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2011 Kia Optima sets a New Standard in Design

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Text and photos by Cor Steenstra

As you may have noticed, I have clearly frowned upon new cars coming out with a distinctly bland and boring design in recent articles. Why? Because there is proof that it does not have to be that way. No, I don’t mean going to flamboyant extremes with over-styled surfacing or just plain weird graphics and detailing. It is possible to make a relatively conservative sedan design and still make it an interesting design statement. Enter the Kia Optima!

When we tested the previous generations of this Optima, it was a bland a boring, clearly cheap car. Kia did not have a good reputation to start with, and that Optima was not doing much to improve it. It was the cheaper version of Hyundai, and that was it. Since then, Kia has turned around. It does differentiate itself from its Hyundai brethren, but moved toward a more sporty image rather than a cheaper one.

Sharing the platform with the flamboyantly styled Hyundai Sonata, Kia was poised to take a more conservative style, but within that actually managed to create something that was more sporty, more ambitious, more substantial and more timeless. Kudos. The 2011 Kia Optima looks definitely better than its predecessor, but it does so much more. It has a new dynamic, yet timelessness about it, a subdued sportiness combined with fresh and original design detailing, that have you wonder why other manufacturers have not come up with that before, manufacturers who offer much more conservative vehicles at much overrated prices in the same category.

From my point of view, I think it was very wise from Kia to hire Peter Schreyer away from Audi, put him in overall charge at Kia Design, and let him run with it. The quality of Kia products had already come up with leaps and bounds as its sister brand Hyundai did, but it also has now developed a unique design language all Kia, an image that in the long run can make Kia a serious threat to many renowned brands they set their sights on.

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