What is it?
Until recently, car makers worried by aggressive attacks on their export sales by the Koreans, especially Hyundai and Kia, could fall back on the 'ugly' defence. Sure, the Asian creations are reliable and affordable, they'd loftily assert, but who wants a car that looks like that?
The new Kia Optima saloon, new in the US and due in the UK next July, destroys that defence completely. Like most of the latest Kias, it's very handsome. I suspect that if you parked this Optima beside a BMW 5-series (a genuine competitor in size and quality) many fair-minded people – perhaps a majority – would say the Kia looked better and classier. And we're talking here about a car whose predecessor had a starting price of around £17,000, and which when it arrives won't go far into the £20,000s.
Kia's abrupt transition began at the beginning of the decade, but has come about mostly since the arrival of ex-Audi design chief Peter Schreyer, who has surrounded himself with multicultural talent.
So dominant is the styling of this new Optima that you're apt to miss its other achievements: excellent interior quality, greater depth of equipment and decent dynamics. An afternoon's driving at the end of the LA motor show confirmed its basic abilities.