By on February 22, 2018

2018 Kia Stinger - Image: Kia

Corporate cousins Hyundai and Kia are an interesting pair, as neither division seems content to emulate the other. It seems odd at first, given how closely matched both brands are in purpose and reputation, but badge engineering fell out of favor long ago.

These are not the stereotypical twins you can’t tell apart without asking to see a birthmark. Kia fields a large front-drive sedan above the midsize class, and a premium rear-drive sedan above that. Hyundai is content to have its new Genesis brand handle all luxury big car activity. Kia sells a minivan, Hyundai’s short-lived Entourage is a fading memory. Kia offers a funky neo-ute, the Soul, and a dedicated hybrid sort-of crossover, the Niro; Hyundai’s utility stable plays by the rules. The Hyundai Elantra GT hatch, based on the overseas i30, does not have a doppelgänger in the Kia ranks, nor does the Kia Stinger have a double in the Hyundai showroom (that’s Genesis’ responsibility).

As we learned from Kia’s VP of product planning yesterday, there are some things the brand won’t copy from its Hyundai Motor Group companion. Which begs the question: what’s something Kia should be doing, but isn’t?

From a revenue perspective, the obvious answer involves something large and utilitarian. That’s what buyers want these days. Well, Kia seems to have that covered, as the concept Telluride SUV is all but confirmed for production.

A pickup seems like too much of a longshot, as even Nissan and Toyota have trouble breaking into the full-size pickup segment. As for midsizers, the segment’s potential remains an unknown, and the addition of Ford’s returning Ranger would make a Kia truck — even a value-packed one — a tough sell. Let Hyundai chase that dream.

Through the brand’s new design language and the introduction of the Stinger, Kia wants to cultivate a new identity as the sportier brand in the Hyundai Motor Group fold. If it’s sportiness Kia wants, why not offer a small sports car? Why should Mazda have all the low-cost, two-seat fun with its MX-5 Miata? (We’re purposefully omitting the Fiat 124 Spider).

Of course, there’s a problem: where does Kia get its hands on a small, rear-drive platform? Surely, a front-drive roadster or 2+2 coupe wouldn’t hold the same appeal as a rear-drive model, and it couldn’t call itself a true challenger to the Mazda. Also, modern buyers are having a hard time springing for any lower-end sport coupe that doesn’t have the word “Mustang” or “Camaro” stamped on it. Teaming up with another automaker for a one-off model, if the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 partnership tells us anything, probably wouldn’t lead to a raging sales success.

Perhaps Kia’s already doing everything right. If it is, you tell us. If it isn’t, sound off in the comments. What model is sorely lacking in the Kia stable?

[Image: Kia Motors]

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48 Comments on “QOTD: What’s Missing From Kia’s Portfolio?...”

  • avatar

    “The Hyundai Elantra GT hatch, based on the overseas i30, does not have a doppelgänger in the Kia ranks”

    The Forte 5 SX seems to fill that role… Same engine, sport suspension, drive is very similar (at least to the point of what you can do with the sales drone in the car).

    • 0 avatar

      I was going to say what you did, but in Europe, they also have the closely-related KIA CEE’D.

      Also in Europe, they have Estate/Station Wagon versions of all of their mainstream models. Hyundai, too.

      • 0 avatar

        The i30/Elantra GT doppelgänger is more the Ceed than the Forte 5.

        But that may just be a formality presently as the plan was for Kia to converge the Forte and Ceed lines (now sharing the basic design language) and thus, we may very well see the Ceed brought over here as the hatch variant of the Forte sedan (and maybe the shooting brake as well – or one can hope).

    • 0 avatar

      There’s that guy that knows that one .oder that Kia is missing that Hyundai has…

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, Kia does in fact have a compact hatch. Two if you count the Ceed-based Soul also. Three if you live in Europe and can get the Ceed (rather than just drooling over it like we have to).

      • 0 avatar

        Who drools over the Ce’ed? I rented one last year (a GT-Line diesel hatch, to drive the Jalopnik crowd a little wild), and it was a fine, inoffensive car, but I don’t think it offers anything worthwhile over the Forte5.

