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First Drive: 2011 Kia Optima

Known for cheap-and-cheerful offerings, Kia comes up with a styling benchmark with plenty of upscale features.

by on Sep.01, 2010

Striking good looks and plenty of features could help the new Optima win a new generation of buyers for Kia.

It’s not often that a single car can redefine a brand.  The original BMW 3-Series, for one, the new Hyundai Sonata at the other end of the spectrum.  Can Kia pull off the same sort of brand remake when it launches the 2011 Optima, later this year?

The Kia brand has been around for decades, though in its original incarnation its products were used to flesh out the low end of the Ford line-up, cheap-and-cheerful offerings like the Ford Aspire.  After it launched its own U.S. dealer network, in 1994, Kia continued to pursue the low end of the spectrum where only three things matter to buyers: price, price and price.

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But the automaker’s new crossover, the Kia Sorento, suggests that things just might be in for a big change, and the 2011 Kia Optima, which made its world debut at this year’s New York International Auto Show, is a sign of just how far the Korean carmaker is ready to reach.

Optima is the work of Peter Schreyer, the inordinately talented former Audi chief of design, who joined Kia several years ago with the promise of revamping the maker’s entire line-up.  If Sorento and, now, Optima are any indication, Kia could push past its big brother, Hyundai, which took control of the smaller Korean manufacturer in 1997.

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First Look: 2011 Kia Optima

Debut planned for New York Auto Show.

by on Feb.22, 2010

Look for a New York Auto Show debut for the 2011 Kia Optima.

If the name, Kia, calls to mind cheap and cheerful subcompacts, you might think again after checking out these renderings of the new midsize sedan the Korean carmaker plans to unveil at the upcoming New York Auto Show.

Kia has been making a move up-market, it recent years – though not quite as successfully as its sibling, Hyundai.  The new model, which replaces the outgoing Optima, could prove a big step forward for Kia.

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Set to reach dealer showrooms in the fall of 2010, the 2011 Kia Optima will be longer, lower and wider than the old model.  It features a “significantly longer” wheelbase than the old ’10 Optima, Kia says, (though it’s holding hard numbers for the NY Auto Show preview).  That should translate into a fair bit more interior passenger and cargo space.  The comparable Hyundai Sonata, for example, slips into the EPA “Large Car” category in terms of cabin room, though it sits on a midsize platform.   (more…)