he long, elegant chrome arch that sweeps back from the front of the glasshouse to the rear lights instantly marks the Optima
out as something special in a sector where utilitarianism often prevails. It’s a car that embodies the confi dence of the burgeoning Kia brand: where previous Kia saloons conformed to ideas of value and functionality, the Optima is stylish, athletic, and muscular. It conforms to European premium brand design values, yet is still allied to Kia’s usual high value offering of low running costs and superb economy. Design teams working in Frankfurt, Germany, and Irvine, California were given the challenge to bring a car to life that would inspire customers who had never considered a Kia in this segment before. The shift in recent years from a purely rational brand to one that highly values beautiful, distinctive design has resulted in a succession of new cars that all deliver a ‘must have’ quality. Sorento, Soul, Venga, Sportage, Picanto, Rio – each new model has changed the way buyers perceive the marque.
BUMPER TO BUMPER Looked at front-on, the high, pronounced shoulders fl ow seamlessly between the sculpted front and rear light clusters, giving the Optima a muscular appearance that is refl ected lower down in bold, fl ared wheel arches. The Kia family ‘tiger nose’ is at its most assertive on the Optima, fl anked by powerful headlights and a deep front spoiler with two sleek slashed LED lightbars, making the Optima instantly recognisable. At the back, a creased bootlid lip and long, cutlass-like rear lights sweep up then meet the sharply pointed end of the chrome arch, ensuring the Optima fi nishes as distinctively and dramatically as it starts. But it is also a car with movement: with a coeffi cient drag fi gure of Cd 0.29 (down from 0.32 for the previous generation model) refi nement, performance and fuel economy are all enhanced. The Optima ‘2 Luxe’ and ‘3’ grades add further exterior styling features, which include sculpted body side sills and bumpers and a unique radiator grille fi nished with a chrome and black radiator surround, while 18” alloy wheel designs with fl at blades ensure the feeling of muscular style is carried on throughout the car.
CRITICAL ACCLAIM 3. 1.
RIGHT: (1) Xenon headlights with auto levelling, front headlight washers and fog lights;
(2) LED rear combination lights (3) 18” alloy wheels
The clever blend of simple and fl uid lines and elegant but uncomplicated shapes has attracted the attention of design afi cionados: when it was initially unveiled at the 2010 New York Auto Show, the Optima immediately began to draw praise from the critics. ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘the best car to come out of Korea yet’ were among the comments made, and these were to be repeated when the Optima made its European debut at the Paris Motor Show Salon later that year. In 2011, the Optima was named Best of the Best in Germany’s Red Dot design competition, which attracted nearly 4,500 product entries from all aspects of life, not just the automotive sector. But the motoring media has been equally effusive in its praise. Autocar said: “Like most of the latest Kia’s, it’s very handsome. I suspect that if you parked this Optima beside a BMW 5 Series (a genuine competitor in size and quality) many fair-minded people – perhaps a majority – would say the Kia looked better and classier. And it looks the part, really standing out from the crowd with its clean-cut, stylish lines.” The Daily Telegraph summed up the car simply: “The Optima looks good, with taut lines and a sharp European-style nose thanks to design chief Peter Schreyer.” Standing bumper to bumper with luxury saloons from leading marques, the Optima leaves a hugely favourable impression. ■