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The Best 2020 Cars Kia Has to Offer

Reviewing the 2020 Kia Lineup

Kia Stinger GTS front 3/4 view

The second largest South Korean automaker, partially owned by Hyundai (country’s largest car manufacturer) shares the parent company’s fortunes when it comes to recent sales trends. After reaching its all-time peak in the U.S. with 647,598 vehicles sold during 2016, Kia Motors’ 2017 sales dropped by 9 percent to 589,668 cars. Remarkably, the company’s 2018 U.S. sales have remained virtually unchanged considering how their previous year’s total amounts to 589,673 units – exactly five cars more than what they marketed in 2017.

Looking to get back on track and catch up on their 2016 sales, the Koreans have recently announced an all-new three-row SUV, the Telluride. The mid-size crossover should be of tremendous help in reaching that goal, but let’s take a look at the bigger picture. What will the 2020 Kia lineup have to offer as a whole?

The brand’s global sales are going through a similar trend considering they dropped from more than 3 million in their record year of 2016 to a little over 2.7 million in 2017. Unlike it was the case in the U.S. where their totals remained basically unchanged between 2017 and 2018, worldwide 2018 sales have fared better as Kia has delivered more than 2.8 million vehicles and achieved a 2.4 percent increase in sales over 2017.

At this moment, we can only speculate on their 2019 and 2020 totals, but the introduction of the aforementioned Telluride will go a long way in helping them break the status quo alongside the redesigned Soul. After all, crossovers are a driving force behind every car maker worthy its salt these days. What’s more, first half of 2019 in the U.S. confirms a steady growth so far.

A model by model overview showcases that, as expected, the driving force behind Kia’s 2018 fortunes were, in fact, crossovers. There’s a catch, though. Although both the Sportage and Sorento managed to find around 10,000 new homes more than they did in 2017, the outgoing Soul has done the opposite. Furthermore, the small Niro is better by only 1,000 units. All sedans aside from the Rio have recorded losses and so has the aging Sedona minivan. 2018 has been the sporty Stinger’s very first full year, but its impact has been significant considering it’s added almost 16,000 units to the total. While crossovers are expected to pick up the pace, it’s still questionable how the Kia sedan lineup will perform in this unforgiving market for everything without considerable ground clearance. If their sales continue to plummet, the South Koreans will have to reinvent their lineup if they’re to move from the aforementioned status quo.

Without further ado, here’s what to pay attention to when it comes to the 2020 Kia lineup while also taking a peek at the forthcoming 2020 Hyundai lineup.

What’s Hot in the New 2020 Kia Lineup

09. 2020 Telluride

With three rows and up to eight seats, the Telluride has instantly become the largest vehicle Kia has to offer on any market. It’s also one of their most important models due to high sales potential which, as mentioned above, could prove to be a driving force behind the brand’s resurgence in that regard.

Compared to their other three-row Sorento, the Telluride boasts a few inches more in all directions which should be just enough so that every passenger feels at ease. Design-wise, the Telluride flirts with the body-on-frame boxy SUV idea while still maintaining a unibody form. Speaking of its underpinnings, the 2020 Kia Telluride shares its platform with also new Hyundai Palisade.

The duo of all-new upper-intermediate crossovers shares more than just their platform, as the features list of both vehicles are practically almost identical, too, with adaptive cruise control, collision prevention system, and blind-spot monitoring standard from the get-go (latter available only with SEL and Limited trims on the Hyundai stablemate). Prices start from just under $33,000 range and work their way up from there.

Much like its Hyundai stablemate, the Kia Telluride is also available exclusively with a V6 engine. Both SUVs draw inspiration from a 3.8L six-cylinder which is good enough for 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of rotational force. An eight-speed automatic transmission is, likewise a sole offering, while a choice between front and all-wheel drive was never in doubt.

The latest addition to the Kia lineup is unlike anything the company has offered until now and comes as a much needed refreshment in the three-row family SUV segment where it competes with the likes of Honda Pilot, Volkswagen Atlas, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, and, of course, its Hyundai Palisade stablemate.


08. 2020 Soul

The third-generation Kia Soul has finally arrived and not a moment too soon. The outgoing model has been with us since 2014, and sales have started dwindling in recent years.

The new car retains the boxy shape that’s been the car’s hallmark since day one, but it’s also much sharper-looking than the second-gen model thanks to thinner headlights and sharp-edged openings on the grille. The rear end of the car has also become more serious than before. The new model is also 2.2 inches longer than the outgoing units and sports an additional 0.8 inches of ground clearance. It did lose half an inch in height, though.

