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About KiaMost Americans were unfamiliar with Kia, South Korea's oldest motor company, before the mid-1990s.The company got its start building bike parts in 1944, graduated to motorcycles in the late 1950s, added trucks in the 1960s, and began producing Kia-branded Mazdas in the 1970s. In 1986, the first Kia-built car would arrive in North America--the Mazda-designed Ford Festiva (aka the Aspire).
In 1994, the Sportage SUV and compact Sephia formally went on sale at four dealerships in Portland, Oregon. The Sephia would enjoy a decade-long run before being discontinued in 2003, while the Sportage would remain a permanent fixture in the Kia lineup, and an electric version is planned.
While Kia kept its focus on the economy segment through the 1990s and into the 2000s (the 2001 Rio had the lowest price of any new car, at $8,595), quality was continually improved, and a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty was offered on all... View more cars in 2001. The Spectra, produced from 2000 to 2009, was Kia's first attempt at sportiness and featured a suspension tuned by Lotus Engineering. The Forte Koup, released in 2008 (and also available as a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback), replaced it.
Kia's 2006 rebranding effort included the signature "Tiger Nose" grille, which is now used on all Kias, and a push for more distinctive styling all around.
The Optima is Kia's mid-size car, and it has been in production since 2000. In 2010, a brand-new, sleekly styled version was released, featuring the Tiger Nose grille and a wide, smooth hood. Standard features on the current Optima include Sirius satellite radio, six-speaker stereo, and iPod and Bluetooth connectivity.
Kia has announced that they will cease production of their Sedona minivan in 2011. The Sedona has been in production since 1998.
The largest of the Kia lineup is the mid-size crossover Sorento. Released in 2002, the Sorento was actually substantially lightened in 2009 and is no longer marketed as an SUV. The 2011 Sorento is noted for its superb safety ratings. The vehicles are built at Kia's production facilities in West Point, Georgia.
In 2010, Kia released the Soul, a compact car with upright, boxy styling reminiscent of the Scion xB and the Honda Element. A hybrid prototype version was shown at the 2008 Paris Motor Show.
Fellow South Korean automaker Hyundai purchased a majority stake in Kia in 2008. The resulting company, Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, represents the fourth-largest car company in the world, behind Toyota, GM, and Volkswagen. The name Kia can be loosely translated to mean "rising out of Asia". View less
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