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All-new Kia Optima to swerve Australia

Kia has no plans to introduce striking fifth-generation Optima mid-sizer to Australia

13 Nov 2019

KIA has unveiled the first production model to feature its new ‘Tiger Nose Evolution’ design language with the K5, a South Korean market version of the fifth-generation Optima mid-size sedan that will not be coming to Australia due to a lack of right-hand-drive production.


So far only the car’s swoopy new fastback exterior has been revealed, with teaser sketches issued in recent weeks suggesting the cabin layout will reflect the BMW-like design of Hyundai’s closely related Sonata that is due to launch in Australia before this year is out.


Compared with the conservatively styled but hi-tech Sonata, the new Kia has a purposeful, almost muscle-car-like front-end with big, bluff air intakes bookended by scoop-like brake ducts and narrow headlights that result in more of a shark-nosed than tiger-nosed look, juxtaposed against flowing curves of the K5’s bodywork.


Kia describes the design as “a wide, three-dimensional design which integrates the grille and headlamps more organically than previous iterations”.


The squiggle-like LED daytime running light graphic is dubbed “heartbeat”, presumably referring to the display of a heart-rate monitor. These light strips extend above the wheel-arches, ending parallel to the point where Kia has pinches in the rear fenders to create haunches similar to those of the larger, rear-drive Stinger.


Although the new K5 is referred to as a fastback, unlike the hatch-backed Stinger it remains a sedan with a stubby boot lid – similar to a Tesla Model 3 – at the bottom of a large rear windscreen.


Kia describes the K5 as having “new frameless windows” although shut-lines in the supplied images appear to contradict this claim. A chrome strip running above the side glass sweep above the aforementioned rear haunches and loops around the rear deck.


A slender, full-width LED tail-light cluster begins and ends with a similar “heartbeat” motif as used up front, linked by dashed line of red lights that accentuate the new model’s 25mm greater width, up to 1860mm between the mirrors.


The overall length is now 2850mm – 50mm more than before – and the wheelbase is 45mm longer, while the low-slung new roofline has resulted in a 20mm drop in overall height to 1445mm.


When it goes on sale in South Korea next month, the new K5 will be offered with a range of machine-cut alloy wheel designs including gloss black and two shades of grey, with sizes from 16 to 19 inches in diameter.


In March, Kia Australia confirmed it would cull the under-performing Optima and was considering the future of four-cylinder Stinger models given overwhelming customer preference for high-end V6 variants.


Just 369 Optimas have been sold in Australia year-to-date, making it by far Kia’s least popular model here (save for a half-dozen remaining Rondo people-movers that shuffled out of showrooms).


For comparison, Hyundai sold 764 Sonatas and will remain Australia’s go-to brand for South Korean mid-size sedans when the new model arrives with a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine.


A powerful and innovative hybrid version of the new Sonata is also under review for this market as a potential opponent to Toyota’s popular petrol-electric Camry.

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