Kia Optima

Monday, 8 August 2011
In motoring terms it’s rare these days to find a mid size sedan with an X factor, but judging by the number people stopping to ask me about the test car I was driving, the Kia Optima appears to have it.  

The Kia Optima made its world premiere at the New York International Auto Show in April 2010 – immediately demonstrating the Kia brand’s Power to Surprise.

It is a completely fresh design from the ground up and Kia’s boasts that the latest generation of its mid-size sedan is absolutely transformed, embodying a bold, athletic and yet sophisticated visual energy. The bottom line is that this car is a bit of a head turner.

The Optima brings a new level of sophistication and refinement into the Kia product line-up. Longer, lower and wider than the previous generation model, the new Optima features a significantly longer wheelbase (up by 75 mm) and will offer much more space for people and cargo.

While meeting all of the performance, styling and sophistication criteria demanded by the Australian market, the new Optima continues to deliver Kia’s cornerstone value with an RRP of $36,990 (excl. statutory charges & dealer delivery the drive away price could be around $39,000).

Kia’s product concept behind the creation of new Optima had focused on four key areas. Stand-out Styling – a unique exterior with a driver-oriented interior; Class-leading Performance – down-sized but more efficient engines with six-speed transmissions; Superior Packaging – new, longer wheelbase platform; Advanced Features – high-tech options to boost Optima’s status and Kia’s brand identity.

New Optima is significantly sleeker than the previous model, with an aerodynamic drag figure of Cd 0.29 (down from 0.32) – enhancing refinement, performance and fuel economy.

Sophisticated engine and transmission

The new Optima is powered by a 2.4-litre Theta II unit with GDI (gasoline direct injection). The introduction of GDI technology, which represents the biggest advance in fuel injection technology since the 1980s, allows Kia to achieve three previously incompatible goals – lowering emissions and improving fuel economy, while also increasing the power and torque outputs to 148kW @ 6300rpm and 250Nm @ 4250rpm respectively.

The Optima comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission which offers two operating modes – fully automatic (ideal for city driving) or ‘Sport’ which allows for clutch-less manual sequential gear changes for greater driver involvement – using either the centre console selector lever or the new steering wheel-mounted ‘shift paddles’.

On the road the car feels taut but supple enough for the Australian conditions. From the driver’s stand point it also delivers a good balance with ride and handling. The ride is also quite with low levels of wind and road noise.

Enhanced standard features

The new Optima comes packed with a long list of premium features including smart key with push button start, anti-theft immobiliser, leather trim with wood-look interior, heated 4-way power front passenger seat and heated and ventilated 8-way power driver’s seat with a 2-position memory, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls, 7-function trip computer, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, alloy sports pedals and cooling glove box.

Interior comfort is maintained by dual-zone automatic climate-control air-conditioning with floor console mounted rear air vents. The seven-speaker MP3 compatible CD player, AM/FM radio sound system with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity is operated by steering wheel mounted controls.

There is no doubt about the interior appointments but there are few aspects that cheapen the overall feel. The flimsy centre console would be a case in point. 

Exterior features include panoramic electric sunroof, window tinting, dusk sensing HID type front headlamps with washer, body coloured sport bumpers, door handles and outside electric door mirrors (heated) and LED daytime running lights (DRL).

The other noticeable outside feature would have to be the wheels. They would appeal to some but they do have a touch of “Pimp My Ride” about them. We suspect that they could also be easy to damage against gutters too.

New Optima presents buyers with a range of state-of-the-art active and passive safety systems and equipment as standard. Available ‘active’ safety technologies to help Optima drivers avoid potential accident situations include ESC (Electronic Stability Control), TCS (Traction Control System), BAS (Brake Assist System) and a new system – HAC (Hillstart Assist Control).

A new rear-view camera is fitted to assist drivers during reversing manoeuvres. The camera uses a wide-angle lens to transmit images to an LCD display set within the interior rear-view mirror. Simultaneously this system enables the driver to check the rear view and the blind spot immediately behind the car.

The Optima is available in seven exterior colours: Snow White Pearl, Bright Silver, Ebony Black, Platinum Graphite, Satin Metal, Santorini Blue and Spicy Red.

Overall, the Optima represents a level of luxury and refinement that belies its sub $40k price tag. This car would be ideal for the person who is looking for a high spec mid size sedan with a style that stands out from the crowd.

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