The popularity of Korean-made cars is obvious and it is caused by objective reasons. Moreover, this love extends to the used car market as well. Let's dwell on the main reasons why buyers all over the world give preference to Korean cars:
- impeccable quality, which is unparalleled among machines intended for exports
- quality of service and, as a result, good condition of used cars.
- interesting modifications of well-known and popular car models
- absence in the sale of cars damaged as a result of road accidents, because even if there are any, cars are first repaired and then put up for auction.
- bring a car from Korea can save up to 30% of the average cost of such cars in European countries.
Best Korean car brands
In our review of the most famous and popular car brands of Korea:
The corporation was established in December 1944 under the name Kyungsung Precision Industry. At that time, its core business was the production of steel tubes and bicycle components. This company was the first bicycle manufacturer in Korea. In 1952, it changed its name to Kia Industries.
In 1957, the company began manufacturing compact motorcycles and trucks under license from Mazda. In 1973, Kia Industries launched a plant in Sohari. Four years later, production of Brisa compact cars began, but production was soon discontinued.
Kia Industries changed its focus from cars to small trucks and began producing cars under license from Fiat and Peugeot. In 1982, almost 100,000 of these vehicles were produced.
The company then entered into a partnership with Ford Motor Company, producing cars derived from Mazda models. Among them were the Kia Pride and Avella, the former being a Mazda modification.
In 1992, the company expanded into the United States by opening Kia Motors America and began selling vehicles in the American market. Since then, the company has been growing rapidly in the United States, opening more than 100 dealerships in 30 states.
In 1997, Kia ran into financial difficulties and was declared bankrupt. A year later, it agreed to merge with Hyundai Motor Company, and today Hyundai owns 33 percent of the company.
Hyundai Motor Company was established in 1947 and was originally called Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co. Over time, Hyundai Motor Co. (HMC) became the leading automobile manufacturer in the Korean domestic market and now supplies vehicles to 190 countries around the world.
Hyundai currently has eight research centers in Korea and four international centers, including the Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Hyundai California Design Center in Fountain Valley, California.
The company is paying close attention to the development of electric vehicles, low-emission gasoline engines, solar-powered vehicles, hydrogen-fueled vehicles and other means of transportation that utilize alternative energy sources.
SsangYong, joined the Korean automobile industry relatively late compared to companies that started in the 30s and 40s. In 1954, the company began producing military jeeps for the U.S. Army, and in 1966, SsangYong began exporting buses to Brunei and later Vietnam. In addition to buses, the company expanded its line of vehicles to include jeeps as well as specialized vehicles.
In 1992, SsangYong entered into a trade agreement with Mercedes Benz AG to develop gasoline engines. A year later, the companies signed a joint investment and technical alliance agreement to develop passenger cars. In 1997, the company introduced the luxury sedan Chair, the first of its kind for a company that had previously specialized in heavy-duty vehicles.
Genesis is a brand created in 2008, which belongs to Hyundai Corporation. The main specialization is the production of premium-class cars. The headquarters of the brand is located in Seoul, South Korea. In 2015, a strategic decision was made to make Genesis an autonomous brand. Its main task became the production of prestigious cars capable of competing with Land Rover and BMW models.
Genesis cars are manufactured in factories in Ulsan, South Korea. However, Genesis design studios are located in various parts of the world, including Germany and the United States. The company's creative director is Luc Donckerwolke, who has extensive experience working with prestigious brands such as Bentley and Audi, making his approach to Genesis design forward-thinking and exciting for fans of the brand.
Top 10 - the best Korean cars
In our ranking of the best used cars. They were evaluated on the basis of sales volumes, reviews from real users:
- Kia Rio
- Kia Soul
- SsangYong Actyon
- Hyundai Elantra
- Hyundai Sonata
- Kia Optima
- Hyundai Tucson
- Kia Sorento
- Genesis GV80
- Hyundai Santa FE
A car with great performance at an affordable price. Available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. Represents a reliable vehicle with impressive fuel economy, both in the city and on the highway. Compared to competitors such as the Chevy Sonic, Honda Fit, and Toyota Yaris, which have been replaced by larger crossovers, the Kia Rio remains one of the best compact models on the auto market.
