We return to the story of Kia’s midsize and bigger sedans as we speak, across the level when Kia discovered itself below the watchful eye of Hyundai. The bigger South Korean firm bought a controlling stake in its competitors in 1998, which meant large modifications to Kia’s product virtually instantly after.
The union led to the primary full-size luxurious sedan Kia developed from the bottom up, the Opirus (Amanti to you). It turned out the Amanti was the by-product and slightly ugly sedan few in North America desired, although it fared a bit higher elsewhere. However by the point the Amanti arrived, Kia was already promoting a brand new midsize that North People did need. Let’s speak Optima.
The Optima was Kia’s first midsize publish merger with Hyundai, and it was developed on a reasonably brief timeline. Optima was a substitute for the uninspired Credos, an outdated Mazda 626. To create the Credos, Kia took the 626 and changed the entrance and rear clips, in addition to the inside. Then they turned it into an unsuccessful wagon and up to date it additional to look extra like a Ford Mondeo. The Credos by no means made it to North America, and few missed it when it exited manufacturing in 2000 (2001 in some markets).
The premise for the brand new midsize Optima was the shared Hyundai-Kia Y4 platform, referred to as MS in Kia utilization and EF at Hyundai. The brand new platform was a continuation of the Y sequence from Hyundai, which was carried out in its first iteration (Y2) within the 1986 Grandeur, the later Sonata, and the Santamo (Mitsubishi Colt). All these vehicles had been gentle reworks of Mitsubishi merchandise and the last word supply of Hyundai merchandise for a while. The Y was and is a lineup of platforms slightly than one explicit platform.
With the Hyundai-Kia Y4 period of platforms (1997-2008), Hyundai started to drive product in their very own route and away from sizzling takes on Mitsubishi automobiles. And just like the Opirus shared its platform with the extant Hyundai Grandeur, the Optima shared its platform with the Hyundai Sonata.
In contrast to the Opirus that was allowed to debut properly earlier than the brand new era Grandeur (Azera), Hyundai was much less beneficiant with its midsize platform automobile. The Sonata debuted first in 1999, with the Optima following in 2000. Hyundai’s generosity with styling freedom was additionally restricted for the Optima, because it debuted largely as a entrance and rear clip swap and rebadge of the Sonata. Comprehensible because the Sonata was undoubtedly already finalized when Kia joined the crew.
The Sonata was supposed to maneuver Hyundai towards engineering independence and to make its midsize providing rather more aggressive. The fourth-generation automobile used a double-wishbone entrance suspension and an impartial multilink setup on the rear. It was notably bigger than its predecessor and provided a extra trendy engine lineup. All examples of the Sonata and Optima had been front-drive; all-wheel drive was not out there. Engines had been all-new era Hyundai wares and had been eliminated considerably from the Mitsubishi clones provided within the third-gen Sonata.
Engines had been similar between the Sonata and Optima and started at a 1.8-liter inline-four from the Beta household. There was additionally a 1.8 from the second era of Sirius engines, on license from Mitsubishi. There have been 2.0-liter variations of Beta and Sirius engines as properly, although the previous was solely offered within the Chinese language market.
The most important inline-four was a 2.4-liter of Sirius lineage. The V6 choices had been two, and each from the Delta household. Delta was developed independently by Hyundai, and its two V6 mills had been of two.5- and a couple of.7-liter displacements. Three transmissions had been on supply: A five-speed handbook, the America-preferred four-speed computerized, or a CVT.
The Sonata and Optima had been similar in wheelbase and exterior measurements, however the Optima assorted fairly a bit from its Mazda-derived predecessor. Wheelbase elevated about an inch and a half (to 106.3″) within the new Optima, whereas exterior size remained precisely the identical at 186.8 inches. And although overhangs had been lowered, the Optima grew wider than the Credos, at 71.5 inches over the outdated sedan’s 70.1″. The extra upright roof meant a slight improve in peak, from 55.1″ to 55.9 inches.
In comparison with the outgoing Credos, the brand new Optima regarded rather more cohesive. Headlamps had been bigger and wore sharper angles as Kia exercised their very own styling language round this time. The angled egg-crate grille was modified barely from the Credos for Optima utilization and bought thicker slats and extra chrome.
The Optima had outlined creases alongside its hood and physique and misplaced the pulled, stretched look of the Credos. Recall the Credos was an outdated Mazda 626 beneath and was stretched fairly a bit by Kia who desired a roomier automobile with a big trunk. The Optima’s character line ran from the nook of the headlamp all the way in which to the rear, and carried on by the pull-style door handles that changed the doglegs of Credos.
The Optima had extra chrome trim basically than Credos, and it regarded rather more intentional in its placement. The upright roof was extra outlined than the Credos and wore sharper angles on the C-pillar. Kia was restricted on their rear finish styling to a clip swap, so was unable to implement the lengthy rear overhang and massive trunk it desired.
Whereas the Sonata wore some rounded rear lights that had been upright and “Euro luxurious” trying, the Optima went for bigger horizontal lenses that had been decidedly sportier but additionally pretty ugly. Lenses had been joined by a chrome bar, and the sharply creased trunk wore a giant Kia brand within the center. It was a decidedly much less formal look than the Credos, which carried rear styling extra in keeping with what was featured on the brand new Sonata.
The Sonata existed in its authentic guise solely from 1998 to 2000; its brief life meant the facelifted 2001 to 2004 model was the one everybody remembers as we speak. In the identical manner, the Optima used its preliminary styling from 2000 to 2001 and was facelifted in 2002.
Hyundai/Kia was into the quad headlamp look utilized by different producers (Mercedes-Benz, Lexus) round that point, and added it to the Sonata and Optima of their respective refreshes. The Optima’s authentic headlamp lenses had been reduce practically in half, as an extra ovoid lamp appeared on both facet proper subsequent to the grill. The grille transitioned into a really terrible chrome vertical bar design that yr and went with none Kia badging. The physique of the Optima stayed the identical, however the giant rear lamps grew even bigger. Although their form was the identical as earlier than, they misplaced their former ribbed look and went clean.
Kia wasn’t proud of the Optima’s refresh, in order that they refreshed it once more for 2004. Designers honed in on the ugly grille, which modified as soon as once more. It went again to a horizontal format with three chromed bars. They had been spaced pretty far aside and left a variety of open space within the grille. A Kia badge appeared within the center as soon as extra.
However irrespective of the trim fiddling and grille swaps, an unlucky truth concerning the Optima (and Sonata) remained: They had been unsafe. In 1999 and 2004 the IIHS examined a Sonata, and it scored a Poor within the facet influence check, Poor for head restraints and seat management, and Common within the average entrance overlap check. The entire rating was considered one of 5 stars.
That didn’t cease the unfold of the Optima all over the world, although. It was a really profitable automobile for Kia and was really the corporate’s first world sedan. Along with South Korean manufacturing on the Hwaesong plant that continued by 2006, it was inbuilt China from 2004 by 2011. Russian model Avtotor constructed a licensed model as properly, in Kaliningrad.
Unique manufacturing of the Optima was supposed to finish in 2005 with the launch of the second era, however meeting issues pressured it to proceed for a part of the 2006 mannequin yr. Optima’s substitute (referred to as Magentis in South Korea) had a late manufacturing begin in November 2005. The concurrent Sonata wrapped its manufacturing on time in 2005, because it was inbuilt a unique plant to the Optima.
Subsequent time the sequence will return to Kia’s full-size choices, as the corporate tried to get better from the final flop which was the by-product Opirus. See you then.
[Images: Kia, Hyundai]
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