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New York show: Kia opts for Optima

Going Optima: Kia's new mid-sizer is likely to be called Optima when it slots into the line-up in place of Magentis.

New Optima emerges to replace Magentis as Kia also unveils Cerato hatchback

Kia logo5 Apr 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

KIA’S New York Auto Show presentation might have been relegated to the second day of the Manhattan motor show on Good Friday eve, but the Korean sister company to Hyundai appears determined to avoid also-ran status with its Magentis replacement, which will bring crisper styling, new turbo-petrol and diesel engines and a hybrid version in 2011.

Revealed in the US alongside the first five-door version of Kia’s Cerato sedan, which will also go on sale in Australia this year, the Magentis successor will wear an Optima badge in all markets globally – except Korea, where it will be known as the ‘K5’.

Kia Australia marketing manager Steve Watt confirmed the company’s redesigned mid-size sedan is likely to revert to the Optima name used previously here, when the slow-selling Magentis is replaced in the last quarter of this year.

“The Magentis replacement will be one of our biggest launches in 2010,” said Mr Watt.

“As far as the name goes we have a couple of options available to us and Optima is most certainly on the table. Magentis was quite a different car and represents the Kia of old.”

Kia Australia has confirmed the new Cerato five-door will join the Cerato sedan on sale here in October, shortly before the Optima’s final-quarter release. Kia’s new Sportage compact SUV is undergoing hot-weather and suspension testing in Australia and will beat them both to market locally in the third quarter.

Mr Watt indicated all three models could be covered by an unprecedented new seven-year warranty, which is likely to be adopted as a key brand pillar for Kia in Europe and is also under consideration for Australia.

“A seven-year warranty has been on our agenda for about 18 months and is certainly a device we’re looking at,” he said. “We believe our current (five-year) warranty is already industry-best and the cost of extending that could be potentially very big.

“It is currently being costed out and a decision will be made later this year.”

17 center imageLeft: Kia Optima. Below: Kia Cerato Hatch.

Apart from a rear hatch, the five-door version of the four-door Cerato, which is known as the Forte elsewhere, adds a new front bumper and grille, centre console, paddle shifters and satellite-navigation option to the Cerato menu.

Priced from $19,990, the Cerato sedan is available in Australia only with a 2.0-litre petrol engine, while the Cerato hatch will also be produced with 1.6 and 2.4-litre petrol engines – the latter only for North America - mated to new six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

However, Kia’s biggest New York news is the new Optima, which is claimed to bring new levels of style, performance and features compared to the current Magentis. Last priced at $23,190 for the sole 2.4-litre petrol LX version, the Magentis was discontinued here last year, when it found just 276 Australian homes – 40 per cent fewer than in 2008.

Biggest addition for the 2011 Optima sedan, which was revealed ahead of its New York debut, is the same new turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine that emerged a day earlier in parent company Hyundai’s all-new Sonata, which will be known as the i45 when it goes on sale here in June.

While Australia’s engine line-up is yet to be confirmed, the 206kW turbo-four will make the Optima Kia’s most powerful ever D-segment (mid-size) model. The first Kia application of the Hyundai group’s GDI direct-injection petrol technology will be the headline act of no fewer than six new Theta II family engines to be made available in the new optima outside Europe.

Australia’s Optima is likely to at least come with Hyundai-Kia’s new 150kW 2.4-litre Theta II GDI direct-injection petrol four and could return diesel power to Kia’s medium sedan locally via a version of the 1.7-litre VGT CRDi turbo-diesel engine that will be sold in Europe. Multi-point fuel-injection versions of the 2.0 and 2.4-litre Theta II petrol four will also be offered outside Europe.

Kia also announced in New York that it will release its first hybrid in the US, based on the new Optima, in 2011. It will employ the same 2.4-litre petrol-electric drive system as the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which appeared at New York alongside the turbocharged 2011 Sonata 2.0T, but the Australian future of both ground-breaking Korean hybrids remains unclear.

The “design-led transformation” of the 2011 Optima, overseen by Kia Motors Corporation’s chief design officer Peter Schreyer, was done at Kia’s styling studios in Frankfurt (Germany) and Irvine (California).

At 4845mm long, 1830mm wide and 1455mm high, Kia’s newest medium sedan rides on a new mid-size platform with a 75mm-longer 2795mm wheelbase and is 45mm longer as well as wider and lower than the Magentis it replaces.

“The Optima is a new strand in Kia’s evolving design DNA with a blend of simple and fluid lines and elegant but uncomplicated shapes that draw the attention of the eye in much the same fashion as a perfectly-tailored fine Italian suit,” said Mr Schreyer.

“From the distinctive sweeping chrome accent that stretches through the C-pillars to the sleek greenhouse and flared wheel arches, every inch of the Optima projects a distinguished and refined style and extreme attention to detail.”

The Optima will come standard with dual exhaust outlets, solar glass, indicators in its wing mirrors, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support, illuminated vanity mirrors, trip computer and an eight-speaker ‘Dimension’ AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with auxiliary, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, plus voice control on some models.

Other standard Optima equipment will include a tilt/telescopic steering column, power door locks, power windows, sun visor extenders, an air-conditioned glovebox, cloth seat trim and a 60/40-split rear seat.

Auto-levelling HID headlights, LED tail-lights, a unique grille, rear lip spoiler, sculpted side sills, “aero” wiper blades, red brake callipers, foglights, heated exterior mirrors, chromed or body-coloured door-handles and 17 and 18-inch alloys wheels will also be fitted to upstream models in some markets.

Other optional Optima features will include push-button starting, dual-zone automatic climate-control, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, automatic headlights, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, rear reading lamps, unique black leather woven seat trim, black interior trim with carbon inserts and metal accents, alloy-faced pedals and illuminated door scuff plates.

Also attempting to promote the Optima as a driver’s car will be a cockpit-style interior featuring sports instrumentation, paddle shifters, a high console with short gearshifter and the option of a panoramic glass sunroof, full leather trim, driver’s seat memory, a heated steering wheel and – at least for Europe and North America – a voice-activated satellite-navigation system with seven-inch screen.

Kia says the sleeker new Optima bodyshell is more aerodynamic than before and employs high-tensile-strength steel to enhance structural and torsional rigidity and reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels, while sub-frames support the multi-link rear and MacPherson strut front suspension systems – the latter aided by an anti-roll bar.

The standard safety kit will comprise six airbags (including dual front, seat-mounted front-side and full-length side curtain airbags), electronic stability/traction control, ABS brakes, brake assist, hill-start assist, active front head restraints, height-adjustable front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, five three-point seatbelts and tyre pressure monitoring.

“The next-generation Optima possesses the power to surprise,” says Mr Schreyer. “It’s a car that people will simply not expect from Kia – and that’s exactly what we set out to achieve.”

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