Car Review: 2017 Kia Rio Si.

Kia’s rollout of updated and revamped cars continues, with the Rio the latest of the family to receive a makeover. A Wheel Thing goes one on one with the $22000 (includes metallic paint)2017 Kia Rio Si.Straight up, gone are the goldfish goggle eyed headlights, trimmed down to slim line units from front on and sweeping back into the fenders. The grille is reduced to a mail slot and sits above a larger and restyled air intake bisecting two smaller slots fitted with driving lights that come on when cornering. In profile the window line echoes that of the Sorento as do the tail lights and overall the Rio seems to have a more upright stance than the outgoing model.That sleek new body hides a mix of modern and dinosaur style technology. There’s a peppy and zippy 1.4L multipoint fuel injected four, good for a maximum power output of 74 kilowatts and torque of 133 Nm. That figure is reached at 4000 rpm and it’s noticeable that pull from this engine, by the seat of the paints, comes in from around 2500. The dinosaur in the room is the archaic four speed automatic transmission. This, wholly and solely, holds back any decent driveability. Under light acceleration the shift from first to second feels as if the car has hit a puddle of molasses. When pushed the drop becomes even more visible, going from 5000 rpm down to just over 2000.

Although it shifts smoothly and slickly enough, the Rio would be better equipped with a CVT. Using the manual shift option barely improves the experience. It also affects fuel economy adversely, with the official figures being quoted as 6.2L/100 km from the 45 litre tank for the combined cycle. A Wheel Thing saw a best of 7.2L/100 and that was on a freeway at constant speed after a week of urban driving.Inside it’s a complete freshen up. A real boon for people that like variety is the addition of Digital Audio Broadcast or DAB radio. Yes, digital radio in a $22K car, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s a simple and clean look to the seven inch screen, which also offers in the Si and SLi satellite navigation with traffic information, with the typically ergonomic and easy to read look that typifies Kia. The leather bound steering wheel on the tilt and reach column is home to cruise control, audio, and Bluetooth buttons, with the formerly slightly sharp edges in previous versions now of a softer and rounder design.Air-conditioning is effective and the dials are old school by the fact they’re…dials. In the console below is the USB, 12V, and auxiliary ports for external music supply as the Rio no longer carries a CD slot. Vale the silver disc. The dash and console itself, of a semi gloss black plastic (which reflects badly in the dash, a safety distraction) on the upper section and a gunmetal look across the horizontal, flows and blends smoothly into the door trim. Oh, it’s a key start, not push button, for the driver and their passenger as they sit in cloth and leather trimmed seats.The 4065 mm long five door sits on a handy 2580 mm wheelbase, allowing cargo space of 325 litres with the rear seats up, increasing to 980 litres folded. With an overall width of 1725 mm and height of 1450 mm there’s plenty of leg, shoulder, and head room for four adults. There’s also a USB port for the rear seat passengers, plus ISOFIX mounts, a feature virtually standard in Australian specification cars nowadays as are the six airbags, driver safety programs (bar Autonomous Emergency Braking and Blind Spot Alert).Apart from the four speed auto, it’s a delight to drive on the road. Although the alloys are just 15 inch in diameter, with 185/65 tyres the Rio rides and handles well enough for most road conditions. It’s crisp enough in turn-in with a surprising lack of understeer. It’ll lane change quick enough, given its 1162 kg plus passenger weight and will do so with minimal body roll. The torsion beam axle stabilises the rear but the rear suspension attached is a little too soft with that rear end feeling as if it would bottom out easier. The brakes also need a tightening up, with again a little too much travel before a satisfactory amount of bite happens. The usual bumps, lumps, and undulations do affect the little car but it remains mostly well tied down and does allow for a comfortable enough ride in the urban environment.At The End Of The Drive.
Bluntly, it’s a crying shame the Rio has been hamstrung with that four speed auto. The engine feels as if it wants to deliver more, the chassis is competent enough, the new look is sweet, and the trim levels across the three models provides a well appointed choice for buyers. As more and more makers with small cars with small engines move to CVTs, for all of their foibles, it’s a better option for the Rio than the current one.
For information, details on Kia’s seven year warranty and associated service plan, and to book a test drive, head over to Kia Australia here: 2017 Kia Rio range.

