It would be easy to overstate the importance of design in a segment awash with subtly different variations on the same three-box theme, but under its chief design officer, Peter Schreyer, Kia has strived to alter public perception of its cars through bold styling, and the manufacturer’s return to the D-segment is clearly intended  to impress, following the ignominy of the oft-forgotten Magentis. Blessed with all the advantages of a clean sheet of paper, the design teams from Frankfurt and California have drawn sharply and sensibly from their respective ‘mood walls’. With high, hunched shoulders, a low glasshouse and that snarling ‘tiger nose’, the Optima is appropriately in vogue, but Schreyer’s gift for restraint means that its wedge-like stance is unadorned with superfluous lines.

Beneath this pleasing body lies an all-new platform that eclipses Kia’s previous effort to comfortably accommodate four adults. Closely related to the Hyundai i45 sold in the US, the Optima is longer and wider than the Magentis, but it’s the 75mm of extra wheelbase that mostly accounts for the expanded cabin and enhanced legroom.

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