Frankfurt Auto ShowKia Motors Corp. debuts the new Magentis sedan at the Frankfurt auto show today, with plans to launch sales in Europe next spring.

The European Magentis, sold as the Optima in the U.S., is a complete redesign for the ’07 model year, with larger dimensions. The car also offers the choice of three new engines (two gasoline, one diesel) and four transmissions: a 5-speed and 6-speed manual and 4-speed and 5-speed automatics.

Kia says the D-segment model does not share a platform with sister company Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd.’s new Sonata sedan, which has a shorter wheelbase and front double-wishbone suspension vs. Magentis’ McPherson strut setup.

“(The) new Magentis is an exclusively Kia product, independently developed and built on the new MG platform, and is not related to the Hyundai Sonata, which uses a different wheelbase and suspension systems,” Kia says.

New Kia Magentis/Optima

The MG chassis also will underpin the revised Kia Carens multipurpose vehicle, which is said to be U.S.-bound.

Magentis and Sonata do share some engine and transmission components.

Kia will offer nine derivatives in Europe. They include:

  • GL and GLS trims for the 2L DOHC 4-cyl. continuously variable valve timing gasoline engine, with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.
  • GL and GLS trims for the 2L SOHC 4-cyl. CRDi diesel engine, with a 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic gearbox.
  • GLS-only trim for the 2.7L DOHC V-6 CVVT gasoline engine, with a 5-speed automatic as the only available transmission.

The two automatic transmissions offer driver-controlled sequential manual gear selection and have higher top gear ratios – 0.728:1 (5-speed) and 0.712:1 with the 4-speed mated to the 2L gasoline engine, or 0.731:1 mated to the diesel mill – for improved fuel economy at cruising speeds, Kia says.

The new 6-speed was developed at Kia’s Namyang research and development center and includes a triple axis gear train and multiple-cone synchronizer on first and second gears, allowing for faster, smoother shifts. A spring-loaded safety collar is employed to prevent accidental engagement of reverse gear.

Kia’s new 2L diesel has a variable-geometry turbocharger and is complaint with Euro4 emissions standards. Kia says it is similar to the Sportage’s diesel mill.

The engine features second-generation common-rail fuel injection, a variable geometry turbocharger and a diesel particulate filter as standard. Preliminary results show a maximum output of 138 hp and 225 lb.-ft. (305 Nm) from 1,800-2,500 rpm.

An upgraded 2.7L V-6 all-aluminum Delta engine should generate 185 hp and 182 lb.-ft. (247 Nm) at 4,000 rpm, Kia says.

The 2L Theta gasoline powerplant is rated at 145 hp and 139 lb.-ft. (189 Nm) at 4,250 rpm. It is a version of the 4-cyl. “world engine” developed by Hyundai, DaimlerChrysler AG and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. The Sonata offers a 2.4L variant of the same mill.

Magentis’ 107.1-in. (272-cm) wheelbase is a 0.8-in. (20 mm) increase over the outgoing model.

The track is 0.7 ins. (18 mm) wider in the front and 0.9 ins. (22 mm) wider in the rear for “enhanced stability and ride comfort, together with a broad stance which pushes the wheels out to the sides of the vehicle,” says Kia.

Kia says the vehicle’s higher roofline, 0.3 ins.-2 ins. (0.8 cm-5 cm) taller than Mazda6, Mondeo, Peugeot 407 and Passat, creates more headroom for passengers, and the 14.8 cu.-ft. (0.4 cu-m) of luggage space is 9% greater than the previous Magentis, with the trunk able to hold up to four sets of golf clubs.

Kia calls Magentis’ new exterior look “modern, stylish, clean, elegant and purposeful…with no unnecessary over-ornate features.”

Notable are a sweeping C-pillar design, short front overhang and steeply raked windshield, large diameter alloy wheels, large dual-light black bezel headlamps and twin hood ridges that “sweep down to wrap around the horizontal-bar air-intake grille,” Kia says.

The top-of-the-line GLS with V-6 engine sports distinctive twin exhausts.

Kia says the Magentis prototype has received a positive response at consumer clinics in the U.S. and South Korea, with participants describing the Magentis as “simple and clean.”

The Magentis’ interior boasts “Europe-only” front and rear seats, which have a slightly lower backrest, larger side bolsters on the cushion and backrests and a longer cushion.

Only the diesel-powered models initially will have the seats standard, with a rollout planned for all Magentis European models later in 2006.

The interior of the models sporting the special seats will be black or a black and gray 2-tone vs. the beige and gray interiors set for the North American Optimas. And for the first time, Kia will use white-blue illumination colors on the instrument panel read-outs.

Safety-wise, active front head restraints will be standard on the front seats of European models. Four-channel, 4-sensor antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard on all Western European Magentis models. An electronic stability program is optional.

Dual front and front side airbags are standard, while A-, B- and C-pillar curtain airbags are an option.

Kia says the Magentis is aimed at 30- 45-year-old “family men with young children and a dynamic lifestyle.”

Developed in the U.S., South Korea and Germany, the new Magentis is expected to achieve improved sales for Kia in Europe, despite a shrinking D-segment.

Kia is the second-fastest growing brand in Europe this year. Along with Hyundai, sales are up 20.7% calendar year-to-date in Western Europe, the largest increase of any brands selling in the region.

Kia is earmarking the majority of Magentis output – 75,000 units – for the U.S. under the Optima marque, with 9,000 set for Europe and 15,000 for all other markets. The auto maker expects the 4-door sedan to sell best in the U.K., Germany, France and Spain.

The Magentis’ primary European competitors include the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Mondeo, Toyota Avensis and Renault Laguna.

The vehicle is manufactured at Kia’s Hwasung 3 assembly plant in South Korea, which also builds the Opirus/Amanti luxury flagship sedan.

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com