Is Kia reliable? A balanced look at the Korean brand

Just how reliable is Kia? We take a look...

Kia have quite quickly become a common sight on British roads, with one of their best sellers, the Kia Sportage, seen as often as a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf.

One of the things that make Kia stand out as a brand is their impressive seven-year warranty. With many car manufacturers these days only offering a warranty for three-years, Kia have cemented themselves as one of the most trusted, and reliable, brands around.

But are Kia as reliable as they want us to think they are?

In this article, we look at whether Kia are really as reliable as everyone thinks they are, and compare their reliability to some of their rivals.

Are Kia reliable?

The short answer is yes, Kia are reliable. Very reliable, in fact. In the past few years, Kia have consistently appeared in dependability lists from a variety of different sources.

The Telegraph put them at number 3 out of 20 for the most reliable car brands of 2017, with just 80 problems per 100 vehicles. CNN put Kia 6th out of 10 in their table back in 2015 which isn’t as good as this years ranking but it’s still very good. So not only have Kia been consistent the past few years, but they are also improving.

In fact, in 2016 Kia was ranked the number 1 brand for reliability by J.D Power. This made it the first non-luxury brand to top the list since 1989.

How reliable is the Kia Sportage?

One of Kia’s most popular and most well-known models is the Kia Sportage. Interestingly, though, the Kia Sportage isn’t as dependable as you would expect from such a reliable car brand. It scores 99 on ReliabilityIndex, which is slightly better than the industry average. J.D Power has given it three and a half stars for predicted dependability, which is in between average and better than most. The Sportage isn’t the most dependable car out there but it is reliable.

White Kia Optima Diesel Saloon driving on the road

Admittedly, this hasn’t always been the case and it wasn’t too long ago when Kia was at the bottom end of the table as one of the least reliable car brands. However, that seems to have all changed in recent years and Kia is now one of the most reliable brands on the market today.

Why are Kia reliable?

So what makes Kia reliable?

After taking the top spot on the J.D Power Survey, Renee Stephens of J.D Power put Kia’s success down to their focus on “cleaner” launches of new models. She also said that plants and dealers, particularly in the US, were getting better at producing the brand’s vehicles.

Michael Sprague, chief operating officer for Kia Motors America, told CNBC that Kia’s success was down to “Kia’s decade-long focus on craftsmanship and continuous improvement, and reflects the voice of our customers, which is the ultimate affirmation.”

An area Kia have improved in more than most is that of their infotainment system. Many brands have been let down by modern technology as of late. While things such as infotainment systems are appealing to buyers, they can come with their own set of problems and this can bring down the reliability.However, it seems that Kia have made some progress in that area, and there are little reports of their infotainment systems causing issues.

Kia’s seven-year warranty also shows how much faith they have in their cars. Not many brands would offer such a large warranty, but Kia’s introduction of such a long warranty shows their commitment to making reliable cars.

In conclusion, Kia have become reliable through focusing on cleaner launches of their cars, improving their infotainment systems and working on their craftsmanship. And by the looks of the reports, it’s paid off.

How reliable are consumer reports?

We are now going to defend our use of consumer reports as a way of telling how reliable a car is. This is particularly important as Kia were once a very unreliable brand, and their speedy ascent to the top could make some people rightly wary.

man with a headset talking to a customer

We use things such as consumer reports and surveys as a way of measuring reliability because it is one of the most trustworthy ways of knowing how dependable a car is. This is because they ask those who own the cars. The J.D. Power Survey that put Kia on the top spot surveyed more than 80,000 consumers about problems with their vehicles during the first three months of ownership. 

That said, there are some issues with consumer surveys. One of these issues is that they aren’t always accurate when it comes to long term reliability for brand new cars. That’s not to say they are completely wrong, but you can’t judge the long term reliability of a car that has only been out for less than a year. Particularly if, like Kia, the reliability has drastically changed. 

Generally, though, consumer reports are a good way of finding out how dependable a car is.

Kia vs. Volkswagen vs. Nissan

It’s in this part of the article that we compare the reliability of some of the car brand’s main rivals. In this case, we are looking at Volkswagen and Nissan. So, how does Kia compare to these brands?

Of course, neither Volkswagen or Nissan will be able to beat Kia in the J.D Power Survey but Nissan and Volkswagen didn’t do too badly. They tied for tenth place, with 93 problems per 100 vehicles. This is just below the industry average of 97 problems per 100 vehicles.

In the Telegraph survey that put Kia 3rd, Volkswagen came an impressive 6th, with 92 problems per 100 vehicles. Unfortunately, Nissan came 10th from 4th place the year before. This is still a modest effort, with 98 problems per 100 vehicles, but it’s not as good as either Volkswagen or Kia.

Red Honda CR-V on the road turning a corner in the countryside

Nissan have consistently been pretty reliable, so it’s no surprise that they are still doing fairly well, either above or average in terms of longevity. However, Volkswagen have made a huge comeback as of late. They were once considered an unreliable brand, as were many other German car manufacturers. So it is surprising to see Volkswagen so high up on some of the lists.

