By Randi Payton
Kia Motor Company, South Korea’s second-largest automobile manufacturer, is now a force to be reckoned with worldwide, with a full lineup of SUVs, sedans, and a minivan. Once a bland maker of economy vehicles, Kia competes with popular and European cars with advanced technology, designs, fuel economy, and performance.
Despite sharing the same corporate relationship, platforms, and engines with Hyundai Motor Company, Kia has introduced a slew of new models with a unique character that distinguishes them from other brands.
I recently tested three Kia models, including the redesigned 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid SUV, the new 2021 K5 sedan, and the all-new 2022 Carnival minivan. All of them were highly impressive and significantly different than their predecessors.
2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid
The 2021 Sorento Hybrid is Kia’s first electric-backed mid-size crossover. It gets 225 horsepower from a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 177.2 horsepower and an electric motor that adds another 60.1 horses.
Kia mated the engine with the electric motor and a 1.5-kWh lithium battery that aids in producing more torque off the line and the ability to coast at highway speeds with the engine off, significantly improving the driving range on a tank of gas.
The Sorento hybrid uses a six-speed automatic transmission and offers all-wheel drive (AWD).
Model/Price: The base 2021 Kia Sorento S starts around $34,765 MSRP, while the Sorento EX Hybrid front-wheel drive is a six-passenger SUV that starts at $36,590 MSRP.
The top-of-line Sorento X-Line AWD ($42,590 MSRP) comes with multiple luxury features, including 20-inch wheels, leather trim, a 12.3 instrument display, and more. In 2022, the Sorento will offer all-wheel drive in the same price range. Next year, Kia will introduce a plug-in hybrid for about $10,000 more.
Power: A 1.6-liter 16-valve DOHC turbocharged inline four-cylinder produces 177 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, and an electric motor produces 60.1 horsepower with 194.7 lb-ft of torque.
Fuel Economy: EPA rated 39 city/35 highway mpg.
2021 Kia K5
The all-new 2021 Kia K5 replaces the Optima, launched ten years ago. The K5 was reengineered to compete with popular mid-size sedans, while the K5 GT performance model goes up against German luxury brands, like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, but at a lower price.
The K5 expects to continue the strong growth that Optima started. However, it faces tough competition from Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy, and the Volkswagen Passat. In addition, the K5 GT performance model is going after BMW 330i and Audi A4 customers in a more aggressive move.
Models/Pricing: The K5 comes in five trim levels, including a hybrid and plug-in hybrid: The 2021 Kia K5 LX ($23,490), the LXS ($24,490 FWD-$26,590 AWD), the sporty GT-Line ($25,390 FWD – $29,090 AWD), EX ($27,990 plus $3,400 for premium package), and the top-of-line K5 GT ($30,490 FWD – $31,890 AWD).
Power: The Kia K5 offers an option between two engines: They include a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo producing 180 horsepower at 195 lb-ft of torque or a 2.5-liter inline-four turbo that gets 290 horses at 311 lb-ft of torque.
Fuel Economy: The LX averages 29 city/38 highway mpg; the FWD LXS, GT-Line, and EX average 26 city/34 highway mpg. AWD drops that average a few miles. Upgrading to the 2.5-liter inline-four turbo averages about 24 city/32 highway mpg.
2022 Kia Carnival MPV
The all-new 2022 Kia Carnival, which replaces the Sedona MPV/minivan, radically departs from the usual minivan expectations. Instead, the new Carnival is an MPV/minivan that outdoes many SUVs in features, performance, and innovations. Plus, it looks more like an SUV than a minivan in many respects.
The Carnival is mighty and has a great sense of control on highway and city roads. It shares the same platform as the new K5 sedan, which includes ultra-high-strength steel, making it stronger, quieter, lighter, and stronger than its predecessor. The Carnival seats seven to eight occupants in has class-leading interior room and comes loaded with standard advanced technology and safety features.
Models/Pricing: The 2022 Carnival offers four models that includes the LX ($32,100-$35,275), the EX ($38,775), SX ($42,275), and SX-Prestige ($47,275).
Power: The Kia Carnival tops the segment with a 290 horsepower, 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine.
Fuel Economy: The EPA rating is 19 city/26 highway mpg. Kia plans to introduce a Carnival hybrid in late 2022 and an all-electric model in the following year.