Kia’s Latest Optima Unveiled in Detroit
Reality and Fantasy on Kia’s 2006 North American International Auto Show Stand
Alongside a vision for a small car-based utility in the form of the Soul concept, Kia introduced the second generation of its Optima sedan at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents at the show have reported back on their first look.
The Optima was first launched for the 2001 model year, and is related to the Hyundai Sonata. After serving Kia well for a little more than five years, the latest version arrives at dealerships in spring 2006 as a 2006.5 model year vehicle. An international version went on sale in late 2005. Though the Hyundai Sonatas sold in this market are now built in this market and those sold internationally are built in Korea, Optima production continues solely in Korea.
Differences between the Optima offered in the States and that in international markets are minimal. Compared with the first generation, Optima brings a longer wheelbase and a some extra width, resulting in a bit more interior passenger room and more cargo volume in the trunk. The U.S. Optima is available with the Global Engine Alliance 162HP 2.4L DOHC 16v I4 and the updated 185HP 2.7L V6. The I4 can be had with a five-speed manual transmission, but most models will be equipped with the four-speed automatic.
The new Optima is no longer the clone of the Hyundai Sonata its predecessor was. Clearly, Hyundai Motor Corporation is using the introduction of the new Optima to further differentiate Kia from Hyundai. The new made-in-America Sonata is clearly more upmarket than the Optima. It is larger and has a larger V6 engine. While Kia likely would have preferred a larger, more powerful Optima, the new car will fit with its lineup strategy very well.
Updated Safety and Features
The Optima returns with six standard airbags, but all electronic driving aids are optional. These include anti-lock brakes, brake assist, traction control, and stability control. There are two trim levels, LX and EX, available with either engine. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows and locks, and a CD-equipped stereo, but uplevel features available on the top model include power adjustable pedals, leather seats, heated front seats, and a Homelink transmitter.
Sonata Keeps Clear of Optima
Though these two cars are related, the Hyundai offers much more standard equipment and the larger 3.3L V6. Kia Optima offers many of the same features as the Hyundai Sonata, much of it is not standard. In part, this helps Kia keep the base price of the Optima down and its reputation as a value entry, but offering more upscale appointments as you move up the price ladder can help keep Optima competitive with other well-appointed offerings. The overall strategy also helps Hyundai position itself as a notch above the Kia brand.