When purchasing a new car, a person typically begins the process by looking at a number of makes and models. Over the course of sitting in a few, driving a few, and likely being turned off by a few salesmen, they’ll finally whittle it down to the particular model they’ll spend the next 5.5 years with.
Volkswagen has one of the highest brand loyalty records in the business, but that certainly doesn’t mean our customers don’t do their homework. Over the years, we’ve seen people cross-shop our cars with a suite of other “usual suspects”, including Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Subaru. Over the past few years, this list has seen a new addition: Kia. Kia Motors is a South Korean company that is partially owned by the Hyundai Motor Group, which, like Volkswagen, is one of the few car companies to have seen significant growth over the past few years. They’re still a relatively new car company, and as more and more people are becoming aware of Kia, we thought we’d write a little bit about how they compare to VWs in the areas car owners care about most. What follows is a combination of our own research and experience, that of some of our customers, and independent test results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Kelley Blue Book.
In independent safety/crash tests administered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Volkswagens usually fare extremely well (often class-leading, in fact), whereas Kias usually fare quite poorly. The results are explained by differences in the companies’ build materials and build processes. Volkswagen’s hot-formed steel is significantly stronger than the pressed steel used by Kia, and the characteristic weak points of the vehicle, the seams, are laser welded in Volkswagens (versus spot welded in Kias). The materials and manufacturing processes used by VW are more costly than those used by Kia, but the results certainly speak for themselves. Please see the below PDF file for detailed photos and descriptions of the aforementioned crash test results.
Generally speaking, Volkswagens require lower maintenance costs than Kias. This is due to a combination of more resilient build materials used (e.g., VW’s timing chains versus Kia’s timing belts) and longer intervals between service appointments.
As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, objective commentary on one car’s beauty versus another’s is nigh impossible. What can be said, however, is that Volkswagen has historically favoured classic lines over contemporary, timeless design over trendy. Each manufacturer has its own philosophy on design, and this is Volkswagen’s. The result is countless older VWs dotting the streets, still looking fresh and commanding surprising resale figures. Speaking of which…
For reasons related to all of the above, Volkswagens tend to hold their value much better than do Kias. Much better than pretty much all cars, in fact. Three Volkswagen models can be found in a recent Kelley Blue Book’s Top 10 Resale Value Cars, a testament to their overall quality, safety and design. No Kia models can be found in this list.
So there you have it, the Great Volkswagen vs. Kia showdown of 2011. I guess what we haven’t discussed is a sticker price comparison between the two makes. The elephant in the room, so to speak. On average, Kias tend to be slightly cheaper than comparable VW models. But you likely see why. High quality build materials and build processes, class-leading safety records and lower maintenance requirements usually come at a cost, and this cost tends to raise the MSRPs of Volkswagen models slightly above those of their competitors. VW understands this will lose them a few price-motivated shoppers now and then. But it’s their philosophy on what an automobile ought to be and how it ought to be built, and they’re sticking to it. As one of the auto worlds largest, most venerable companies, there are certainly a few people in agreement with them.