Like makers of other products, car manufacturers conduct market research to determine what kinds of people are likely to buy their vehicles. When they present the results of that research at a launch event for a new or redesigned vehicle, we journalists are shown photos of beautiful people surfing, browsing antiques, or entertaining friends in their expensively-furnished urban homes.
The reality, of course, is that no matter how much money someone spends on a new car, they (and it) will probably spend more time stuck in workday traffic or rushing to their kid’s hockey practice than they do buying pricey, artfully distressed furniture.
Kia, however, takes a more realistic view of who it expects to buy its redesigned Optima family sedan. People shopping for this type of car apparently enjoy walking and hiking, traveling within Canada, going to movies and–are you sitting down for this?–baking from scratch.
These are all perfectly fine activities, but certainly more ordinary than what we normally hear from an automaker promoting its newest design which, for Kia, doesn’t push boundaries. Styling evolved from the outgoing Optima (introduced in 2011) hides the fact this car has been significantly re-engineered, riding on a wheelbase stretched 10 mm. There’s also 10 mm more overall length, but most dramatic is a body 30 mm wider, an increase emphasized by styling that, as one writer in the room said, makes the car look “a foot wider.” That is what Kia’s designers were going for, said Kia Canada’s PR boss: to create a dramatic look that impresses when viewed in other drivers’ rearview mirrors.
There are other elements worth looking at, too: simple taillights effectively link the Optima to other recent Kia designs like the Sedona minivan and Sorento SUV, and all models trade fog lights (which are not offered on any trim) for functional air ducts (they’re more obvious on SX and SXL models) to aid aerodynamics and help cool the front brakes. They also make the car look a bit more Camry-esque than Kia would probably like to admit.
Maybe there’s something to that resemblance. Kia names Camry as one of its key competitors here, along with the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and the Optima’s platform twin, the Hyundai Sonata.
Interestingly, Kia includes a drivetrain choice that its Hyundai parent has not yet built into the Sonata line: a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder engine matched with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The same combo is, however, available in Hyundai’s Veloster Turbo and in certain versions of its new Tucson crossover.