A new 10.25-inch color touchscreen serves as the interior’s centerpiece, but overall, the interior hasn’t changed that much. A new GT-Line appearance package serves as a distinguishing factor for those that feel the need to be different thanks to its 18-inch wheels and tweaked front and rear fascias. While this version costs a little over $20,000 (around $27,500 in the GT-Line Turbo package), the entry-level models still start from $17,500 before the mandatory destination fee.

The previous generation’s base engine has been booted to the curb and replaced with a former mid-level 2.0L naturally aspirated four. It’s still good enough for 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque which is down from previous year’s 163 hp and 151 lb-ft. A peppy 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder remains an option on higher grades and continues to deliver 201 ponies and 195 lb-ft of twist. While the base engine can be paired with either a 6-speed manual or a new Forte-sourced CVT gearbox, the turbo only pairs with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

At first scheduled to arrive later during the model year, was a fully electric 201-horsepower Kia Soul EV. Kia spokesman Neil Dunlop in an interview with the Green Car Reports, however, stated that the new EV will be delayed until at least 2021 due to limited battery supply and electric motor shortages.

When it does finally arrive, it’s expected to offer up to 291 pound-feet of torque and a total range of up to 233 miles on a single charge thanks to a 64-kWh battery pack and a more powerful electric motor. The new Kia EV is already much better than its predecessor – at least on paper. It’ll also cost more, but we’ll have to wait for the official pricing info.

Overall, the next-gen model is a better vehicle than its predecessor in spite of coming with one or two downsides.


07. 2020 Stinger

The meticulous luxury fastback is arguably the most exciting car the South Korean automaker has ever conceived. Apart from being their best-looking and best-performing model, the Stinger is also a car that could bring them much-needed recognition among badge snobs in the future. After all, even the most coveted of brands didn’t earn their reputation overnight.

Although it’s still early in the compact executive car’s life cycle, Orth Hedrick, Kia North America product planner, claims the company is planning on being aggressive in terms of improving the Stinger and delivering as many variations as possible. Already, the Stinger was supposed to market the special Atlantic edition, but the deep-blue package has been canceled. More color options will soon follow, though, as the Koreans are already developing other special editions like the $45,000 2020 Kia Stinger GTS available exclusively in unique orange paint scheme.

Regardless of what the Koreans do in terms of the Stinger’s looks, the sporty 5-door will remain a car with incredible value in its class considering it undercuts its competitors by a wide margin. The base models do start from just under $34,000 after all. The range-topping GT2 grade, however, warrants a sticker higher than $50,000, but that’s still less than what Kia’s competitors charge.

The Kia Stinger doesn’t rely on sportiness alone but offers a tame 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with emphasis on fuel economy (in a way) as well. This powertrain is good enough for a healthy 255 horsepower and returns up to 29 miles to the gallon on the highway. As of 2020, all four-cylinder-powered models are now dubbed GT-Line and look more in-tune with the performance-oriented GT models.

The real treasure of the lineup is the optional 3.3L twin-turbocharged V6 engine, however. With it, the Kia Stinger GT cranks up as much as 365 ponies and 376 pound-feet of torque which propels it to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires.

Both powertrains work exclusively with an 8-speed auto but the choice between rear and all-wheel drive is still yours to make. What’s more, Kia’s new D-AWD system offers three available modes to control how much torque is being sent to the rear (either 60, 80, or 100 percent). The new AWD system also includes a limited-slip diff which was previously reserved for rear-wheel drive models.

With a little bit of luck and smart management, the Kia Stinger might become a serious BMW 3 Series competitor in a few years. Especially if the perennial compact luxury car continues sliding down the gutter.

06. 2020 Sorento

Despite nearing the end of its life cycle, the three-row Sorento is still one of the safest choices if you’re thinking of shifting your allegiance the South Korean automaker’s way. In fact, the mid-size crossover was the company’s best-selling model in the U.S. during 2018 with 107,846 units sold. Taking into account the increasing popularity of the segment and the fact it was only recently facelifted, the Sorento’s sales are expected to continue growing in 2019 and 2020 as well.

Sure, it won’t offer as much third-row and cargo space as some of its competitors, but Kia’s now-second largest crossover mitigates these shortcomings by offering more bang for your buck in general. Entry-level models start from around $27,000 and already sport an advanced infotainment system with all modern connectivity features. The Sorento is also more upscale compared to some competition that relies on hard plastics and offers an extremely refined ride for its class. The range-topping trim costs more than $45,000 in a front-wheel drive config and prior to extras, however.

