The 2013 Kia Optima has some of the same proportions as rival mid-size sedans like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Volkswagen Jetta; but thanks to a finessed profile and more importantly a set of crisp, edgy, and well-coordinated details, the Optima looks original as well as far sportier than most other cars in this class.
While the Optima remains very closely related to the Hyundai Sonata, it couldn't be more different on the outside. The Optima's trim, somewhat Euro-influenced look is the polar opposite of the exuberant aero look that's all over the Hyundai lineup and in the Sonata. Up close, the Optima has some pleasing, distinctive contrasts, with the rather lower roofline, stretched headlamps, and finely detailed grille. Yet the steetmetal alongside is simple and clean--and not unnecessarily sculpted.
The effect is a look that's focused, clean, and athletic yet also laid-back. About the only exterior detail we haven't warmed up to is the side 'vents' (plastic inserts) at the back of the fender--an element of busyness in a design that's otherwise clean and simple.
The cabin design and interior appointments are a fine match for the exterior; it's not quite the design standout of the exterior, but a big set of gauges and a wide rectangular bank of controls canted toward the driver amount to a simple, elegant look--somewhat like that of Audis but with a little less polish and a lot less clutter. Some of the materials and trim combinations tend toward the drab side, though.
This year may be telling for the Optima. For 2013, with the introduction of all-new versions of the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima--all more daring designs than their predecessors--Kia may be an all-new 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.