Kia Optima To Challenge Premium Mid-Size Leaders
- October 3, 2010
- Awards, Hyundai, Kia, New Model Introductions
- Posted by George Peterson
- Comments Off on Kia Optima To Challenge Premium Mid-Size Leaders
Kia Becomes Instantly Relevant in the Premium Mid-Size Segment The new Kia Optima is set to challenge the top of the premium mid-size car category with its 3rd generation 2011 model year version due out by the end of 2010. The Optima is arguably the most strikingly gorgeous cars in the class. It looks upscale, elegant, sporty and highly desirable.
Optima is a sibling of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata that set records in AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. The Sonata became the top scoring vehicle EVER in AutoPacific’s research and won AutoPacific’s first-ever President’s Award. Part of the reason Sonata won was because of its aggressive styling which was important to its buyers and highly satisfying to them. Over time, though, the swoopy Sonata styling may wear a bit thin even as it sells over ten thousand cars a month. Optima looks just as modern and contemporary, but more elegant. Optima may have more legs. We’ll have Optima’s VSA results in April next year.
Optima Sales Will Increase Kia Volumes by Over 50,000 Units Per Year Optima will be largely incremental to Kia in the USA. All previous Optima sedans have been cyphers – not really competitive. Just good, basic value transportation. This new Optima moves Kia into the big leagues. Kia will be fighting with the rest of the world for Optima output so its volume cannot match that of Hyundai with its Sonata production here in the USA, but selling 120,000 Optimas a year is not out of the question.
Optima’s specifications somewhat read like a copy of the Sonata’s… sorry. Optima is a large mid-size sedan powered by a 200-horsepower 2.4L 4-cylinder engine. A month after launch a 274-horsepower turbocharged version of the engine – with 2.0L displacement will be launched. The base engine gets 35 mpg on the highway and the turbo is expected to get 33 mpg. The base, base, base transmission is a 6-speed manual available only on the base car. All other models get a smooth shifting 6-speed automatic.
The styling of the Optima is classic. It has Kia’s new face – the tiger nose grille, distinctive headlamps, and a contoured hood. Mounted behind the front wheel openings are air extractor trim pieces (ala Ford Taurus SHO) that provide an upscale touch to the car.
The Optima has a very fast four-door coupe-like silhouette and short decklid. The roofline is accented by a bright strip running from the A-Pillar to the C-Pillar – another upscale design cue. We are always leery of fast A-pillars especially in mid-size cars because they are supposed to be easy to get into and out of. Ease of use is paramount.Even with the fast A-Pillar on the Optima, sliding into the car is a snap.
Inside the car is comfortable and spacious. The cockpit is well laid-out with good attention to ergonomics. We would have preferred a larger 8-inch navigation screen, but that Kia has gotten in the NAV game so quickly we can understand that they may be a bit behind.
Target Buyer – WIKI WIKI GenX The target buyer spans the age group from 35 to 49 years of age – Generation X. They are about industry average in affluence with household incomes in the $70,000 – $100,000 range. Kia describes them as tech savvy WIKI WIKIs (hurry, hurry) meaning they are always in a hurry and live a hectic lifestyle. Buying the Optima will help them mellow out through its comfort, ease of use and outstanding style.
Nit Pick – Red Fonts on Black Background Kia has fallen into the same trap many automakers do with red fonts on black backgrounds in their instrumentation. The red graphics in the center of the Optima’s speedometer probably look really great on a designer’s computer screen, but in the real world, in bright sunlight they wash out and become invisible. This basic PowerPoint 101 lesson has been wasted on many in the automotive design community. Maybe all their cars are designed under cloudy skies.