 

2017 Kia Sorento GT-Line: A Wheel Thing Car Review

SUVs are the big ticket seller in Australia and one of the brands that nails this market is Kia. The Sorento is their big gun here, and quite bluntly, the 2017 Kia Sorento GT-Line is an absolute pearler. Here’s why the $58490 (plus on roads) Sorento looks like a winner.It’s a seemingly tiny 2.2L diesel up front of the two tonne beast. Seemingly, until you find out there’s 441 torques on tap at a very useable 1750 to 2750 rpm range. Economy around town is quoted as 10.1L per 100 kilometres. Combined is 7.8L/100 km. A Wheel Thing had slightly more urban than highway yet managed to finish on a highly credible 8.5L/100 km, from a 71L tank. In fact, the Sorento had just ticked over to 750 km as we rolled into a station to top up and still had an expected range of sixty kilometres.

There’s a surprising amount of peak power, 147 kW, at 3800 rpm, meaning the transition between peak torque and power is a smooth and natural transition. Acceleration is, as a certain British brand would say, adequate. What isn’t are the brakes. For such a heavy and quick vehicle the brakes need more bite initally, as there’s just too much travel before anything feels like it’s about to bite. It’s a niggle, given the size of the front and rear discs at 320 mm and 305 mm respectively.That’s about it for anything not quite right. The rest of the GT-Line Sorento is as good as you’re going to get in the market right now. Standard equipment is pretty solid on the Sorento Platinum, on which the GT-Line is built upon. Naturally there’s a slick six speed auto and an all whheel drive system that’s front drive oriented until sensors divert grunt rearwards. The 19 inch alloys are chromed and look stunning, wrapping 235/55 rubber. You’ll enjoy tyre pressure monitoring and a full sized spare, for that extra peace of mind.

There’s an electrochromic rear vison mirror, which means it automatically dims any headlights and immediately minimises any potentially dazzle. On board are auto headlights, of High Intensity Discharge configuration and are auto leveling to boot. Kia also fits the Platinum and GT-Line with AFLS, or Adaptive Front Lighting System which “controls the headlight beam and adjusts it to suit the steering angle.”The mocha coloured leather seats are heated AND cooled with the driver getting a ten position adjustment and memory positioning, the gloss black and leather trimmed steering wheel is heated and yes, it does make a difference. A nifty touch to the front seats is the switch mounted high up on the passenger seat’s right hand side, which allows fore and aft adjustment & backrest tilt by the driver for any middle row passenger on that side feeling a touch cramped, not that they should with the leg room available. The driver gets a seven inch information screen and there’s a seven inch touchscreen for the Infinity ten speaker audio system, of which the junior reporters for A Wheel Thing said was the best car audio system they’ve heard. Naturally there’s satnav on board, which was easy to use and is designed with a clean to read look.The dash design is classic Kia, with ergonomics taking pride of place. Buttons and dials are where instinct would have your hands fall, the textures of the various plastics range from a leather look to gloss black, and there’s even extendable sunshades which, on the drive south to the beautiful NSW coastal town of Kiama, were a boon given the setting sun on the driver’s side of travel. Passenger comfort and amenities aren’t forgotten either, with 2 USB ports, three 12V charging ports, six cup holders, four bottle holders, map pockets, and rear seat aircon, plus a full glass roof for night time star gazing.

Inside the 4780 mm long machine lies a wheelbase of 2780 mm. Inside that is a seven seater configuration, allowing luggage space to go from 320 litres to a huge 2066 litres. As usual, Kia’s engineering is tending towards functional easiness, with a simple and highly effective pull strap system being used to raise and lower the third row seats. For privacy and secuity, Kia also add in a cargo screen, net, and offer an under floor compartment.Outside, the GT-Line gets alloy sidesteps and red brake callipers, which contrasted nicely with the test vehicle’s Snow White Pearl and the aforementioned chromed alloys. There’s folding mirrors, external lighting including in the door handle area, and the car responds to you as you approach thanks to the key fob triggering those mirrors and lights. And you’ll not be disappointed in the Sorento’s mix of assertiveness and flowing lines. There’s the quad or “Ice Cube” LED driving lights as seen in the sadly missed pro_ceed GT, the standout “neon light” look for the rear lights, and the trapezezoidal look for the windows in profile.It’s the road manners of the big car that will prove to be the crucial part of the experience. It’s adpet and dealing with road surface changes, nimble when required, sure footed and planted over almost everything, flattens those annoying shopping centre speed bumps into submission, and then there’s driveability from that torquey four for the extra dial it up factor.As mentioned, A Wheel Thing took the Sorento to Kiama, south of Wollongong, and chose to use the tight and twisty Mount Keira Rd and Harry Graham Drive, along the top of the imposing escarpment overlooking the town. They’re great roads for testing the handling mettle of cars and proved ideal in testing the two thousand kilo plus car. Brake travel feel aside, when they bite they do an excellent job on hauling the Sorento down to sharp corner speed, especially on some of the steeper turns. The three mode steering system adds a bit more heft in Sport but still remains somewhat artificial in feedback and is best left in Normal.It’s deft enough in that mode with quick response to light movement. Plus, the suspension on the Sorento is such that weight transfer, anything that may unsettle the vehicle in such a situation, is balanced nicely between comfort and control.

