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Best of 2019 Kia

What to Buy and What to Stay Away From When it Comes to Kia in 2019

2019 Kia Stinger GT Atlantica Special Edition front 3/4 view

Much like the Hyundai Motor Company that owns a 33.88 percent stake in it, Kia’s sales have been in decline over the past few years. The South Korean automaker managed to put a little over 2.7 million vehicles on the global market during 2017 which is around a 10 percent decrease compared to 2016 when they marketed a record 3 million vehicles worldwide. What’s more, they sold more than 2.7 million vehicles in every single year since 2012 which further speaks to their recent struggles. The situation on the U.S. market perfectly reflects the brand’s global sales trends. Kia has marketed 589,668 vehicles in the U.S. during 2017 and 647,598 models a year beforehand. Likewise, that also amounts to roughly a 10 percent decrease as is the case on a global scale. But, what does MY 2019 have in store for the South Korean brand? What does the 2019 Kia lineup have to offer?

Well, 2019 is arguably one of the most important years in Kia’s history. Not only do the Koreans expect it to become a turning point in the brand’s fortunes, but they’ve also updated, more or less, the entire lineup. A host of Kia models will be fully redesigned, while many are up for a mid-cycle treatment. A quartet of best-selling Kia models; the Forte, Soul, Optima, and Sorento SUV might also trade places after MY 2019. While the Forte is entering its next-gen cycle, the subcompact Soul is a rare Kia vehicle that isn’t getting an update this year, but an all-new model has already been caught testing and will likely appear in time for an early MY 2020 debut. Meanwhile, both the Optima sedan and the mid-size Sorento are getting mild facelifts in order to remain fresh. The former budget automaker is now also offering a true luxury (K900) and borderline luxury and sports cars (Cadenza and Stinger), which shows how long Kia has come since the millennium.

What’s Hot In the New 2019 Kia Lineup

07. 2019 Stinger

The entry-level luxury fastback is, without a doubt, the most exciting car the Korean automaker has to offer at this point. Not only does it add excitement to an otherwise affordable family lineup of cars, but it also showcases intent to spice things up on Kia’s part. The Stinger arrived during MY 2018 and not many changes are expected for MY 2019. The biggest of the few changes is the addition of the all-new Stinger GT Atlantica Special Edition. The 500-unit limited production version of the Stinger comes with a special Deep Chroma Blue paint, 19-inch wheels taken from the European model, Espresso Brown Nappa leather upholstery, heated rear seats, and a surround-view camera. Otherwise, the conventional Kia Stinger carries over with a great value for money package that you simply won’t find among its competitors. As far as smaller luxury cars go, this is arguably the best there is – and it’s a Kia no less.

The reason behind the Stinger’s exciting nature is its 3.3L twin-turbo V6 engine available in more expensive GT trims. It generates a remarkable 365 horsepower that makes it a performance bargain for slightly north of $38,000. The V6-powered Stinger needs only 4.7 seconds in order to accelerate to 60 mph. On the far end of the scale, the more expensive GT1 and GT2 trims cost around $43,500 and $49,500 respectively. There’s also a more affordable version of the Stinger that draws power from a 2.2L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 255 ponies. Both engines come with a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission, but a lack of a manual option cannot be overlooked. Apart from sporting a couple of potent turbocharged engines, the 2019 Kia Stinger also boasts sharp driving dynamics and corresponding sharp handling. What’s more, the entry-level Stinger can be had for just under $32,000 and comes with an abundance of safety tech even in this trim.

2019 Kia Stinger GT Atlantica Special Edition front 3/4 view

06. 2019 Forte

Although scrutinized for its lack of power and not exactly inspiring handling, the compact Forte still had a lot of good things going on about it. The 2019 Kia Forte will be an all-new third-generation model that should further reinforce the superlatives while simultaneously addressing some of its disadvantages. For starters, the all-new Forte looks great and it’s got a whole 3.2 additional inches of length to boast. In addition, the new car is also 0.5 inches taller, and 0.7 inches wider than the outgoing model. Although the Forte5 hatchback is still a part of the lineup, only the 4-door sedan has been submitted to the aforementioned revision. The hatchback should follow suit later on. Apart from an updated exterior, the new Forte also receives an entirely new interior with an 8-inch touchscreen display as standard. Also standard are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity features while advanced safety gear such as blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, and lane-keep assist are optional in more expensive trims.

