By on May 24, 2019

Image: Kia

You have to give Hyundai Motor Group credit — it’s certainly not shy when it comes to design. It hasn’t been for a while, and the 2011 Sonata can attest to that. After Hyundai toned things down for the follow-up generation, the brand realized its mistake: to get noticed alongside Camry and Accord, you needed to go way out and wild.

Perhaps too wild, some who’ve viewed the 2020 Sonata might say. However, if Hyundai’s midsizer is too much for your stomach to handle, Kia’s sister car may be the remedy you’re looking for. You know, if you’re still into sedans and all that.

Speaking to Autocar, HMG design head Luc Donckerwolke said the company plans to further differentiate its brands in terms of style, in some cases adopting regional styling changes. There will still be “unifying themes” seen by buyers on all continents, he claims.

Part of the automaker’s strategy called for the new Sonata to serve as design showcase for the group. “Hyundai is good on value for money, but we need to add emotion,” Donckerwolke said.

Kia’s replacement for the current-gen Optima will head in a different direction.

The brand’s design head, Byungchul Juh, told the publication, “The next Optima is … not extreme but progressive, with a strong brand identity. There will be even greater separation between Kia and Hyundai. Kia is more innovative, young, challenging, iconic and cool. There will be unexpected details, and influences from general product design, cars, architecture and fine art.”

The tiger nose grille will remain a Kia design staple, though the front fascia of new models won’t appear as closely matched as before, he added. Spy photos of the next-gen Optima suggest the model’s front-end cues will please anyone who’s a fan of the Forte, which donned an upscale, more mature form for 2019. The same could be said for Stinger fans, and, going by the camouflaged model’s flanks, those who hanker for an Accord. Expect the model to appear next year as a 2021 model.

Next on HMG’s plate is a redesigned Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, the former of which Hyundai brand design boss SangYup Lee recently said will cause people to “freak out.”

“The next Sportage is even bolder than the new Tucson,” Donckerwolke said. Both of those two compact crossovers will reveal themselves within the coming year.

Like most other long-running sedans, the Kia Optima’s post-recession sales peaked in 2014-2015, declining every year since. The model saw its U.S. volume fall 5.5 percent in 2018, though the first four months of 2019 shows an 11.5 percent increase.

[Image: Kia]

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31 Comments on “Perhaps Thankfully, Kia’s Upcoming Optima Won’t Go the Sonata Route...”

  • avatar

    Presumably, the huge chrome rain gutters on the roofline will stay?

  • avatar

    The new Sonata is wild? If you think that’s wild, you can come back later and watch me tie my shoes.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The spy photos indicate an Optima that looks a lot like today’s, which looks a lot like Optimas going back to 2011.

    My 13 Optima Hybrid has been OK, but it will be the first to leave the fleet in exchange for my first CUV, probably.

  • avatar

    The current Optima is perhaps my favorite midsizer: handsome styling, roomy, efficient, and can be bought dirt cheap. A Chicago area dealer has some 4-5k mile demo LXs listed for $12,800 (confirmed this plus tag/tags was indeed the price with an email inquiry). I’ve enjoyed my Optima rentals, 40mpg over the road, and very well sorted ride/handling that smothers bad roads (in the LXs with 16 inch wheels anyways).

  • avatar

    I drove past a new Telluride earlier in the week. I presume it was a fairly well optioned example in white. Very sharp, definitely turn a few heads. I think Hyundai/Kia has been nailing it on styling for the most part of late. The new Sonata is quite a looker in my opinion as well. The Genesis sedans are all nice to look at. They have me actually considering a few of their vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve seen a couple of them, and I like them, although I think they kind of ape the Ford Expedition. Also, they’re smaller than I thought they would be.

  • avatar

    So, a hit with Millennials?

  • avatar

    Why did the mule covering make it look shooting brakish? Do my eyes deceive?

  • avatar

    Hopefully the elevation of Peter Schreyer to the executive level will not result in Kia design going off the rails. IMO they have the best design language of any Asian make these days.

  • avatar

    The biggest issue I see with the styling of the 2020 Sonata is the increasing tendency of sedans to have a liftback shape and teeny mailslot trunk opening a la Volkswagen Cabriolet circa 1984.

    Just make them hatchbacks if they have to be styled like fastbacks. No wonder people think CUVs are more practical.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup if you can’t bring back the “3-box” then make it a hatchback/liftback.

    • 0 avatar

      The Sonata has been that “4-door coupe” of liftback design since the 6th gen YF model (2010-15).

      The 8th gen DN8 Sonata is not “too wild”, at least not in comparison to the YF Sonata (which was a bit over-busy for my taste) – and is a more overall pleasing design.

      The reason why the 7th gen LF Sonata went overly conservative was due to the Korean market – where buyers tend to prefer more conservative designs, but even then Hyundai went too far into blandness.

      The DN8 Sonata has been selling well over there.

  • avatar

    Looking forward to this. It’s a pipe dream but I’d be first in line if they bring a wagon body over to Canada. My ’15 SX being a sedan is the only thing making me itch to replace it.

  • avatar

    People say i m full of it regarding H K products. OK. Judge for your self.
    – 5 year old interiors in H K cars look like everybody else’s 10 year old car.
    – Tail lights burn out at a high rate. Do you own survey. (what does that say about things you cant see)
    – Goofy driving dynamics and ride.
    – Weird control function. Eg. Lane change tap turn signal. You get 5 – FIVE blinks from the turn signals. You are in your new lane and 6 miles down the road by the time it stops blinking. Oh- and that odd boing or bong tone. Drives me nuts. Every other car – 3 blinks. THREE.

