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Kia vs Hyundai – Which is Better?

Kia and Hyundai are brands with a lot in common. Both originating from South Korea, Hyundai has been a minority shareholder in Kia since December 2015, owning approximately one third of the firm. With Kia already a shareholder in more than twenty Hyundai subsidiary companies, it’s clear that the manufacturers are closely linked – but what does this mean for its cars? And how can you decide which brand to buy from? 

This article will compare some of Kia and Hyundai’s most popular models to help you decide which company makes the best vehicles for you. 

Performance and variety

Kia offers a more diverse range of cars than Hyundai. Its selection of 18 models includes SUVs, electric vehicles (EVs), sedans, MPV and hybrids. Hyundai offers fewer models, with 13 currently on sale. These include sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs, EVs, fuel cell vehicles and hybrids. 

When it comes to performance, offering fewer models could be the better strategy. Hyundai vehicles seem to rank consistently higher than Kias, with the 2019 Hyundai Veloster widely praised for its ease of handling. Elsewhere, the Hyundai i30 N is the first of Hyundai’s relaunched N sub-brand, with a 2.0-litre T-GDi engine delivering almost 250 bhp.

But the latest version of Kia’s flagship model, the Kia Stinger, could offer some stiff competition. The first Stinger signalled Kia’s departure from its ‘budget brand’ status, and a new version due to be released in 2020 is marketed as a premium car delivering high performance.  

Safety and reliability 

According to Reliability Index – which considers the frequency, cost and inconvenience of car faults to give a ‘real-world’ analysis of car ownership – Hyundais are some of the most reliable cars available. The Hyundai i20 has an index of 14.00 and the i10 has an index of 12.00 With a lower reliability index score indicating better dependability, Hyundais experience problems rarely, spend little time off-road due to repairs, and can be fixed relatively cheaply.  

Kias consistently receive a slightly less impressive reliability index than Hyundais – but their ratings are still better than average. The Kia Rio has an index of 35.00, the Ceed comes in at 34.00, and the Picanto at 18.00. 

Hyundais are also better equipped when it comes to safety measures. Euro NCAP has awarded the Hyundai Santa Fe, NEXO, KONA, i30, Ioniq and Tucson the maximum five-star rating for the safety equipment which they provide as standard. 

The Kia Ceed received a four-star rating, while the Stonic, Picanto and Rio were rated three stars, largely because of a poor Safety Assist rating. However, those ratings don’t take into account the autonomous emergency braking available as an extra on all three models, or optional lane assist on the Rio and Stonic. 

So, which is better? 

Hyundais are well-renowned for their reliability and include more comprehensive safety features as standard.

Engines and green credentials 

Both Kia and Hyundai offer a range of electric vehicles. The Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric, for example, use the same electric powertrain and were both named in Auto Express’s list of the 10 best electric cars in 2019. 

Hyundai’s first electric car was the Sonata Electric Vehicle in 1991, placing them well ahead of the EV game. Today, the NEXO has been billed as the world’s most efficient hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, with water as its only emission. 

But Hyundai’s green credentials don’t stop at their alternatively fuelled vehicles. In 2008, the company launched the Hyundai Green Zone project, a five-year scheme to turn 50km² of barren land in Inner Mongolia into grassland. This contributed to the firm’s recognition by the 2016 Newsweek Green Rankings, which assess the 500 biggest publicly-traded companies around the world based on their environmental commitment. 

So, which is better? 

The Kia e-Niro is one of the best electric vehicles on the market. However, Hyundai edges this one, with the brand demonstrating its environmental awareness in ways which extend beyond car manufacturing. 

Design and comfort 

Kia and Hyundai have very different signature design styles. This reflects their target demographics – while Kia typically markets its vehicles towards young buyers, Hyundai has a range of more family-friendly cars.

The differences in style and functionality between their vehicles comes down to the group each car maker targets. Hyundais are slightly more expensive but offer more luxury and quality for older drivers, while Kia are priced more affordably and designed for younger car owners.

In 2006, Kia hired car designer Peter Schreyer – who previously designed the Audi TT – to overhaul their styling. It was Schreyer who introduced the distinctive Kia ‘face’ which we see on our roads today, referred to by some as the ‘tiger nose’. Its ‘expression’ is thanks to its prominent corporate grille, now an instantly recognisable feature of Kias. 

Hyundai’s current design style is ‘sensuous sportiness’ – a principle to ‘maximise emotional values in harmony with a rigorous sense of proportion, structure, styling and technology.’ 

So, which is better? 

It’s a draw. This is a matter of taste – if you prefer a sporty aesthetic, you’ll probably favour a Kia, but if you want something a bit more sophisticated, you’ll prefer the smooth and flowing shape of a Hyundai. 

Brand achievements   

Kia won the International Car of the Year Awards every year between 2013 and 2016: first for the Kia Optima (2013), then for the Kia Cadenza (2014), the Kia K900 (2015), and lastly for a new iteration of the Kia Optima (2016). It also won the 2016 International SUV of the Year Award with the Kia Sorento. These International Awards focus not just on the cars’ performance, but on the ‘emotional connection’ they inspire – in other words, how well they draw us in. 

When it comes to motorsport, Hyundai’s FIA World Rally Championship team returned to top-line rallying in 2014. Hyundai has fielded crews every year since, winning its maiden title in 2019. Kia has publicly dismissed suggestions that its own brand will compete in top-line rallies. 

So, which is better? 

It’s a draw. If motorsport achievement is important to you, Hyundai will be your top pick. If you’re most interested in commercial achievement and brand recognition, Kia has an impressive record. 

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