The Korean automaker Kia Motors began the production of Kia Optima in 2000. A mid-size four-door sedan was marketed worldwide under various nameplates. In Europe and Canada the first generation cars were sold as the Kia Magentis. The second generation models were known under the Kia Lotze and Kia K5 names in the South Korean market, and the Kia Magentis names globally. In the United States and Malaysia the mid-size sedan was marketed under the Kia Optima name. The first generation Kia Optima models came as a rebadged version of the Hyundai Sonata and differed from the Sonata only by minor changes of exterior parts and range of equipment. The engine choices included a 2.4L Sirius I4 engine produced 149 hp and a 2.7L Delta V6 rated 185 hp. Both 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual transmissions were available. The United States models received a redesigned grille with Kia badge in 2003 and restyled headlamps in 2004.
The second generation Kia Optima went into production in November 2005. Unlike the first generation models and the original Hyundai Sonata, the new Optima vehicles were based on a global platform, which was unique to Kia and specially designated to Kia Magentis in order to enter the large MPV segment of the European market. Due to a new longer platform, the Kia Optima had a 3-inch longer wheelbase and targeted a large MPV segment of the American market. Nevertheless, the Kia Optima continued to share the power-train with Hyundai Sonata, that is a 2.4L inline-four engine producing 175 hp, 5-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission or 5-speed manual transmission. The Kia Optima received 5 stars for the crash test according to NHTSA, and 4 stars as per EuroNCAP. In 2008 a revised and updated Kia Optima debuted at the New York International Auto Show. This update 2009 model was redesigned under the supervision of Kia's chief design officer Peter Schreyer, also a former chief designer for Audi and Volkswagen. New exterior parts were tail lamps and front-end styling. The interior main changes include a Sirius Satelite Radio/MP3/CD with an auxiliary jack and a redesigned instrument cluster. The new Theta II I4 engine power is increased. The 2.7L V6 engine has few changes, though its power is increased. Five-speed manual transmission is standard in the base models. A proximity key with push-button start and paddle shifters on SX models is added to the 2010 models.
The third generation Kia Optima debuted at the 2010 New York Auto Show. The new Optima is completely redesigned under the leadership of Peter Schreyer and comes with much sleeker and sportier design. A new, known as the Tiger Nose corporate grille is offered. The Kia Optima follows the new Kia's design language unveiled with Kia Sorento and Kia Forte. Three trim levels are available: the base LX, upscale EX and sporty SX models. The sedan is equipped with a naturally aspirated 2.4L I4 engine rated 200-hp, and a turbocharged 2.0L version of the same engine producing 274-hp. It is the first Kia's turbocharged application in the United States and first to come with a gasoline direct injection engine. Both power-trains are mated to 6-speed automatic or manual transmissions. The base LX model has standard 6-speed manual transmission. The Kia Optima has a class leading power and fuel economy characteristics. The advanced safety features are ESC and ABS brakes, dual front airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. The SX models add carbon insert and black hybrid metal trims, a rear spoiler and metal pedals. The heated steering wheel, cooled front seats, heated front and rear seats, and panoramic moon roof are available.
The Kia Optima has made a significant impact on its drivers by being a sharp and accommodating midsize that can do it all. There is enough room and refinement inside to promote a feeling a luxury not usually associated with this model. From the high-quality materials to the ultra-comfortable seating, there is a lot to like with the interior from behind the wheel or in the backseat. It can perform with conviction on the highway in a tight jam or you can just set it up to cruise the quiet countryside. Versatile, eclectic, and a bit classy, the Optima scores big points across the board. Still a viable presence on the road to this day, drivers of the Kia Optima tend to add on their own custom accessories and parts to further the legacy.
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