Malibu? Nope. Accord? Nope. Altima? Try again. Fusion? Close, but nope. When it comes to the most daring and distinctive take on family sedan styling today, Kia’s got the market cornered with the all-new Optima.

When the original launched, it didn’t just push the affordable sedan styling envelope, it gave it an atomic wedgie and popped it in the kisser. For years, shoppers after a sedan that didn’t look like something Maud Flanders would drive gravitated towards the Optima, largely because it looked boss, had lots of goodies, didn’t have an appendage-severing price tag, and, as an added bonus, drove pretty darn good, too.

This time around, Optima’s design team has knocked it out of the park once again. The top-line tester, an SXL Turbo priced a hair under $38,000, was set off with daring sculpts, dual exhausts, piercing bi-xenon headlamps flanking a signature grille, and an angular sharpness and detailing at virtually every edge that was once the stuff of concept cars. From the chrome-lined greenhouse, to the ‘turbo’ badged fender vents, to the protrusion of the forward roof area into a notch at the upper edge of the windshield, many of this machine’s styling touches could do double-duty in a far pricier ride any day of the week.

On board? Pick nearly any part of the cabin for investigation with the eyes and fingertips, and you’ll notice touches of modern flair, quality and attention to detail. Metallic-trimmed window switches. A stitched dashboard. Trimmings of various textures, colors and lusters layered, one over the next. Seats even get quilted leather, which was once reserved mainly for cars owned by people who had money fights. Those seats are heated and chilled, power-adjustable, and memory-linked, too. In all, walking up to your Optima, then opening the door on its new cabin, should easily stir a sense of pride.

Feature content abounds: there’s a massive panoramic sunroof, a vivid and potent Harman Kardon stereo with Quantum Logic processing (ensuring all of your tunes sound killer, no matter their source), and a big central command screen underlined with logical tactile buttons for easy navigation and minimal levels of learning curve–related anger. Control interfaces spill down onto the centre console, with various controls integrated around the shifter plate. Among these is the drive-mode selector, which switches the Optima from an eco-cruiser into a riled-up sports sedan with a click.

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