Speaking at the European reveal of the new Kia Sorento on the eve of the 2014 Paris motor show, Kia president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer suggested the new Optima wouldn’t represent a radical departure from today’s model - which went on sale in Australia in 2011 - in terms of its design, but that it would push the envelope in other ways.
“I think the Optima is a very strong car, and so with the next Optima I think we should be kind of careful and true to what we have done,” Schreyer said.
“And [I think we want to] not disappoint the customer with something completely different, so they say ‘what have they done now?’”
Schreyer suggested that the styling changes wouldn’t be enormous for the new car.
“The question is can we always make such big steps,” he said. “But the next Optima will be closer to the current Optima than the current Optima to the one before.”
Asked whether the car will debut in 2015, Schreyer hinted that would likely be the case, and Kia Australia general manager of media and corporate communications Kevin Hepworth confirmed a new version would arrive in 2015.
Hepworth suggested that while the current Optima is only sold as a 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder, other drivetrains are on the table for the new-generation model, though no concrete details have been made public at this point.
Still, it is expected that there will be the carry-over engine, as well as a 2.0-litre turbo, a petrol-electric hybrid and a potential new diesel hybrid, as is likely presaged by the new Optima T-Hybrid concept (pictured below), which was unveiled at the Paris motor show.
Hepworth indicated that hybrids in particular are up there for the brand’s hit list for the new Optima.
“Hybrids are back. We'll take a hybrid, the hybrid that's in it probably, and if the diesel (hybrid) is on offer at that stage as well, we'd have to take a look at it,” he said.
Rather than a full-scale series hybrid, the 1.7-litre turbo diesel-electric system in the prototype Optima uses a large-capacity (48-volt) battery, a supercharger and electric motors that the brand claims can increase power by 20 per cent and reduce fuel consumption by 20 per cent.
“If the diesel hybrid was available it would be at the top of the shopping list I would imagine. We don’t have a hybrid at this stage, and that would be a nice way to hit the market.
“It's new, it’s clever, and the numbers selling in petrol aren’t that high,” Hepworth said of the likes of the Toyota Camry Hybrid.
“You’re never sure of these things, it's all black magic and staring into a globe, but I could see the turbo diesel being more acceptable to Australians. It's not a competitor against a Prius or whatever else.”
Along with an expanded engine line-up, the new Optima will likely be seen with a wagon body, and sources within Kia have suggested that it could debut as soon as the 2015 Detroit auto show in January.
When asked if there’s demand for a wagon locally, Hepworth said it wasn’t clear if that was the case.
However, he did impart that buyers are looking for turbocharged cars from Kia, other than the current two forced-induction petrol models it currently sells (the Cerato Koup and Pro_cee’d GT.
“The biggest demands we get at the moment in Australia is for turbos,” Hepworth said, but suggested there had been an issue in getting a turbo Optima for local consumption as models with that drivetrain were only built in left-hand drive.
However, he did suggest that a turbocharged Optima may not be too far away from Australian showrooms.
“There's a new Optima next year, who knows what might happen,” he said.
Stay tuned for more on the all-new Kia Optima.