When we attended the launch of the revised Kia Optima sedan in January time constraints meant we could only take it for a short test drive. We have now spent a solid week in a new Optima in our home territory of the Gold Coast and Brisbane, so can provide a more comprehensive review.
The current generation Kia Optima was already a sleek sedan when introduced in 2011. It cleverly followed the lines of several European four-door coupe/sedans and everyone we spoke to about the shape at the time of the launch though it sensational.
To avoid interfering with the original shape, the 2014 Optima has received only a minor revamp, to the grille and the front and rear bumpers. Four-part front foglights, as installed in the topline Optima Platinum we tested, are a clever feature that really makes the car stand out.
Inside, there’s a more upmarket theme as the designers have replaced many of the chromed items with a satin finish. The centre console gets the piano-black look, but after a couple of days it had already attracted enough dust to look decidedly scruffy. We wonder how much longer piano black remains in vogue?
All the latest Optima models get their entertainment from a six-speaker audio system with MP3, Aux and Bluetooth. Major functions can be accessed through steering wheel controls.
The addition of satellite navigation to the Optima SLi and Platinum models is a real plus. It’s controlled through a seven-inch touchscreen, and as a bonus receives Suna traffic warnings.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Mechanically, the revised Kia Optima continues to use a large 2.4-litre petrol engine producing 148 kW of power and 250 Nm of torque. Balance shafts and careful design details keep out the vibration that would once have plagued a four-cylinder engine of this capacity.
The engine drives through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual overrides offered by way of paddle shifters. There’s no full-manual gearbox as Australian driver in this class of vehicle have grown out of manuals.
As well as the usual safety features that gain a five-star crash-test rating the latest Kia Optima has numerous systems to let you avoid having the crash altogether.
In fact, Kia Optima now features many crash avoidance electronics normally associated only with the upmarket German marques. The topline Optima Platinum has the greatest safety level, with Rear Cross Traffic Alert that monitors each side of the car when you’re reversing out of a blind parking spot or driveway. The Platinum also checks the so-called blind spots created by drivers who don’t adjust mirrors correctly and advises when they shouldn’t change lanes.
The new design of front seats are slightly larger than before and offer good support while cornering. Rear seat legroom is very good and four adults can travel in comfort back there, five with a minimum of rubbing of shoulders and hips.
Boot space is good and easy to load. Kia Optima can easily be used as a family car. Indeed, these days it isn’t far short of Commodore and Falcon in size thanks to the extra depth of the boot gained by not using rear-wheel drive.
Optima doesn’t pretend to be a high-performance sedan, but holds the road at speeds much higher than those likely to be tried by the typical owner.
Some may find the ride slightly firmer than they like, try it for yourself during your own road test if you put comfort ahead of sportiness in the suspension equation.
Steering feedback has been improved in this facelifted model, but we still find it on the soft side with the wheels in the straight ahead position. Once you’re in the bend it all comes alive and you can really sense what the car is doing.
Some may find the engine is rather too responsive right off the line – the Optima take off with a real rush if you use more than a couple of millimetres of pedal. Once on the move it all settles down again and the engine has a fast, positive feel.
The automatic transmission changes down promptly at the request of the driver by either the throttle pedal or the paddle shifts.
Kia’s latest Optima carries high levels of equipment and it makes a worth addition to the short list of anyone looking for a quality car to step down a size from the current Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon.
AT A GLANCE
Si 2.4-litre petrol four-door sedan: $30,990 (automatic)
SLi 2.4-litre petrol four-door sedan: $35,990 (automatic)
Platinum 2.4-litre petrol four-door sedan: $40,490 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Kia dealer for drive-away prices.
ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Standard in all models
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models
Rear Parking Sensors: Standard in all models
Reversing Camera: Standard in all models
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in all models
Bluetooth: Standard in all models (telephone and audio streaming)
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in all models
SPECIFICATIONS (Kia Optima 2.4-litre petrol four-door sedan)
Capacity: 2.359 litres
Configuration: Transverse, four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 11.35:1
Bore/Stroke: 88.0 mm x 97.0 mm
Maximum Power: 148 kW @ 6300 rpm
Maximum Torque: 250 Nm @ 4250 rpm
Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Not offered
Automatic Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive Ratio: 2.885
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4845 mm
Wheelbase: 2795 mm
Width: 1830 mm
Height: 1455 mm
Turning Circle: 10.9 metres
Kerb Mass: 1591 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 70 litres
Towing Ability: 650 kg (1200 kg with braked trailer)
Boot Capacity: 505 litres
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: MacPherson struts
Rear Suspension: Multi-link
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Disc
Type: Petrol 91RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.9 L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 6.5/10
Air Pollution Rating: 8.5/10
Five years/unlimited km