ? Your little piece of cheap junk may have been assembled in America but the money went back to Korea ...And this "limited Power train " warranty can be added to any car for about $150....It covers NOTHING FOOL """
      xxxxxx
      • 4 Years Ago
      Buy American? what , a Ford Taurus or a Chevy Malibu?? For $40K ...? I would go buy a BRAND-NEW 2011 C Class Mercedes for $35K! Get real!
      • 4 Years Ago
      i own a 2011 kia soul and i love it. great gas milage and drives like a larger car. i have the 5 speed standard tranny and it is so easy to drive. has plaenty of room for me. i would suggest that if you need a small car that gets great gas milage then this car is for you.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I went to buy a new car not to long ago for my wife , a Cadillac ...I thought I would be real cool and bring up the fact that Kia has a 100,000 mile warranty ....I got a huge laugh out of everyone and they said they would add that exact same warranty for only $150....$150 is all it takes to add 100,000 mile Limited Power train warranty ....What a joke and this is supposed to persuade someone to buy this piece of junk ......DON"T BE A FOOL ,BUY AMERICAN
        vlady1000
        • 4 Years Ago
        GM has had 100K mile powertrain warranty standard for a few years now. Aren't they pretty much the same?
        • 4 Years Ago
        They just robbed you of an extra $150! LOL
      Trish
      • 4 Years Ago
      do your homework people.......................... Kia and Hyundai have plants in the U.S..... ummmm that would mean that they are creating employment for "americans" too.....not to mention that there cars are much better quality than in the past so they are selling well...... They dont need a bailout like some other companies i know of.
        vlady1000
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Trish
        Trish. The plants here are paint and assembly plants. They only make the body and assembly the car here. All the other parts (enigines, tranny, electronics, suspemsion, steering,etc etc) come from overseas. Not to mention all thye employment associated with design, testing, R&D, corperate headquaters (accounting, sales, adminstration, etc. Along with all the employment that goes with the construction, maintence, property taxes, associated with the buildings outside a assembly plant. Where a car is JUST ASSEMBLED is a very small part of the entire employment required to BUILDING a car. Do not be fooled.
        richard
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Trish
        Yeah, live the American dream on 7.50 per hour--where do I sign up?
        jb2545jb
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Trish
        Trish ,Trish ,Trish the money goes back to Korea ...Trish we bail the whole country of Korea not just their car companies ....Hey girl if you feel comfortable driving those cheap cars ,by all means go ahead ...Do you have low self esteem ? Stay out of the bars , guys go to bars looking for girls with low self esteem ....
          Trish
          • 4 Years Ago
          @jb2545jb
          as a matter of fact I feel very comfortable driving my brand new 2011 Kia Sorrento.Its roomy, looks good , good on gas, I can keep going if you want.... And by the way if you need a nice expensive car to have high self esteem thats your problem... I have plenty.... And a bar would be the LAST place I would ever go to if I was looking for a guy.....but obviously that must be your game
      john and donna
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ford never got a bail out. And I would rather support an American Co. than a over seas. But some of us So called Americans Cant see Passed there own nose.
        bshum3
        • 4 Years Ago
        @john and donna
        I like Ford too but my last pickup brought brand new was made in MEXICO !
        • 4 Years Ago
        @john and donna
        nice writing style, now we know why the us cars ooze quality.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Talk to your average mom and pop repair shop. They will tell you like it is. We see everything. Kia, Hyundai and Volkswagen especially put a lot of emphasis on marketing the "Bling" They cater to the younger market who are 80% mechanically clueless. Their hip hop music and mice whipping down the highway... Well who wouldn't want to be cool like that...It's not until the maintenance costs surface does reality set in. The expensive low profile tires wear out fast, the fancy wheel gets bent on the potholes and having to change the timing belt every 60K miles at a cost of 500- 700.00. Factor that in on top of your monthly car payment. As far as fuel economy goes...give me a break.... Lee Iacocca built the ugly Kcar back in the 80's that was getting 44mpg. Now their toughting 30-35. Big business does not have our best interest in mind. It's all about what sells and makes a profit. The worst part is, once you buy it your stuck with it until it's paid off. You either pay a higher price upfront or pay for it later. All I can say is do your research before buying anything !!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I own a 2007 Kia Spectra, and I don't want any other car. Cars ASSEMBLED in America, is more foreign than the so called foreign cars. Almost 75% of the American ASSEMBLED cars have foreign partts. So stop this crap about buying foreign cars. Putting Americans out of work? Good, the uppity bastards.
      mgocean95
      • 4 Years Ago
      Who cares about four wheels caskets? They're so small and and the occupants would never survive a crash. My American made suv is safer than any cheaply built foreign junk.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @mgocean95
        I survived being rearended by a truck 3 times in my 2003 Optima; it was by a F-150 three different times! Each time they hit me at 50-60 mph, it dented in the trunk, but it was fixed like new. The last time I was hit by a huge car transport vehicle- bent the car in half, but I walked away. I plan to get a new one this year- I love them, they drive like a dream and the designer for the interior used to work for Audi- he does a nice european look to the interior.
      • 4 Years Ago
      happiness is our ,,an inexpensive car that gets very good gas mileage( approx 27/32 or better), looks great +not getting bled dry to own + maintain ..bought my kid who doesnt drive much + 06 spectra .1 1/2 years + 8 k mi later no problems...just starts + runs with proper care,,,dealership transferred the what,,8 or 10 year warrantee,, the only thing i dont like are those stupid kia soul hip hop hamster commercials.they should upscale their advertising...jackgoesoffroad (below)says the business refers to it as a throw away car,,,hey,,,great...love it,, it keeps the resale value on them low,,,i'll take 2nd ownership on 1 and be grateful to not have to pay thru the nose to get where we need to go,
      redcoats1976
      • 4 Years Ago
      i like the wheels on the optima and the general styling is good.but they will have to make a 2 door sporty car to get me out of my 93 honda del sol...
        vlady1000
        • 4 Years Ago
        @redcoats1976
        Hang onto that Del Sol, my be a classic down the road
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