  • avatar

    Station wagon. A Stinger wagon would be dandy.

  • avatar

    There is no doubt that the model for Kia should be Nissan and Toyota.
    Build a dedicated factory for trucks, and SUVs based on those trucks built in America. Both midsize and large.

    Toyota dominates midsize truck market. Nissan with a old design has a good profitable model. That is where the growth is.

    Cars and station-wagons are irrelevant in America if you are after sales.

    • 0 avatar

      You should be after profits – hit them where they ain’t.

      Though IMHO the one thing KIA is missing is a dealer body who aren’t shysters. The radio ads ALONE for the local KIA dealer would keep me from setting foot in the place, lest I experience every bad car dealer meme the B&B complain about.

  • avatar

    They need to bring the Mojave/Borrego back ASAP. Introducing it at the outset of a fuel price spike and yanking it after a year didn’t give it a fair shake. It’s still in other markets, it’s a BOF SUV. It would be a perfect platform to differentiate offerings vs. other SUV/CUVs plus could easily serve as a unique midsize pickup platform with IRS like the Ridgeline but a real truck frame.

    Fielding a competent midsize pickup for Kia could pave the way to future full-size pickup production success. It worked for Toyota and Nissan. Their big trucks aren’t F150 or even Ram successful, but they’re not failures or they wouldn’t still be made.

  • avatar

    Agreed with others: Truck/SUV offerings (part of that for my own selfish benefit). A larger Midsize crossover entrant than what they have now. I’ve ridden in a really neat diesel 4wd COE Kia cargo trucklet (K2700) when I was in Costa Rica, I thought it was just the coolest thing ever. that’s not to say that it would be massively successful here, just that Kia knows how to make some tough 4wds.

    • 0 avatar


      BOF SUV + pick up.

      Wouldn’t hurt to bring some commercial-focused models too, a panel van based on Soul and Sedona and the BOF platform. If Mercedes-Benz can sell uplevel car a and cargo vans, by God Kia can.

    • 0 avatar

      Kia has only decided that it wasn’t worth it to do a “trucklet” like the Santa Cruz (likely a wise decision, as probably isn’t a big enough market for something like that for numerous players).

      But H and K are both looking into doing BoF pick-ups, altho at first, geared more towards the Australian and SE Asian markets (think Toyota HiLux competitor).

  • avatar

    Kia’s portfolio generally needs better retail facilities. Give 0% loans with strings attached to bigger dealers to buy out the smaller ones.

    I’d like to say Kia needs a RWD touring coupe.

    But the reality is that Kia needs a body-on-frame platform like people said above. Put the design studio in Atlanta or Dallas.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. IF they want more upscale buyers, they need more upscale dealerships.

      In my area, a large Kia dealer recently opened a new facility, and it’s first class. Too many, though, are hand-me-down buildings that began life as a Mercury dealership in 1969.

      • 0 avatar

        The one by me, and where I picked up my new to me Soul yesterday, was a Saturn dealer then a Saturn/Saab. I also feel like there was a brief period after both those failed that it was used dealer owned by the same auto group.

        Wasn’t modern or up to date at all. Interior didn’t flow. Squeezing between cars and cubicle walls isn’t ideal. Very limited parking. Finance guy/manager was slimy as anything, but I was paying cash so my dealing with him was minimal.

        What do they need to do vehicle wise? The Stinger is a very nice looking car, both inside and out but how well will it sell? They sell a tonne of Souls and rios (at least around here) so they have the small car market well covered. Big SUV is the way to go. Does it really have to be BOF? What percent of people actually care as long as it looks tough and has AWD.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep – the biggest hole in the Kia portfolio is the poor dealership experience.

    • 0 avatar

      Which means, when you’ve got a good one, you value it. The local Kia dealership (which just happens to be within easy bicycling distance of my job) has treated both of us very well. They’re a lot of the reason why Kia is first consideration when we’re car shopping.

  • avatar

    Small off-road SUV, smaller than Wrangler. Base a pick up off of it. (You’re welcome, Vulpine.)

