Kia goals: Refine the ride, polish brand

Optima and Sorento have big roles to play

The 2015 Sedona will seat up to eight passengers.

The K900 flagship sedan and Cadenza large near-luxury sedan will be the last new nameplates added to Kia's lineup for the foreseeable future as the brand enters the next chapter of its product story.

The last five years of Kia's product cadence have seen spikes of new-model introductions or significant redesigns, followed by brief product lulls. Now, with its lineup almost completely fleshed out, Kia will have a steadier pace of about two major launches per year, each one seeking to make steady progress in refining the ride, handling, powertrains and technologies of the Kia lineup.

Kia also is determined to improve perceptions of its brand, and next year's launch of the next-generation Optima mid-sized sedan and Sorento mid-sized crossover will play a big role in that effort.

Here is a look at Kia's product pipeline.

Rio: Aside from a minor freshening due next summer, Kia's subcompact car won't get much attention until a re-engineered model arrives in 2017.

Soul: Kia's most iconic vehicle was redesigned and launched last October for the 2014 model year. For midcycle updates, Kia will continue to release special editions of the Soul every year or so.

Kia says the Soul EV gets 92 miles of range from its 27 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

Soul EV: A battery-electric version of the Kia Soul arrives this month. Initially, Kia will sell the Soul EV in California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. Kia says the car gets 92 miles of range from its 27 kilowatt-hour lithium polymer battery pack and can recharge in less than five hours using a 240-volt plug or 24 hours using a standard 120-volt outlet. 

Forte: Kia's compact car line was redesigned last year for the 2014 model year, so no major changes are scheduled until 2018, when the Forte is re-engineered. A freshening is planned for 2016. 

Optima: The next generation of Kia's stylish family sedan will go on sale next summer for the 2016 model year. Like Hyundai did with its 2015 Sonata, the next-generation Optima will ride on a carryover platform that's been modified for improved ride and handling and reduced noise, vibration and harshness.

The current lineup of 2.4-liter and 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines also will carry over. Big technology upgrades will include the addition of lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and adaptive cruise control. 

Optima Hybrid: The Optima Hybrid will follow about six months after the conventional car goes on sale. 

Cadenza: Kia's first big push into near-premium territory arrived stateside in April 2013 during the car's global midcycle freshening. That means the first-generation Cadenza will get a shorter life cycle in the United States than the usual five years and be re-engineered in 2016 for the 2017 model year. 

The second-generation Cadenza will get new sheet metal, and the car's platform is expected to be carried over from the current generation but overhauled for a more refined ride. The car's 3.3-liter V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission also are expected to be carried over, with some updates. 

K900: Like the Cadenza, Kia's K900 flagship arrived in the United States this spring in a launch that coincided with the car's global midcycle freshening. 

Despite sales of just 948 through July, the car is the linchpin of Kia's plan to improve its brand perception and will soldier on in the lineup. The sedan is scheduled for a redesign to arrive in the United States sometime in 2018; few, if any, updates are planned for the car until then. 

Sporty car: It's no secret that Kia design boss Peter Schreyer has long wanted to create a sporty car for Kia's growing lineup, especially a Mazda Miata-like convertible. But for now, it's a long shot. According to a source, Kia lacks the in-house engineering capability needed to design and build a convertible top, and outsourcing the part would be too costly for what would surely be a low-volume program.

Kia set industry watchers abuzz with its GT4 Stinger concept, a rear-wheel-drive sports coupe powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, revealed at the Detroit auto show. But the car is just a design exercise, Automotive News has been told, and there are no plans to produce it.

Sedona: Hoping to attract a new crop of families into its owner base, Kia will launch a redesigned Sedona minivan with new, muscular sheet metal this fall. 

The 2015 Sedona gains nearly 1.5 inches in wheelbase and an extra inch in overall length compared with the outgoing model, translating into more legroom. The new interior features an upright, SUV-like driving position with its shifter mounted low on the center console rather than on the dash. 

The minivan will seat up to eight passengers compared with the outgoing model's maximum of seven. All models come with standard third-row folding seats with a 60/40 split that can be stowed in the cabin's floor for extra cargo room. 

Under the hood is a 3.3-liter V-6 engine with gasoline direct injection paired to a six-speed automatic from Hyundai-Kia's global powertrain portfolio. It produces 276 hp and 248 pounds-feet of torque. 

High-tech options such as Kia's UVO eServices telematics system and active safety systems also will be available. 

Sportage: Kia's compact crossover will get new sheet metal in the fall of 2016 when the car is re-engineered for the 2017 model year. Because the current Sportage was designed around a new platform, its underpinnings will carry over into the coming generation, as will the current lineup of powertrains. 

Sorento: A re-engineered version of Kia's top-selling crossover will arrive in the first quarter next year for the 2016 model year. New sheet metal and a new interior will sit atop a modified version of the Sorento's current CUV platform, which was all-new when the current generation debuted in 2010. The powertrain lineup will be carried over.

You can reach Ryan Beene at

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