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A close up shows the passenger headlight on a red 2020 Kia Soul after visiting a used Kia dealership.

Important Model Years for 6 Popular Kia Models

Finding a great used car isn’t always easy––you have a lot of options available to you, and narrowing those down to the perfect one takes some work. Even if you know you want to find a great Kia at a Canadian used Kia dealership, you still need to consider which model will be best for you and have everything you need. With so many details to look at and consider, it’s easy for something to get overlooked or slip by you without realizing it. That’s why I’m here to help you consider something that might’ve otherwise remained an afterthought: model years.

Beyond simply indicating the age of a vehicle, the model year can be important for several other reasons. One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that most new model years bring just minor changes––but some will start a new generation. This can have a huge impact on the kinds of performance and features you find, so it’s a good idea to look for the most recent generation of a model you’re interested in. With that in mind, however, I suggest you skip the first year of any generation if you can since companies tend to need a year to work out some bugs and deliver the best car possible.

Let’s take a look at some popular Kia models you’ll find used in Canada and some key years to remember:

The Kia Soul

First introduced for the 2010 model year, the Soul is a very popular subcompact crossover that has sold quite well over the years, which means you’ll find a lot of them when shopping used. Unless you’re trying to save money, you shouldn’t go back to the first generation so instead, look for a model from 2015 at the earliest. The second generation for the Soul launched with the 2014 model year, but I’d suggest skipping that to avoid potential first-year issues.

There was a facelift and update for the 2017 model year that introduced some new exterior colours and a number of other features. High-end trims starting with 2017 received larger infotainment displays, plus a new premium Harman/Kardon sound system became available. The most recent generation kicked off with the 2020 model year and was joined by an all-electric version. You won’t find too many third-generation models available used just yet, but keep an eye out for them if you want the latest features and options.

The Kia Optima

First released for the 2011 model year, the Optima became one of Kia’s most popular sedans and replaced the Kia Magentis. This is a great choice if you are looking for a four-door with plenty of room inside while enjoying a fun driving experience. The Magentis was sold as the Optima in other markets, like the US, so you might hear talk of Optima models prior to 2011, but they weren’t sold in Canada under that name. If possible, look for 2012 models as the oldest option since this was the second year for this model.

There was a refresh on the Optima for the 2014 model year with an updated exterior and improved seating and options inside. The next generation launched a couple years later, but I’d look for a 2017 model just to skip those first-year jitters on a new generation. Numerous powertrains were offered in these years, and a 2.0L Turbo was available to get an impressive 245 hp. The Optima was recently replaced by the K5 for the 2021 model year, which is essentially the next generation of the same vehicle, but with a new name.

The Kia Sorento

The Sorento has been around for almost 20 years now, and though it started life as a compact SUV, it has since grown in size to a midsize option. This size change occurred starting with the second generation for the 2011 model year, so if you look at older Sorentos, then you might notice they’re not quite as large as newer ones. Along with its larger size, new engines and a wide range of additional options became available––in my book, a second-generation model is about as far back as you want to go, no matter how much money you are looking to save.

A third-generation for the Kia Sorento kicked off with the 2016 model year, featuring a full redesign on a new platform. This generation included big upgrades for steering and overall drive feel, so look for a 2017 Sorento if you want to really get the most from your Kia. A fourth-generation just launched with the 2021 model year, but these are going to be very pricey options when shopping used. I’d stick with a third-generation Sorento to save money and still get some of the latest features and options.

A red 2017 Kia Forte is shown parked by a river and bridge.

The Kia Forte

First introduced for the 2010 model year, the Kia Forte might not have been around as long as some other models, but it has proven itself quite popular in that time. This is a compact sedan that is a great choice if you like the feel and look of a four-door car, but you don’t need something quite as large as the Optima. The small design also makes this one of the most affordable options you’ll typically find, especially as a used model, and there have only been a few generations to choose from.

A second generation for the Forte launched with the 2014 model year, but you’re better off going with 2015 or later. In particular, there was a nice makeover for the 2017 model year that included new headlamps and a more aerodynamic overall design. The most-recent generation kicked off with the 2019 model year with major overhauls, including an efficient Continuously Variable Transmission and a 2.0L engine. If you want a late-model sedan while still saving some money, then a recent Forte is a great choice.

The Kia Niro

Although classified as a compact crossover SUV, the Niro is available as either a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid, saving you money at the pump. This is a fantastic choice if you want something small and budget-friendly while still enjoying a great ride. First introduced for the 2017 model year, the Niro is still in its first generation, which also makes it easy to find a great used model with some of the latest bells and whistles. This does give you fewer options in terms of the total number of model years to consider, but that’s a pretty small price to pay. There was a refresh for the Niro with the 2020 model year, with updated style and a standard 20 cm infotainment display, so keep that in mind.

A red 2021 Kia Stinger is shown driving on an airstrip at night.

The Kia Stinger

If you like sedans and want an exhilarating driving experience, then you should definitely look at the Kia Stinger. This is a midsize sports sedan with a fastback design that delivers impressive performance and a luxurious interior, something that you won’t find from too many other models. First introduced for the 2018 model year, this certainly isn’t as old as some other models from Kia, but that just means any used Stinger you find will have modern features.

One important note is that only a 3.3L Turbo V6 engine was offered at first, while a second 2.0L Turbo I-4 engine became available starting in 2019. It was only offered for a single year, however, so you’ll need to look for a 2019 Stinger to save money with the less-powerful engine. Just this year, the Stinger has received an interior update and some new tech options, but you won’t find too many 2022 models on the used market right now.