DANA POINT, CA – While sister-brand Hyundai’s midsize sedan was the recipient of a pretty major facelift, Kia doesn’t expect the next-generation Optima to see as big a change.

“I think we’ll probably see something similar to what we did with (the) Soul (compact car) – a nice refinement,” Michael Sprague, executive vice president-sales and marketing for Kia Motors America, tells WardsAuto in an interview here.

The Sonata, which shares a platform with the Optima, is new for ’15 and lost much of the curvy “fluidic sculpture” design language of the ’11-’14 model years. The most notable change to the Hyundai 4-door is its less-busy, more squared front fascia, which has some industry-watchers saying the car now is too subdued.

Sprague believes the midsize Optima, which was last new in late 2010 for ’11, won’t stray that far away from its current look, which he says still is “really fresh.”

“We’ve got what we think is iconic design with Optima,” he says. “It’s been in the market now four years and…we had that minor front fascia/rear change about two years ago, but for the most part it still looks really good.”

The third-generation Optima has received a variety of design awards, including a prestigious “Best of the Best” red dot award in the transportation category in 2011 from the Design Centre of North Rhine-Westphalia.

A redesigned Optima is expected next year as a ’16 model. The car has been spotted testing in recent months both in California and on Germany’s Nurburgring track, with reported updates to include the grille and bumper, as well as rear windows that go beyond the C-pillar.

In the past few years, design has been a major precept of Kia’s push to move its vehicles, and its image, upmarket.

With this month’s launch of the Sedona minivan, every model in the brand’s U.S. lineup now wears a more progressive, sleeker appearance.

However, Kia still wants to keep pushing the envelope on styling, and believes a sports car is a missing piece. Toward that direction, it showed the GT4 Stinger concept at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and U.S. executives have made it clear they want to see the car on dealer lots.

However, Sprague says not much headway has been made on that front since May, when he told a Detroit media crowd that “We’re pushing hard to hopefully see this (reach the market).”

The rear-wheel-drive GT4 Stinger, with a 315-hp turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0L 4-cyl., must finish winding its way through the global auto-show circuit before any decision on production can be made, Sprague now says.

That’s fine with him, as exposing the car to as many people around the world as possible is critical to it getting greenlit by Kia’s Korean headquarters.

“I think the more people that can see it the more people will say, ‘You need to build this car,’” he says. “We need other markets to say, ‘We can make a business case out of this.’ I know Peter Schreyer (Kia’s global design chief) loves it and really wants to see it built, and we do, too, but we’ve got to look at it from a bigger picture.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com