Korea's oldest automaker, Kia, has come a long way from its steel-producing, bicycle-manufacturing roots in the 1940s. After becoming part of the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group (now the fourth largest auto manufacturer in the world) in 1998, Kia began expanding more aggressively into new markets (Canada being one of them) and new vehicle segments.
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Like Hyundai, compact models were amongst the first to go on sale here. The '98 Sephia sedan took the lead. A five-door hatch followed in 2000 with the name Spectra. A year later, both got facelifts and the Sephia was name dropped in favor of Spectra, with GSX denoting the hatchback model. The Spectra got a final facelift in 2005 but was replaced by the 2010 Forte.
The Sportage compact SUV arrived here in 2001 with a two-litre four-cylinder engine and RWD or AWD options. Plagued by poor quality and recalls, however, it was shelved in 2002 while a rightful successor was developed. Its larger replacement arrived as a 2005 model with FWD or AWD and available V6. The Rio subcompact sedan also arrived in 2001, spawning an RX-V wagon for a few years. A redesign for 2006 brought back the sedan, while the wagon was replaced by a five-door hatchback.
Kia's mid-size family sedan through the last decade was the Magentis. Competing with Accord and Camry, it was launched in 2002 with 4-cylinder and V6 engines. For 2011, it gets a complete makeover and a name change to Optima, as it has always been called in the U.S., with turbo and hybrid versions to follow.
The V6-powered Kia Sedona minivan also launched in 2002 and was redesigned in 2007. The 2011 model gets more power and fuel efficiency from a smaller-displacement V6.
The Sorento mid-size SUV came out in 2003 and could comfortably even venture off-road, thanks to its automatic four-wheel drive system and ladder-frame design. The redesigned 2009 and onward models feature a unibody design, smaller, more powerful engines as well as front- or all-wheel drive powertrains.
Lasting from 2003 to 2010, the Amanti was Kia's full-size executive car that featured baroque styling cues. It will eventually be replaced by upcoming Cadenza sedan, similar in style to the new Optima but bigger.
The year 2006 is an important one as it put Kia on a totally new design path after hiring a new chief of design, Peter Schreyer, creator of the original Audi TT. His “Tiger Face” grille from the 2007 Kee concept vehicle has finally helped give the brand its own distinctive face moving forward.
Canada got the five- or optional seven-passenger Rondo for the 2007 model year. With 4-cylinder and V6 engine choices, it offers versatility and efficiency due in large part to consumer satisfaction. In 2008, Kia welcomed the 2009 Borrego full-size SUV featuring its first optional V8 engine and 7500-lb class-leading towing.
The Forte compact has been designed to attract a younger buyer, yet comes in four-door (from 2009), two-door Koup (from 2010) and five-door Forte5 (from 2011) variants to appeal to a wider audience. The 2010 Kia Soul was added to the line-up, its darling looks complemented by a choice of four-cylinder engine powering the front wheels.
Kia currently offers the subcompact Rio and Rio5, the compact Forte family, the mid-size Optima, the Soul crossover, the Sportage, Sorento and Borrego SUVs as well as the Rondo and Sedona people-movers.
Youth is certainly not eternal but at the same time, it is. Although you and I are getting older every day, at the same time someone new turns 20. It is for this group of buyers that Kia -- along with many other carmakers -- targets cars such as the 2014 Forte Koup.
Kia's still hard at work capturing consumers' hard earned attention. For a while, every new model released would garner much attention from both the automotive media and car shoppers alike. Then, little happened. Just as the wind seemed to leave the Korean company's sails, they've returned with a pair of compact cars that they hope will reignite the fire that once burned.
Here, multimillion-dollar homes and Mercedes-Benz vehicles are as common as dandelions on your lawn. When I stopped at a golf club to take pictures of the Kia K900, one member asked if it really was a Kia because it looked like his first BMW 750iL. Another member (this one female) asked what it was, as she thought she might like one.
The Forte5 hatchback is now powered by
the same engines and wears the same
clothes as its sedan sibling. Good looks
and lots of trim choices make the Forte5
a solid competitor.
The Forte Koup is now powered by the same
engines and wears the same clothes as its
sedan sibling. Good looks and turbo power
make the Koup a fun choice.
For value-oriented buyers, the Optima is
the handsome choice. And with a variety
of trims, consumers can find a blend of
economy, luxury, and sportiness not found
in other mid-size sedans.