The stylish 2010 Forte Koup sets the tempo for Kia's future design.
Kia, known for forgettable styling, has created a buzz with the Forte Koup.
Kia's new design is part of an image upgrade. For example, the Forte replaced the Spectra nameplate. As vehicle redesigns arrive, expect other renamings.
"We want to leave the old baggage behind," says Michael Sprague, marketing vice president at Kia Motors America. "A lot of people don't know who we are anyway, so why not come out with new names like Forte?"
By the 2012 model year, nearly all of Kia's vehicles will be redesigned as the company emphasizes value-priced, fun-to-drive vehicles. For example, the five-door Soul crossover brings a new attitude to the brand and could be a real competitor for the Scion xB.
Kia will continue to emphasize value but has no plans to go upscale -- like its sister division, Hyundai.
Yang Woong-chul, r&d president for Hyundai-Kia Motors, says Kia will not focus on becoming a technology leader. It will be Hyundai's role to offer hybrids, plug-ins and fuel cells. Kia will concentrate on higher fuel economy for its gasoline-powered engines.
Here are highlights of Kia's plans for the United States for the 2010 to 2012 model years.
Rio: The Rio redesign is due for the 2011 model year; a more refined small car is expected.
Forte: The 2010 Forte sedan went on sale in June, replacing the Spectra. The Forte sits on a new platform. Compared with the Spectra, the Forte has more horsepower, better fuel economy and a longer list of standard equipment, such as antilock brakes, stability control and a Bluetooth wireless connection.
The Koup, Kia's first coupe, will join the Forte line in late August or September.
Soul: The youth-oriented, boxy five-door hatchback went on sale in February, taking aim at the Scion xB and Nissan Cube.
Kia hopes to generate buzz by periodically offering special editions. The first, called Denim, debuts this month. The car's body is blue, accented with white painted wheels and a white stripe along the roof and hood. Two other special editions are due later in the model year.
Optima: The mid-sized sedan will be redesigned for the 2011 model year. A 3.3-liter V-6 is likely to replace the current 2.7-liter V-6.