    Coupe and wagon versions of the Stinger. (If they’re gonna go all in on cars, might as well chase every niche.)

    I would love to see every car above Soul become RWD. This would set them apart in a sea of increasingly “me too!” cars.

    As mentioned above, some commercial-focused entries couldn’t hurt.

    A full size BOF SUV + pick up version.

  • avatar

    It’s not going to set the sales charts on fire or anything, but I’d like to see a more hardcore Stinger. Something that leans a bit more into M/AMG/V/Quadrifoglio territory.

  • avatar

    The ship has probably sailed but once upon a time they could have fielded a true compact pickup based on Soul styling if not platform. If it was sufficiently fun and inexpensive it could have been an interesting niche. I think a bof big pickup is a risk, and the dominant players have a lock on the market.

  • avatar

    Kia Stinger MT

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Good write-up Steph, especially in clarifying the differences in the Hyundai-Kia lines.

    Personally, I’m eager to see the Niro EV later this year. It’s really the car I want instead of a Model 3.

    Kia could take it the next step and produce an AWD Niro-based electric CUV, and beat Tesla’s mythical Model Y by a couple years.

  • avatar

    I don’t think there’s anything that’s missing from Kia’s portfolio, exactly, I think they just need persistence and the right deals. I mean, they might want to consider the sizing of the Sorento, that they don’t have anything quite big enough for full 3-row family duty other than the Sedona (which, sadly, is poisoned because minivan – but keep up that good fight Kia). Compared to Nissan (as an example), they’re not really missing much other than a couple low-volume pickups.

    So, keep plugging away at what they’re doing, improve the retailers, and maybe they’re getting a little ahead of themselves on pricing?

  • avatar

    Hot hatch! Also compact pickup like poster above said.

    • 0 avatar

      Hot hatch indeed.

      Two very storied lines are Si vs GTI. Because every journey starts with a single step, Kia should just dive in to play in that space.

      And while they’re at it: R vs R. Make a hotter version of said hot hatch to compete in THAT space.

      Prove that you can do it. Relatively speaking, it would be a halo car.

  • avatar

    A lot of people don’t get Hyundai and Kia. They look at them and they think Chevy and Pontiac. Maybe at the powertrain level but that’s about it, not the shameful stick-on badge engineering GM did back then. A closer comparison might have been Ford and Mazda, shared platforms and powertrains between two related but not quite identical companies.

    Anyway, Hyundai seems very much to want to emulate Toyota’s place in the market. Mostly bland, inoffensive, reliable, and not-all-that-exciting stuff to appeal to as many people as possible. Kia seems to be aiming at some combination of Mazda, BMW, and VW in being sort of a Euro-sporty brand.

  • avatar

    What’s missing from their lineups? Manual transmissions in the higher spec cars.

    I know, I know – take rate isn’t great, but they sell the manual versions to most of their cars overseas, so there’s no real extra R&D, and offering manuals, even as special-order-only would generate a lot of goodwill among vocal car people.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s what I would like to see too. I think the problem with manuals in the USA is that they would sit on dealer lots for a long long time, they can’t game the EPA efficiency numbers as easily, and (please fact check me on this) they have to be crash tested even though the automatics have already been crash tested.

      • 0 avatar

        So build the manuals to order and charge extra for it. Those of us who really want one will pay for them. I would pay $1500-2000 for a manual without blinking, just like people used to pay extra for automatics.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. That’s the one big complaint I’ve got about their cars, too.

  • avatar

    Not sure why people thing more BOF vehicles would succeed. They would kill their fleet fuel economy and be up against some stiff competition. Kia’s lineup is pretty effing solid… competition is just too stiff and there are too many choices.

  • avatar

    I think they need to do a ponycar based on a shortened Stinger platform.

    Make the two engines the turbo 3.3 and the latest iteration of the Tau V8, and price them across from the non-Premium Mustangs, but better equipped. Use over-the-top styling elements like racing stripes, big black wheels, big chrome exhaust pipes, and even giant “5.0” badges.

