What’s the Difference Between Kia and Hyundai?

I should really have resolved this pressing question a long time ago. I think I may have sorted it out so you don’t have to.

2014 Kia Optima
2014 Kia Optima


Not unlike Thompson and Thomson: Hyundai and Kia. The same corporation owns them, in a situation reminiscent of PSA who look after Peugeot and Citroen.  Citroen had a long and interesting life up until Michelin sold the firm to Peugeot and in the intervening years it has been easy to tell one marque from the other despite common ownership (Saxo and 106 are exceptions).


In the case of Hyundai and Kia, no obvious trait serves to hang brand differentiation on. Having been offered the choice of a Kia Ceed or a Hyundai i30 at the rental company recently I was forced to realise that I don’t know the basis of the differentiation of these brands. It is a motto I like to quote that if you have to measure a difference you haven’t really made one. I feel I have to take this opportunity to get the measure of these brands’ European product range to see if I can detect at least a quantitative difference between the pair.

2014 Hyundai i10
2014 Hyundai i10


What do I find? For Kia the average price of base model is £14,396 and they have nine models. For Hyundai the average price of a base model is £16,037 and they have nine models. Apart from the van-like i800 and the Hyundai Veloster, the two ranges have similar types of car. The Picanto is shadowed by the i10 which costs £350 more. The Rio is paired with the i20 which costs £1414 more. Then the Kia Venga and Hyundai iX20 have identical based prices but the Hyundai reaches up further in cost to £14,445. It seems Hyundais are moderately more expensive, model for model than Kia.

2014 Kia Proceed
2014 Kia Proceed

Another way to look at it is price spread. The Kia C_eed range has a price range of £2620. The Hyundai i30 has a range of £4800. I have not looked at options. Conceivably one could choose a cheaper Kia and spec it higher than the equivalent Hyundai.

One of the cars I am talking about in this article
One of the cars I am talking about in this article


The numbers are not what I expected. Based on my car-by-car comparison of the C_eed and i30 in the rental car park, the C_eed seemed more pleasantly appointed. Judging merely by on-pavement impressions I can’t detect any noticeable difference in obvious quality or character between the likes of the Picanto and i30. Both seem very professionally resolved small cars. The Venga has a touch of design-interest about it so that’s one to Kia; Hyundai retorts with the Veloster which is a daring design, whether you like it or not.

This is not included in my calculations. It´s the latest thing from Hyundai, the H350 van.
This is not included in my calculations. It´s the latest thing from Hyundai, the H350 van.


Received wisdom would hold that the two ranges should be more clearly distinguished. Think of all the ink spilled over Alfa and Lancia or Rover and BMW. Ford USA couldn’t get enough people to fork out for Mercuries, many of which differed from Ford by about the same amount as Kias and Hyundais. Peugeot and Citroen make a big deal to separate their models visually on the grounds that it gives customers a clear choice. There’s also the efforts VW make with their flock. But here we find that Kia and Hyundai seem to do quite well without making a meal of brand differentiation. If it was this easy, why didn’t Fiat manage to keep Lancia and Alfa running concurrently? And the same goes for Ford and Mercury.


The practical conclusion for the person looking at a Hyundai or Kia is that you have two very nice apples to choose from. In most cases the vehicles lie within a stone’s chuck of each other in prices. Neither is making a definitive statement about the owner (barring the more extrovert Venga and Veloster). You’ll have to  lay out a big spread-sheet for the options lists to determine who is really getting the best deal.

So I suspect Kia/Hyundai have arranged this to resemble a pair of mobile ‘phone tariffs. It gives the illusion of choice without the seller having to make a detectable discount. What matters is a sale is made and the customer thinks they made a rational choice. That means the Kia person thinks they got a few hundred quid off the price of what Hyundai is offering. And the Hyundai buyer thinks they got a bit more kit and quality than Kia were offering. In reality, I suspect the average price paid is probably the same, model for model.

