The Kia Optima, in its current or past iterations, has never been much of a looker, but that appears about to change. With this New York Auto Show concept teased here in these photos, Kia shows that it's taking a completely new design direction with its upcoming, all-new 2011 Kia Optima.
The new concept shows a further evolution of the design direction that Kia has been following under design chief Peter Schreyer (formerly of Audi and Volkswagen), with some design themes that look Audi-like from some angles (especially from the side and rear) combined with details that we're now beginning to see as distinctly Kia—like the grille that's pinched in front, the swept-back headlights, and the prominent fog lamps in front.
No word yet on whether Kia, like Hyundai, will go with an all-four-cylinder lineup for the Optima this time. Although the two brands share the same parent company in South Korea, along with some of the same suppliers and facilities, Kia has managed to stay quite distinct and is trying to take a sportier, more enthusiast-flavored angle in the U.S. market.
Up until now, the Optima has been a half-step smaller than other mainstream sedans like the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. Kia hasn't released specs yet on the Optima, though it does say that the new model will be longer, lower, and wider than the previous model—likely placing it more in line with those other sedans—with a significant boost in wheelbase for a roomier interior and more cargo space.
While the new Optima looks intriguing in concept form, Kia has perhaps its most significant turn-around to achieve with this mid-size sedan, which has been about as bread-and-butter as they get. In TheCarConnection.com's Bottom Line on the Optima, we state: "The 2010 Kia Optima doesn't have the excitement of its newest small cars, the Soul and Forte, but it does have strong appeal based in practical attributes like interior space, comfort, and value for the money."
The current Optima has been relatively unexciting to look at or drive, to most tastes, and it hasn't offered the extensive list of factory options you see on most mid-size sedans, but it has a good safety record and is relatively refined and comfortable.