The Kia Sorento owes its above-average handling and ride quality to new steering and suspension upgrades as well as its capable powertrains. The base L and LX trims are powered by a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine that yields 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque and comes with a somewhat outdated 6-speed automatic.

Beginning with the S V6 trim, every other Sorento boasts a 290-horsepower and 252 lb-ft 3.3L V6 engine which pairs with a more contemporary 8-speed. Although they are neither the most powerful nor the most efficient engines in their segment, the Sorento’s powertrains have struck a balance that’s becoming a lost art in the modern car industry, and for that, we salute them.


05. 2020 Sportage

The compact crossover has come a long way since its awkward convertible SUV beginning in the nineties and is now presuming to become one of the company’s best-selling vehicles in the U.S. with 82,823 units sold during 2018. The Kia Sportage has also gone through a mid-cycle refresh for MY 2020 (debuted at the 2019 Chicago auto show), which further increases its appeal among potential buyers and, hopefully (for the Koreans), might increase its sales as well.

The redesigned Sportage doesn’t stray too far from the well-trodden path of the previous model, and apart from mildly redesigned front and rear fascias, retains its main strong points as well. This particularly means its great ride and handling, as well as a somewhat more upscale interior feel. In fact, the Sportage sports a rather similar set of advantages as its larger sibling – the Sorento.

Unlike its three-row cousin, the Sportage starts from below the $25,000 mark and doesn’t cost more than $34,500 in its top SX Turbo grade – prior to extras, of course. New for 2020 is the S trim level which only adds some sporty visual elements but not the actual sporty driving dynamics. What’s more, all models now come with an 8-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and a number of advanced electronic driving aids.

The Sportage also gets a choice between two engines, but without a V6. The base model is the same 2.4L naturally aspirated inline-four as is the case in Sorento. A 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder serves as an option for those in need of more grunt. The latter makes 240 ponies and 260 pound-feet of twist, but as above said, can’t be ordered unless the $34,500 SX Turbo box is checked.

Both engines are standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive can be obtained for $1,500 above the mentioned prices. Bear in mind that the latter also reduces the turbo four engine’s rating by 3 horsepower.

Finally, every fourth-gen Kia Sportage thus far has been tied to a six-speed automatic, and redesigned models haven’t changed that.


04. 2020 Niro

The subcompact crossover is another one of Kia’s rising talents which emphasizes on versatility and practicality (at least for its class) instead of performance. The conventional hybrid version of the smallish crossover went on sale during MY 2017 and was subsequently joined by a plug-in hybrid during MY 2018. The Korean brand has furthered its wave of innovations for late MY 2019 when the full EV version of the Kia Niro made its debut.

Starting from just north of $24,000, the base hybrid Niro is a budget-friendly family option which returns up to 50 miles to the gallon combined. The plug-in hybrid model bolsters Niro’s already high-flying fuel economy bar by providing 26 miles of all-electric range, while the Niro EV provides up to 239 miles of range. The former costs $4,000 more than the comparable internal combustion model, while the latter starts from the $38,500 mark prior to incentives.

Atop all of their fuel efficiency advantages, the Kia compacts also offer lots of space for their class and nicely executed interiors to boot. Not to mention that hybrid models have now been refreshed for model year 2020.

The dedicated fuel savers are powered by a 1.6L 4-cylinder engine which leaves a lot to be desired. It’s paired with a small 1.56-kWh battery pack and a 43-hp electric motor for 139 horsepower of total output. The plug-in version gets a larger 8.9-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 60-hp electric motor but its total output remains the same. Only front-wheel drive is available, and so is a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The EV version of the Niro pairs a large 64-kWh battery pack with a punchy 201-horsepower electric motor. The setup also generates 291 pound-feet of instant torque. Although neither of them is truly inspiring to drive due to their anemic characteristics, the 2020 Kia Niro lineup is still a worthy choice for any family willing to save on gas money without resorting to sub-par quality since they’re well-executed and filled with features in higher tier packages.


03. 2020 Rio

The subcompact Rio is another example of how a city car doesn’t have to be a soulless, poorly-built econobox and its growing sales figures confirm that buyers have recognized that. The fourth-generation Kia Rio went on sale during MY 2018 and it won’t be updated prior to MY 2021 at the earliest. This means that very little has been changed compared to previous years. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard across the range, and so is a 7-inch touchscreen display.

