Hard to believe that it's been four model years (2011, 2012, 2013 and now 2014) since the introduction of the current-generation Kia Optima. Long a blandly-styled staple of rental fleets, the sleek, slick and super-sized new Optima knocked a lot of peoples' socks off and turned up the volume of the increasingly common question "No, seriously...that's a Kia?"
Most car guys spout phrases like "There's no substitute for cubic inches". Or "More power!" Well, that's great if you're paid to hammer cars around test tracks or back roads when the Highway Patrol (hopefully) isn't looking five days a week.
But what if you're Everyman, simply looking for the right car? For years, my answer to that one was "Honda Accord". That was back in the day when there was only one engine under the hood of an Accord...a four-cylinder.
As the Accord grew in weight and complexity, a six was the obvious answer. And, as recently as last year, we found that (especially as Honda finds its way back from the wilderness with a new and improved Accord) to be a fine engine.
If you live anywhere other than, oh, say...California...you could go a very long time without seeing a new Mitsubishi Lancer go by. In the Golden State, however, there are a fair number on the roads, and not all wearing bar codes in the rear window identifying them as part of the inventory of a rental fleet.
In fact, 2013 was a good year for Lancer sales...up significantly. On its face, that seems puzzling, since Lancer is in its eighth year without major changes. So what's going on?
Ten years ago, a compact Kia sedan was what you bought if you couldn't afford anything else. Hey, at least it had that 10 year/100,000 mile warranty.
Four years ago (this month, in fact), we wrote about the 2010 Kia Forte and how it had come from behind to be a legitimate contender in the small car field...something for Toyota and Honda to worry about.
Well, with the all-new 2014 Forte, the day of reckoning has arrived.