It’s been five years since Kia redesigned the Optima mid-size sedan and slapped the now-familiar "tiger nose" grille to its front fascia. Penned under the guidance of former chief designer for Audi and Volkswagen, Peter Schreyer, the third-gen Optima is nearing the end of its cycle, with a brand-new sedan to arrive for the 2016 model year. But while we’re waiting for the prototypes to lose their swirly camouflage, the Korean manufacturer decided to reveal the Optima’s new design language at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. Previewed by a teaser photo that made me believe Kia is actually bringing a near production-ready four-door to Geneva, it turns out the show car is actually the Sportspace Concept, a study that suggests the manufacturer could be expanding the Optima’s lineup in the near future.

In Kia’s own words, the Sportspace is "a totally new breed of grand tourer" that promises to bring sportiness and utility under the same roof. In short, it’s a stylish grocery getter that could give the fashionable Mazda 6 Wagon a run for its money. If Kia approves it for production, that is. The concept also provides us with several hints as to what the upcoming Optima sedan might look like, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out more about that.

Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Kia Sportspace Concept.

  • 2015 Kia Sportspace Concept
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • 0-60 time:
    7 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    35000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 Kia Sportspace Concept High Resolution Exterior
- image 617591
The front grille, headlamps, hood, and even the bumpers and the side skirts have their roots in the 2015 model year sedan.

Recognizable as a Kia by its signature "tiger nose" front grille, the Sportspace Concept boasts an exterior design that’s bold and dynamic at the same time, a feat that’s rather uncommon for an affordable wagon. I say "affordable" because it is more than obvious that this grocery-getter is based on the next-generation Optima. Sure, the fourth-gen sedan has yet to break cover, but most of the concept’s design is an evolution of the current Optima. The front grille, headlamps, hood, and even the bumpers and the side skirts have their roots in the 2015 sedan. In short, this concept not only previews the fourth-gen Optima, but also hints that Kia wants to develop a wagon version of its mid-size sedan.

Moving over to the actual details, Kia’s trademark grille has been replaced by a tiger nose-shaped plastic piece, while the revised headlamps are crisper and feature a sportier shape, as well as black housings. The thin LED accent stripes separating the turn signals from the actual headlamps provide a unique appearance. Down below, Kia mounted a beefier bumper with a large gaping mouth, a splitter-like center piece and thin vertical air dams on the sides. A pair of gray, horizontal stripes connect the main intake to the side blades for a contrasting look.

While the front fascia feels crisper and sportier, things get even better around back. The new, squinty taillights have very little in common to the current Optima’s, but the main highlight of the Sportspace’s rear end lies in the bumper. Unlike the Optima’s, the concept’s apron area is downright massive and shaped to mimic a diffuser. The piece appears to be made from carbon fiber, but it could be faux. Either way, its design is unique and intriguing, with the exhaust outlets and the main vents sporting the same shape.

The profile is nearly identical to the current Optima’s from the pronounced waistline down, but everything is new above. That’s mostly because the concept is a wagon, but the low greenhouse, blacked-out pillars, concealed door handles and the silver trim extending from the side mirrors all the way to the roof spoiler contribute as well. The contrasting side-sill inserts and the intricate five-spoke wheel design round off the Sportspace’s gorgeous profile, which, by the way, reminds me of the Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon.

All told, I find the Sportspace’s styling exhilarating. Heck, I’m even tempted to say Kia has just unveiled a shooting brake rather than a wagon. Of course, I’m aware some of these features — including the grille, the rear diffuser, and maybe even the wheels — will be lost as the concept moves toward the assembly line, but I still think the upcoming Optima Wagon could match the Mazda 6 Wagon in terms of handsomeness and sportiness.

Interior

2015 Kia Sportspace Concept Interior
- image 617595
The flat-bottom steering wheel is the only element that still reminds me of the current Optima, although it has fewer buttons and sports a more upscale appearance.

While the concept’s exterior is still reminiscent of the current Optima, the interior brings a new styling approach. The dashboard is a massive departure from Kia’s current design, with angular lines and a clean layout. The traditional center stack has been removed completely and replaced by a large touchscreen. Likewise, the instrument cluster boasts integrated navigation and likely other features as well. A tall center console resides between the front seats. The unit features various button and switches, and the gear shit lever, all embedded in a carbon-fiber frame.

Speaking of carbon-fiber, the lightweight material is also used in the front seat frames and the door panels, which have a cleaner design. The seats are wrapped in black leather with matching stitching. The flat-bottom steering wheel is the only element that still reminds me of the current Optima, although it has fewer buttons and sports a more upscale appearance.

