ATLANTA--Kia executives are counting on a new look for the Optima -- both inside and out--to lure shoppers away from the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
The South Korean automaker has gone for a more upscale European styling with the redesigned 2011 sedan, which begins arriving in showrooms in late October. The Frankfurt studio did the exterior, and Kia's Irvine, Calif., design team handled the interior.
Design features include a higher, more angled beltline; a chrome accent that extends from the base of the A-pillar to the rear of the C-pillar; and Jaguar-esque front fender vents.
The third generation of the mid-size sedan is wider and longer and sits lower than the outgoing model. The Optima also will be Kia's first vehicle offered in a hybrid-electric version early next year.
The basics: Kia's Theta II 2.4-liter gasoline direct-injection engine is standard on the LX and EX trim levels. The engine produces 200 hp and 186 pounds-feet of torque.
An optional turbocharged Theta II 2.0-liter GDI engine, which produces 274 hp and 269 pounds-feet, will be offered on the EX and will be standard on the top SX trim after the Optima goes on sale in late October.
A six-speed manual transmission will be the standard gearbox for the LX trim. A six-speed automatic will be an option on the LX and will be standard for the EX and SX trims.
The base 2.4-liter direct-injection engine is estimated to get 24 mpg in city driving and 35 on the highway with either transmission. The 2.0-liter turbo will get 22 mpg city and 34 highway.
Notable features: Kia designers angled the Optima's center instrument stack toward the driver, an unusual design touch that creates a cool, cockpit feel.
Interior features include an AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 capability, satellite radio, USB connection ports and an optional navigation system.
What Kia says: "Optima really presents a tremendous opportunity for us from a growth perspective because we do woefully little in the segment today," Tom Loveless, Kia's U.S. sales boss, said at a press event here. "We think we will become instantly relevant once that car is launched.
The market: Loveless said he expects sales of the 2011 Optima to be "incremental"--adding to the car's roughly 25,000-unit annual sales.
Kia has capacity to build about 75,000 Optima sedans in South Korea in 2011 and is considering additional capacity depending on improvement in the economy, Loveless said.
Prices have not been announced, but Loveless said the Optima will be priced at about the same level as the Hyundai Sonata, which starts at $19,915 for the base model and goes to more than $28,000, including shipping.