The Data: from Car Magazine’s GBU, September, 2014.


Picanto, a five door hatch. £7,995 to £10,195. 1.0 and 1.2 litre engines.

Rio, a five door hatch. £8,545 to £9,665. 1.4 petrol and 1.5 diesel.

Venga, a small MPV. £11,995 to £13,295. 1.4 petrol and 1.5 diesel.

Soul, a five door hatch. £12,130 to £14320. 1.6 petrol and 1.6 diesel.

Ceed, 5-door hatch, estate. £14,220 to £16,840. 1.4, and 1.6 petrol and 1.4 and 1.6 diesel.

Optima, a  mid-size saloon. £19,595. 1.7 engine.

Carens, an MPV. £14,695 to £15,995. 1.6 and 1.6 CRDI.

Sportage, a mid-size SUV. £17,295 to £23,025. 1.6, 2.0 GDI, 1.7 CRDi, 2.0 CRDI.

Sorrento, a large SUV. £23,095 to £23,995. 2.0 and 2.2 CRDI.


i10, a five door hatch. £8345 to £9345. 1.0 and 1.2 petrols.

i20, a five door hatch. £9959 to £13495. 1.2, 1.4, 1.1 CRDI and 1.4 CDRI.

i30, a five door hatch, estate. £14,495 to £19,295. 1.4, 1.4 CRDI, 1.6 CRDI, 1.8 CRDI.

i40, a C-class estate.£17,395 – £19,195. 1.6, 1.7, CRDI, 1.7 CRDI.

i800, a big van. £21,355. 2.5 CRDI

Veloster, a four door hatch**. £18,000 to £21,995. 1.6 GDI and Turbo.

iX20, a five door MPV-oid. £11,995 to £14,455. 1.4, 1.6 and 1.4 CRDI Classic.

iX35, an SUV. £17,300 to £25,060. 1.6 GDI, 1.7 CRDI, 2.0 CRDI (134 and 181 hp).

Santa Fe, an off roader. £25,495. 2.4 CRDI.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Kia and Hyundai?”

  1. Interesting. I actually expected KIA to be the slightly more expensive brand, though not by much.
    For the rest, the styling doesn’t even seem to be as differentiated as it was, say, 5 years ago so there really is nothing between them.

    1. Actually it’s because the Hyundai i10 (or whatever its predecessor was called) was – reportedly – the top seller in the last scrappage scheme in the UK that I thought it offered the cheapest cars. But maybe KIA didn’t have a supermini at the time or was outdated compared to the Hyundai?

  2. The Venga (extravert – really?) and Optima are two of my favourite “everyday” car styling jobs on the market at present. The former is just so cohesive and all-of-a-piece that it reminds me of the Mk1 Yaris that I once owned (better to behold than drive – if truth be told), and the Optima is just very well proportioned, surfaced and distinctive, but not flashy – sort of a latter day Alfa 159. I preferred the previous gen c’eed …

  3. What might muddy the water is the matter of how they drive.
    Incidentally, Chevrolet and Opel could have co-existed as peacefully if they’d had as clever a pricing policy as Kia/Hyundai.
    Venga: I think it looks quite bold. Maybe it’s a comparative thing. I like its ID look, as if it doesn’t to look like it moves.
    Incidentally, I have seen Renault’s new Twingo in the metal. It is also very “industrial design” in character, and much less automotive. The door skins are out of my hymn book. I hope to report on that soon.

  4. I believe I read once that Kia aims to be the more ‘youth-oriented’ brand. If so, the difference is obvious only to those at Kia. Generally I do prefer the look of Kias, but then I’m not youth-oriented.

    I could also suggest that, once they decided it was worth making the investment in extra factories and capacity, Hyundai/Kia concluded that they might as well have two separate ranges since, even if the real-world difference is illusory, there is always someone who is turned off by the Picanto’s snout who will find the i10’s quite acceptable. Or vice-versa.

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