Kia‘s large mid sizer is, in A Wheel Thing‘s view, one of the slinkiest and prettiest cars around. Indeed, a good measuring stick is Jaguar’s XF saloon, as the Optima has similar proportions. It spent a week in the garage and disappointed in one key area but delighted in many others. Here’s how it shakes out…
With a RRP of $40990, it’s not cheap, one might say, but the latest Optima Platinum gets a fair swag of kit. To move it all around, Kia have stuck with their tried and true 2.4L GDI (gasoline direct injection) four. Here, right here, is the problem. There’s a 70L tank, which you can fill with any unleaded, which will be drunk at the rate of over eleven litres per one hundred kilometres in an urban cycle (Kia quotes 11.2/100Km).
On predominantly freeway usage, A Wheel Thing battled to get under 8.6L/100km, a far cry from the 7.9L or 6.0L for the combined and highway figures quoted. Quite frankly, they’re damnable figures and need some serious consideration. Part of the issue comes from the rev points needed for maximum torque and power. There’s 250 Nm as a peak twist, at 4250 revs while peak power is 148 kW, at 6300 revs. Weight contributes as well, with a near 1600 kilo dry weight and just over 2000 kilos gross weight. Now the elephant in the room has been led away, let’s look at the good stuff.
A Kia car, nowadays, is a far cry, lookswise, from just a few years ago. The Optima really is a beautiful car from all angles, with the lithe Jaguar like profile, to the LED running lights, cornering lamps and quadbox driving lights in the lower extremities of the front bar, to the signature neon look in the tail light structure. It’s a long, low beast; 4845 mm long yet just 1455 mm high. Interior room is huge thanks to a 1830 mm width and 2795 mm wheelbase.
It’s a smallish window line in profile, with the potential for a heavy, slabby look broken by the subtle crease through the doors and the sill panels in a sports style. Open the door, there’s the red backlit Kia logo in the alloy sill panels. A subtle lip spoiler is built into the boot lid (and a 437L cargo space) to top off the sporty look whilst the roof gets a full length glass top.
The interior is a subtle revision of the first model in this shape; the aircon and infotainment controls have a soft, almost suede feel to the plastic, there’s piano black surrounds on the lower centre around them whilst the infotainment and satnav screen has a satin finish around it with the Start/Stop button just to the right side.
The steerer has a clean and well laid out design, with audio, channel search, cruise, Drive mode and Bluetooth buttons, plus paddle shifts and again there’s that seeming link to Jaguar, with the circular hub of the tiller reminescent of the big cat brand’s style.
The dash dials themselves are bisected by a LCD screen for the driver, with a green hue added when Eco mode is engaged, whilst the Platinum gets a two position memory function for the driver as standard plus both heating and cooling. Oddly, these are options in the newly released XE Jaguar…However, the Korean makers still insist on not providing RDS (Radio Data System/Service), a decision that grates, not does the Platinum come with DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) whereas Toyota’s Camry and Aurion do.
Electric seats are standard in the Platinum (eight way for the driver, four for the passenger) and there’s grey tinted plastic wood trim for that luxury touch. The electric parking brake is easily reached and smartly placed ahead of the gear selecter which itself is ahead of a roller screen for the cup holders. Right at the base is the auxiliary inputs for audio, in between two twelve volt sockets.
There’s a firm ride to the Optima, a touch jiggly at times, yet not without a measure of compliance. The freeway undulations are bent to the Optima’s will, with the deeper hollows flattened nicely with a single short rebound. Speed bumps do intrude somewhat and the bigger, broader school style do make the front suspension thump as the front lifts. It sits flat, taut, through sweeping turns, surefooted and leaving the driver knowing anything like an off camber turn can be dealt with.
Acceleration from the revvy 2.4L is adequate but because of the high rev point for both torque and power, it does get thrashy, buzzy and doesn’t really acheive the aim all that quickly. The need for high revs contributes to the fuel economy problem.
The steering is quick, responsive but there’s a touch of numbness from the electrically assisted system on centre. In normal driving it’s light enough, loads up nicely in long sweepers and talks back nicely in tight turns,letting you know exactly where the front wheels are headed (there’s 225/45/18s all round). Braked hard into a turn, the Optima showed no sign of being unsettled, no was there any sign of torque steer except when really pushed high into the rev band.
For safety, well, there’s a fair suite available: cross traffic alerts for the rear, wing mirror blind spot detection, rear vision camera (displayed on the nav screen) auto on headlights and rain sensing wipers, hill start assist, pelvis/thorax/curtain airbags and active headrests which move forward and up to protect the head in case of impact. That’s all backed by Kia’s still to be matched seven years/unlimited kilometre warranty and their capped price servicing (every 15000 kilometres).
The Platinum version of the Optima comes in at $40990 plus $595 for metallic paint. The test car came in Temptation Red, an ideal colour to show off the svelte, lithe curves. Features wise, there’s seriously not much that the Optima Platinum lacks. It doesn’t have auto parking assist, in A Wheel Thing’s eyes, a good thing. It doesn’t have RDS or DAB, a first world problem set.
It doesn’t have good fuel economy and that’s a world problem. $30k to $40k for a large mid sizer isn’t a lot of money any more, but when you’re competing against similar sized cars, both engine and physically, it’s not a good look. It is, though, roomy enough for a four member family, a good sized boot and has style to burn.
Go here: 2015 Kia Optima range for the info on the 2015 range and keep an eye out for news on an updated model.