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Editor’s note: This article was updated on 6/6/2023. 

Toyota is known for its dependability and long-lasting cars, but Kia is creeping up on the automotive brand in J.D. Power’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study. Lexus is considered the highest-ranking brand in the luxury market. Kia outranked Toyota for the mass market options. With all the cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles these brands offer, reliability is quite crucial for shoppers.

Kia’s increased reliability led the company to take the lead

Business Wire said J.D. Power’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study saw some shakeups. In overall dependability, Lexus ranked ahead of Kia by just a few points. This year, Toyota fell one point behind Kia for the first time. From the 2020 study, Kia was most improved by reducing 35 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) experienced within the last 12 months. Lexus came in at 81 PP100, with Kia at 97 PP100. Toyota came in at 98 PP100. For these instances, a lower score out of 100 is ideal.

This is also the first time the brand has ranked highest in the mass market category. Cadillac, Acura, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi all had considerable improvements of 30 PP100 or more. This is a significant improvement across the board.

“The J.D. Power 100-Point Scores are based on independent and unbiased insights from consumers who have owned these vehicles, and that’s something in which shoppers are keenly interested,” said Tanya Parkes, vice president of the consumer division at J.D. Power. The Kia Optima, Genesis G80, Sorento, and Sportage brought segment awards for the Hyundai Motor Group. Toyota Motor Corporation received segment awards for the Lexus ES, Toyota Avalon, Lexus GX, Toyota Sienna, and Toyota Tundra. 

In the SUV segment of the study, the Sorrento beat out both the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Edge for the midsize SUV section. Kia also took the top spot for small SUV, with the Sportage beating out the Buick Encore and Hyundai Tucson. 

Can the Kia reliability remain at a high?

Interestingly enough, Toyota does a more extensive lineup of vehicles, which could contribute to the slightly higher number of problems found by J.D. Power. It does seem that South Korean automaker has been working hard to improve the cars that it does have. This is evident by the 30-point improvement in the dependability study. 

The Toyota Corolla remains one of the best-selling cars, with the Sportage being Kia’s top seller, according to Jato. This is good news for Korean brands overall, as Kia, Hyundai, and Genesis seem to improve with each passing year. However, this data shows that the brand is capable of the innovation needed to strengthen its brand.

What is the best Kia vehicle to buy?

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Depending on your needs, an appropriate Kia is probably available for purchase. The Kia Niro electric vehicle recently took the top spot in the mass market category for 2019 and 2020.

The Kia Sportage ranked high thanks to a high predicted reliability rating, comfortable seating, and an upscale cabin. A compact SUV fits the bill for most drivers looking for a car with the best of both car and SUV worlds.

While Toyota has comparable vehicles in these categories, drivers might find the innovation from Kia interesting enough to try out. The Toyota Camry and Toyota Highlander will always be available to fall back on. This is excellent news for Kia fans worldwide, but Toyota is always working being the scenes. The Japanese auto-giant might have had an off-year, but the company will likely return strong.