Naturally there’s the usual safety features although there’s no driver’s kneebag. There’s Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Lane Departure Warning System, and Autonomous Emergency Brake with Kia’s Forward Collision Warning System. Two ISOFIX child seat mounts are standard across the range as are seatbelt pretensioners at the front.

At The End Of The Drive.
There really is very, very, little to find fault with in the 2017 Kia Sorento GT-Line. In honesty, the brake feedbake and lack of driver’s kneebag are all that really could be improved and added, as the rest of the package for the Sorento GT Line is near nigh perfect. Add in the now standard seven year/150000 kilometre warranty, roadside assist and capped price servicing and it’s a bundle that has nothing left to be added in. It’s a car that’s better than well placed to take on the Europeans and beat them at their own game.
For more details, click here: 2017 Kia Sorento range

Geneva Auto Show 2017

Kia’s much promised and much talked about Stinger has been officially uneiled at the 2017 Geneva International Car Show.
Here’s what Kia had to say:
Kia Motors has revealed the full European specification for the new Kia Stinger, a powerful fastback sports sedan. The new Kia Stinger (hereafter Stinger) closely follows the design and engineering blueprint laid down by the 2011 Kia GT Concept, and is the highest-performance production vehicle in the company’s history.

The Stinger channels the spirit of historic grand tourers – powerful, elegant vehicles capable of moving their owners in style, at speed. At every stage of development, the Stinger has been designed and engineered to be the perfect gran turismo. The car features a head-turning aesthetic, ample room to accommodate five occupants and their luggage, a stable, unruffled ride, and nimble handling with engaging, rear-biased power delivery.

In its transition from concept to production, Kia’s GT Concept was renamed ‘Stinger’, inspired by the GT4 Stinger concept revealed at NAIAS 2014. While the car is a true GT in nature, the Stinger name evokes speed and excitement, two key characteristics found in the production car.

In Europe, the Stinger will be available with a choice of three engines: a 2.0-litre turbo gasoline engine, a powerful 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, and a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine – expected to account for the majority of European sales.

The Stinger is the result of years of impassioned design and development work at Kia. Six years after the company revealed its powerful statement of intent in the GT Concept, the Stinger will enter production and go on sale in Europe during the fourth quarter of 2017.

Design

Turning a concept into a production car is no small feat. Kia’s European design studio in Frankfurt – birthplace of the 2011 GT concept – has brought the Stinger to life, overseen by Peter Schreyer, Chief Design Officer of Kia Motors, and Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer at Kia Motors Europe.

Guillaume comments, “The Kia Stinger is a true gran turismo, a car for spirited long-distance driving. It’s not about outright power, hard-edged dynamics and brutal styling, all at the expense of luxury, comfort and grace. The Kia Stinger has nothing to do with being the first to arrive at the destination – this car is all about the journey. It’s about passion.”

From its sleek frontal section, through its svelte flanks, and up to its powerful haunches, the Stinger exudes a muscular confidence. Key to its road presence are its rear-wheel drive proportions – a long bonnet and short 830mm front overhang, an extended wheelbase (2905mm) to deliver a spacious cabin, and a long rear overhang (1095mm) with strong, broad shoulders. The Stinger’s stance, proportion and visual balance are designed to lend the car an air of elegance and athleticism, rather than aggression and brutality. The Stinger measures 4830mm in length and 1870mm in width, making it longer and wider than many sport sedans, and allowing for a spacious cabin and cargo area. With a 406-litre cargo capacity (VDA), the Stinger’s boot can accommodate two full-size suitcases or golf bags, or four or five weekend bags for short trips away.