So far, the Koreans have only released details for the base Atkinson cycle 2.0L 4-cylinder mill. It’s still making the same 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, but it now gets a completely new optional transmission. The new Kia Forte has now become the Korean automaker’s first CVT-equipped vehicle. This improves the compact’s fuel economy which is now rated at 35 mpg combined. A 6-speed manual is still standard, though. More upscale Forte units will likely continue with the conventional 2.0L 4-cylinder engine that currently delivers up to 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. Despite being upgraded on almost all fronts, the compact Forte’s performance woes will carry over in the next generation. Will the additional 3 mpg be worth the CVT gearbox in the long run? We’ll have to wait in order to find out!

Kia Forte Sedan front 3/4 view

05. 2019 Niro EV

The recently introduced subcompact crossover exhibits a rare dedication when it comes to fuel efficiency. Available as either a conventional or a plug-in hybrid, the 2019 Kia Niro lineup will be bolstered by the addition of an all-electric model. This will be the last piece of the fuel economy puzzle for the subcompact car that arrived in the market during MY 2017. Already revealed at the Busan motor show in the automaker’s native South Korea, the EV version of the car will sport the usual distinctive styling differences. Outside, it’s got a covered grille and unique accents, while the interior sports an electric car-exclusive instrument cluster and EV-only light blue seat and dashboard accents. Other than that, the Niro EV is pretty much the same car its hybrid siblings are, and since it was designed with battery accommodation in mind, the dimensions are the same as well.

The 2019 Niro EV will sport the same powertrain as its Hyundai Kona counterpart. While the overseas customers can expect two different battery packs, the U.S. buyers will only receive one. The larger one with a 64 kWh capacity, to be more precise. Combined with a 201-horsepower and 291 pound-feet of twist electric motor, the Niro EV offers a total of up to 240 miles of range on a single charge. Speaking of which, the charging will be accelerated by the use of 50 and 100-kW CSS hardware which should be able to restore a depleted pack to an 80 percent charge in 75 or 54 minutes respectively. Otherwise, a standard 240-volt outlet should fill the battery to the brim in around 10 hours. Much like its hybrid siblings, the Niro EV will pack an adequate list of active safety features but will come with a higher price tag.

2019 Kia Niro EV front 3/4 view

04. 2019 Sorento

Kia’s best-selling crossover is getting a mild facelift for MY 2019 in order to keep up with its ever-vigilant competitors. A mildly restyled grille and headlights up front, and slightly altered bumper and tail-lights at the back will be the first few revisions that meet the eye. Subtle as they may be, they’re still noticeable. As before, the 2019 Sorento offers a well-appointed interior with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity this time. Moreover, Kia also offers a number of advanced safety goodies, but most of them are unavailable in entry-level models. The ride is smooth, quiet and refined, and every Sorento can seat up to seven passengers from now on. However, the available third row of seats isn’t exactly spacious, hence persons six and seven will likely be children in most instances.

As before, the new Kia Sorento SUV comes with a choice of two engines. The difference is, the base 2.0L turbo four engine has been replaced with a 2.4L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder mill which develops 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. It’s only available with the base L and LX trims from where the stronger 3.3L V6 takes over. The V6 option generates 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of rotational force and should be regarded as the sole choice, really. It’s much better suited to the mid-size three-row crossover of the Sorento’s reputation and only returns 2 mpg combined fewer than its 4-cylinder counterpart when equipped with all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive, on the other hand, widens the gap by another point. Looking at the bigger picture, neither of the Sorento’s engines can boast meaningful fuel economy figures, however. This would be one of a few of the mid-sizer’s shortcomings, alongside pricey top-range trims and the aforementioned cramped third row. Then again, the 2019 Kia Sorento SUV is still better than most of its competitors and the buyers know it. That’s why as many as 99,684 of them decided to put their trust in it during 2017 in the U.S.

Kia Sorento front 3/4 view

03. 2019 K900

The upscale K900 serves a dual purpose in the Kia lineup. It’s both the automaker’s flagship sedan and its only true luxury car. Available since MY 2013, the K900 has finally switched generations and got rid of its initial problems. The new Kia K900 doesn’t only look slightly better than its predecessor – it also drives better, feels better and offers an even better value. It rides on an all-new platform shared with its Genesis G80 and G90 counterparts. This makes it longer and wider than the outgoing car which positively affects the passenger space. Although it sports an upscale plushy interior accompanied by a smooth and quality ride, most luxury car buyers will never take the K900 into consideration simply due to its badge. They would miss out on premium goodies such as the Maurice Lacroix dashboard clock or the 17-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system.