However, it is still Kia that takes the top spot. So if dependability is your main priority then Kia is your best bet when it comes to the three brands.

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Which Kia cars are the most reliable?

According to J.D Power, these are the most reliable Kia’s;

These cars scored either 4 or 5 out of 5 for predicted dependability.

Which Kia cars are the least reliable?

These scored 3 out of 5 for predicted dependability which isn’t even that bad, really. But those are the ones that are ranked least reliable because they have scored the lowest. However, it says a lot when the lowest ranking cars are still considered average.

In conclusion, if you want a reliable car, then you can’t go wrong with a Kia. They have improved hugely in recent years, and are now topping tables for their longevity. They also fare pretty well when put up against some of their main rivals. Kia offer a seven year warranty and this is also transferable from owner to owner, which means you can buy a three year old Kia and still have four years left on the warranty. This makes Kia a great choice for a brand new car and a used car. Kia are one of the most dependable car brands out there today, so if reliability is your main priority then you should definitely look at a Kia.

Kia may do well in terms of Reliability, Read our reviews to see if they  perform well in other areas
Rachel Richardson


  • Jimbo| 19th February 2020 at 11:11 am Reply

    hi, i owned a KIA Carens model 2014 for six years now and still find and good no head ached, just only for the battery replacement which normal. i got also a major accident and i amaze that only a bumper had a major impact and replaced it with KIA. But got only 4 year warranty (2 years in KIA and 2 years in Show room) instead of seven?.

    • Rachel Richardson| 24th February 2020 at 3:31 pm Reply

      Hi Jimbo,

      Thank you for your comment on the reliability of your Kia model. Looking at information for Bahrain, it appears that Kia don’t offer a 7 year warranty in your country.

  • Pajaro| 20th December 2019 at 9:13 pm Reply

    I have a 6.5 year old Kia Rio and it only failed to start a couple of times when the battery was over 5 years old and needed to be replaced. Since the battery was replaced no problems have been noticed.

    • Rachel Richardson| 2nd January 2020 at 1:56 pm Reply

      Hi Pajaro,

      Thank you for your comment on our Kia reliability article. We try and make the information we have as unbiased and balanced as possible to inform our readers and point them in the direction of the vehicle that best suits their needs.

  • Colin Ford| 5th October 2019 at 11:31 am Reply

    I purchased a Kia venga this year 2018 model 14cc it goes fine only thing I found is that it rattles in the boot area. The jingling noise from the dashboard is very iratating took it in as this problem was like this on purchase they tried to solve the problem in the boot without success I insisted I wanted to change it the salesman said they would but they kept stalling so I got fed up waiting they never even kept in touch or rang me so iv have to put up with this constant noise

    • Rachel Richardson| 7th October 2019 at 2:56 pm Reply

      Hi Colin,

      Thank you for your comment on the reliability of Kia, and in particular your model. Tracking down a rattle in a car can be incredibly difficult to pinpoint, especially if it is in the vicinity of the dashboard. However, we were disappointed to hear that your Kia representative did not come back to you with any feedback.

      Should you, in the future, require a new car, please get in touch with Amanda on 01903 223391. At OSV customer satisfaction is the core of our business and we work hard to ensure that all our clients are happy with the service we provide and the vehicles they purchase or lease through us.

  • Roger Hawker| 29th September 2019 at 11:14 am Reply

    7 yr warranty is essential and you still have to tolerate car going to garage every few months for different minor annoying problems. I persisted 5 years and gave up. My wife’s kia was better with 1 major issue in 7 yrs. Luck of the draw. Dont buy new is my advice as no guarantee of any better

    • Rachel Richardson| 1st October 2019 at 9:43 am Reply

      Hi Roger,
      Thank you for your comment on the Kia. Though they have a good track record when it comes to reliability, we acknowledge that sometimes things happen. If you are looking for a new vehicle and are considering a lease, please get in touch with Amanda on 01903 223391 and she will be able to help you.

  • Marianne| 19th August 2019 at 10:12 am Reply

    Sorry. Do not agree that Kia is a reliable brand. I own an 2012 model Kia Sorento, purchased as an ex demo model from a Kia yard, and have been experiencing consistent “limp mode” problems over the last 3 years. Kia, nobody can find a solution. Maybe it’s this??? $200 thank you. Nope, wasn’t that. Then lets replace this???? $500. Nope, not that either…. Google “Kia Sorento Limp Mode”. It appears to have been a problem dating back as far as 2006 models, yet here we are 2019 and still no solution. It is dangerous. Imagine picking up your kids from school, pulling into a round-about when there is a gap, only to have your car suddenly limp across. Brown pants time I can tell you…..

    • Rachel Richardson| 19th August 2019 at 2:05 pm Reply

      Hi Marianne,

      Thank you for your comment. We use a number of UK consumer reports in order to gather data from those who drive the cars in the UK. We also obtain information from warranty companies and manufacturers though the vehicles looked at are only up to 8 years old and sold for the UK market.

      We would recommend that you check forums such as this one: https://www.kia-forums.com/threads/2014-sorento-ex-limp-mode.100066/ where they appear to have been able to get some answers.

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