The ‘Coke bottle’ shape of the car’s flanks highlight and enhance the visual power of the Stinger’s shoulder line, as well as its fastback silhouette. Other purely functional elements of the exterior design – the front air curtains, wheel arch gills, smooth underbody, and integrated rear diffuser – aid its aerodynamic efficiency, enabling a drag coefficient of 0.30 Cd. The rear valance houses four oval exhaust pipes. Kia’s signature ‘tiger-nose’ grille sits proudly between complex LED headlamps.

External gran turismo visual cues are complemented by the layout and atmosphere of the low-slung cabin, with a steeply-raked windscreen and high dashboard running along a horizontal plane. The dashboard’s centre console is split into two specific areas: the infotainment controls sit neatly below a large colour touchscreen, while the climate and ventilation controls sit beneath. In front of the driver is a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a single instrument binnacle with a combination of analogue and digital instrumentation. The large gauges are ringed in metal and accentuated with sweeping red needles. A colour TFT screen between the gauges relays performance data – such as cornering G-forces and lap times – along with ancillary information, including trip computer, driver settings, navigation and diagnostics.

Aeronautically-inspired spoked circular vents feature in the front and rear, while a strip of satin chrome encircles the cabin. The effect is a feeling of cocooned intimacy. However, the long wheelbase, four-door body, and fastback silhouette allow for generous front and rear leg room, and the low seating position provides ample head room for all passengers. In its lowest setting, the driver’s seat is just 180mm above the road – 45mm lower than that of the Kia Optima sedan – for a low-slung, performance-oriented driving position.

Cossetting occupants in luxury, the Stinger’s deeply-contoured seats are available with ultra-soft Nappa leather, while the driver’s seat is available with four way air-cell lumbar support in the seatback and side bolsters for optimal comfort. An optional wide sunroof enhances the ambience of the interior, allowing more skylight to flood the cabin and improve the outwards view for every passenger.

European buyers will be able to order their Stinger in one of ten exterior metallic and pearlescent paint finishes.

Engines and drivetrain

Under the long bonnet of the Kia Stinger is a choice of three longitudinally-mounted turbocharged engines, each in the final stages of tuning before entering production later in 2017. With turbochargers equipped across the engine line-up, the Stinger offers drivers effortless gran turismo-style high-speed cruising and instant acceleration when called upon by the driver, with all three engines providing high power and torque across a wide band of engine speeds.

The engine anticipated to account for the majority of Stinger sales across Europe is a 2.2-litre turbodiesel, capable of producing 147kW at 3800rpm. Its maximum torque output – 440Nm – is available to drivers across a wide 1750-2750 rpm range, enabling the car to accelerate from 0-to-100 kph in 7.7 seconds, and on to a top speed of 225kph.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder ‘Theta’ engine produces 188kW at 6200 rpm. Its maximum torque output – 353Nm – is available from 1400 to 4000 rpm. The Stinger’s most powerful engine is a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 ‘Lambda II’ gasoline engine, with peak power of 276kW arriving at 6000 rpm, and 510Nm torque accessible from 1300 to 4500rpm. Stinger models powered by the 3.3-litre turbocharged engine can accelerate from 0-to-100kph in just 5.1 seconds, making it the fastest-accelerating production Kia ever. With this engine, Kia is targeting a top speed of 270kph.

The Stinger features the second-generation of Kia’s electronic eight-speed automatic transmission, which is fitted as standard with all engines. Designed in-house, the eight-speed transmission rewards drivers with immediate shifts and optimum fuel efficiency. More typically found in aviation and racing applications, the Stinger’s transmission marks Kia’s first use of a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber (CPA) torque converter, reducing torsional vibrations through the drivetrain. The transmission offers up to five different shift and throttle programmes (as well as levels of steering assistance – see below), which drivers can select through the car’s electronic Drive Mode Select. Drivers can leave the car to shift for itself, or change gears with steering wheel-mounted paddles.

The Stinger is Kia’s first sedan to be available with either rear- or all-wheel drive – the latter offering enhanced dynamic capability in even the most challenging conditions. In its rear-wheel drive format, power is distributed throughout the rear axle by an optional mechanical limited slip differential. The rear-biased all-wheel drive system is equipped with Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control, which monitors driver inputs and road conditions, automatically applying power and braking force to the appropriate wheels to maintain course in the wet or dry.

