So the covers are off the Kia Sportspace concept, heralding the fourth-gen Optima that's due towards the end of 2015. And from the subjective safety of a blog, I can say I think it looks fantastic: purposeful, interesting, balanced. The very first teasers showed the concept only from the B-pillars forward, but the sting is in its handsomely sculpted tail: the next Optima is being previewed in estate form rather than as a saloon.
The rise of the sports estate, a co-operative creation of marketeers and designers, is intended to quash the functional dowdiness implied by 'estate' or 'wagon', and is another dent in the armour of the stalwart saloon, additionally squeezed of late by the rise of four-door coupés (not to mention the wider, relentless rise of SUVs and crossovers). And I mean sports estate as a breed apart from apocalyptically powered superwagons such as the Audi RS4 Avant whose appeal is founded more on pace than grace.
The Sportspace's high waistline, thick D-pillars and almond-like rear lenses are reminiscent of the models that arguably started the genre, the Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon and the 159 Sportwagon that succeeded it: both beautiful cars with load-gulping practicality that left few reasons to choose their saloon siblings. (Alfa's first Sportwagon was actually an estate version of the 33 hatchback, but the less said about its tacked-on scaffold of a cargo bay the better.)
Yes, to these eyes at least, estate cars are generally becoming better-looking – even long-established models such as BMW's Tourings and Audi's Avants now sit prettier than their four-door iterations. Modern methods mean their weight penalty is usually little more than 50kg, while the purchase premium is generally only £1200-£1500 – these days an amount easily vapourised on far less useful optional extras.
Sure, there are exceptions – no-one's going to swoon over a Toyota Auris Touring Sports, for example – but the number of handsome, accomplished load-luggers on the market is already generous, and saloons make less sense by the day.
So, I'm very much looking forward to the arrival of the Kia Optima estate (also available in niche saloon form).
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