Kia Motors introduced the 2016 Kia Optima at the New York International Auto show a couple of weeks ago as part of an effort to revitalize the brand. As the lesser arm of the mighty Hyundai Motor Group, Kia Motors has struggled to distinguish itself from the South Korean automotive giant’s larger arm (by which we mean Hyundai itself, of course). Kia owes a lot to Hyundai, having been rescued from bankruptcy and absorbed into the conglomerate back in 1998. Kia first introduced its rebranded Hyundai Sonata in 2000 as the Kia Optima in North America, and Kia has since been doing what it can to set the Optima apart from the Sonata and other midsize sedans, in much the same way it’s trying to distinguish itself from Hyundai.
Recently, the Optima has transformed into the manufacturer’s leading seller. Kia wants 2016 generational change for the Optima to be a demonstration of the company’s maturity, and, as part of that effort, Kia sought to make the Optima more luxurious, roomier, tech-heavy, and slightly more aggressive (borrowing some design cues from its larger K900 and Cadenza). The Optima still maintains the look and feel of the highly successful previous generation, but offers an array of changes, both in aesthetics and performance. The Optima sits on a new larger chassis and offers new engine and transmission choices. The engine choices include a 7-speed 1.6-liter turbo, a 6-speed naturally aspirated (non-turbo) 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, and a 6-speed 2.0-liter turbo capable of generating 247 hp.
Kia made sure to step-up the tech offered within the Optima and shows off what consumers can expect to be included in future Kia models. This includes a 360-degree surround-view camera system, UVO2 infotainment, Clari-Fi audio, and the new mobile telematic operating systems offered by Google and Apple. This will be the first of Kia’s vehicles to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but Kia plans to have these operating systems included in its entire lineup over the coming years. The two information technology giants will compete to be the preferred user interface and operating system for vehicles for model generations to come.
After well over a decade of impressive year-to-year growth, the good times are starting to slow a bit for Kia. In a calculated effort to ensure that year-to-year sales growth continues, Kia has unleashed a full-on generational change for its flagship model. Kia has ensured that the Optima remains as recognizable as ever, but has made enough changes to show that the company has matured from where it was even 5 years ago, when the last generation of the Optima was released. For the many who are interested, you can expect the 2016 Kia Optima this coming fall. You can check our 2016 Kia Optima Preview for more details.
What do you think of Kia’s new Optima?
Note: You can see lots more photos and cars from this year’s New York International Auto Show in the NYIAS web site’s Vehicle Galleries, and we’ll share more coverage from the show next week.
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