Although Kia hasn’t gotten the same kind of green reputation as its corporate sibling Hyundai, that’s likely to start changing in the near future. After all, it was Kia that led the industry as the most improved brand in terms of both fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions in the EPA’s recently released study titled “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 Through 2011.”
According to the report, which covers vehicles through the 2010 model year, Kia increased its overall fleet fuel economy by 11.6 percent over the 2009 model year, while reducing its vehicles’ CO2 emissions by 10.1 percent during the same time. The performance left Kia tied for the No. 1 spot in the country for fuel efficiency, with an overall 27 mpg rating, and in second place for emissions with a mark of 330 grams per mile (g/mi). Further, the EPA expects Kia to continue improving on this performance for the 2011 model year; projections for the 2012 model year and later are not yet available.
True, the only automaker ahead of Kia is, in fact, Hyundai, but while the latter boasts of four 40-mpg entries, Kia can now offer three: Kia Rio (30 mpg city/40 mpg highway/33 mpg combined), Kia Rio 5-Door (30/40/33) and Kia Optima Hybrid (35/40/37). In addition, Kia is in the industry vanguard with its Idle, Stop and Go system. This feature is fairly common in Europe and in U.S. hybrids, and it helps save fuel by cutting off the flow of gas to the engine in certain driving scenarios—e.g., when the vehicle is sitting at a stop sign or traffic light—then seamlessly and automatically restarts the engine when the driver’s foot leaves the brake. The resulting improvements don’t always have a big impact on the EPA ratings, but that’s a function of the agency’s unique approach to fuel-efficiency testing.
Regardless, ISG adds an mpg to the Rio’s city rating, while the Soul with that tech is now capable of 29 mpg city/36 mpg highway/32 mpg combined, far ahead of any of its boxy-type rivals, and the Kia Forte can attain EPA scores of 27 mpg city/37 mpg highway/30 mpg combined. Those are the same city and combined marks as compact competitors like the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra, but the Forte also comes with a 3-mpg advantage on the highway.
The 2013 model year also will see the Kia Sorrento medium-ish crossover match the smaller Kia Sportage with an overall EPA line of 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway/25 mpg combined. No other brand—not even Hyundai—has two separate crossover nameplates that can break the 30-mpg barrier.
The party line from Michael Sprague, vice president of Marketing and Communications for Kia Motors America: "As an industry leader in fuel economy, Kia is committed to providing safe, high-quality vehicles that are socially relevant to consumers. Our goal is to stay ahead of the industry by applying innovative technologies such as direct-injection and turbo charged engines to advance our efforts and continue improving on the benchmarks Kia has set in the sustainability realm."