The Carens is a practical, seven-seat compact people carrier designed to compete with the Vauxhall Zafira and Toyota Verso. But while its basic appeal means it's practical, fuss-free transport for large families, it doesn’t offer much more than that. In many respects it feels a step behind more recent Kias, such as the Cee’d and the Soul. The cabin is bland and fashioned from hard grey plastics, and the driving position lacks adjustment. It is well priced, however.
Price £19,195 - £21,995
Kia's Ford Focus rival comes in three guises: standard five-door hatchback, sporty three-door Pro_cee’d and practical Cee’d SW estate. The names may sound unusual, but all three are very impressive rivals to the VW Golf and Ford Focus. All models feature spacious interiors that have plenty of standard features and big boots. The Cee’d range features decent petrol and diesel engines, and while the model doesn’t handle as well as a Golf or Focus, it's cheaper to buy than its more obvious rivals.
Price £15,695 - £23,795
The Kia Magentis suffers from the same problem as the Carens MPV – it's one of the firm's older models, so it doesn’t benefit from the much improved style, quality and driving dynamics that newer cars like the Soul, Venga and Cee’d have. That said, it does offer plenty of space on the inside and it is well equipped for the money. The Magentis isn’t as good to drive as rivals like the Ford Mondeo or Mazda6, but it is comfortable on the motorway. The Magentis isn’t as competitive on purchase price as you’d expect either, but it will be replaced by an all-new model soon.
Kia has given its latest version of the Optima a complete redesign to help keep it up-to-date with its rivals. Up against stiff competition from the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat, the mid-sized saloon gets a more spacious interior, updated looks and a new selection of engines. The new Optima is available with the same impressive 140bhp 1.7-litre diesel engine that is found in the Kia Sportage.
Price £19,595 - £26,000
Kia's smallest car is the recently updated Picanto. It's available as both a three and five-door hatchback, but practicality is reduced because of its small boot and tight rear seat space. There are two new petrol engines to choose from – a 68bhp 1.0-litre and an 84bhp 1.25-litre unit that can also be had with an automatic gearbox and stop/start technology. The new engines are a big improvement over previous units, especially on motorways, but the Picanto doesn’t drive or ride as well as a Ford Ka or Fiat 500. However, the Picanto is very cheap to buy and run.
Price £8,045 - £12,545
The Rio is Kia's Ford Fiesta rival. It can’t match the way the Ford drives, but the big plus point is that it offers impressive interior space. All models come with lots of standard equipment and are competitively priced. Kia offers a 1.4-litre petrol engine, but the 1.5 CRDi diesel is the one to go for, as it offers better performance, especially at higher speeds. The entry-level model misses out on curtain airbags, air-conditioning and electric windows. The all-new Rio arrives in September.
3 & 5 Doors
Price £9,995 - £14,895
The Kia Sedona MPV is a functional vehicle designed for moving up to seven people from A to B with the minimum of fuss. It's not much to look at, but the boxy body has sliding rear doors for easy access. The seats fold, but the cabin isn’t as versatile as the interior of a Ford S-MAX, and the Sedona makes up for it by being well equipped and cheap to buy. There's one engine – a powerful 2.2-litre diesel – but automatic and manual gearboxes are available.
The Kia Sorento is a large seven-seat SUV that combines tough, rugged off-roader looks, with a decent on-road drive – and all for a sensible price. There is a 2.4-litre petrol, five-seat entry-level model available, but we’d recommend opting for the punchy 2.2-litre diesel engine instead. Seven seats are standard on diesels, and leather trim comes on all but the base car. Equipment like air conditioning, electric windows and MP3-compatible stereos is standard on all cars.
Price £26,500 - £35,105
The Kia Soul shows that superminis don’t have to all look the same. Its chunky, boxy looks and optional bright paint colours and graphics make it stand out. The interior is impressively spacious and simply laid out, although some of the plastics are a bit scratchy and the seats don’t fold as easily as those in a Honda Jazz. The Soul doesn’t drive as well as it looks, either, with a firm ride making the Kia uncomfortable on longer journeys.
Price £12,795 - £18,695
The latest Kia Sportage is CarBuyer's first ever Car of the Year. Our judges were unanimous in agreement that this is 2011's top performing car, as well as Best 4x4. Aimed at the Nissan Qashqai, but offers much more space for the money. The exterior is very stylish and well proportioned, while the interior offers space for five and a huge boot. The Sportage sets new standards for Kia, and offers the best quality feel in the range. The first UK cars are called First Edition. These come loaded with standard kit and have 2.0-litre diesel engines. Front-wheel-drive versions and a full range of petrol and diesel engines with stop-start are due later in the year.
Price £17,300 - £28,500
The Kia Venga is a small people carrier that gets the basics right by providing plenty of cabin space and a big boot. However, the firm's petrol and diesel engines feel weak in this large vehicle, and the car has none of the personality of the Kia Soul. Some nice touches like a boot whose floor can be lifted for easier loading make the Venga practical, and there's a seven-year warranty, but it's not as good value as other Kias.
Price £11,595 - £17,970