New Kia Optima promises wide-ranging improvements

Better chassis control, better steering and a new dual-clutch gearbox should cure some of the current Optima's ills

Kia has released comprehensive details of its new Optima range-topper, which makes its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show on September 15.

As Kia’s flagship model, the company has introduced a host of new technologies with the latest car, and claims improvements in safety, handling, performance and emissions over its predecessor.

What hasn’t changed significantly – and arguably didn’t need to – is the new Optima’s styling. As with the outgoing model, the latest Optima was designed under guidance from Peter Schreyer, who serves as both President and Chief Design Officer at Kia and Hyundai.

Kia calls the look ‘evolutionary’, building upon its predecessor’s neat proportions and sharp lines with fresher detailing and a marginally elongated silhouette. Dimensions have grown only slightly – the wheelbase, body and height have all increased by 10mm, to 2805mm, 4855mm and 1465mm respectively.

Width has also increased, by 25mm to 1860mm, which has liberated extra interior volume and greater boot space. Visually, Kia says the changes have helped introduce ‘a more swept-back, dynamic shape’.

That dynamic form includes the latest version of Kia’s ‘tiger-nose’ grille, wider headlamps and more prominent edges to the front bumper. The Optima’s glass area is similar to that of the last model – retaining the neat, Jaguar XJ-style flash of chrome down the edges of the rear windscreen – while new LED tail lamps make the rear end more distinctive.

A side-effect of the revised styling and longer profile is a subtly improved drag coefficient, from 0.3 to 0.29 Cd.

The body shell itself is 50 per cent stronger with 50 per cent greater torsional rigidity than before. The recurring number theme continues, with over 50 per cent of the structure formed from ultra-high tensile steel – a side-benfit of which is the structure’s 8.6kg lower weight, and improved noise, vibration and harshness characteristics.

It also provides a solid base for a revised suspension setup. Suspension is fully-independent all-round, with different mounting points and improved bushing mounts to yield a smoother ride and improved steering response.

Kia also promises greater stability, greater feel from the electrically-assisted steering (a significant downside of the current system) and quicker responses. Optional electronically-controlled dampers, tuned to the tastes of European drivers, will allow drivers to select sport and normal settings.

Kia is yet to confirm the latest Optima’s UK engine range, but a development of the old 1.7-litre CRDi turbodiesel is sure to carry over. It gains a new turbocharger and lower-friction pistons in the latest car, with a higher output the result – 139bhp rather than 134bhp, and a boost in torque from 240lb ft to 251lb ft.

Of particular note is a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which should be a marked improvement over the old six-speed torque converter automatic. CO2 emissions also benefit, at 116g/km compared to the old car’s 156g/km. A six-speed manual is also available.

Technology is a major aspect of the new car. As well as improving the cabin’s materials, look and feel, Kia has loaded the Optima with the latest connected technology.

The first of these is a choice of 7- or 8-inch touchscreen infotainment systems, complete with navigation and digital radio. Connected services by TomTom are also available, with live traffic updates, speed camera alerts, local search functions and weather forecasts. Six-speaker audio is standard, while a 10-speaker Harman Kardon Premium Sound system will be an option.

You’ll also be able to charge your phone wirelessly, in a new cubby hole at the base of the centre console. Once again, UK specifications are to be confirmed, but Kia notes that 360-degree cameras, automatic parking and Dynamic Bending Headlamps will also be available in some markets.

The new Kia Optima will go on sale in Europe in the fourth quarter of this year, and retain’s Kia’s 7-year warranty. If the revised engine and improved handling result in a better drive than before, the Optima could finally be of interest to enthusiastic drivers in need of a family car on a modest budget.