The full-size luxury car finds its motivation behind a 3.3L twin-turbocharged V6 engine otherwise available with the Kia Stinger GT. It develops 365 horsepower 376 pound-feet of torque and sends that power to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox.  Despite commanding a price tag that easily surpasses the $50,000 mark, the Kia K900 is still no BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Audi. Heck, most people would have never chosen one in front of Lexus, Infiniti, or Acura either. And, no amount of leather, thick glass, active safety features, or premium tech gadgets will make up for the fact it’s donning a “pedestrian” badge. Not for us, though, as we believe the 2019 Kia K900 is more than worthy of consideration. Especially considering it throws in all of the advanced safety gear imaginable, including forward-collision warning and lane-keeping assist.

Kia K900 front 3/4 view

02. 2019 Sportage

The compact Sportage is Kia’s second best-selling crossover with 72,824 units marketed in the U.S. during 2017. The latest major revision for the compact happened during MY 2016 and the Sportage hasn’t been revised since. The 2019 Kia Sportage aims to rectify the lack of attention Kia has been paying to one of its most important models. The upcoming mid-cycle refresh will, however, mostly impact the overseas models which are getting an all-new 1.6L diesel engine with a mild-hybrid system 48-volt battery. As far as the U.S. Sportage goes, only minor exterior and slightly more substantial interior changes are in the picture. A slightly revised frontal fascia will be accompanied by a new dashboard and a “frameless” 8-inch touchscreen display in more upscale models. A list of available features should remain the same, or very similar to that of the outgoing model.

The Kia Sportage for 2019 remains one of the best-handling and smooth-riding compact crossovers on the market, although its powertrain department leaves a lot to be desired. The base 2.4L inline-four engine develops 181 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque which are routed to either front or all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic. $10,000 more expensive than the entry-level LX, the SX Turbo Sportage offers a much more potent 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder mill. This optional engine generates a total of 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and pairs to the same 6-speed auto. It too is available with both configurations, but the optional all-wheel drive takes a meager 3 horsepower from the aforementioned total. Fuel economy is another one of the Sportage’s weak spots as 26 mpg combined is pretty much the best you can hope for.

Kia Sportage frontal view

01. 2019 Optima

The 2019 Optima is another one of the freshened up Kia models this year. Much like the above mentioned Sportage, the Korean automaker’s best-selling sedan hasn’t been updated since MY 2016. Well, the drought ends here. The new Kia Optima sports a mildly updated frontal fascia and virtually unchanged interior, but there’s definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to the mid-size sedan. For starters, the 2019 Optima sports a new infotainment system software, albeit on the same two screens from the outgoing model. A number of convenience features should make life easier if you own one, but the most important news is the addition of now-standard advanced safety gear. From now on, every new Optima will be equipped with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and lane-departure warning.

As before, the 2019 Optima can be equipped with a selection of inline-four engines. The entry-level 2.4L 4-cylinder makes 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque and pairs with a 6-speed auto transmission. A middle-ground 1.6L turbo four moves from last year’s LX to this year’s EX trim. It produces 178 hp and 195 lb-ft. and pairs with a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Finally, the most powerful 2.0L turbo four generates a healthy 245 ponies and 260 pound-feet of torque. Like the base engine, it too comes with a 6-speed auto. No changes to the powertrain department translates to unchanged fuel efficiency. Still, the Kia Optima for MY 2019 does manage to move some of the previously optional high-end features to the standard equipment list, and that’s always a good thing. It’s exactly the opposite when it comes to the Optima hybrid, however. The facelifted hybrid version of the Korean’s intermediate car might be $2,980 cheaper than it was a year before (now starts from just under $29,000), but it loses the standard Harmon/Kardon sound system, navigation, and power seats among other things. They’re still available as options, but only through rather expensive $5,200 Technology Package.

Kia Optima front 3/4 view

What’s Not In the New 2019 Kia Lineup

04. 2019 Rio

The subcompact Rio is one of those Kia cars that isn’t getting any updates for MY 2019. That’s because it was already fully redesigned during 2018. Regardless, the fourth-generation Rio is packed with more features than its predecessor, it’s as handsome as any Kia vehicle, and remains as affordable as ever. Starting from just under $14,000, the new Kia Rio is hard to beat in terms of affordability. However, many would agree that entry-level LX models aren’t worthy of consideration. They don’t even get power windows, let alone more advanced features like cruise control. It’s the $18,500 LX trim that finally offers the right package with the standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a larger 7-inch touchscreen display, forward-collision warning, and much more. However, the LX trim automatically makes the Rio pricier than its competitors.

