Kia’s Overall Reliability Rating Took a Tumble Thanks to 3 Models

Buying any new vehicle is an investment, and it’s important to invest wisely. Predicted reliability, an educated guess about how well a vehicle will hold up over the time you own it, is another important consideration. Consumer Reports determines the predicted reliability of most new vehicles from major brands such as Mazda, Toyota, and Kia.

CR then uses vehicles’ individual predicted reliability ratings to determine a ranking for each brand. In looking at each brand’s predicted reliability ratings this year, CR noted Kia experienced a large drop. So, what caused it?

Is Kia less reliable?

Consumer Reports mentioned Kia was among the brands that saw a large drop in reliability in the past year. The brand fell six places to 15th on CR’s list of the most reliable new cars. It vehicles’ average predicted reliability rating is only 45 out of 100.

The predicted reliability ratings for the 2021 Kia Forte, 2021 Soul, and 2021 Niro EV are only 1 out of 5. The 2020 Forte’s rating shows a below-average score in the transmission category. The 2019 Kia Soul also got the worst rating (CR didn’t rate the 2020 model). And the 2021 Niro EV showed a lower rating in the engine category.

What happened?   

A tale of three Kias

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With low ratings in major categories based on customer feedback, three Kia models earned abysmal predicted reliability scores.

The brand added a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) to the latest Forte and Soul, resulting in substantial problems. CR explains that in both vehicles, the CVT does an admirable impersonation of a traditional automatic transmission. It does well enough running errands around town, but it’s noisy under pressure.  

Though the new transmission may have acceleration and fuel economy a kick, it didn’t improve either vehicle’s ride quality. According to CR’s experts, the 2021 Kia Soul handles well and is enthusiastic in navigating turns. They explain it’s also short on feedback, making the ride feel less precise and controlled.

The latest Kia Forte is in a similar position with the CVT. Like the Kia Soul, the Forte’s ride quality is awful, the CR team says. In both Kia models, you can feel every road imperfection thanks to overly stiff suspensions. The Forte and Soul are at the bottom of their respective classes when it comes to a comfortable ride. 

The 2021 Kia Niro EV has its flaws too. It’s also incredibly noisy, you can’t get all-wheel drive, and it’s not available in all states. Though it boasts a generous range of 239 miles, it takes as much as 10 hours to charge it using a 240-volt charger. The jury is still out on the engine in the latest model because CR hasn’t rated it yet.

Two brand heroes

Kia’s two heroes are the Telluride and Sportage. Both 2021 models turned in good ratings from Consumer Reports, with the Telluride earning an impressive overall rating of 97 out of 100. They also earned a stellar 5 out of 5 in predicted reliability. That’s likely why the brand didn’t fall farther in the list of most reliable new cars.

The Telluride also earned a 5 out of 5 for predicted owner satisfaction and a 97 out of 100 on CR’s road test. The Sportage got an underwhelming 2 out of 5 in predicted owner satisfaction, but it held its own in Consumer Reports‘ road test with a 78 out of 100.

Time will tell if Kia will look at what’s working for it and what isn’t. The brand is clearly doing plenty right with the Telluride, and if it didn’t have expert reviews and ratings, sales would still tell that story. If Kia replicated that winning formula in its other vehicles, the automaker could be a major force