    This would be a tricky exercise from a production cost perspective but executed right I think it could do a lot more for the brand than the previous attempt, the Genesis Coupe, ever did for Hyundai.

  • avatar

    The Soulster concept was great. I think it’d find a lot of buyers and take a bite out of Wrangler sales. People love the Wrangler, but let’s face it, not everybody needs to be able to hit the trails- I’d wager most Wrangler buyers would value a smooth car-like ride and good MPG over the ruggedness of the Wrangler. There’s no other car like that on the market right now.

  • avatar

    Considering that there have been spy shots of the Telluride undergoing testing, pretty safe to say that it has been confirmed for production.

    The upcoming Telluride fills probably the largest hole in Kia’s lineup, but the following are some other holes that Kia needs to fill.

    1. Subcompact crossover.

    A bit odd that Kia isn’t bringing over the Stonic (like what Hyundai is doing with the Kona), but if the rumors are accurate of the next gen Soul getting AWD, maybe Kia feels the Soul will be enough to fit that slot, along with the Niro.

    If that’s the case, would disagree as not everyone is enamored by the box-like styling of the Soul and the Niro can only be had with varying forms of alternative/electrified powertrains and doesn’t offer AWD.

    And as the market has shown, having more crossover choices certainly doesn’t hurt (Kia is also bringing the SP CUV concept to production for the BRIC markets – which actually looks better/more upscale than the somewhat bland looking Stonic).

    Hyundai is developing another CUV to slot underneath the Kona (not sure if it will be available here), but agree with Kia that such an endeavor isn’t really worthwhile, esp. as the Kona is already on the smaller end of the subcompact CUVs (which already don’t sell nearly as well as compact CUVs).

    2. Sporty CUV based on the Stinger platform.

    Would like to see Kia do 2 premium/luxury CUVs to complement the Stinger and new K900, but for now, would take just 1 based on the Stinger platform (which, like the Stinger, would slot in between the Genesis GV70 and GV80 CUVs in size).

    3. Ceed shooting brake (esp. on ProCeed GT form)

    We may end up seeing the new Ceed 5-door hatch as the hatch version of the new Forte.

    But would really like to see Kia bring over the gorgeous shooting brake bodystyle, even more so if it gets the ProCeed GT treatment.

    Won’t get the same level of power as the i30N (or the Veloster N for here), but will share the underpinnings.

    4. BoF pick-up (and maybe a BoF SUV as well)

    Numerous people have commented in a BoF pick-up and that’s something that both Kia and Hyundai have been contemplating.

    But if they do decide to go ahead with it, it would first be with the Australian and SE Asians markets.

    We probably won’t see it here until the “chicken tax” goes away as H/K probably will want to dip their toes in the US truck market first and see how the reception goes before deciding whether building a plant to build trucks in NA is a feasible proposition.

    Agree with Kia that a “trucklet” like the Santa Cruz probably isn’t worth their time/investment as it’ll likely be a niche market.

    5. Smaller RWD sports sedan.

    The excellent Kia Novo concept was supposed to indicate the design of the Forte replacement, but evidently Kia didn’t go in that direction.

    But the design of the Novo is better suited for a compact RWD sports sedan.

    Now, maybe Kia will deem doing one is worth if for say Europe and other markets, but probably will make more sense for them to just do a smaller sporty RWD CUV to slot underneath a Stinger-based CUV.

    A RWD coupe would be nice, but a CUV would make more sense when it comes to marketplace.

  • avatar

    Gimme a Kia Miata fighter, and a base model that come in colours other than “white, grey, grey, silver, or black”. Screw you, Mazda Canada!!!

  • avatar

    I’d focus on the Soul. It sells and is the only car in their lineup with any sort of identity. First I think you do a longer Soul.

    Don’t call it a Soul Wagon but that’s what it would be.

    It also needs to be AWD like yesterday. I think the soul ! with the turbo motor is the Si, make a Soul Type R sort of car, high 200s or low 300s in horsepower, AWD. Undercut the Civic type r.

    A pickup would be good even if it didn’t sell.

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