2016 Kia Optima Si: Car Review.

Kia’s big mid sized car, or mid sized big car, the Optima, has proved to be a stayer in recent years. For 2017 Kia has streamlined the range, with it now compromising the Si and GT, with the latter now packing a turbo engine and replacing the Platinum nameplate. A Wheel Thing takes time with the entry level Kia Optima Si.2017-my-kia-optima-si-profile-smpThere’s a good reason why the range is now just two: the Si gets crammed full of standard equipment found as options elsewhere. Apart from the standard, mandated, safety equipment such as ABS, airbags and the like, there’s Hill Start Assist, the flashing brake lights Emergency Stop Signal, parking sensors front & rear with dash display, rear view camera with guidelines, Lane Departure Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, auto headlights and with auto levelling. Straight up, that’s an impressive features list from a $38500 driveaway (no options or metallic paint) priced car.2017-my-kia-optima-si-engineWhat you’ll get up front is Kia’s 2.4L, with 138 kilowatts and 241 torques at 4000 rpm put to the front wheels via a six speed auto. It’s an engine that needs a rev to get the 1540 kg car going and that’s reflected in the consumption. The combined figure is quoted as 8.3L/100 km on standard unleaded, with an urban figure of 12.0L. That’s simply too high in today’s eco aimed environment and has been the Optima’s weak spot since the current shape was released in 2013. Take it out on the freeway and expect just over 6.0L/100 km from the huge 70 litre tank.2017-my-kia-optima-si-profileIt weighs a bit because it IS a big car but not as much as similar sized competitors. It’s big car in length at 4855 mm, big car in width at 1860 mm but has a low 1465 mm to show why in profile it’s seen as slinky and sensuous. It’s a good sized wheelbase, too, at 2805 mm, which translates into plenty of internal space, including a huge 510 litre boot space that is more than adequate for a family shop or a holiday away.2017-my-kia-optima-si-wheelDesign wise there’s subtle but crucial changes, keeping the Si’s looks fresh. It’s a more defined tiger nose grille, the LED lights in the lower quadrants of the intake inside the reprofiled bumper, the slimmer tail lights, extended boot lid, and the Continental rubber on the 17 inch alloys. A good looker? Absolutely. The test car came in Clear White, one of five colours available for the Si, with Silky Silver, Platinum Graphite, Gravity Blue and Temptation Red also available as an optionable cost (check with your dealer for pricing).2017-my-kia-optima-si-front-seatsInside it’s black cloth for the Si, on well sculpted, supportive and well bolstered, manually operated seats. For the Si, that’s the sole trim choice available. The driver and front seat passenger see a fluid, flowing, dash, with an ergonomically smart layout. The upper section, nearest the window, has a curve not unlike that seen in a premium British brand and the dash plastic has an almost leather look to the texture.2017-my-kia-optima-si-dashTabs have a soft feel and are of Kia’s semi matte finish. The overall effect is of quality and presence and wouldn’t be out of place in some more expensive Euro spec cars. And although the window line is high in proportion to the sides, there’s still plenty of all around vision. If you have portable devices or smartphones, there’s four 12 Volt sockets; two front and two for the rear seats, mounted at the rear of the centre console.2017-my-kia-optima-si-centre-dashEntertainment is courtesy of a 7 inch touchscreen with navigation, complete with USB/Auxiliary/Bluetooth streaming and a Speed Dependent Volume Control. It’s AM/FM only with limited RDS (Radio Data Service) capability, leaving the Si Optima behind some competitors. Sound quality in FM is good enough, however, with tuner sensitivity only rarely showing a dropout.2017-my-kia-optima-si-bootWhere the Si further shines is on the road. Think of the suspension tune as “sporting luxury”. Punted over a broken up tarmac surface at Sydney Motorsport Park, there’s plenty of absorption, compliance, plushness before firming up rapidly but not uncomfortably. Kia Australia works very closely with Kia’s headquarters to work on suspension tune for Australia and again that effort shows and pays off. Even being front wheel drive there’s barely a hint of that, with no torque steer yet an appreciable weight and heft to the steering feel. Speedbumps? Not a problem? Dive under brakes? Not enough to worry about. Dealing with undulations? C’mon, why ask!2017-my-kia-optima-si-rear-seatsPushed hard into a certain roundabout which has a direction of travel change of over 180 degrees, there was no understeer and the rear followed the front around without question. Nope, no tyre squeal either, before you ask. The electrically assisted steering is not overdone in how it works with the three steering modes, and the Motor Driven Power Steering Module is steering column mounted, allowing Kia to tune towars the more luxury side as opposed to the GT’s rack mounted setup.

