While automakers continue to frustrate customers with glitchy technology, has Kia cracked the code?
The Korean brand led all other nonpremium marques in the 2015 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study for the first time -- largely on the strength of improved in-car tech.
"One of the biggest areas they improved was the audio, communication, entertainment and [navigation], which everyone is struggling with. They're getting it right," said Renee Stephens, Power's vice president of U.S. automotive quality, in an interview.
Each Kia vehicle improved this year as the brand rose to second place in the overall rankings, behind Porsche.
Kia had two nameplates, the Soul and Cadenza, in the top 10 -- the first time the automaker has had vehicles in that elite group. While brands that launch new vehicles tend to take hits in the rankings, Kia avoided such a fate with the redesigned Sedona minivan.
The Ford brand, whose MyFord Touch has dragged down its quality scores, beat the industry average for the first time since introducing the infotainment system in 2011.
Although Fiat again ranked last in the 2015 study, it had the largest improvement of any brand, trimming 45 problems per 100 vehicles from its score. Infiniti had the second-largest improvement with 31 fewer problems per 100 vehicles, while Kia was next with a 20-point gain.
Chrysler (+32 problems per 100 vehicles), Lexus (+12), Cadillac (+7) and Land Rover (+7) showed the largest erosion in quality scores.
Power found that entertainment and connectivity systems remain the industry's most problem-prone areas. Topping the list of gripes: problems with voice recognition and Bluetooth pairing.