While it’s safe to assume that some of these features won’t make it onto the production car, this conceptual cabin likely previews Kia’s next-gen interiors for mid- and fullsize cars. However, I don’t expect to find carbon fiber in a Kia Optima anytime soon.

As far as practicality goes, there’s no word as to how much luggage space this wagon will offer, but Kia says the Sportspace provides "a high level of interior comfort and substantial practical load space." I guess we’ll find out more when the concept debuts at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.

Drivetrain

2015 Kia Sportspace Concept High Resolution Exterior
- image 617593
Kia could also use a hybrid drivetrain, but the 2.4-liter four-pot/electric motor combo in the Optima Hybrid is far from sporty at only 199 ponies and 235 pound-feet.

Kia declined to go into drivetrain specifics as of February 2015, but did say this concept is "born out of a commitment to provide stylish and exciting transportation for four which is also spacious and functional, without sacrificing the performance, sustainability and economy that Kia is known for." That said, I have a hunch the concept carries the Optima’s turbocharged, 2.0-liter, inline-four engine, which generates 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. Kia could also use a hybrid drivetrain, but the 2.4-liter four-pot/electric motor combo in the Optima Hybrid is far from sporty at only 199 ponies and 235 pound-feet.

But no matter what Kia chose to drop in the Sportspace Concept, the production car should get both the 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter gasoline engines and a hybrid, as well as the Euro-spec, 134-horsepower, 1.7-liter diesel mill.

Competition

Mazda 6 Wagon

2013 Mazda 6 Wagon High Resolution Exterior
- image 471333

An estate version of the Kia Optima would make a great alternative to the Mazda 6 Wagon. The Mazda isn’t available in the U.S. due to low demand, so the two will battle it out for market share in Europe. Mazda’s grocery-getter features the same "Soul of Motion" design language and SkyActiv technology as the sedan. Arguably the most stylish mid-size wagon on the market as of 2015, the Euro-spec Mazda 6 comes with a choice of three powerful, yet fuel-efficient engines mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

The gasoline engines begin with a 2.0-liter four-pot rated at either 145 or 165 ponies, while the range-topping model is motivated by a 2.5-liter four-pot making 192 horsepower. The same unit cranks out 184 ponies in the U.S.-spec sedan. In the diesel department, the Mazda 6 gets a 2.2-liter SkiActiv-D unit churning either 150 or 175 horses and returning the equivalent of up to 56 mpg combined. The Mazda 6 Wagon retails from £21,725, which converts to $33,323 as of 02/17/2015, in the United Kingdom. Naturally, the upcoming Optima wagon will need to carry a similar sticker to attract customers from other brands.

Conclusion

2015 Kia Sportspace Concept High Resolution Exterior
- image 617592

It might be only a concept for now, but the Kia Sportspace is great news for wagon enthusiasts, especially those looking to purchase a grocery-getter that’s both stylish and sporty. Sure, Kia has yet to confirm this sleek-looking estate will see the light of day as a production vehicle, but a wagon version of the Optima could enjoy success in Europe, where the Koreans are planning to expand their lineup.

What’s more, the Sportspace Concept is also a preview of things to come as far as the next-generation Optima sedan is concerned. Most of the concept’s exterior features seem to match those seen on the 2016 Optima prototype that’s been spotted roaming the streets in 2014, and I expect the sedan to sport a similar front fascia. Granted, the fourth-gen Optima will boast a significant improvement in terms of styling, and the fact that Kia also wants to build a wagon version makes it that much more exciting. Too bad the latter isn’t likely to reach U.S. shores.

  • Leave it
    • The cabin seems too futuristic for a Kia
    • Likely no carbon-fiber inserts for the production model
    • Not for U.S. consumption

Press Release

Kia Motors Europe will unveil an innovative new concept, the Kia SPORTSPACE, at the 85th Salon International de l’Automobile in Geneva on 3 March 2015.

2015 Kia Sportspace Concept High Resolution Exterior
- image 617593

Created for long distance driving, the SPORTSPACE has been designed for fast and efficient travel with maximum comfort and minimal stress, in the best grand touring tradition of the weekend getaway.

Designed at Kia’s Frankfurt design studio, under the direction of Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer Europe, the SPORTSPACE features a unique and captivating body shape. The car is born out of a commitment to provide stylish and exciting transportation for four which is also spacious and functional, without sacrificing the performance, sustainability and economy that Kia is known for.

Recognisably a Kia due to its signature ‘tiger nose’ grille, finely judged proportions and simple, clean surfaces, SPORTSPACE has a bold, dynamic shape with real road presence. At the same time, it offers a high level of interior comfort and substantial practical load space.

2015 Kia Sportspace Concept High Resolution Exterior
- image 617592

"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," explains Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer Europe.

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