The 2012 Kia Optima is squarely in the same class with the likes of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and a host of other family four-doors, but there's very little square in the Optima's arresting profile.
Kia's distinct styling direction is a polar opposite of the exuberant, sculptural look that's all over the Hyundai lineup and the Optima's fraternal twin, the Sonata sedan. The Optima contrasts with a sporty, European-tinged look with a lower roofline, stretched headlamps, and a nifty upkick in its rear quarters. It's exciting--focused, clean, laid-back, with an athletic stance and flashy chrome wheels.
The interior's a fine match, with a big set of gauges and a wide rectangular bank of controls canted toward the driver, ersatz Audi with almost all of the sophistication and less clutter. Our only cautionary note is that materials and interior themes tend toward the drab side.