2025 Kia K4 Reminds Everyone Cheap Cars Don’t Have to Look So Dang Cheap

Finally, an inexpensive car that looks like it was styled in this decade.

byAdam Ismail|
Kia News photo


Kia and its parent company Hyundai have quickly garnered a reputation for delivering some of the most daring designs across the entire automotive industry, and for good reason. Models like the EV6, Ioniq 5, Ioniq 6, and even the humble Kona are all as bold as they are unique. Kia will look to keep the streak going with this, the K4 compact sedan, a replacement for the outgoing Forte. And whether you love it or not, it's hard to deny it makes a stronger statement than the Forte ever did.

Mind, that's not a high bar to clear. The K4 will bow at the New York International Auto Show next week, but in modern car announcement style, Kia's decided to save everyone the wait and share images of the thing now. That means we still don't have word on aspects like powertrains, efficiency, or pricing, but we can at least start the design conversation today. And let me be among the first to say: We have a winner.

Is the K4 the prettiest sedan I've ever seen? Hell no, but I also wouldn't say that for anything else in Kia or Hyundai's range, and that even applies to those highly praised Ioniq models. The K4 doesn't break new ground, but it catches the eye. Most importantly, it distills relatively aspirational design into an entry-level model, which is something we haven't seen in cheap cars (at least on this side of the pond) in a very long time.

Of course, we don't know how much the K4 will cost, but we can figure it'll start near the Forte's $21,145 base. Consider the least expensive cars on sale in the U.S. now: the extremely dated Mitsubishi Mirage and Nissan Versa. The tragic-looking and tragically named Hyundai Venue. Kia's own Soul, which pretends to make a statement, but let's be honest, looks like a watered-down, smoothed-over Scion xB that used to make that same statement with conviction. The Nissan Sentra, for crying out loud. What are we doing here?

Contrast all of those with the K4. "Baby Stinger" has been thrown around a lot to describe its design, and I'd say that's a fair generalization. The fastback profile is rare in the segment. And those powerful, slab-sided haunches and decimated D-pillar are befitting of a much more expensive sedan, even if the latter could mean horrific things for rearward visibility. Kia has dubbed the theme "Twist Logic," in reference to the "organic flow of light" created in how the squares and rectangles that comprise the car's profile meet. It's like if Polestar made something for people who rent.

Ultimately, the mark of any attractive cheap car is how the base model fares with chunkier tires and wheel covers, and we're not seeing that incarnation of the K4 yet. But it's already off to a good start of looking like it was styled in this decade. Typically, you have to spend closer to $30,000 to get that in a new car.

Obviously, no version of the K4 will ride this low and have wheels that big but damn. I'd have no notes at all if this sketch exactly was a next-generation Stinger. Kia

Meanwhile, we have but one image of the K4's cabin, draped floor to ceiling in matte plastic—or at least a finish that looks matte, judging from the render. Here, the K4 comes off again very modern, with that extended climate vent motif and unbroken display panel stretching from the driver's side to the center stack, aped by so many cars. The difference is that the materials will likely be very hard to the touch. I'll give Kia credit, however, for the sage hue and two-pronged steering wheel with the offset emblem.

2025 Kia K4. Kia

Both, actually, get to the heart of why I like the K4, at least in these initial images. Stout powertrains and strong driving dynamics are expensive. Big wheels, leather or something that feels like it, and soft surfaces also drive up the cost of a vehicle. But you know what's free? Design. Color! There's no business excuse for any cheap car to look bad and old, other than to encourage customers to spend more on another, pricier model that doesn't. The Forte was part of the problem, but the K4 clues us into the solution.

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