Skip to main content

Reliability is one of the biggest priorities for potential vehicle buyers. Whether it’s a subcompact, midsize sedan, or three-row SUV, each should quell the concerns of their prospective owners. Some automotive brands, such as Toyota, are known for their reliability. While assumptions are made that it’s the most dependable brand, studies show that other manufacturers like Kia have them licked.  

J.D. Power’s 2023 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) recently revealed that Korean manufacturer Kia is the most reliable mass-market brand. They beat out global powerhouse Toyota, which didn’t even rank in the top three.

How does J.D. Power rank brand dependability?

A blue 2020 Kia Forte driving down the road
2020 Kia Forte GT Sport | Kia

J.D. Power began conducting the 2023 VDS three years ago. Starting with its 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study, the consumer analysis agency fielded responses from 30,062 original owners of 2020 model-year vehicles.

After three years of ownership, J.D. Power then categorized 184 consumer complaints into several classifications. They include Climate, Driving Assistance, Driving Experience, Features/Controls/Displays, Exterior, Infotainment, Interior, Powertrain, and Seats. Each model vehicle was then given a score represented as the number of issues per 100 model vehicles (PP100). Vehicles with a lower PP100 in the VDS achieve better dependability than their competitors.

Kia named the most reliable mass-market brand

Among the mass-market brands, Kia ranked number one, above Buick, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, and Toyota. J.D. Power gave the Korean colossus a score of 152 PP100. Comparatively, Toyota came in fifth with a score of 168 PP100. Despite its position at the top, Kia had three models as the best in their segment, compared to Toyota’s four. However, Toyota enjoyed more success with SUVs and trucks.

Kia did pick up second place in two categories. In the Upper Midsize SUV class, the Kia Sorento came just behind the Toyota Highlander. Looking at the Minivan segment, the Kia Sedona was slightly bested by the Toyota Sienna.

Which Kia vehicles ranked first?

A red 2020 Kia Forte parked in a lot
2020 Kia Forte | Kia

Kia doesn’t yet make a pickup truck, but they dominated elsewhere. The Kia Forte ranked above the Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Corolla in the Compact class. The Kia Optima was ranked above the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion in the Midsize Car segment.

The Korean manufacturer picked up one first-place ranking with SUVs. J.D. Power put the Kia Sportage above the Buick Envision and Jeep Cherokee in the Compact SUV segment.

What were common problems found in the VDS?

Among mass-market offerings from Kia, Toyota, Ford, Subaru, and others, reported issues decreased in 2023. Last year, the average score was 190 PP100, whereas now, it’s 182 PP100. Although reliability increased in mass-market vehicles, the same can’t be said about luxury offerings. J.D. Power says the gap between the mass-market and luxury brands is the widest in the study’s 34-year history. Kia-adjacent luxury brand Genesis ranked second with 144 PP100, just behind Lexus’ 133 PP100. Yet, other luxury brands didn’t enjoy the same dependability scores.

The average score among luxury marques was 205 PP100. J.D. Power asserts that the reason for the inequality between the two segments is newer tech features. Typically, premium vehicles feature much more innovative technology than their mass-market counterparts. While having state-of-the-art technology in a car is nice, it increases complexity and the probability of additional system failures. According to the VDS, the leading issues were electronic malfunctions, outdated maps, problems with music and media infotainment apps, and voice recognition systems.


A Small Kia Truck Could Be in Your Future