Albert Biermann, an engineer previously in charge of BMW's M line of luxury sports cars who now heads Kia and Hyundai's high performance development team, explains that Kia cars are intended to be more "sporty and young," while Hyundai vehicles are designed to be more "luxurious and mature." From a marketing standpoint, this statement reveals age differences in the automakers' target sales demographics.
While both companies began as affordable versions of many of their Japanese counterparts, since the two companies merged, they have assumed different roles in the marketplace. These differences can be illustrated by comparing the similar models Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra, which are each available as a two-door coupe or five-door sedan. The first difference between the two models, which look similar from the outside, is the price. MSRP is $15,990 for the Kia Forte and $21,750 for the Hyundai Elantra, but for this difference of nearly $5,000, the Elantra has several standard features the Forte does not.
In addition to better engine performance and handling, the Elantra features heated rear seats, a proximity key system, push-button start and a navigation system. While both vehicles have the same warranty and share some features such as power windows, cruise control, satellite hardware and air conditioning, the differences are pronounced and are illustrated by the price difference. Similar differences can be found between many of the Kia and Hyundai models and their respective counterparts.