It’s quiet, too, on the road, with the 2.4 litre engine only intruding slightly and that only when pressed hard. Wind and tyre noice are negligible at best and only mildly noticed at worst. Combined with the seating, you will emerge from a long drive without the subconscious stress outside noise brings in.

At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing, the Optima Si was priced at $34490 plus ORCs. Along with the seven year warranty, Kia offer capped price servicing over those seven years, starting off with $331.00 for the first service at one year or 15000 kilometres, with a maximum of $769.00 at the 60000 kilometre service for the Optima Si.
What a new buyer gets for their hard earned is a thoroughly well sorted car, with plenty of Australian input, a huge boot, plenty of standard features and astoundingly good value for money.

For more information on the Australian spec2017 MY Kia Optima go here: 2017 model year Kia Optima

Car Review: 2016 Kia Optima GT

Kia’s Optima nameplate has been with Australian drivers for well over a decade, being launched under that nomenclature in 2001. Based on Hyundai’s Sonata, it’s been a quiet seller yet has a high level of loyalty. When the third generation was released to the Aussie market in 2010, it quickly gained recognition for its slinky, sexy, good looks. The latest version with a mild reskin, now comes with the standard 2.4L in Si trim or a turbocharged four cylinder 2.0L engine. Called the Optima GT, it’s this that A Wheel Thing spent an enjoyable week with.Kia Optima GT night shot

Torque is the now seemingly standard 350 Nm for 2.0L turbo engines, available between an immensely usable 1400 through to 4000 revs. Peak power is 180 kW, at 6000 revs. The engine itself is a square bore design, with bore and stroke at 86mm x 86 mm. Drive is put to the ground via the front wheels, through a slick six speed auto, complete with paddle shifts.

One of the more subtle yet noticeable things (once you give it some thought) about the GT’s driveability is the lack of torque steer. For a front wheel drive car, with a good dose of twist across such a rev range, Kia have performed some magic on the drive train. Under all forms of acceleration, there’s no noticeable pull, no is there any lack of traction from the 235/45/18 Michelin Sport rubber. Bluntly, it’s a superb piece of engineering and greatly aids the driving experience.Kia Optima GT 2.0L turbo engine

As a result, it goes like a hungry dog after a thrown bone. Sink the slipper and expect to see the rev counter’s needle zing around the dial. Expect the speedo to change numbers rapidly as well and potentially see Kia’s quoted fuel figure of 12.5L of 91 RON being slurped from the 70 litre tank. Even if you match that figure it’s still good for 560 kilometres. A Wheel Thing saw around 9.0L/100 in a predominantly urban drive. Hit the other extreme of 6.3L/100 km and that’s somewhere in the order of 1100 kilometres. That’s Perth to Kalgoorlie. And back. Overtaking? Simple. Safe. Belying the 1605 kg kerb weight, it’s a matter of correctly picking the moment and then it’s done.

Consider the dimensions of the Optima and you’ll quickly see why that although it slots into the medium segment because of the engine size, it’s a big car otherwise. It’s 4855 mm in length, 1860 mm wide yet sits close to the ground at just 1465 mm in height. Lob in a wheelbase of 2805 mm and what you’ll get is plenty of interior room, with rear seat passengers getting loads of head space and there’s oodles of shoulder room all round. Boot space? A mafia pleasing 510 litres.2016 Kia Optima GT rear

It’s a long, low, slinky and very much an aero shape, the Optima, with swept back headlights, LED driving lights (and LED interior lights, by the way), a high belt line and an almost coupe swoop for the rear window line. The “tiger grille” is bracketed in the lower front bar by sporty looking intakes inserts, looking as if they’ll divert cooling air to the front brakes.Kia Optima GT front left The tail lights have been modified slightly, as has the point where the rear door roof section meets the rear window, compared to the previous model. A minimum ground clearance of 135 mm has the Optima GT looking as if it’s a low riding European sports car, which isn’t far from the truth.Kia Optima GT rear right

The chassis work that goes into a Korean designed, engineered and built car to have it suitable for Aussie roads is astounding. Get into one and you’ll be driving possibly the best handling and riding car in its class. A Wheel Thing has lauded the updated Subaru Liberty and Outback range for the on road abilities they have, however the Optima GT takes them on and wins.

