Ever since former Audi design chief Peter Schreyer came onboard, Kia has given meaning to its slogan, “The Power to Surprise.” Whether it’s the big K900 luxury sedan, the quirky Soul or the GT4 Stinger concept, the Korean carmaker has delivered some of the industry’s most intriguing styling exercises.
And it’s proving that point once again this week at the Geneva Motor Show this week where it will formally unveil the Kia Sportspace wagon concept. We got a first hint of what’s coming last month, and now the Asian maker has pulled the wraps off the Sportspace with a series of photos.
And while the concept is clearly aimed at the European market, where wagons remain a highly popular body style, Americans motorists should take a close look at what, in sedan form, will be the next midsize Optima. Expect to see only a few modest changes when the production design reaches showrooms later this year.
Kia fans will likely be pleased by what they see. The current version of the Optima was the first sign of things to come from Schreyer and his design team. The 201 sedan breathed new life into a brand traditionally known for safe, me-too styling. Kia launched the Optima shortly after the debut of the over-the-top Hyundai Sonata. But where that sibling decided to play it safe with the latest version of the Sonata, Kia clearly isn’t backtracking with the next Optima.
(Hyundai Veloster and Elantra in for significant updates for 2016. Click Here for more.)
The Sportspace shows the next evolution of Schreyer’s distinctive “tiger nose” grille, here taking on a broader, almost slit-like appearance, with what appear to be quad LED headlamps. The roofline has a coupe-like curve that flows into large D-pillars, with a large hatch that opens onto a capacious cargo compartment. A rear diffuser and roof-level spoiler enhance the Sportspace Concept’s overall aggressiveness.
“We set out to design a car that is a totally new breed of grand tourer — one for active people who need reasonable cargo space on the weekend, but don’t want to compromise moving around in style, comfort and with an element of sportiness,” said Gregory Guillaume, who reports to Schreyer as chief designer of Kia Europe.
Guillaume notes that Kia does not have a wagon for Europe, a major omission in that market. But the design is clearly set to be shared with the sedan we’ll be seeing in the U.S.
Inside, the design team put an emphasis on what it calls “grand gestures,” with details like the Sportspace’s floating instrument panel, accented by an aluminum bar that both supports it and links to two side-mounted air vents.
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The overall look is decidedly upmarket for a traditionally down-market brand. Kia adopting what it calls “hand woven ‘cuoio intrecciato’ seats trimmed with black-polished leather backed with carbon fibre shells.”
We do expect the interior to be tamed quite a bit by the time the Sportspace Concept reaches production. Many of the more upscale elements would be a stretch even for Schreyer’s old company, Audi.
In concept form, Sportspace is powered by an updated version of Kia’s diesel-electric T-hybrid system shown on an earlier Optima concept at the Paris Motor Show last autumn. It now pairs twin turbos with the 1.7-liter diesel engine, adding a 48-volt electric motor to provide a torque boost at low RPMs. The system helps deliver “temporary all-wheel-drive capability,” explains Kia.
(Kia seems to like the idea of adding an electric motor to the rear axle to add AWD capabilities, as it demonstrated at last month’s Chicago Auto Show. Company officials say they’re giving serious consideration to putting the Trail’ster concept introduced there into production.)
(Click Here for more on the Kia Trail’ster Concept.)
In production, American buyers are likely to see the 2016 Kia Optima offered with a choice of a 178-hp 1.6-liter Eco driveline, a 185-hp 2.4-liter inline-four, or a 245-hp twin-scroll turbo 2.0-liter four. But Optima just might offer some green alternatives, as well.
Hyundai announced last month that it will offer two battery-based versions of the midsize Sonata line, a conventional hybrid, as well as a plug-in version. Since both Sonata and Optima share platforms, it’s quite possible Kia will also pick up those two powertrain options.
We’re expecting to get a closer look at the next American Kia Optima sedan sometime in the coming months, perhaps as early as the New York Auto Show in April.