Calling the old Optima "mid-sized" was a bit of an overstatement. But that's precisely what we loved about it. It looked a little more compact and it certainly looked very sporty thanks to a more angular approach to its design.

With the new model, the same design language obviously still applies but it's more evolved, in an elegant sort of way. Which also means that some of those sporty characteristics such as the smaller grille, shorter shoulder line and what we think was a more aggressive rear end, are now gone.

Obviously the interior is much improved, and so are the gadgets on board as well as the engines but we can't quite shake the feeling that KIA intentionally made the Optima look less sporty.

It may have something to do with sales figures, as they're surely trying to attract more premium buyers, but in a way this strategy kind of brushes off those of us who were genuinely pleased by the design of the previous model.

Unlike the Sonata, the Optima has aged much better and the current model is still one of the sharper designs in the class. But Kia took the groundbreaking Peter Schreyer and then ruined it by glitzing up the details. Even on the more tame SX Turbo models, there's a whole lot of brightwork going on, more than on the new Cadillac CT6 even. And the SX Limited model is out of control. Even the 1997 Buick Park Avenue doesn't want those chrome wheels back.

It's a quality piece inside, though, and there's a bit more room here and some nicer finishes there. And it's all user-friendly, too. The interior is proof the Optima has really changed the most on the outside. It ticks the major midsize sedan boxes, and if the Sonata is anything to go by, it hits the market dead-on.

Kia has been upping its pricing and premiumness of late, so there's a big emphasis on the top-level models. And that means we should get used to Optimas that start to knock on the door of $40,000. It has a lot of stuff and it's a quality feel, but the Kia Optima ultimately plays to buyers who believe luxury means more of everything.


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