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Snazzy styling, a first-rate interior, and an agile chassis make the Optima more than just another bland family sedan. Base models get a 192-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder, but turbo models have a 274-hp 2.0-liter four; both engines pair to a six-speed automatic. A hybrid combines a 2.4-liter four with an electric motor for 199 hp. We’ve found the hybrid a bit fussy but its fuel economy is improved over the gas version. As good as the current model is, an improved Optima goes on sale in late 2015.
The new car is swoopier and perhaps a tad more futuristic-looking than the previous model, losing a little bit of its Germanic presence in the update. The larger rear lights look more Tokyo than Teutonic, while the widened signature “tiger nose” grille suggests some sort of cybernetic unibrow. The greenhouse has more of a fastback lilt, and the larger daylight opening suggests better outward visibility at the cost of the last car’s perfectly modern proportions.
Kia claims the new body structure is 150 percent stiffer than the outgoing model’s. It also says it has stiffened the wheels, engine mounts, and body panels. The effort goes toward both quelling NVH and improving handling. Given that we were impressed by the new Sonata’s dynamic improvements, we don’t doubt that Kia has put in time in this arena, as well. Undercarriage upgrades include additional bushings on the subframe mounts, suspension-mounting points moved farther outboard, and larger dual rear lower control arms. The wheelbase is up by 0.4 inch, to 110.4, while girth increases by one inch. Wheel sizes range from 16 to 18 inches.