It’s beyond precise in its handling; point it at any curve or turn and feel the nose tuck in exactly where you expect it to go. Come down to a tightening radius corner and there’s no need for brakes as the nose follows the line in, communicating back to the driver’s seat the subtle and not so subtle variances in tarmac conditions. Undulations in the road have the GT barely move in the suspension as it rolls untroubled across them whilst unsettled surfaces genuinely seem to be reduced in impact to the quiet cabin. Even with the low profile rubber (which certainly helps in handling) the ride is just simply superb.

All of this can be enjoyed from the sumptuous cabin. Leather look stitching in the plastic on the dash, a sweet looking dash, spot on ergonomics, heating and cooling for the electric front seats (the driver gets eight way adjustable and four settings for the lumbar support), an updated look to the touchscreen (finally showing station info with RDS but no DAB, lacking that factor against its Euro and some Japanese competitors), 2016 Kia Optima GT rear seatsthe firm yet comfortable seats and the almost suede look and feel to the buttons. It’s fair to say the overall presence is better than its sibling, the Sonata. There’s the panoramic glass roof, dual zone climate control and a somewhat flat sounding Harman Kardon sound system.

The dash stays with mechanical needles for the dials; perhaps a move to LED screens would imbue the GT with a higher level of tech-look and ambience. What is techy is the wireless charging pad ahead of the gear selector, but currently only suitable for LG and Samsung phones. no surprises given the Korean origins. 2016 Kia Optima GT dashThere’s also a heated steering wheel, surprisingly useful during the the cold snap Sydney experienced during the test. Yes, it might seem a bit wanky but cold leather look materials do benefit from heating on a cold day and this was a welcome addition.2016 Kia Optima GT front seats

Backing up the ride and handling is the comprehensive safety package: ABS, stability control, Hill Start assist, Emergency Stop Signal (flashing brake lights under emergency stopping), Blind Spot Detection and Lane Change Assist, an intrusive (but thankfully switch off-able) vocal speed alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, reverse camera, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning System, auto leveling and swiveling head lights, plus the usual curtain and front airbags (no driver’s knee bag?) and that seven year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

What should you expect to pay for the Optima GT? Kia says $43990 as the recommended retail price plus ORCs. That’s getting up there in price, thanks to the government charges, but there really is a fair amount of car for the money. Servicing costs aren’t bad either, with the first service due at six months or 7500 kilometres, oddly, not a gratis item, at $191.00. It’s $408.00 at two years/30000, about the same at three years/45000 but a hefty $769.00 at four years/60000…

At The End Of The Drive.
In simple terms, A Wheel Thing believes the Kia Optima GT is one of the best cars in its class currently available in the Australian market. It’s a gorgeous thing in the flesh, a superb handler, a great ride and except for those fuel figures, unacceptable in today’s environment, a cracker package overall.Kia Optima Sportswagon
There’s a wagon, a “shooting brake” in the works and potentially a slightly larger, more upmarket, REAR wheel driver version also.
The Kia Optima GT‘s details can be found here: Kia Optima GT details

Car Review: 2016 Kia Sorento Platinum Diesel.

Kia’s had a good 2015 in the Australia car market, with both the Carnival and Sorento winning gongs from drive.com.au and Behind The Wheel, plus the Sorento was awarded a prize in the Good Design‘s “Transportation” category.
A Wheel Thing back to backed two Kia diesels, the family perfect Carnival and the impressive Sorento Platinum, both powered by the grunty 2.2L diesel.

The test vehicle provided was covered in the optional (and pretty) Snow White Pearl. At $595 it’s not a deal breaker, on top of the RRP of $55990. The exterior recently copped a makeover, softening some of the harder edges and, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, makes it more feminine friendly, as the previous look definitely had a masculine attraction. It still manages to take up a reasonable amount of real estate, with a length of 4790 mm, 1890 in width and a surprising 1690 mm in height. Surprising, as it looks taller.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel profileDonk wise, the 2.2L diesel provides 441 Nm between 1750 to 2750 rpm, with the somewhat annoying lightswitch “bam” onces it reaches around 1600. Although the Platinum is an AWD version, it’s predominantly FWD oriented with a lock mode for some off-roading, meaning the front will grip and then send torque through to the rear, with the accompanying slamming back into the seats of the passengers if launched moderately hard. Under gentle prodding, it’s a smooth and quiet progression.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel engine

Kia quotes economy as as 7.8L per 100 on a combined cycle, with the natural habitat seeing 10.1L per 100 klicks. Considering it’s lugging a dry weight of around 2000 kg, it’s reasonable from a 71 litre tank. Should Sir and Madam decide on a highway trip,there’s something in the order of 6.4L for every one hundred or, theoretically, somewhere over 1000 kilometres.

