Kia has built a good reputation for itself over the years with the production of reliable vehicles of all kinds. The large variety of Kia models available today ensures that there's something for everyone. Whether you are looking for gas-powered models or hybrids, Kia has got you covered with some of the best-rated vehicles in their respective segments. For the 2023 model year, Kia offers 19 models with prices ranging from $16,750 to $49,990. Kia also has two upcoming vehicles, the Seltos and EV9. While the Seltos is similar to most of its Kia stablemates, the EV9 is a new addition to the lineup. It's an all-electric SUV that aims to take the fight to the best and biggest electric SUVs on the market.
Updated April 2023: Kia is one of the most improved automotive manufacturers over the years. They have risen from the ashes of recall issues, fire, and bankruptcy to building vehicles with world-class safety records. With the world moving towards electrification, Kia also seems to have a bright future within the market. However, despite making small improvements over the years, some models have had glaring issues that most people don't often talk about. This updated list brings to light most of these issues, while highlighting the models and years to avoid.
With models scattered all over the world, there are just as many people excited about the brand as there are those disappointed with their ownership experience. If you plan on getting a Kia vehicle, this piece is like a heads-up about what you might experience. But then, bear in mind that most of these problems are not specific to Kia, so you might want to cut the brand some slack. That said, here are 13 glaring issues with Kia vehicles that no one might have told you about.
13 Steering Problems (Optima, Soul, And Sorento)
Steering problems account for nearly 6% of all complaints by Kia owners filed under CarComplaints.com, and the most affected models are the Optima, Sorento, and Soul released between 2011 and 2017. The 2013 Optima seems to suffer more from steering problems, with many drivers complaining that their steering pulls to the side, even when driving on a straight road and having an aligned vehicle.
If you drive a 2012 Kia Soul, it's not uncommon to hear a clunking sound when turning the steering wheel to the right or left. As if that's not enough, there are also reports of loss of power steering for the Kia Rondo, which could pose a very serious danger to drivers and other road users.
Another common sign of a faulty steering system in a Kia is when the vehicle starts pulling in one direction. That's an indication of the Electronic Power Steering (EPS) system failure. Such an issue is dangerous because it makes it hard to keep the car in lane. The most common culprits for such an issue include either a bad electric motor or a faulty sensor.
12 Transmission Issues (Borrego, Forte, Optima, And Spectra)
There's a Kia for everyone, but the downside of owning a Borrego, Forte, Optima, Sorento, Spectra, Sportage, or whatever model you can afford is that you will most likely experience transmission problems. For Sorento owners, chances are you have experienced jerking when shifting, especially when going uphill at about 75 mph.
But the transmission problems of Kia don't stop at jerking. According to a 2019 Kia Forte owner from Delaware, there have been two transmission replacements with less than 5,000 miles on the odometer. Many other Forte owners have similar sad experiences with the transmission.
Transmission problems can arise due to various technical issues like malfunctioning sensors, work or damaged gears, issues with the transmission control module, or faulty solenoids. Some common symptoms of transmission issues in Kias include difficulty in shifting, delayed shifting, and slipping gears. The best solution for these problems is to have the vehicle inspected by a certified technician for diagnosis and repair.
11 Door Lock Malfunction (Optima And Rio)
Interior problems account for a large chunk of the complaints by Kia owners, but one particular issue that often comes up is the door lock. Many owners of Kia vehicles like Optima, Sorento, and Rio have expressed concerns about this door lock issue.
A Kia Optima owner from Georgia reports that the door lock failed to open from the inside or outside. Although this door malfunction may seem like an inexpensive issue to fix, it can be costly, especially in the event of an accident or emergency. Most Kia owners experience door lock problems due to issues like frozen rubber door gaskets, worn-out tumblers, or jammed lock cylinders.
10 Airbag Failure (Forte, Sedona, And Soul)
Failure to deploy airbags may increase the severity of an accident and put the life of the car occupants at risk. With this in mind, it's important to do your background checks to ensure any Kia model you opt for doesn't have airbag problems. While it's normal for airbags not to deploy in minor accidents, they need to deploy during certain types of accidents, like head-on collisions. Failure of airbags deployment in moderate-to-severe crashes can lead to serious injuries and death.
You might want to steer clear of models like the Forte, Koup, Soul, and Sedona produced from 2017 to 2019 because Kia recalled nearly 410,000 units of these vehicles for airbag failure. The exact problem with the airbags is due to soldering joint damage, which triggers the airbag light to turn on while the airbag fails to deploy.
9 Engine Failure (Forte, K900, Sedona, Sportage, And Soul)
There are multiple efficient and powerful Kia engine options, including 4-cylinder engines ranging from 1.6 to 2.5 liters. Kia also offers V6 engine options, most producing over 270 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. However, despite having impressive engine options, engine problems account for up to 35% of all Kia complaints filed with CarComplaints. Kia's Sorento, Optima, and Sportage account for the bulk of the problems. Many Kia drivers have reported engine failures, but what's even more worrisome is the fact that it can happen while in motion.