The 2019 Kia Rio might be available as both a sedan and a hatchback, but it only comes with one available engine. The Rio’s 1.6L 4-cylinder is good enough for a mediocre 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque which is actually less than the outgoing model made. The new model also retains its predecessor’s 6-speed automatic transmission which is just about right for it. Although the South Korean automaker has transcended its appliance-car roots, they still haven’t lost their touch when it comes to budget cars. That’s why the Rio is one of the better offerings in its segment. But only under certain conditions. This makes us wonder whether the fourth-generation improvements are enough to keep Kia’s subcompact competitive? Upscale trim models certainly are nicely outfitted, but they also warrant higher stickers. Decisions, decisions.

Kia Rio Sedan front 3/4 view

03. 2019 Sedona

The 2019 Kia Sedona is one of only five minivans available on the U.S. market at the moment. Sadly for the South Korean automaker, it’s also one of the minivans that offer the least overall – especially compared to the segment-leading Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey. The 2019 Sedona comes to the market wearing some new makeup that’s a result of a recent mid-cycle update. The refreshed Sedona doesn’t stray away from the path envisioned by its predecessor. What’s more, even the visual changes have been kept to a minimum – both inside and out. The facelifted model does get a number of convenience features its predecessor didn’t possess, like dual 10.1-inch rear seat entertainment touchscreen displays and a driver attention feature that monitors the driver’s state by tracking their time behind the wheel.

Like before, the Kia Sedona for 2019 comes with a sole engine offering. A sturdy 3.3L V6 is capable of putting up 276 horsepower 248 pound-feet of torque which is diverted to the front via a new 8-speed automatic gearbox which replaces the outgoing 6-speed unit. The latest Kia Sedona can tow up to 3,500 pounds, but more importantly, it can carry up to eight passengers inside. MY 2019 fuel economy ratings still haven’t been disclosed, but a new transmission should help the minivan achieve better scores than 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. New prices are also shrouded in mystery at the moment, but the facelifted Sedona shouldn’t be much more expensive than its MY 2018 iteration.

Kia Sedona front 3/4 view

02. 2019 Cadenza

The mid-size luxury Cadenza sedan is the only model sitting below the upscale K900. This entry-level luxury car is due for a mid-cycle makeover, but not before 2020. This makes the 2019 Kia Cadenza three years old which is just about as much as the Koreans can afford. Apart from an upscale and spacious interior, the stylish Cadenza also boasts an extensive list of both convenience and safety features. Some of the noteworthy mentions include a 12-speaker premium Harman/Kardon sound system, surround-view camera, and every imaginable advanced electronic safety trinket. Thing is, however, neither of these is available with the entry-level $32,000 Cadenza Premium. You’d either need to buy the $39,000 Technology trim or the range-topping Limited model which costs more than $44,500.

The newest Kia Cadenza is offered with only one engine option which has been a part of the lineup since the beginning. The 3.3L V6 manages to squeeze out 290 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. Only front-wheel-drive has ever been taken into account by the Koreans, while newer models sport an 8-speed automatics as opposed to the 6-speed units from previous years. Although quite large and powerful, the Koreans still should have paid more attention to the Cadenza’s fuel economy. 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway aren’t figures a mid-size sedan should pride itself upon – regardless of how upscale it is. The upcoming Cadenza mid-cycle revision will have plenty of categories to address, but that’s a story for another time.

Kia Cadenza profile view

01. 2019 Soul

The second-best selling Kia vehicle in the U.S. for 2017 is nearing the end of its second-generation run. This is practically the only reason we’ve put the quirky subcompact crossover among the 2019 Kia cars you might want to pass up on. The next-gen Soul is already in the making, but it appears the redesigned model won’t arrive in time for MY 2019. Instead, the 2019 Soul continues with an already proven combination of practicality, affordability, versatility, and value for money. The Soul is simply one of those unique vehicles with a strong aura surrounding them. The entry-level Soul aptly named Base comes without any advanced electronic safety commodities, but at least it starts from around $16,000. More upscale + (Plus) and ! (Exclaim) trims start from $20,500 and $23,000 respectively, and include a great number of optional safety goodies. The Soul is also highly versatile when it comes to cargo space, mostly thanks to its boxy shape and foldable rear seat.

Every single one of the three available trims comes with an engine of its own. The affordable Base model sports an anemic 130-horsepower 1.6L inline-four tied either to a 6-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic. The mid-range Soul “Plus” is powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder making as much as 161 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. It’s only available with a 6-speed auto. Finally, the Range-topping “Exclaim” trim gets a 1.6L turbo four with as much as 201 hp and 195 pound-feet of rotational force which are routed towards the front axle via a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The latter is also the most efficient one, returning 28 mpg combined, but the former two are only lagging by a single point overall. We’re confident the Koreans will address most of the Soul’s issues come the next generation’s time which we all eagerly await.

Kia Soul front 3/4 view

Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!