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Kia is the second-largest car manufacturer in South Korea after Hyundai. The automaker has grown its reputation from a brand producing budget-friendly entry-level cars to one offering performance, value, and innovation. So, what is the best Kia car ever made?

Narrowing down all the models to determine the finest isn’t easy. Various processes can be used to decide the best Kia car. Additionally, some methods are subjective, so let’s break down a few ways to determine which Kia model is No. 1.

Is the reliable Soul EV the best Kia car?

An image of a Kia outdoors, one of the vehicles Consumer Reports gave the 'Never Buy' label.
Kia Soul | Kia

The Kia Soul EV is a cute, boxy, eco-friendly electric vehicle that’s arguably one of the most popular Kia cars ever made. It packs a 201-hp electric motor. And its large battery pack offers 243 miles of driving range when fully charged.

Some people might not agree that the Kia Soul EV is an excellent car, but ratings say otherwise. Its PainRank scoring system uses owner complaint analysis to determine which vehicles have the most defects. The ranking considers factors such as the mileage at failure, the average cost of repairs, and the car’s age.

The higher a car scores on PainRank, the more difficult or “painful” it is to own. The first-generation Kia Soul EV (2015 to 2019) has only two complaints on PainRank and a score of 0.09. Complaints about the 2016 Kia Soul EV include brake failure and charging port lock connector issues.

The car ranks first out of 42 generations in reliability, making it one of Kia’s best vehicles.

The Sportage is the best-selling Kia car

Sales figures are good indicators of a successful product. High sales numbers usually reflect a car’s appeal to a broad audience, and if 2022 data is anything to go by, the Sportage is the best Kia car.

The South Korean automaker celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022 and announced that year as its best for sales. The company reported record December sales of 60,422 units, an 11.2% increase over the December 2016 record and a 25% increase year-over-year.

SUVs made up 66.8% of the brand’s 2022 sales total. The Kia Sportage compact SUV led with 13,075 units sold in 2022 against 6,034 in 2021, achieving triple-digit sales growth compared to 2021. A 187-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine powers the Sportage, which takes 8.6 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. However, the hybrid version hits that speed in 7.4 seconds.

The Telluride leads in awards

Selling over 200,000 units to date, the award-winning Kia Telluride has been a smash hit since debuting in 2019. The latest model packs an aspirated V6 engine generating 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. This three-row midsize crossover can reach 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, an admirable split for a family hauler.

It’s also the winningest Kia model. The Telluride is the first SUV to earn an automotive “Triple Crown.” That includes the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year from North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), the 2020 Motor Trend SUV of the Year, and the Car and Driver 10Best awards.

In addition, the Telluride beat 28 rivals, including the Mazda3, to win the 2020 World Car of the Year. The SUV also snagged the Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award for 2020 Midsize SUV Best Buy.

The brand has significantly improved its vehicles’ quality and reliability, so naming the best Kia car isn’t easy. But it’s safe to say the automaker continues heading in the right direction.