The base Rio sedan starts from just over $16,000 which makes it one of the best bargains you can find on the market today. The subcompact is also available as a hatchback which adds a few hundred dollars to sedan’s price tag, but also adds much more cargo space in the process. They don’t come with any advanced safety gear which is reserved for higher trims but they’ve earned great safety scores regardless.

As is the case with most Kia cars, the Rio also rides and handles well, and surprisingly offers plenty of space inside. Considering there are only two available trims (one for the hatchback), the most expensive Rio doesn’t cost more than $17,000. Of course, optional features can raise that bar higher up.

Only one engine powers the Rio, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. A new version of a 1.6L inline-four rated at 120 horsepower (former returned 130 ponies) isn’t exactly the peppiest of engines around. It’s arguably the Rio’s biggest downside, actually, and the fact that new models don’t come with a stick anymore is discouraging, to say the least. The front-wheel-drive-only Rio routes what power it has to the ground via a CVT gearbox, however, and the combination of lower power output and new transmission yields results in the fuel effivciency part. The new Kia Rio is now rated at 33 mpg city and 41 mpg highway, 5 and 4 mpg more respectively when compared with the previous engine/trans combo.

The city car is at its best in its natural habitat but starts to struggle on highways and on uphill roads. An optional turbo four would be appreciated, but the subcompact simply hasn’t been configured that way. Regardless, people looking for an affordable and reliable commuter will still find the 2020 Kia Rio worthy of consideration – as they should.


02. 2020 Optima

The pretty-faced Optima might be one of the better offerings in the rapidly changing mid-size sedan market, but it’s losing relevance in correspondence with the market it competes in. The crossover craze has taken its toll, and although Optima’s sales have only fallen by 5.5 percent between 2017 and 2018, the negative trend is expected to continue.

In spite of that, the Koreans have recently treated their intermediate affordable sedan with a mid-term facelift which has brought a number of new standard advanced safety features alongside cosmetic updates. Although not overly fun to drive, the Optima offers a smooth ride, a spacious and upscale cabin, and an abundance of convenience and safety gear of which forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, parking sensors, blind-spot monitors, pedestrian detection, and lane departure prevention are now standard.

The base Optima starts from $24,000, while the range-topping SX models start from around $33,000.

The Optima is available as a conventional vehicle with an internal combustion engine, hybrid, and a plug-in hybrid. The base LX and S models are powered by a 2.4L 4-cylinder worthy of 185 horsepower and are still paired with 6-speed automatics. A 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder option in the EX trim develops 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque while being tied to a 7-speed dual-clutch. The range-topper of the conventional lineup is a 2.0L turbo four found in the SX trim. It cranks up 245 ponies and 260 lb-ft of twist but also gets the outdated automatic.

The hybrid and plug-in hybrid pair a 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder with either a 1.6-kWh or 9.8-kWh battery pack and electric motor for a combined output of either 192 hp or 202 hp respectively. They manage 41 mpg and 40 mpg respectively, but the latter also throws in 29 miles of EV range. It’s also worth noting that the plug-in tops at $37,000.


01. 2020 Forte

The fully-redesigned third-generation Kia Forte is piggybacking on the sublime Stinger fastback’s design, but that’s all that these two Kia vehicles share (aside from a badge, of course). The compact car can be had in both sedan and hatchback variants (Forte5) which adds a bit more practicality due to having a huge trunk.

For around $18,500 in sedan or around $19,000 in hatchback form, the Kia Forte offers an abundance of standard features its rivals usually charge extra for. An 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard from the get-go, and so are automatic emergency braking and active lane control. Even the most expensive models don’t cost more than $23,500, and they offer a lot more than that.

Also, a lack of power issues has finally been taken care of in 2020 as the Forte lineup has been expanded by the GT sedan.

At the time of its introduction to the market, the Kia Forte was exclusively available with a 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine good enough for 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. It’s available with either a 6-speed manual or an optional CVT gearbox which helps the compact return up to 41 miles to the gallon on the highway.

The new 2020 Kia Forte GT is powered by a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder mill with as much as 201 horsepower on tap. Apart from more power, the GT models also sports a different suspension, more aggressive styling, and optional Michelin Sport tires wrapped around unique 18-inch wheels. Unlike the regular models, the performance-oriented Forte now has another connection with the Stinger, aside from obvious styling similarities.


