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New York Auto Show 2008 – A Pair from Kia

Kia‘s New York auto show stage held both concept and production surprises. We believe that the KOUP concept, though too cutely named, hints at the next-generation Spectra. Kia described the KOUP as “closer to production than you might think,” strongly hinting Kia may add the coupe itself. The production surprise was the facelifted 2009 Optima. This new look takes Optima a step forward.

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Kia KOUP: Is there a pocket rocket in Kia’s future?

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2009 Kia Optima gets a fresh look


KOUP: Nicely Done Pocket Rocket. As significant as the company considering a front-drive coupe to fill any space the end of the Hyundai Tiburon and, to a much lesser extent, the dropped Toyota Celica might have filled is that the KOUP does show one future for Kia’s overall design and the next Spectra sedan and hatchback in particular.

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The KOUP sports a very aggressive split frame front fascia, with a lower section vaguely reminiscent of the latest Mitsu Lancer and flanked by chrome-trimmed air ducts. Though the headlights are narrow like the 2009 Optima, they have a more geometric treatment.
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The engine under KOUP’s hood may arrive with the new Spectra, even if the KOUP didn’t make the cut. It also says Kia might take a shot at the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, Subaru WRX, and some special versions of the Chevrolet Cobalt. The KOUP sported a turbocharged, direct-injection version of the company’s Theta II 2.0L DOHC 16v I4 pumping out a respectable 290HP through a six-speed automatic transmission. Other uplevel features sported on the concept were adaptive front lighting and adaptive cruise control, though these and the Continuous Damping Control system might prove too expensive for an inexpensive boy-racer. The safety set was straightforward, adding nothing new to Kia’s arsenal but checking all the boxes.
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Kia described the interior as “realistic,” and it was for a show car. The shapes and design elements could translate well into production; though Kia described the materials as high style, they didn’t look like they were priced out of range, particularly for a pocket-rocket version of the next Spectra.
Kia Optima: Facelift for 2009MY. This fall, Kia dealers will be pushing an updated Optima, one that sports a sharply different look from the current car. There is an all-new 175HP 2.4L DOHC 16v I4 for the base car and a new SX trim level. The 182HP 2.7L V6 continues. While the V6 offers more torque, the improvements to the I4 probably make that the better all-around engine for this car.
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Styling changes like the extra width in the front lower grille and the narrow headlights make a more refined look. Along the side there are wider side sills and in the rear a sharper edge to the decklid, and taillights narrowed like the headlights. The SX takes black bezeled grille and headlights, turn indicators on the side mirrors, and seventeen-inch wheels. Though there isn’t any measurable change inside, the new fascias contribute to a two-inch-longer car and better-proportioned stance. The new instrument cluster takes barrel-shaped gauge housings and red backlighting. The SX gets black leather and aluminum trim, metal pedals, and a different meter cluster. All in all, the facelift does just what it is supposed to: Refines the edges of the package to maintain interest over the waning years of its lifecycle.
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