Asian automakers provide fresh styling

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DETROIT --- We have spent the past few weeks looking at what the auto manufacturers have in store for 2011. We wind up this week with the smaller Asian companies, including the luxury makers:

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Kia has made its Optima sleek and thoroughly modern.  Kia
Kia
Kia has made its Optima sleek and thoroughly modern.

Acura

TSX: Acura's entry-level small car gets a refresh including front and rear fascia styling, grille and updated taillights. Engine and transmission improvements raise gas mileage. The car also gets an acoustic windshield and thicker rear side glass to reduce noise, and improved sound insulation for underbody panels.

RL: The large luxury sedan gets a six-speed automatic transmission to improve acceleration and mileage. It gets a new front fascia and grille.

Infiniti

G: Nissan's Infiniti luxury brand plans a higher-performance version of its G coupe.

M: Infiniti has redesigned its flagship M sedan for 2011. It has a more powerful, 3.7-liter V-6 engine and a new 420-horsepower, 5.6-liter V-8. It also has several new safety features, including a blind spot warning system and an exclusive "blind spot intervention" system that returns the car to the center of the lane if it senses unintended drifting.

QX56: This SUV has a unique design that pairs the rounded Infiniti front with the squared-off back end of a Ford Flex. It has a 5.6-liter V-8 with 25 percent more horsepower and 14 percent better fuel economy than its predecessor. Nissan says it also has improved the frame for a quieter, more comfortable ride.

Lexus

CT 200H: The hybrid wagon, smaller than the RX, comes to the U.S. early next year. It has a 1.8-liter four-cylinder mated to an electric motor. In a sport setting, the car adjusts the hybrid system and steering to be more responsive to the driver.

IS 350: Besides minor updates, the midsize sedan gets an all-wheel-drive option and a sport package with bigger wheels and a tuned suspension.

LFA: The first supercar from Lexus. A decade in the making, it has a 4.8-liter V-10 with 552 horsepower, and can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. It's made with carbon fiber reinforced plastic, which reduces weight. Lexus began accepting orders in October 2009 and plans to make only 500 LFAs over 25 months beginning in December. The starting price is around $350,000; a racing version to be produced in 2012 will cost more.

Kia

FORTE FIVE-DOOR -- South Korea's Kia adds a five-door hatchback to the Forte compact line, which also includes the Forte sedan and Koup two-door. The five-door has the same engines: a 156-horsepower, 2-liter I4 or 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder..

OPTIMA -- The midsize sedan has been completely redesigned and will offer hybrid and turbocharged versions, both a first for Kia. The Optima has a new standard four-cylinder engine. The Optima is longer, wider and lower, and has a distinctive chrome arch over the side windows. Inside, it is going for a luxurious, European look. One stylish touch: paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

SORENTO -- The 2011 Sorento crossover is the first vehicle to come out of Kia's first U.S. plant, in West Point, Ga. Unlike its predecessor, which was built on a truck platform, the Sorento is built on a car frame for improved fuel economy. It's longer, lower and roomier inside. Kia says the new 3.5-liter V-6 has 276 horsepower. It has an optional panoramic sunroof, another first for Kia.

SPORTAGE -- The compact crossover has gotten a complete redesign. It's been lowered and comes with a four-cylinder engine that gets more power and better fuel economy -- up to 31 mpg -- than the previous V-6, and a new transmission. A turbocharged version will be available later in 2011.

Mitsubishi

OUTLANDER SPORT: New for 2011, the small crossover is shorter than the regular Outlander, without the third row of seats. It has a 148-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder engine.

LANCER: The small sedan gets options, including an Evolution GSR with Sun and Leather package that upgrades the interior with the manual transmission.

ECLIPSE: Starting price drops by $1,700. All Eclipses get a black painted roof, and the ride height drops for a sportier appearance and better aerodynamics.

Scion

TC: Toyota has redesigned the best-seller in its youthful Scion lineup, the tC coupe. A new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine has more horsepower and better fuel economy. It's mated to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The suspension has been tuned for sportier driving. The tC has new standard safety features, including knee air bags for the front passenger and stability control.

IQ: The tiny city car will arrive from Japan early next year. It looks a lot like the Smart car, but has four seats, carefully arranged so that one adult and one child or pet can sit in the back seats. It has a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that gets around 90 horsepower.

Subaru

LEGACY: The midsize sedan gets standard power moonroof and fog lights, previously options, and the interior gets small upgrades. The 2.5-liter GT Premium is canceled.

FORESTER: The small sport utility vehicle gets a new engine for the 2.5X model. The new engine has a timing chain rather than a belt to turn the overhead camshaft.

IMPREZA WRX: The diminutive screamers share a wide-body design with the WRX STI, the line's top performer, including a four-door. The cars get stiffer rear subframe bushings. The STI gets a retuned suspension with stiffer springs and thicker stabilizer bars. The Impreza 2.5 GT model was discontinued.

Suzuki

KIZASHI SPORT: The midsize Kizashi gets a sport package in 2011 with a lower grille, trunk-mounted spoiler and 18-inch wheels. The Kizashi starts at $18,999.


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