Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Kia Motors Corp. officials are optimistic about the prospects of producing the dramatically expressive Koup concept, unveiled at the international auto show here.

Adorned in electric red and sporting chrome wheels (with carbon-fiber inserts) and a sleek, sultry interior, the Koup answers critics that have bashed Kia as an economy-car and SUV producer with a vanilla lineup that lacks styling punch.

Derived from the Spectra platform, the Koup – if it sees production – would be Kia’s first 2-door model based on the 4-door Spectra.

Peter Schreyer, Kia’s senior executive vice president and chief design officer, says the South Korean auto maker could decide “pretty quickly” whether to produce the Koup.

If crowds rave about the Koup, and Kia gives the green light in the near future, Schreyer says the vehicle could be in production within “maybe two years.”

But Kia spokesman Alex Fedorak says the Koup could arrive sooner. “Quite possibly next year.”

Len Hunt, former KMA chief operating officers, told Ward’s in January that production vehicles based on the Koup and Soul would be youthful, Scion-like additions to Kia’s U.S. lineup.

Originating from Kia Motors America Inc.’s U.S. Design Center in Irvine, CA, the wedge-shaped Koup is intended to give the auto maker a youthful exuberance.

Power comes from a 2.0L Theta II turbocharged gasoline direct-injection engine capable of 290 hp and 289 lb.-ft. (392 Nm) of torque.

Also at the show, Kia unveils a refreshed ’09 Optima midsize sedan, set to go on sale in early fall. The exterior is completely modified at the front and rear.

Inside, the interior was tweaked for more refinement, and a new barrel-type instrument cluster adopts sporty red illumination. Sirius Satellite Radio also is offered free for the first three months. An optional in-dash navigation system is a first for the Optima.

The Optima resides in Ward’s Lower Middle car segment and placed fifth in sales in the U.S. in 2007, behind the Ford Fusion, Pontiac G6, Hyundai Sonata and Chevy Malibu.

KMA sold 40,901 Optimas last year in the U.S., up 6.5% from 2006, according to Ward’s data.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com