8 Rust And Paint Peeling (Cadenza, Rio, Sportage, Sorento, And Spectra)
Early detection is the key for your Kia to survive rust. That's why you need to know to prevent rust or stop it from spreading at an early stage. Kia models like the Cadenza, Rio, Sportage, Sorento, and Spectra are rust buckets, so it's either you avoid them or brace up for what's coming. Besides destroying the car's aesthetic value, rust can compromise the structural integrity. It can eat away components of the car, thus compromising stability. In addition, rust can damage the fuel tank housing, chassis, engine mounts, wheel wells, and other parts.
Paint peeling is a consequence of a poor paint job or exposing your car to the sun's ultraviolet rays for too long. Paint peeling problems are usually common among Sorentos and Optimas.
7 Poor Lighting (Forte, Optima, Sorento, And Telluride)
Lighting is another relatively inexpensive problem, but it can result in an accident, and many Kia owners express worries about it. Kia Sorento owners complain about flashing headlights, while Forte and Optima owners do not feel comfortable with the dim headlights and taillights.
One 2011 Kia Sorento owner complained about the headlights randomly turning on and off when driving. This made driving in the dark a nightmare and unsafe. The same case also applied to the dashboard lights.
CarComplaints.com reports that light issues constitute about 5% of all complaints by Kia owners. Kia recalled over 3,000 2015-2016 K900 sedans for headlight failure.
6 Brake Issues (Forte, Sorento, Optima, And Sportage)
There are a lot of problems with Kia brakes that you can't ignore. For one, drivers express disappointment about the faulty brake pedal in the 2019 Kia Soul. Having a good braking system enables the car to slow down safely. With some Kia models, the faulty brakes made it hard for owners to trust the stopping power of their vehicle.
According to a 2014 Kia Sorento owner, there's a screeching noise that persisted even after replacing the four brakes and turning the rotors. In 2020, Kia recalled a total of 463,500 units of the 2014-2015 Sorento and the 2013–2015 Optima due to brake fluid leaks.
5 Defective TRW Crash Sensors (Optima, Sedona)
Crash sensors are too important in cars to be defective. As reported by KiaComplaints, defective crash sensors in some car models have resulted in deaths. In cars, ACUs are electrical control units that determine which airbag gets deployed and also determines the right time to activate the seat belt pretensioners during a crash. However, there has been some problem with excessive voltage, leading to a malfunction and eventual crash of the ACU, thereby stopping the deployment of airbags and the activation of the pretensioners. Hence, the NHTSA has launched an investigation into claims that the airbags in some Kai vehicles didn’t deploy during a frontal crash. Some of the models under investigation include the 2013 to 2019 Optima and the 2014 Sedona.
4 Rodents Infestation (Soul, Sorento, Optima, And Forte)
Weird as it may sound, you may have a serious problem with your Kia due to rodent infestation. A while back, automotive manufacturers discovered the cost-effective soy-based wire coating and adopted it in the production of their cars. Apart from the apparent relatively lower cost implication, soy-based wiring also aids the reduction of plastic waste in the environment. However, rodents find this type of wires particularly tasty, and as such ends up leaving you with niggling and annoying car repairs. According to KiaComplaints, there have been quite a heavy number of complaints of rodents infestation from Kia owners of models such as Soul, Sorento, Optima, and Forte.
3 Starting Difficulty (Sedona)
If you own a Kia Sedona produced between 2002 and 2016, there’s a high chance you might encounter problems starting the car (if you haven’t encountered it already). According to RepairPal, the anti-theft control module on these year models of the Kia Sedona can malfunction, causing the car to think it’s getting stolen when you try to start it. As a result, the vehicle immobilizer control module gets triggered, causing the car not to start. This is also more prevalent with the cars with the Kia smart key. Fixing this will require a factory authorized Kia service center performing diagnostics on the car.
2 Faulty Throttle Position Switch (Optima)
This issue is also one of the most reported Kia problems on RepairPal. Notably, there is a car part that is in control of the throttle’s position and this part is called the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS). Hence, the TPS regulates the appropriate mix of fuel and air that gets sent into your car’s engine and any malfunction of the system will lead to poor or epileptic acceleration. It can also trigger on the Check Engine light or limit the car to a certain speed level. This fault is often experienced on the Optima models from 2001 to 2017, according to reported cases on RepairPal.
1 Excessively Noisy Engine On Startup (Sedona)
The unpleasant noise that comes from the engine when you start up your Kia Sedona after you've left it idle for a while could be as a result of a bad timing chain tensioner. As its name suggests, a timing chain tensioner help the timing chain to remain firm on the engine, as a loose timing chain makes the engine give off an unpleasant rattling noise. According to RepairPal, owners have reported this problem on several models of the 2002 to 2017 Kia Sedona. However, Kia has tried to address the issue by releasing an updated timing chain tensioner.