Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Kia Motors America Inc. unveils a sleek, all-new ’11 Optima midsize sedan that has undergone a design metamorphosis, compared with its staid predecessor.

“This is our most passionate design yet,” Michael Sprague, KMA’s marketing vice president, says at the New York International Auto Show.

Styling highlights include a sweeping chrome arc that flows from the A- through C-pillars. It is a design motif that visually lowers the car and enhances its proportions, says Peter Schreyer, chief designer for parent company Kia Motors Corp.

He says the design team also paid attention to the proportion of sheet metal to glass and the relationship of the hood to the deck. The car sits on an all-new platform, with a wheelbase that is 3 ins. (7.6 cm) longer than the outgoing model.

Other design standouts include an aggressive grille surrounded by projector headlamps, alloy wheels with a distinctive solid-spoke look and a panoramic sunroof.

“Doing a good design for a sedan is not easy,” Schreyer tells Ward’s. “To do a good sedan, designers need to have lots of experience, know all the tricks and how to get it balanced out.”

The Optima is the latest incarnation of Kia’s attempt to make its vehicles stand out visually. The South Korean auto maker has introduced eight redone models in the last 12 months.

“We established a reputation for value, quality and fuel efficiency, but we needed more,” Sprague says. “We needed emotion.”

Kia has yet to announce pricing for the Optima, which goes on sale in early fall in the U.S. There will be three trim levels and two engine choices: a 2.4L and 2.0L. A 2.4L hybrid will be introduced next year.

Also at the auto show here, Kia shows a ’11 Sorento SX cross/utility vehicle, freshened’11 Sportage compact CUV and 5-door Forte compact.