THE next Kia Optima has similar proportions to the car it replaces – although not as wild as the Optima-based Sportswagon concept unveiled at the Geneva show – and will arrive in Australia in late 2015.
It features a more sporty look to offset its wider stance, keeping the raked A-pillar and sweeping C-pillar that has defined the model.
According to Kia, improving the Optima’s ride and handling was a top priority for engineers.
It claims the chassis is lighter and stiffer, “resulting in improved steering response, high-speed stability and handling”.
The current Kia Optima, on sale here since 2010, is powered by a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, stepping up performance to 136kW and 241Nm.
Also joining the range will be the grunty 182kW/352m 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine that arrived with the latest Hyundai.
The US-market Optima will also feature a new 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The Korean carmaker previously used a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox on the Kia Ceed sold in Europe.
It is understood this engine and gearbox will not come to Australia. Instead, the Optima sold here will use a six-speed automatic.
Inside, the Optima features more driver focus, with a strong horizontal plane and a wider centre console.
Kia has targeted the number of buttons in the cabin, and grouped what is left together, giving the interior a much cleaner look.
The Optima will also become Kia’s technological showcase.
In the US, versions of the car will automatically send the owner a text message if it strays outside a defined area, brake automatically if it thinks the driver is about to rear-end the car in front, and features dual HID headlights with a cornering function.
The Optima is also the first Kia model to use carbonfibre-reinforced plastics – a feature normally found in more expensive luxury cars – to support the optional panoramic sunroof.
Kia says this helps to cut weight and lower the centre of gravity, improving the Optima’s cornering performance.
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.