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2021 Kia Optima pics revealed and K5 alive, it's a looker

"Tiger Nose Evolution" may sound like an indie band name, but it's what Kia is calling its new corporate face.

It may say K5 on its trunk lid, but you're staring at the all-new 2021 Kia Optima -- and you might want to keep staring, because this one's deeply attractive. Admittedly, the fifth-gen Kia Optima's shapely sheet metal is less shouty than its corporate cousin, the new 2020 Hyundai Sonata, but its new fastback-like profile and clever detailing mean there's a lot to drink in. 

Known as the K5 in Korea, this new four-door sedan will go on sale in its home market in December before hitting the US, Canada and other world markets. The first time we're expecting to see the new midsize family sedan in North American specification is at next week's LA Auto Show, though the automaker has not officially confirmed the model's appearance.

Like its counterpart from Hyundai, the 2021 Kia Optima has a distinctive sweptback roofline that calls to mind today's so-called "four-door coupe" luxury cars. The model's features the next sage of Kia's corporate "Tiger Nose" design language, dubbed "Tiger Nose Evolution," whose hallmark feature seems to be that its familiar tab-style grille now bleeds into its headlamps. Kia says the K5's concave grille texturing is modeled on shark skin, but we just think it looks cool. We like the way the headlamps have a windswept appearance with distinctively kinked LED light pipes that bleed into the shutline that divides the fender and hood. Kia has nicknamed the daytime running lamp form "heartbeat," and it's subtly repeated in the rear lighting, too.

The 2021 Kia K5 Optima's other new design trick is a band of chrome that outlines the side windowline. The latter fattens up momentarily just aft of the rear windows before plunging down towards the trunk. We've seen plenty of riffs on "floating" roofline treatments after Nissan pioneered the technique -- in fact, we've almost seen too many. This one is different, however, in that the chrome band has more of a purpose, curving down to underline the rear window and carry on through to the other side. 

Combined with frameless doors whose cut lines don't break up the roofline and the blacked-out roof treatment seen in these photos, the trim seems like a particularly clever way to draw one's eye around the vehicle and show off its sleek greenhouse. 

Out back, a new full-length taillamp treatment and wide, rectangular exhaust outlets emphasize the design's width to project a planted image. 

Design is a game of inches, and according to Kia, the new model is just shy of two inches longer than before, now spanning 193.1 inches. At 73.2 inches, it's also almost an inch wider, and it rides atop a 112.2-inch wheelbase, a stretch of 1.8 inches. A ride height drop of 0.8 inches makes it clear how low and broad the Optima sits. The car will be offered in Korea on a range of wheels between 16 and 19 inches in size.

Thus far, Kia isn't offering a look inside the 2021 Optima's cabin, nor is it detailing what's under the hood or talking about any chassis improvements. However, if past history and its redone corporate sibling, the Hyundai Sonata, is anything to go by, it's reasonable to again expect an all-four-cylinder engine lineup, with turbocharging featuring in uplevel models. 

If the 2020 Hyundai Sonata is a little too outré for you, the handsome 2021 Kia Optima might be more your speed.


At least in America, the Sonata features a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder generating or an uplevel 1.6-liter turbo I4 paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and we wouldn't be surprised to see the 2020 Kia K5 Optima mimic that powertrain strategy. Furthermore, although we haven't seen one yet, it seems likely that Kia will continue to offer an electrified Hybrid version, both in standard and plug-in formulas. As for an all-electric model, well, we'll have to wait and see.

Either way, we should know more about the North American version of the K5 as soon as next week when the 2019 LA Auto Show opens its doors to the media. If it shows up there, it should be a great opportunity for the press and consumers to size up the new family sedan alongside its mainstay rivals like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and -- you guessed it -- the Hyundai Sonata.