The Rio is powered by a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 120 horsepower, and the only available transmission is a continuously variable automatic gearbox. While it's not the fastest model on the market, the 2021 hatchback accelerates to 100 km/h in an acceptable 8.6 seconds, which is comparable to the performance of many small crossovers. The Rio has excellent cushioning for its small size, thanks to its solid construction and well-tuned suspension. The car also controls body lean well in corners.
One of the key features of the Rio is its simplicity, which is quite important. The interior is graced by a user-friendly dashboard with intuitive controls for the climate control and audio system. The interior includes a lot of hard plastic, but the texture is pleasant, and the interior design is impressively solid and bold.
The Kia Soul has been a standout for the automobile brand from Korea since its introduction to the market in 2008. The third generation of this car, officially called "urban small car", was introduced in 2020 and underwent an update by 2023.
Kia has made some changes to the front and rear styling, but the more significant change has to do with simplifying the model lineup: from six to four trim levels. Only one non-turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is now available, while the off-road X-Line and sporty GT-Line Turbo have been dropped from the range.
The Soul wasn't originally conceived as a sporty hatchback or high-performance crossover. The engine, while providing decent power, loses its energy as you approach the floor of the throttle. In most situations, that power is enough, but in those instances where you need extra dynamics, you won't be among the leaders.
The continuously variable transmission behaves well, providing smooth acceleration while lacking the shortcomings that other cars' variators have. The brake system, while not thrilling, is well-adjusted, with good linearity and pleasant pedal travel.
When behind the wheel of the SsangYong Actyon, you instantly notice the steeply sloping hood, which disappears from view to reveal a great view of the road. The interior is a little stiff due to the use of durable plastic, but it is an essential component of the practical design.
Control elements are placed a little unconventionally, with large round groups of buttons for additional functions, as well as the steering wheel located to the left of the gearbox, and the indicators are to the left of the steering column. The Actyon offers plenty of luggage storage space. The Actyon's cargo area, while not the largest compared to some competitors, is wider and deeper.
One of the most popular versions is a car with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine of the third generation with Common Rail system, with an output of 104 kW. Propulsion is provided by a 6-speed automatic transmission.
On the road, the Actyon has an outstandingly smooth ride, thanks to the use of a five-lever rear axle with coil springs. The steering is exceptionally light. On bad roads, the vehicle becomes a little noisy.
The Elantra is considered one of the best of the compact sedans, and a hybrid model would be the optimal choice in this lineup. The main powertrain is a 147-horsepower four-cylinder motor that works in tandem with a continuously variable transmission to provide quick acceleration and excellent fuel economy for this class of car.
A sporty Turbo N version with 276 hp is also available. The car's handling is excellent, but the stiffness of the suspension can create discomfort and the engine becomes noisy at high revs. Seat comfort is rated average, except for the more expensive Limited trim, and the low seating position can make it difficult to get in. The infotainment system is easy to use and safety systems such as AEB with pedestrian detection, BSW and RTCW are included as standard.
For the 2020 model year, the Elantra received updates including suspension changes to improve comfort and improved sound insulation to reduce noise from the engine compartment. The six-speed automatic transmission was replaced by a continuously variable transmission (CVT). All trims came with frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning systems.
Sonata sales peaked in 2006, when Hyundai sold 3,005 vehicles. At the time, it was the equivalent of the Toyota Camry, but native to Korea, with a choice between a gasoline V6 and four-cylinder engine. Turbocharging and performance tuning to the flagship N Line specification make modern versions of the model the most revolutionary in the Sonata family.
The latest versions of the Sonata have undergone significant changes. The interior has taken on a completely different atmosphere thanks to a redesigned dashboard with a curved body that accommodates two 12.3-inch digital screens. The modified digital screen allows different displays to be used for different driving modes and also provides a blind spot monitoring function, particularly useful on multi-lane roads.
The infotainment system has also received an upgrade in the form of more advanced software, similar to that used in the Hyundai Kona. This step forward certainly improves on the previous version, although most users will probably prefer to simply plug in their phone and take advantage of all the features included in the multimedia system.
