Kia makes many popular sedans and SUVs, from the sporty Stinger to the critically acclaimed Telluride. The Soul subcompact crossover is also a consumer favorite for its unique shape and quirky interior elements. The Carnival, a minivan formerly known as the Sedona, is also a highly anticipated model for 2022.
However, for the 2021 model year, Consumer Reports recommends only two Kia SUVs: the three-row Telluride and compact Sportage. What makes these models stand out from the rest?
Consumer Reports still loves the Kia Telluride
The Kia Telluride’s inclusion on CR’s recommended list is no surprise. The Telluride was so popular upon its release that it caused dealer shortages nationwide. It remains largely unchanged for 2021 aside from some new paint colors, including a blacked-out Nightfall appearance package.
The Telluride packs a 3.8-liter V6 engine capable of 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. It’s faster than most other SUVs in its class and has no problems passing other cars on the highway. The eight-speed transmission is a good match, providing smooth and silent gear changes.
It gets 21 mpg combined city/highway in real-world testing, which is great by class standards. However, the 2021 Telluride’s handling on its road test didn’t impress Consumer Reports. It’s not in danger of toppling over, but testers could feel its pronounced body lean while cornering.
Still, the Telluride has great brakes to instill a sense of confidence. The cabin is largely free from exterior noise, and the suspension mutes hard bumps nicely.
CR also appreciates the Telluride’s roomy interior and wide, supportive seats. Visibility is great thanks to the elevated driver’s seat and large windows. It also comes with plenty of tech and safety features for its $32,190-$44,390 base price range, making it a good value.
The Kia Sportage is even better this year
The 2019 Kia Sportage isn’t that dependable, but the 2020 and 2021 models have had perfect reliability scores. The Sportage offers two engine choices, the standard being a four-cylinder capable of 181 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. A turbo-four making 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque is also available.
The base engine isn’t as fast off the starting line, but CR still believed the Sportage has decently athletic handling. It can make tight turns at a moment’s notice, and the six-speed automatic transmission shifts exactly when needed. CR didn’t test the available turbo-four, but Car and Driver says it makes the Sportage much quicker.
The Kia Sportage boasts a sophisticated interior layout where five adults can fit comfortably. However, due to the Sportage’s small windows, visibility might be a problem for some drivers. The seat cushions are also too flat to provide long-term thigh support.
The Sportage has a simple infotainment interface with speedy response times and clearly labeled controls. CR also appreciates all the included safety features on the base trim, particularly automatic emergency braking.
What about the Sorento?
We’re not sure where Consumer Reports stands on the 2021 Kia Sorento yet because it’s still testing. Though CR usually likes the Sorento’s ride and performance, its reliability isn’t always consistent. Its low owner satisfaction rating compared with other SUVs also often holds it back from a high score.
The 2021 Kia Seltos earned an above-average rating, but CR ultimately doesn’t recommend it for its noisy, stiff ride. The 2021 Sedona undoubtedly provides the most passenger space, but it can be a chore to drive. The Telluride and Sportage are better options because they offer satisfying rides plus ample interior space.