KIA OPTIMA 2011 – 2015

2011 Kia Optima

2011 Kia Optima

Kia Optima is a medium large four-door sedan from South Korea. Importation had been on and off in the Australian market for several years from its first introduction in 2001. Then an all-new model arrived in January 2011 sparked sales and things finally started to take off in the sales race.

Firstly, the new shape was a work of automotive art from the company’s design studio headed up by German Peter Schreyer. Optima suddenly started to grab a lot of visual attention. The domed upper surface and high waistline are emphasised by a wide chromed strip that runs from the base of the A-pillar, over the upper sections of the doors and ends at the foot of the C-pillar.

Secondly, buyers were moving away from large cars in Australia, many to SUVs but others wanted something that was a size down on Commodore and Falcon. The fact that Optima’s suspension and steering were tailored for Australia certainly helped in persuading Holden and Ford down-sizers to consider the Kia.

There’s no doubt the Korean car handles pretty well for what it is, however, fashionably large alloy wheels and low profile tyres can be harsh on some rough roads and coarse-chip surfaces can create quite a bit of tyre noise.

Build quality on these post 2011 Optimas has improved out of sight when compared with early Korean cars.

The introduction of Kia’s seven year / unlimited distance warranty in 2014, is probably a third factor in the car’s success. Check with your local dealer or Kia’s head office to see if the used Optima you’re considering is covered by this.

2014 Kia Optima

2012 Kia Optima

There’s room for four adults in comfort without any real need to compromise on legroom. Mum, Dad and three preteen kids works very nicely. A deep boot has the capacity to swallow 505 litres of luggage. The rear seat backs dropped by pulling a lever in the boot.

An Optima station wagon been shown at motor shows and may make its way downunder.

Power from most Optimas comes form a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine. Performance is good without being exciting as the Optima doesn’t pretend to be a sports sedan market. It gets off the mark smartly and the engine has a silky smooth feel that will appeal to those who like quality cars.

Kia surprised us with the introduction of an Optima GT grand tourer with the launch of the new generation model range in November 2015. It has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, putting out 180 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque. It’s still a rarity on the used-car market, but it may be worth keeping an eye out.

All Kia Optimas sold in Australia have a six-speed automatic transmission with manual overrides and the option to choose a Sport mode. The engine and transmission work nicely together and we find that very few owners actually do anything but put the lever in ‘D’ and leave it there. There’s no full-manual gearbox as Australian drivers in this class have pretty well given up on self shifters.

2014 Kia Optima

2014 Kia Optima

Though still running second fiddle to big brother Hyundai, Kia is expanding quite rapidly in Australia. Most dealers are in the major cities, but some country cities and big towns are starting to show an interest.

Servicing costs are about average for Optima’s class and we have heard of no real complaints about availability and pricing of spare parts.

There used to be differences of opinion about insurance costs from the major companies, but this seems to be settling and premiums on the Optima are coming closer to one another. It’s always worth shopping around, but keep in mind that it’s smart to have a long history with a company if you do have a crash. As usual, make sure you’re comparing like with like when shopping for insurance.

By this time most of the early quality control problems had been overcome by Kia, but it’s still best to call on a professional for the final inspection after your initial check.

Take it for a drive on a rough road and listen for squeaks and rattles.

Look at the condition of the interior for signs of sun fading on the exposed areas. Also for cracks and damage, particularly in the back seats, due to rough treatment.

Similarly, check out the condition of the boot.

The engines should start within a second or so even when stone cold. Ideally do this after an overnight spot if this can be arranged with an owner.

Gear changes should be all but impossible to feel unless the Optima is being driven really hard.

Family cars often have more wear and tear inside than cosseted small sporty models.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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