Hyundai's corporate cousin is attacking the market on all fronts, with compelling updates and additions that include its Niro line of green crossovers; subcompact and full-size crossovers to bookend the crossover lineup; large cars in the Cadenza and new GT coupe-style four-door; and savvy tweaks to its small cars.
Rio: Kia's tidy subcompact was freshened for the 2016 model year. A redesigned model is expected for the 2018 model year and will be built in Kia's new plant outside Monterrey, Mexico. Kia might also offer the next-generation Rio hatchback with the company's 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as an answer to Ford's Fiesta ST.
Soul: Kia's No. 2 seller last year will get a new turbocharged model by year end when the freshened 2017 models go on sale. The turbo model will use the same 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that Kia and Hyundai use throughout their lineups. Look for light cosmetic upgrades for the whole Soul lineup. A redesigned model is expected in 2019 with the EV model dropping out in favor of the coming Niro line.
Forte: Kia's compact car gets a re-engineering for the 2017 model year and drops the 1.8-liter four-cylinder base engine in favor of a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder. In addition to minor styling tweaks to the sedan, hatchback and coupe models, the turbocharged SX drops its six-speed automatic transmission in favor of the seven-speed dual-clutch unit Hyundai-Kia usually matches with the 1.6-liter turbo. This will be the first Kia model to be built at the Monterrey plant. A redesigned Forte is expected in 2019, at which point the slow-selling coupe model may be dropped.
Optima: Kia's 2015 best-seller was redesigned for the 2016 model year. The midsize sedan offers three engine choices: a base 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a 1.6-liter turbocharged four and a top-end 2.0-liter turbo four. Two more powertrains join the mix in 2017: a hybrid early in the year and then a plug-in hybrid should land later in 2017. Look for a freshening in 2019.
Cadenza: Despite shrinking demand for full-size, front-wheel-drive sedans, Kia redesigned its Cadenza for the 2017 model year. This second-gen model (in the U.S. market) shares underpinnings with Hyundai's Azera; thus it comes with a 3.3-liter V-6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission when it goes on sale later this year. Based on Kia's global cadence with this car, a freshened model isn't expected until 2020.
K900: Despite relatively slow sales and a sharp drop from 2015 numbers, Kia needs this luxo-barge in the U.S. market to give the brand some premium cachet. Thus it's expected to return for a redesign in 2019. Based on the Genesis G90, the K900 could add the 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V-6 to the lineup as well as the 10-speed automatic transmission Hyundai and Kia are developing.
GT: Kia's long-awaited four-door luxury coupe could break cover as early as the Paris auto show in late September and is expected to go on sale in 2017 as a 2018 model. The new rear-wheel-drive car is based on the Hyundai Genesis/G80 platform. This means all-wheel drive will likely be optional and the 3.8-liter V-6 will likely be the base engine in the U.S. Kia is also expected to offer Hyundai-Kia's new 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V-6 into this yet-unnamed model in the future. The car's profile will echo that of the Audi A7, with styling said to retain much of the look of the GT concept that Kia showed at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.
Niro: The new hybrid crossover hits the market in early 2017 and is built on the same platform as Hyundai's upcoming Ioniq hybrid. The fwd Niro is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor for a total of 146 hp. Kia estimates the car's combined mpg will be around 50 mpg. Kia will then add a plug-in hybrid model to the lineup -- as early as the 2018 model year -- that's also based on Hyundai's Ioniq. Finally, there's a good chance that an all-electric Niro bows for the 2019 model year and replaces the Soul EV as Kia's battery-powered model.
Sedona: Kia's minivan entry will spend the next few years nipping at the heels of the new Chrysler Pacifica that's on sale now and the redesigned Honda Odyssey expected by the end of the year. Despite the stiff competition, only small changes are expected for the 2018 model year, at which point the Sedona will likely ditch its six-speed automatic for Hyundai-Kia's new eight-speed gearbox. A redesign isn't expected until 2022.
Subcompact crossover: Like Hyun-dai, Kia is said to be serious about offering a subcompact crossover, given that the Sportage has grown in both size and price over the years. Recent global media reports indicate Kia's unnamed crossover could be unveiled as early as this fall or winter and go on sale as early as the 2018 model year. The crossover would likely share a platform with Hyundai's unnamed new subcompact crossover and it would rival sporty, city-oriented cross-overs like the Nissan Juke and Toyota's forthcoming C-HR. The styling is expected to echo that of the Provo concept from the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.
Sportage: Kia's compact crossover was redesigned for the 2017 model year. The base LX and EX models use a 2.4-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engine, while the SX uses a 2.0-liter turbo. A refresh will likely happen in 2020 and by that point Hyundai-Kia's eight-speed automatic transmission will likely have been added.
Sorento: Kia's larger crossover is due for a re-engineering in 2018 as a 2019 model. Look for it to get Hyundai-Kia's eight-speed automatic transmission for greater fuel economy.
Large crossover: Kia's eye-catching Telluride concept at the 2016 Detroit auto show indicated the company is serious about a large crossover aimed at the likes of the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Dodge Durango. The pieces already exist: It's built on the Sorento's platform, and it could use a variety of engines in Hyundai-Kia's current portfolio: 3.8-liter V-6, 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8. Adding the Telluride would keep crossover buyers looking for true three-row space from defecting elsewhere. Plus, profits are strong in this hotly contested segment, and consumers are gobbling them up. The production version of the Telluride likely would land in 2019.