What to Expect in the 2021 Kia Optima

February 14th, 2020 by

A blue 2021 Kia Optima, designed from the Korean K5, will be available in Freehold, NJ, later in the year.

We’ll admit it: the Kia Optima has never been considered a particularly mind-blowing car. In the past, it has traditionally been seen as practical, reliable, and functional, but we don’t think anyone has ever called the Optima “sexy.” But, all of that is about to change, based on what we’ve seen of the 2021 Kia Optima and the incredible changes that the designers at Kia have made to it. Yes, people are going to call it sexy, it’s going to turn heads and catch some eyes, and a lot of folks will wonder what they’re looking at.

In fact, the changes are so impressive, and the look of the new 2021 Kia Optima is so dynamic, that it might actually have a new name to go with its bold new design. While an official announcement of all the features we’ll get this year on the new Optima has not been made, we’ve seen the Korean version of it and gotten a pretty good sense of what we can expect. Just keep in mind that some of these details could certainly change before the all-new Optima makes its way to our shores.

Keep reading to learn more and check back often for all the latest news and information about the innovative new Kia lineup.

Bold, Sexy Exterior

The first thing most people are going to notice about the updated and redesigned 2021 Kia Optima is the exterior, and for a good reason (beyond simply the fact that it’s what you literally see first). Overall, the shape of the new Optima is incredibly bold and sleek, offering an immediate impression of power and sophistication. The front grille looks aggressive, and it is flanked by a pair of headlamps that are outlined by zigzag, lightning bolt running lights. Trust us; if you see this in your rearview mirror, it will make an impression that lasts.

The sides have been kept simple, but with touches here and there—like a lower crease and a top chrome strip—that make it stand out. Every inch of the design keeps your eyes moving, across the front, along the side, swooping toward the rear. Everything about the exterior of the 2021 Kia Optima suggests strength, power, and speed. It really is far more impressive than what we’ve seen before and demonstrates just how good Kia’s designers have become.

At the rear, the taillights are bold and distinct, with a line of lights running across the trunk for excellent overall illumination. It makes the Optima easy to see at night from behind and ensures safety while keeping a bold and sophisticated look. That’s the beauty of the 2021 Optima: the Kia functionality you’d expect, with a dynamic style that will blow everyone else away.

Innovative, Dynamic Interior

Once you get past the exterior of the 2021 Kia Optima and look inside, things get even more impressive. Now, to be fair, some of these features and options will certainly be based on the different trim levels that will come with the all-new Optima’s release. But, looking at what’s available, we can see an incredible design that luxuriates in sophistication and comfort.

The designers at Kia have kept the interior fairly simple, overall, in terms of the design and aesthetic. It doesn’t feel overly crowded or busy—but the rich materials and the features that are present make an immediate impression. It all starts with a massive, 10-inch touchscreen infotainment display that takes up the center of the dashboard. This thing is absolutely gorgeous, with stunning visuals and precise touch controls.

There is also a (somehow) even more impressive 12-inch digital gauge cluster for the driver designed to keep things simple, yet elegant. The gauges transform automatically to match your driving mode, with imagery that syncs up with the time of day and even weather conditions. You really have to see it for yourself to fully appreciate how stunning, functional, and revelatory it really is.

The only issue we can see some people having with the gorgeous new interior is the lack of physical controls for many things. Fortunately, there is a physical volume knob as well as switches for A/C and other climate-control features. But for most other controls, you will have to rely on either steering wheel controls or options on the touchscreen infotainment display. This really comes down to individual preference, and from what we’ve seen, the included controls work beautifully.

The rear of a blue 2021 Kia Optima is shown in a white room.

Powerful, Refined Engines

From what we’ve heard, two engines are expected to be available on the 2021 Kia Optima, both of which are conventional. If you want a hybrid or plug-in hybrid option, then you will need to look elsewhere in the Kia lineup. But the engines and transmission that will be available with the all-new Optima will ensure a fun, responsive driving experience.

The standard engine is expected to be a 1.6L turbocharged I-4 that offers up to 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. This is a slick engine that should come with an 8-speed automatic transmission for a smooth and fun drive. If you want something with a bit more “oomph,” then the word is there will be an available 2.5L turbocharged engine that provides up to 290 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. This is rumored to be paired with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which will make for an incredibly quick and nimble ride.

From what we’ve seen, the 2021 Kia Optima will feature a flat-bottom steering wheel, for easier steering. This will include paddle shifters that you can use to shift gears as needed and take some control while driving. Early test drivers have commented on a brake pedal that was not as responsive as they wanted, but Kia has stated they are aware of the issue and will have it resolved prior to the all-new Optima’s launch here in the US.

New, Flashy Name?

Speaking of that launch, right now, we expect to see the 2021 Kia Optima available for sale here sometime this summer. But, rumors are swirling that it might not actually have the name “Optima” when it finally goes on sale. In Korea, the Optima has always been known as the “K5,” and some people have suggested that the improvements and redesign to this gorgeous vehicle warrant a new name for it in the US.

It’s possible that when we see it here, it will be called the Kia K5, rather than the Optima. The Word is that there is still a great deal of internal debate about this issue; however, as the name “Kia Optima” does have some industry recognition. We’ve seen plenty of vehicles keep their name even with a fairly revolutionary new generation and release of an updated version. It will be interesting to see what Kia decides on this issue – for our money, we like the name “Optima,” but that’s just us.

Whatever Kia decides to call it when it rolls out this summer, we’re excited for it. With an all-new exterior, a sleek and incredibly sophisticated interior, and powerful engine options that will afford a fun, sporty ride, we think this is going to be a model the competition gets nervous about. Come visit us at Raceway Kia in Freehold, NJ, today to learn more about the current and upcoming lineup of Kia vehicles, and check back soon for more information about the upcoming 2021 Optima.