The Most Common Kia Problems

Despite above-average reliability ratings, many Kia models commonly suffer from engine failure and transmission problems.
Written by Talullah Blanco
Edited by Pat Roache
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The most common Kia problems include engine failure, transmission problems, and faulty electrical systems.
  • The Kia Sorento has the most complaints and is considered the least reliable Kia model—especially when it comes to engine problems.
  • Many Kia transmission problems can be solved with a software update at your local dealership, but the Forte may require a full replacement.
  • As a car maker, Kia has a reliability rating of 4.0/5.0 from RepairPal and ranks 3rd out of 32 automotive brands with average annual repair costs of $474.

The most common Kia problems

Despite relatively high reliability ratings, there are some common issues among Kia models that you should be on the lookout for:
  • Engine malfunction and failure
  • Transmission problems due to outdated software
  • Faulty electrical system
  • Airbag failure due to malfunction in crash sensors
Check out the table below to get a complete breakdown of the most common Kia problems across the five most popular models on the market today:
Model
Starting price
J.D. Power reliability rating
Most common problems
Years to avoid
Sorento
$30,090
77/100
Engine failure, faulty doors, headlight bulbs burning out, noisy A/C compressor, faulty timing chain, malfunctioning ignition coil, and bad crankshaft pulley bolt
2006, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016
Optima
$24,355
83/100
Transmission problems, defective throttle position switch (TPS), malfunctioning door latch, weak alternator, engine malfunction/failure, steering complications, faulty and leaky low pressure fuel hose
2011
Soul
$19,790
87/100
Cruise control surge, engine noise, malfunction, and failure
2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2020
Sportage
$25,990
88/100
Exterior accessories problems, HVAC issues, engine problems, transmission troubles, and faulty fuel systems
2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013
Forte
$19,690
87/100
Speakers not working, engine problems and failure, exterior lighting malfunction, leaky interiors, malfunctioning transmission, and faulty stop lamp switch
2010, 2012, 2014, 2017

Most common Kia Sorento problems

Average annual repair cost: $533 
CarComplaints.com complaints: 989
The Kia Sorento has experienced the most problems in the Kia brand, especially:
  • Engine failure 
  • Doors that won’t open from the outside
  • Noisy start-up caused by
    faulty timing belt
  • Bad crankshaft pulley bolt
  • Vibrations caused by a failing
    AC compressor
  • Oil leaks
The most common: The 2016 model year has received the most complaints for engine failure caused by a leaky head gasket or
faulty ignition coil
. So, if you drive a 2016 Kia Sorento, make it a habit to regularly check your head gasket for leaks. 

Most common Kia Optima problems

Average annual repair cost: $471 
CarComplaints.com complaints: 686
Kia Optima drivers have commonly reported a variety of engine malfunctions likely due to
worn-out bearings
or a defective throttle position switch (TPS):
  • Seizing
  • Hesitation
  • Stumbling
  • Power loss
  • Complete failure 
Transmission problems in older Optimas: Kia Optimas are also plagued by transmission issues around 67,000 miles due to outdated transmission software. Take your Optima to a mechanic to have your software updated if you’re experiencing jerking and lurching when downshifting.
Other Kia Optima problems:

Most common Kia Soul problems

Average annual repair cost: $437 
CarComplaints.com complaints: 375
The Kia Soul has a laundry list of engine issues and other common problems:
Luckily, you can anticipate when to expect the Kia Soul’s most major engine problems:
  • 10,000 miles: The Soul’s engine may exhibit no-start conditions
  • 70,000–80,000 miles: The engine may completely lose power.

Most common Kia Sportage problems

Average annual repair cost: $462 
CarComplaints.com complaints: 305
Several drivers reported the engine in their 2012 Kia Sportage died while driving at high speeds. Kia recalled the units with the bad engines reporting that the problem was caused by an
oil pan leak
.
Other common Kia Sportage problems:
  • Leaky fuel tanks
  • Noisy A/C compressors
  • Faulty key fobs
  • Dropping out of gear
  • Difficulty switching between gears
  • Getting stuck in park

Most common Kia Forte problems

Average annual repair cost: $451 
CarComplaints.com complaints: 234
Bad ignition coils are the most common cause of engine problems in the Kia Forte, leading to:
  • Abnormal knocking sounds
  • Excessive
    engine stalling
  • Shaking
  • Idling
  • Misfiring
  • Complete failure
The Forte also suffers from common transmission problems with no solution other than complete transmission replacement:
  • Scraping noises 
  • Rough shifting 
  • Inability to shift altogether
  • Debris in transmission fluid 
  • Complete transmission failure. 
Key Takeaway Engine failure is the worst and most common problem plaguing Kia vehicles. 

Kia cars are some of the most reliable on the market

Despite these common problems,
Kia is one of the most reliable automakers
on the market on par with Toyota based on research from RepairPal:
  • Reliability ranking: 4.0/5.0
  • Car brand ranking: 3rd out of 32
  • Average annual repair costs: $474
Expert tip: Your Kia’s
check engine light
is the most common sign that your specific model is experiencing one of the common problems mentioned above. Take your car to a mechanic immediately to remedy the issue.

The least reliable Kia model: 2016 Kia Sorento

Average annual repair cost: $533
NHTSA complaints: 482
Most common problem: Engine failure
Pros: The 2016 Kia Sorento SUV seems to be a great family car with plenty of interior features to enjoy.
Cons: It has received the most complaints of any Kia model to date. The NHTSA reports 74 complaints alone for engine failure due to a faulty ignition coil or leaking head gasket.

The most reliable Kia model: 2016 Kia Sportage

Average annual repair costs: $462
NHTSA complaints: 50
Most common problem: Transmission issues
Pros: The 2016 Sportage started at $23,000 and can be found for much less these days. 
Cons: This model is still prone to potential transmission issues, but those can easily be corrected with a quick transmission software update. 
MORE: The best used Kia to buy
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