I was perusing the stock of the local Kia dealer when I saw it. A solitary Kia K5, the new, renamed Optima.
Still bearing the road grime from its trip there, the single K5 is likely a very early build showroom model driven off the truck right before the dealer closed that day. These won’t be reaching customers for a little while longer so I was surprised to see this example.
Initial impressions are very good. Other than the stupid and unnecessary rebranding, I quite like the way it looks. In fact, this rear end reminds me of the Lincoln MKZ in a very good way, a car I happen to also like.
I found it strange that the K5 retains and even amplifies the main distinguishing feature of the old Optima, though I like the execution. The chrome strip is distinctive, subtle, and classy. It gives the rear end a sort of boat tail look, which suits the long and low looks.
The curve in where the roof tapers down towards the sides is unusual but not unpleasant.
I’m not quite sold on the heckblende. It retains the subtle curves of the rear chrome wrapping below the glass but the crease where it juts out from the body seems too geometric to me. It is a curious compromise between the intensely geometric look of the rest of the car to justify the curvaceous chrome. I’m torn, since I like all the elements individually, but there is just a little discrepancy between the isolated curves and the sharp points elsewhere.
I think a more sharp edged heckblende would be a better look, even if the chrome contrasted more sharply because of it.
You will have to settle for this blurry photo of the front as a comparison between the K5 and the Optima. I think the evolution is overall a positive one. The car does not fall victim to the trend of adding sheet metal to a grille instead of the other way round. The fake brake cooling slits are fashionable right now and the execution is good, blending them into the lower intake, so it balances modern styling with classic proportions better than most.
I always liked the previous gen Optima, but the gentle curving of the edges and gradual rounding off of the roof line does look a bit dated now.
The angular tapered headlight look might turn some off, but it is far more logical and elegant than the zig zag craziness that is the headlights of similar Toyota products. The sharp crease makes the front seem as though it is leaning forward, counteracting the underbite looking front bumper projection. The hood slopes down to the thin elongated grille, exaggerating the proportions of the hood to visually stretch the front. It is a big car, but it appears even larger on purpose and pulls it off to boot.
The horizontal theme continues inside for what I think is an excellent looking cabin with a few exceptions.
First, the horizontal chrome strip present on the outside continues all the way around the interior. I think it is a nice touch.
The touchscreen looks like an afterthought. The terraced projections of the dashboard would look so much better without a tablet glued in place, though admittedly there isn’t much of a better place to put it without compromising those excellent proportions.
The radio position is lower than I would have thought and thankfully appears to have separate knobs and controls. I actually am pleasantly surprised and pleased to announce that it seems to be a single DIN size capable of aftermarket solutions with a separate display. I don’t remember seeing such a thing on many new cars. In fact, everything from the placement of controls to the air vents hints at the type of classic proportions capable before cars bulked up.
The opaque buttress running on the passenger side of the console is not really to my taste and it looks to impede passenger cup holder usage.
The shifter is a tradition style and reasonably bulky. It fits the theme of the cabin and looks good, so no complaints there. I’m surprised Kia hasn’t delved into push button gear selection considering its tech focused approach.
Overall, I am very impressed with the design of the new K5. It is subtle, unique, and upscale looking with an unexpected elegance of proportions. Some might nit pick small details, but the car has a surprisingly classy look to it, capable of propelling the large sedan to new heights in the 2020s and beyond. Things may be looking up after all.