Why You Should Forget Everything You Thought You Knew About Kia

When you hear the name Kia, what do you think about? Maybe the 2013 Sportage engine recall? Or, if you are a little older, the creative Kia Sephia vs Honda Civic commercial?

Whatever it is, you probably don’t think about this company producing Motor Trend SUV of the Year. Imagine Kelley Blue Book putting a Kia model on the top of its 10 Most Successful New Models of 2019. Surprisingly enough, it’s true. The new Telluride emerges as one of the highest-ranking midsize SUVs in the world.  

The old Kia tale 

Kia is South Korea’s oldest car manufacturer. It was founded back in 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry. The company used to make bicycle parts.

In 1951, it went on to create Korea’s first indigenous bicycle – the Samchully. For a while, the company has been building Honda motorcycles, Mazda trucks, Fiats, and Peugeot models. In the ’90s, it partnered up with Ford.

In 1992, Kia (as Kia Motors America) arrived in the U.S. Sephia and Sportage models helped the company conquer the American market. However, for many years, Americans have been looking at Kia models as something cheap and not-too-reliable. It looked nice and drove more or less well. These vehicles were the kind of car parents would buy for their high-school-aged kids rather than drive it themselves.

The unfortunate recalls

Kia introduces the 2019 Kia Sorento during the auto trade show AutoMobility LA at the Los Angeles Convention Center
The Kia Sorento | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Since Kia models used to be in the low-budget segment, some people didn’t take its numerous recalls as a surprise. However, the unlucky owners had to struggle through a few unfortunate consequences.

In 2017, the manufacturer recalled the Niro Hybrid SUV due to a problem with a hydraulic clutch actuator. The same year, Sportage models had trouble with a faulty module of the accessory trailer hitch.

Kia Sedona minivans suffered from a power sliding door problem while 2016 Sorento models had issues with an accelerator assembly.

More than 340,000 2015 Kia Soul SUVs were recalled due to a problem with a steering system. Meanwhile, the 2012 Sorento suffered from an engine problem.

The new chapter in Kia history


In the past decade, Kia has been working hard to turn into one of the most demanded car manufacturers in the world. To stress its safety, popularity, and importance, the company attracted (read: paid millions to) celebrities to promote its vehicles.

LeBron James, Christopher Walken, Blake Griffin, Michelle Wie … the list goes on and on. But no matter how hard the company tried, it seemed to be falling short of becoming a luxury brand.

Everything changed in 2020 when the new Telluride model came out. Even though the automaker still hasn’t gotten its luxury badge, the quality of this car is comparable to other top-notch models on the market.

Let’s be honest. If Ford, Honda or Toyota had presented Telluride, they wouldn’t hesitate to call it luxury even for one second. Kia simply doesn’t have a luxury subdivision. That’s likely to change.  

The murmur around the new model turned into a roar when it was named the 2020 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, beating the Lincoln Aviator and Hyundai Paradise.

Even the base model of the Kia Telluride has an impressive variety of features, allowing the company to cater to a wider audience.

An impressive journey

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Telluride therapy. #KiaTelluride

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Even if the Telluride doesn’t get a luxury badge slapped on it anytime soon, Kia’s 28-year journey through the American market is truly impressive. From a low-end budget-friendly Sephia to a luxury-level Telluride, the development is hard to overlook.

Of course, with all that buzz around the new model, it would be upsetting to hear about a recall. Let’s hope Kia left those in the past.