That’s helped by that smoother, more svelte looking exterior. The headlights have a less eagle eyed sharpness to them, with the top edge rolling into the bonnet, with the lower bumper exhibiting a more aerodynamic look, sporting a rolled off crease above the driving lights and flowing air more efficiently along the side. 2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel frontThere’s also a somewhat more bluff and vertical look to the nose plus the traditional “tiger nose” grille looks to be enlarged. The profile is much the same whereas the rear has a strong resemblance, thanks to the lights, to the Carnival. The review vehicle came fitted with a towbar, with the Sorento able to tow up to 2000 kilograms.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel rear 22016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel rear 1

Inside, A Wheel Thing suspects that Kia’s design team has taken inspiration from a certain British luxury and sports car brand. There’s a gloriously sweeping arch atop the dash, joining the driver’s and passenger side doors, with finely embossed, almost stitched leather look plastic. 2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel front seatsGrey wood grained plastic complements the stone coloured upper level trim and black leather seating and the (heated) steering wheel has the same off centre pivot as found in cars from the U.K. brand.

The dash and tilt/reach adjustable steering wheel interact with information shown on the logically laid out dash screen, which is accessible via tabs on the tiller. Fuel usage on the fly, average fuel, trip meter and more, all in clean and easy to read fonts. Blutooth streaming is on board, allowing great sounds via the ten speaker Infinity sound system. The tiller itself is of a good heft, however there were occasions when the plastic inlay came to hand and hand grip was minimised.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel dash

Tech wise there’s a glass roof, Hill Start Assist, Blind Spot Detection and Lane Change Assist, plus Lane Departure Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, auto levelling headlights, park assist sensors and rear view camera plus tyre pressure monitoring. All standard in the Platinum.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel sunroof

Being a seven seater, there’s aircon controls in the rear, but oddly in the rearmost section, not where the more logical passengers would be seated, in the middle row. The stored seats are devilishly simple to operate, with a simple pull strap mechanism doing the work. The middle row are the immensely usable tilt and fold style, (with cargo going from 320L to 2066L) with the fronts naturally electrically operated, with heating and venting.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel rear aircon

Should one need somepower for items such as a mobile phone or a fridge, there’s three 12V sockets, with two being handily placed in the front section. There’s also 2 USB charger ports along with an Auxiliary for extra sound input.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel console

Kia’s six speed auto is a delight to use; Sports mode or manual shift was rarely used but does make gear changes just that touch crisper. There’s no real need to use it during normal driving as it simply works as expected; smooth, fast, quietly. There’s a locking centre diff should one desire to try the 235/55/19 off road…highly unlikely, however.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel wheel

On road, the Sorento is well mannered, with a measure of understeer in some circumstances. Under brakes (which were, quite frankly, in dire need of of a pedal that gave feel as soon as you touched it, not an inch down in travel) there was a distinct lack of confidence in hauling up the two tonnes plus. Ride quality, however, made up for it, being just soft enough to flatten out most lumps comfortably.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel aircon

It’s chuckable enough to have fun with as well, with a nimbleness at odds with its apparent bulk. There’s more than enough grunt to get it under way rapidly and when punted hard, will move with surprising alacrity. Tip in in to a turn and yes, there is that understeer but easily controlled into a touch of oversteer with a deftpiece of footwork.

The Wrap.
Kia is one of the Australian automotive markets hidden secrets; there’s the astonishingly underrated Kia Pro_ceed GT, the funky Soul and the immensely family friendly Carnival (diesel is the pick). The Sorento is a class act and worthy of the awards it has won. As far as A Wheel Thing is concerned, it’s as family usable as the Carnival with the added attraction of being soft road capable, if that’s your wont. And at under $60K, with a huge standard feature list, it takes the fight to the Europeans and is well equipped to do so.
There’s Kia’s standard seven year warranty, capped price servicing ($400 for the first service at 15000 kilometres or 12months)
For details and brochure downloads: Kia Sorento range and info

Car Review: 2015 Kia Optima Platinum.

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).

Kia Optima Engine
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.

Kia Optima frontA 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.Kia Optima rear

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.Kia Optima Platinum sunroof

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.Kia Optima Platinum dash

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.Kia Optima Platinum dash dials

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.Kia Optima Platinum transmission

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.Kia Optima cruise control

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.Optima wheel

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.Optima front left night

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).Optima boot

The Wrap.
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.