What’s Not in the New 2020 Kia Lineup

03. 2020 Cadenza

The Korean automaker’s borderline luxury sedan is a car we can’t consider to be bad, but the reality of supply and demand dictates otherwise. Only 4,507 new Cadenzas found a home in the U.S. during 2018 which is a drop of 61 percent compared to 2017 when the company managed to market 7,249 units.

The Kia Cadenza is handsome, spacious, refined, and tech-savvy while still being somewhat affordable considering what it offers. Starting from just under $34,000, the base Premium trim offers everything from leather upholstery to forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking which were previously only optional. For MY 2020, the Cadenza has been refreshed and new models now sport a concave grille with new headlights and a similarly rearranged rear end.

The range-topping Cadenza Limited adds Nappa leather or suede appointments alongside an 8-inch touchscreen display, blind-spot monitors, and a surround-view camera. This package warrants a higher sticker starting from around $45,000.

The Kia Cadenza comes with a single powertrain offering, but in all honesty, that’s everything it really needs. A punchy 3.3L V6 generates 290 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque which is somewhat short of its rivals, but not by much. Moreover, its 8-speed auto performs smooth and quick shifts which helps the larger sedan mitigate its lack of power.

Probably unforgivable in the segment, the Cadenza exclusively drives the front wheels with optional all-wheel drive far from sight. It’s also hardly one of the most fun-to-drive cars around and considering it sports a slightly smaller V6, its fuel efficiency isn’t exactly stellar either. The Cadenza manages to return up to 23 mpg combined which falls short of its rivals’ figures – not to mention their hybrid versions. It’s otherwise hard to find any more significant shortcomings, but the people have spoken – The Kia Cadenza’s popularity is waning rapidly.


02. 2020 K900

Most of you have probably forgotten that the luxury Kia sedan still exists and the mere 354 sold units in the U.S. during the entirety of 2018 attest to that. The next generation of the plushy Kia K900 flagship was only recently introduced for MY 2019, but that’ll hardly help it recapture its former sales in this ever-changing market which favors ground clearance over grace.

The K900 is a fine luxe – excellent actually, but the upscale interior with an abundance of space and abundance of available technology doesn’t mean a thing if they’re not gracing a crossover these days. However good it may be, the Kia flagship sedan battles demons of its own, and an apparent lack of any trace of sportiness is one of them. Actually, being a luxury car without a corresponding luxury badge, the K900 hardly excels at anything – far from it.

It’s a mediocre car and with a $61,000 price tag, the full-sizer should have picked at least one thing it could do better than any other car in order to differentiate itself from the crowd.

After dropping the optional V8 from previous years, the new K900 comes with a single V6 engine this time. That V6 happens to be the Stinger’s 3.3L twin-turbocharged unit which generates a healthy 365 ponies and an even healthier 376 pound-feet of torque. An 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode does its job amicably, and all-wheel drive is mandatory.

A multi-link suspension sits both up front and around the back, helping the flagship sedan achieve a luxury-car-worthy cushy ride. Overall, the new model is a giant step ahead over the outgoing K900, and not just in terms of its proportions. That, however, still won’t be enough. It looks like it never will be, no matter how hard the South Koreans try.


01. 2020 Sedona

The aging Sedona minivan is officially the oldest model within the Kia lineup – at least in the U.S. Introduced in 2014, the Sedona has serviced tens of thousands of people over the years, but its sales have now fallen to only 17,928 units for 2018. With no major makeover in sight, it sure looks like the minivan has been left to die on the vine.

The introduction of the all-new three-row Telluride crossover clearly states the Korean automaker’s intentions, although nothing has been confirmed thus far. The Sedona carries over into 2020 without any significant changes which means it remains in the middle of the pack compared to its ever-dwindling number of opponents.

It’s neither the most feature-rich nor the most practical of the U.S. market minivans, but for around $28,000 it’s still a fine choice. Especially if you’re into good-looking cars, which the Sedona certainly is.

Only one engine can be had with the Sedona. A 3.3L V6 with 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of rotational force is competent enough for people and cargo hauling, however. What’s more, it’s paired with a modern 8-speed automatic transmission and comes exclusively in a front-wheel drive configuration.

The Sedona offers up to 142 cubic feet of storage space with all seats folded which ranks it below the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey but in front of the Chrysler Pacifica and recently discontinued Dodge Grand Caravan. It’s evident that minivans don’t have the edge when it comes to people hauling any more, and their popularity is waning rapidly. Buying one might not be the best move in terms of future resale value, hence the Sedona ends up among the less desirable 2020 Kia models this time.


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!