What you should know about Kia – and it's all good

Kia hamsters

A recent discussion made me realize Kia is flying under the radar for many consumers.

My friend remarked that she had recently seen a Kia Soul and thought it looked cute -- her word, not mine.

She went on to say that she might even consider buying one if Kia didn't build cheap cars -- again, her words, not mine.

Ouch.

C'mon, this is the cuddly hamster car company, after all.

First and foremost, I told her, there is a difference between "value" and "cheap."

According to Kelley Blue Book, Kia has the lowest cost-of-ownership of any non-luxury brand in the United States.

This factors in depreciation, fuel costs, insurance, maintenance and repair costs for the first five years of ownership.

Moreover, when comparing a Kia product against a direct competitor, the Kia will almost always cost less and offer more content for the price.

Kia executives consider 2009 to have been the brand's coming-out year.

Pre-2009 was old Kia.

Post-2009 is the new and improved Kia. That was the year it launched Soul, signaling a big change in attitude and direction.

Including Soul, it has introduced nine all-new or totally redesigned vehicles in the past three years -- most recently a redesigned Rio and Soul.

Since 2009, the residual value -- that's what a vehicle is worth 36 months after purchase -- of all Kia vehicles is up an average of 49%. That's huge!

You don't have to take my word for it; here are a few of the accolades tossed in Kia's direction:

Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, ranked Kia No.1 in owner loyalty with a retention rate of 48%. That is, nearly half of Kia owners trade in their Kias for a new one.

Parents magazine named the Kia Sorento one of the "Best Family Cars of 2011."

NADAguides, the largest publisher of vehicle pricing and information, placed the Sorento, Sedona and Soul at the top of its "Wagons" list of "Best Buys for 2011."

Kiplinger's Personal Finance named Sorento to its "Best Cars for Families List."

And the Sedona was named "Best Minivan for the Money" for 2011 by U.S. News & World Report.

All I'm saying is, if you haven't taken a close look at Kia, maybe you should.

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