We've already seen Kia unveil three new products in this year alone, but don't expect the Korean automaker to leave it at that. By 2013, the vast majority of the company's U.S. portfolio will be under three years old, meaning we're about to see a number of significant updates, launches, and refreshes in the next few years. Here's a quick look at what the company has planned for the future.
Rio: Kia's smallest car offering is due for a redesign, which may launch in 2011 as a 2012 model. Like the current car, the next Rio will be offered once more in both sedan and four-door hatchback forms. We wouldn't be shocked to see the new car use the same direct-injection, 1.6-liter I-4 that will likely also power Hyundai's next Elantra; expect that engine to be paired with both six-speed automatic and manual transmissions.
Forte: Presently sold as both a four-door sedan and a two-door Koup, look for the Forte lineup to gain an additional variant -- a four-door hatchback -- later this year. Engine offerings will remain steady with the 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter I-4s, but both six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are expected to join the lineup. Although launched in 2010, the Forte's lifecycle is surprisingly short. The model may be replaced in a scant three years, and some reports suggest the car could be renamed at that point.
Optima: The new Optima was unveiled earlier this year, marking a significant departure from the stale sedan it replaced. Since it shares its architecture with Hyundai's shapely Sonata, the Optima will also borrow its powertrain -- all four-cylinder engines -- from its corporate cousin. Most models will use a 200-horsepower, 2.4-liter direct-injection I-4, while the sport-tuned Optima SX will receive the 274-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4. A hybrid model is reportedly also under consideration.
Cadenza: Set to arrive in 2011 as a 2012 model, the stylish Cadenza is designed to replace the aging Amanti sedan. Like its predecessor, the Cadenza will be a front-wheel-drive offering powered by a V-6, and will slot into the portfolio just above the new Optima. Expect Kia to push the envelope with this model, as it hopes the car will help shift the brand further upscale.
K9: Helping Kia in that quest to move upscale will be the K9, the brand's first foray into rear-wheel-drive sedans. Expect the model to utilize the architecture used in the Hyundai Genesis, and sport similar engine choices (a V-6 and small V-8), along with an eight-speed automatic. Expect this car to launch by 2013, but don't expect the dog-like name to stick, at least not here in the U.S.
Dedicated Hybrid: Although the company has toyed with hybrid versions of existing models, it's rumored that Kia could move to develop a dedicated hybrid offering, much like Toyota's Prius or Honda's Insight. That said, it might be hard to establish a business case for such a project, seeing as the Prius has a virtual chokehold on the segment, especially in North America.
MINIVANS AND SEGMENT BUSTERS
Soul: Kia's boxy hatchback was launched in 2009, but don't expect a world of change in the next few years. A mild update, including a new front fascia, is slated to arrive next summer, but an entire redesign isn't expected until 2014. Don't, however, expect the funky Soul'ster pickup/convertible/SUV to join the lineup.
Rondo: The unusual mini-minivan will continue in its current form through 2013, at the very least. If a replacement is approved, expect it to be a new model based upon the European C'eed hatchback.
Sedona: Unlike its corporate sibling, the Hyundai Entourage, Kia's minivan will soldier on for a few more years. Production of the current model is scheduled to end in 2013, but it's uncertain if the company is planning a follow-up.
SUVS AND CROSSOVERS
Sportage: Kia's compact crossover was completely overhauled for the 2011 model year, but is already starting to inch its way to showrooms across North America. The new model features much more dynamic styling, and an all-new powertrain lineup, including a 176-horsepower, 2.4-liter I-4. The next major update will come later this year, when the sport-tuned SX model gains Hyundai-Kia's 274-horsepower, 2.0-liter I-4. A facelift may emerge for the 2014 model year.
Sorento: Kia's midsize crossover is new for 2011, although it technically launched late last year. The Sorento now sports a unibody structure, along with a new powertrain lineup, which includes a 2.4-liter I-4 and a 3.5-liter V-6. Look for a mid-cycle facelift to debut in 2013.
Borrego: Kia's big, body-on-frame SUV missed the wave, as it reached the market just as high fuel prices stalled SUV sales. While the model was only officially sold in 2009 and disappeared for 2010, the Borrego may re-emerge as a 2011 model. Kia's product planners tell us it's not set in stone quite yet, but if it does, expect it to largely mirror the 2009 models in terms of both content and powertrain.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)