KIA Insider

2021 Kia Optima: Look Over Here, Please

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A decade — isn’t that hard to believe? — after the debut of the radically styled third-generation Kia Optima, the automaker has another salvo waiting to launch against midsize boredom. Trailing its equally daring 2020 Hyundai Sonata sibling by a model year, the revamped 2021 Optima ditches the downgraded clothes that appeared in its closet for 2016.

Like Hyundai, Kia feels that style is its best bet to capture attention — and buyers — as the midsize sedan market contracts.

The model seen here dons the name K5, which is what Kia calls the Optima in its Korean home market. Same car, same changes. Retaining the brand’s signature tiger-nose grille, albeit now an integrated design (Kia claims the grille mesh is modelled after a shark’s skin), the new Optima aims for a flat hoodline and a coupe-like profile. Like the Sonata, LED running lights extend quite far aft of the headlamps, in two diverging directions.

Out back, you’d be surprised to learn this is a sedan and not a liftback. The Optima’s abbreviated trunk lid gives the Lincoln MKZ a run for its money in the short-deck championships. A strip of chrome trim begins at the base of the A-pillar and continues all the way to the base of the rear glass, framing the roof with tinsel. Taillights span the width of the car, no doubt causing Corey to employ the horrid term “heckblende,” while a sporty rear bumper valance and slim (possibly faux) exhaust ports amp up the sports sedan appearance designers were clearly going for.

Bolstering these visual changes is a narrow waist created by bulking up the car’s fenders. Length is up 2 inches, with a corresponding increase in wheelbase. Roof height sinks eight-tenths of an inch, while width increases by about an inch.

Kia makes note of the car’s boosted visual muscularity compared to the outgoing model, which this writer last drove after leaving a rental lot. Kia would likely prefer that the new Optima take precedence over Camry and Accord in the minds of new car intenders, rather than simply tempt them at the rental counter. As for real muscle, there’s no word on engine availability just yet.

In the U.S., Optima sales peaked in 2015, with the model’s volume shrinking 36 percent between that date and 2018. Through October, Optima volume is down 5 percent for the year.

[Images: Kia Motors]

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