Recommended

576bhp Kia EV6 GT revealed – Tesla Model 3 rival to pack a punch
576bhp Kia EV6 GT revealed – front quarter
Kia

576bhp Kia EV6 GT revealed – Tesla Model 3 rival to pack a punch

Kia’s gone big with its new EV. The EV6 GT packs major performance into a sleek and aggressive body
30 Apr 2021
Next generation BMW 7-series spied – flagship saloon to once again set the tone for future models
Next generation BMW 7-series spied – front quarter
BMW 7 Series

Next generation BMW 7-series spied – flagship saloon to once again set the tone for future models

All-new saloon to feature IC and EV powertrains, but once again it’ll also lead the way aesthetically
16 Jun 2021
Updated in-line six Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door revealed – hybrid V8s still to come
Mercedes-AMG GT53 MY22 – front tracking
Mercedes

Updated in-line six Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door revealed – hybrid V8s still to come

GT43 and GT53 4-Doors receive a refresh while we await the arrival of the V8 hybrid GT73
14 Jun 2021

Most Popular

New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring revealed – now available in manual and PDK
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring – rear profile
Porsche 911 GT3

New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring revealed – now available in manual and PDK

The Touring pack has returned, combining the 992 GT3’s set-up with more understated looks
15 Jun 2021
The reluctant LaFerrari driver – evo archive
evo archive – LaFerrari truck extraction – stop!
Ferrari

The reluctant LaFerrari driver – evo archive

How do you get a £1million hypercar out of the back of a delivery truck? Very, very, slowly…
15 Jun 2021
Triumph Lynx – Dead on arrival
Triumph Lynx
Features

Triumph Lynx – Dead on arrival

With a 3.5-litre Rover V8 under the bonnet and TR7 fastback styling, the Lynx could have been British Leyland’s answer to the Ford Capri
18 Jun 2021
MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn
MAT Stratos – front tracking
Lancia

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn

It’s been a long time coming, but this Ferrari F430-based reimagining of the Lancia Stratos is finally here
11 Jun 2021
Used car deals of the week
Used car deals
used cars

Used car deals of the week

Here's what caught evo’s fancy this week on the second hand car market
17 Jun 2021
Next generation BMW 7-series spied – flagship saloon to once again set the tone for future models
Next generation BMW 7-series spied – front quarter
BMW 7 Series

Next generation BMW 7-series spied – flagship saloon to once again set the tone for future models

All-new saloon to feature IC and EV powertrains, but once again it’ll also lead the way aesthetically
16 Jun 2021
Hyundai i20 N revealed – Ford Fiesta ST rival priced from £24,995
Hyundai i20 N car pictures
Hyundai i20 hatchback

Hyundai i20 N revealed – Ford Fiesta ST rival priced from £24,995

N division's second model set to shake up the junior hot hatch establishment
17 Jun 2021
BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance
BMW M5 CS – front cornering
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance

Nonsensical on paper, but sublime in practice. Never has a modern supersaloon been more tactile or more engaging
14 Jun 2021
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition – slide
Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act

Immense performance from about the coolest modern muscle car out there. It’s expensive, but there’s nothing else quite like it
12 Jun 2021
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?
Audi RS3 manufacturer spy 1
Audi RS3

2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?

Audi Sport is putting the final touches on its new RS3 hot hatch and saloon
10 Jun 2021
Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement to be revealed June 24
Ferrari F171 spy 2021 – header
Ferrari

Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement to be revealed June 24

Ferrari’s going hybrid and V6 for its next mid-engined supercar
16 Jun 2021
Updated in-line six Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door revealed – hybrid V8s still to come
Mercedes-AMG GT53 MY22 – front tracking
Mercedes

Updated in-line six Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door revealed – hybrid V8s still to come

GT43 and GT53 4-Doors receive a refresh while we await the arrival of the V8 hybrid GT73
14 Jun 2021
2022 Polestar 3 teased – all-new Audi e-tron rival a stepchange model
Polestar 3
Polestar

2022 Polestar 3 teased – all-new Audi e-tron rival a stepchange model

Yes, it’s another electric SUV, but this one will be the first ‘true’ Polestar
17 Jun 2021
Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers
Tesla Model S Plaid
Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers

The long-awaited Tesla Model S Plaid has finally come to fruition, with first US examples hitting the road
11 Jun 2021