New Kia Optima shown in New York

Kia's next flagship saloon, the Optima, has been revealed - and it's more stylish than ever

Kia is aiming for the big-hitters in the large family saloon market with the next-generation Optima saloon at this year's New York Motor Show. The new model was previewed at the Geneva Motor Show in the form of the Sportspace concept, which will likely spawn an estate model for the first time.

The Optima will take a fresh swipe at the new Ford Mondeo, VW Passat and Vauxhall Insignia when it launches in 2016, with a load-lugger to follow in around 2018. It will feature a sharper design, higher-quality interior and the option of diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains. Last year we had a chance to poke around the production car at Kia’s new Namyang design centre, near Seoul.

Although the only official image revealed is of the front end, we can see the design sticks closely to that of the current model, with an adaptation of the firm's "Tiger Nose' trademark grille design, and fresher bumpers and headlamps.

The petrol model (unlikely to reach the UK) features more aggressive, sharper intakes in the front bumper, while the hybrid models get a blanked out front grille that opens when cooling is required. Softer curves in the front bumper, special wheels and a wider rear bumper to help reduce aerodynamic drag.

Kia claims the new Optima will have a "more spacious interior", possibly helped with a small extension of the wheelbase. Also promised is "premium features from the class above and a number of technologies not previously offered" so we can expect updated infotainment and new active safety features.

The interior quality has taken another leap forward, one of Kia’s main focuses for all its new models, with leather seats and a new larger, widescreen display installed in the centre of the leather-wrapped dash. Matt black switchgear arranged in horizontal rows is reminiscent of BMW’s latest cabin design, which is no bad thing.

No detailed specifications were made available, but bosses confirmed that an model featuring a development of the current 1.7 CRDi diesel engine will be offered, along with a hybrid powertrain with the same unit a little later in the life cycle. And Kia is targeting a class-leading electric-only range with the plug in, according to its head of overseas marketing, Spencer Cho. 

“Look at the Soul EV, apart from the Tesla it has the longest range of any of its competitors,” he said. “In the same way we are trying to extend EV range for plug-in hybrids, too.”

Cho also revealed that a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain is under development, although it hasn't been able to confirm that any pure petrol models will reach our shores, despite claims of "multiple engine choices'.

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