    I ll give you that some of the stying is good. But there seems to something that dosent ‘fit.’ Example- a Telluride passed me on the turn pike in Quakertown PA this week. There was something not good about the rear view.

    I firmly believe they are fine cars for bargain hunters. But, I thought we enthusiasts here on this site- we want something more. Something better. I declare this – competing Hondas or Toyotas are better cars in just about every class than the H K. And the H K ARE MORE EXPENSIVE !!!!

    When you factor in RESALE VALUE, the H K have a higher total cost.
    QED > H K are real bad purchases.

    • 0 avatar

      Outdated on the driving dynamics and ride for the current gen of models and generally H/K get praise for the intuitiveness of their controls/switchgear.

      For the people I know who own H/K, no issues w/ their interiors (some at over 10+ yrs are pretty pristine) and that’s despite having been parked outside for years as their 4th or 5th “emergency” vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        agreed bd2, this is very lazy and outdated criticism. All of the recent H/Ks I’ve driven have had excellent ride/handling balance, absolutely no worse than anyone else. Interiors seem no flimsier or worse built than an equivalent Honda or Toyota.

    • 0 avatar

      As an owner of a 5-year old Sonata (one of the “boring” ones), I’m compelled to respond.

      My interior looks the same as brand new except where my ring caused a premature spot of wear on the steering wheel. One afternoon of sewing on a leather wheel cover took care of that.

      I’m still on my first pair of taillights and I’ve yet to see a ’15 or newer Sonata with any blown lights front or back. I’ll agree thought that there are lots of ’12-’14 Sonatas on the road with one taillight out–usually one of the small inner ones.

      The number of blinks when tapping the turn signal is programmable via the steering wheel. It takes about five to set the # of blinks to 3.

      And yes, HK cars are for bargain hunters and there’s always at least one dealer in town willing to sell them to people with barely enough credit to buy Doritos at Walmart. However,that makes them an excellent value for shoppers who are satisfied with average reliability.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a ’13 Optima SXL… while I wouldn’t buy it again, it’s been OK. Good design, decent reliability (aside from the whole engines blowing up recall thing), high content/$ ratio. I bought it used so the resale thing isn’t as bad (but it is bad)

      And with the way they are discounting new ones the resale might not be bad anymore. 30% off of Optimas seems to be standard fare.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @redapple: You’re up there with asdf for your copy and paste criticisms.

      • 0 avatar

        H K are not near as good as their competing Honda or Toyota car/truck. Just about Every car magazine agrees.
        H K depreciation is SIGNIFICANT. So much that that they cost more than a Honda or Toyota. Simple math.
        But I m the jerk.

        • 0 avatar

          Oh really?

          C/D 2019 Editor’s Choice


          Subcompact – Rio, Accent (no Toyota or Honda; the Yaris that is really a Mazda doesn’t count).

          Compact – G70, Stinger, Civic (no Toyota)

          Midsize – Accord, Camry

          Full-size – G90, Cadenza (no Toyota or Honda)


          Subcompact – Rio (no Toyota or Honda)

          Compact – Veloster, Civic (no Toyota)

          So Toyota included in only 1 out of 6 categories.

          Consumer Reports 2019 Road Test Scores

          Genesis – 84
          Lexus – 74
          Acura – 74

          Honda – 78
          Hyundai – 75
          Kia – 75
          Toyota – 68

          And w/ the new Sonata and Optima, H/K are launching their new. lightweight platform (the N3) which is what Toyota did a few years ago w/ the TNGA – so their scores when it comes to handling and ride should improve.

          Maybe you’re not a “jerk”, but you’re grossly misinformed.

          • 0 avatar
            Steve Biro

            He’s like most Americans. Once he “learns” something he can’t unlearn it. And so he continues working with outdated information. I mean, if Hyundais and Kias were questionable in 1999, they must still be. Right?… right?

            My wife has owned two Hyundais. A 2001 Santa Fe that gave her no problems over 10 years other than one sensor – and no others – replaced under warranty. And a 2011 Tucson that has required only routine maintenance other than repairs required after a teen on a cellphone rear-ended her at a traffic light.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s funny you mention the brake lights. I’d never noticed before but this past weekend I did see 2 Sonatas, one with one brake light out and the other with both out; only the high mounted center working. I’m indifferent to H/K, but I included the Elantra on the list for my BF that was car shopping and he chose it over cars like the Corolla which he hated the dash and the Civic which he hated the low seating and digital-ish gauges. So far he’s happy even though door trim is broken and the front “spoiler” half rips off leaving some parking lots. He got a really good deal, at least $3,500 less than a comparable Corolla/Civic, but I told him that when it comes trade in time he’ll get at least that much less than those cars. He was ok with that as he was looking for a low payment now.

  • avatar

    Based on the spy shots, the new Optima has a better greenhouse shape/design than the current model which went backwards in overall design compared to striking 3rd gen Optima.

    The new Optima should also be getting a more premium interior, something along the lines of the Telluride.

    But the big story is the new stronger but lighter N3 platform and the new 2.5T engine, and it seems AWD will be available as well.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Now I am sure “redapple” has no credibility. This site really brings them out……

    BTW-The Telluride from early numbers looks like Kia has a winner on it’s hands.

  • avatar

    The next Optima MUST have styling that differentiates it from the Sonata, given the risks Hyundai is taking with it. I quietly hope Kia offers a sportback version of the Optima like the Stinger. Such a move could introduce and mainstream that more practical body style to a whole new consumer base. It might even become the preferred body style of the next generation of young drivers who might decide they rather walk than be caught owning a CUV.

  • avatar

    At least the Koreans are still selling sedans in the U.S. marketplace. And they are doing so with extremely attractive styling. That is the opposite of the Japanese brands that like to do ugly and stodgy styling!

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