The Kia Optima is a stylish sedan designed to compete with the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat. It confidently carves a niche for itself in a segment that seems to be losing popularity. If you need an economical and affordable family car, the Optima should definitely be on your list.
Its exterior is emphasized by stylish LED daytime running lights and a refined profile. Inside, the car has a well-designed dashboard made of high-quality materials, with an attractive appearance. Most impressive, however, are the Optima's technical features. The car is equipped with a great array of features, even if you opt for the base-level equipment.
Only one diesel engine option and one hybrid engine are offered, but the latter offers a significant electric range and quiet electric driving. The hybrid version remains more popular. A more practical option, the Optima SW station wagon, is also available, offering both diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains.
Since its first introduction in 2004, the Hyundai Tucson has been a reliable and quality choice in the compact SUV category, providing excellent value for money. The fourth generation model stands out with a bold front end design with LED running lights, as well as a host of innovations designed to make the Tucson more attractive and modern in its segment.
There are no diesels in the new lineup, but gasoline and hybrid options are well represented. For those who value maximum economy, three hybrid technology options are available: a mild 48-volt hybrid, a fully self-charging hybrid or a plug-in hybrid.
The Hyundai Tucson aims to compete in the compact family SUV segment and rivals models such as the Peugeot 3008, Volkswagen Tiguan and Ford Kuga. Possible alternatives also include the SEAT Ateca and Skoda Karoq from the Volkswagen group, as well as premium models such as the Audi Q3. Other competitors include the Citroen C5 Aircross and Vauxhall Grantland, which are closely related to the Peugeot 3008.
The Kia Sorento is a seven-seat hybrid SUV that offers a level of practicality typical of multi-tasking MPVs, but avoids the classic look of such vehicles. The Sorento also plays an important role in Kia's quest to gain a foothold in the premium segment. Despite its small starting price, the car remains competitive against its premium rivals.
However, conquering the premium segment presents a challenge for Kia as the Sorento competes with already established SUVs in this niche such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLB and Peugeot 5008.
When the Sorento was launched in 2020, the model was offered in several trim levels, but the lineup has since been simplified to a single version labeled Edition. This package includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a 10.25-inch infotainment system, a wireless smartphone charger, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, ventilated leather seats and a suite of safety and security equipment.
Our Best Korean Cars review features the Genesis GV80, which attracts attention even when it's resting in a parking lot. It's a 10 Best award-winning crossover that offers luxury matched with an advantage that Porsche and BMW can't provide: a surprisingly attractive starting price.
The base engine is a turbodiesel - "six" 3.0, producing 278 hp and 588 Nm of torque. All GV80 models are equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The interior of the GV80 is truly luxurious, from the heated and cooled seats for the driver and passengers, to the heated armrests and virtually silent ride even at high speeds on the highway.
The latest version of the GV80 gets an updated grille and Micro Lens Array headlights, as well as a new wheel design: multi-spoke wheels measuring 20 and 22 inches. Buyers have access to a new color, Storr Green, which is available in gloss or matte finish. Inside the car, the dashboard and infotainment display are combined on a huge 27-inch wide touchscreen. The company is also adding three new interior shades to the latest version: Earth Brown, Bordeaux Brown and Glacier White.
Hyundai Santa FE
The Hyundai Santa Fe is a spacious family SUV with an extensive equipment set as standard, which is equipped with seven seats. Its appearance attracts everyone who appreciates practicality and high seating in the car. It stands out favorably against the bulky VW Tiguan Allspace or Kia Sorento.
All of the Hyundai Santa Fe's stylish trim elements, including the shiny roof rails and chrome grille surround, are standard. So even in the basic Premium version, it looks on a par with the Ultimate version.
The ergonomics of the interior are top-notch, with intuitive controls and conveniently located buttons. Each model is equipped with a large touchscreen. Even as standard, many electric seat adjustments are available, including the important lumbar support.
The luggage compartment has enough space for several small suitcases. If you need to carry more luggage, the rear seats can be folded down. If this is not enough, all seats except the front ones can be folded down to form a van-like cargo area.