Car Review: 2017 Kia Sportage Si Premium.

Kia’s Sportage is one of the brands oldest nameplates for the Australian market. From its somewhat rough and ready, if competent, beginnings in the 1990s, it’s morphed into a handsome, bluff nosed, popular machine in the mid sized SUV market.
Available in 2017 as a four trim level range, covering Si, Si Premium, SLi, and GT-Line (formerly Platinum), there’s three engines, one transmission, and two or part time all wheel drive options. A Wheel Thing takes the entry level but one 2017 Kia Si Premium front wheel drive home for the week. The cost is $31510 with premium paint (a grey hued colour called Mineral Silver) at $520.Sportage comes with a choice of 2.0L petrol, 2.4L petrol, or 2.0L diesel. Power outputs for the diesel and bigger petrol are just a kilowatt apart, at 136 kW and 135 kW respectively. The Si and Si Premium has the 114 kW 2.0L four (plus the diesel is an option for the Si). Torque wise it’s a steady climb, from 192 Nm, 237 Nm (both at 4000 rpm) and a handy 400 Nm (1750 – 2750 rpm) for the oiler. For the Si, Kia says economy is 10.9L/7.9L/6.1L (per 100 kilometres, urban/combined/highway) from the 62 litre tank. A Wheel Thing’s final figure was 8.4L of unleaded per 100 kilometres in a mainly urban environment. Sizewise it’s well situated in the mid sized SUV bracket, with length at 4480 mm, overall width of 1855 mm, a wheelbase of 2670 mm and a ride height of 172 mm. Spare wheel is a full sized alloy.The sole transmission available is a six speed auto. There’s no paddle shifts available in the Si or Si Premium however there’s the now almost mandatory Sports shift or manual selection via the gear lever. For the most part it’s smooth enough but did exhibit occasional jerkiness and indecision. The auto would also downshift, from sixth to fifth and sometimes fourth under light throttle on slight slopes. On bigger slopes such as the Great Western Highway’s climb up from the river plain, it’s expected it would drop back, and did so easily, plus would hold that gear with only the throttle responsible for rev changes. In normal driving upshifts were slick, quiet, however light throttle on a cold engine seemed to have the cold also annoying the transmission’s electronics, with the hesitancy and judder found in older style autos.Give the Si Premium a solid push on the go pedal and it does drop back easily, as mentioned. What you’ll also get is the mechanical keen from the 2.0L as it winds its way rapidly through the rev range. The 114 kilowatts comes in at 6200 rpm and the engine certainly gives no sign it’ll struggle to reach those numbers. Acceleration is decent enough however there’s a sense that more could be on offer but doesn’t reach the front driven 225/55/18 rubber from Nexen. The 1560 kilogram kerb weight may be one reason. Braking is good, with the 305 mm vented fronts and 302 mm solid rears responding quickly and effectively every time the beautifully balancedand communicative brake pedal is pushed.The McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension tie the Sportage down well. Although it theoretically could do some soft roading, tarmac is its natural friend and the two go well together. There’s a sense of balance in the way the Si Premium handles itself, with the tight corners for the Old Bathurst Road that snakes its way up from Penrith in Sydney’s west despatched as easily as the dips and undulations on the freeway system that rings the western parts of Sydney. Kia’s engineers spend a lot of time refining the spring and damper settings for Australian spec roads and it shows.

The Sportage is rarely fussed about the road surface, is quiet on all but the coarsest chip surfaces, and seat of the pants feedback tells you that even in quick sideways movement that it’s as composed as if it were standing still. The steering is quick at about 3.5 turns lock to lock, light in Normal mode, not much difference noticeably in Eco and feels a bit heavier, with more feedback in Sports, to round out the driving package. It helps move the Sportage from lane to lane quickly and without a sense of mass shifting direction, making for an almost sporting car drive.Apart from the tyre and wheel size between the Si and Si Premium (225/60/17 for Si), there’s also front parking sensors and electro-chromatic rear vision mirror to differentiate. The Premium also picks up LED DRLs, rain sensing wipers, driver AND front passenger Auto up/down window switches, dual zone climate control, Auto defog system, and illuminated vanity mirrors. Seat trim is a black and charcoal grey weave for the cloth with the front pews manually adjusted for height and seat back angle via levers. The rear seats fold down flat via side mounted levers and provide up to 1455 litres of cargo space, up from 460L with the seats up.The black plastics throughout the cabin have a warm texture to them, with a sweep around the bottom of the windscreen not unlike a new Jaguar. The steering wheel hub has the same feel whilst the smoother plastics are that almost suede feel to the matt fiished buttons and suurounds. The seven inch colour touchscreen, which features satnav, another item the Si alone doesn’t get, sits between the central air vents and there’s an alloy look to the surrounds. There’s bottle holders in all doors, cup/bottle holders in the centre console and a small storage locker in the console as well. The driver’s dial binnacle houses a 3.5 inch monochrome screen with information such as trip, fuel economy, service status, accessed via tabs on the steering wheel. There’s plenty of rear seat leg room, even with the front seats pushed back and enough for most front seat passengers when that seat’s pushed forward. All over and around, it’s typically high quality Kia.The touchscreen has a pseudo radio “dial look”, good quality sound, Bluetooth and Auxiliary/USB campatible, but notably no CD slot. In place of that is voice activated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. When in Reverse, the camera provides a clear enough picture but it’s not as clear and sharply defined as others available. There’s also a pair of 12V sockets at the front of the centre console and one at the rear, allowing for extra USB ports if needed. Aircon controls are simple to use, clean to look at, and the Synch button lights up when it’s a mono zone control, meaning temperature adjustment is for both right and left seats.Outside, the Sportage is stubby tailed, long bonneted, with a steeply raked windscreenbehind Kia’s signature Schreyer grille, and rear window, with a thickish C pillar and profile that reminds one of the original Sportage. The update in 2016 lost the angular and sloped headlights, changing them to an insert style that flows from the more upright nose back along the bonnet shut line. The Sportage designers may have taken inspiration from a classic sci-fi film for the design of the inner headlights, with the look not unlike at all the tri-lensed aliens from War Of The Worlds. The front bumper also has inserts for the globe lit daytime driving lights in each corner, matching the height of the rear’s indicator cluster located low in the rear bumper, not higher up inside the rear light cluster, a staple of the Sportage design.Naturally there’s plenty of safety on board in the form of six airbags, traction control, DBC or Downhill Brake Control and HAC (Hill start Assist Control). Only the GT-Line gets Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Forward Collision Warning System, and Lane Departure Warning System. Servicing is yearly or 15000 kilometres plus capped at a cost of around $2756 over the seven years.

At The End Of The Drive.
Kia Sportage range stands up to be counted in a very crowded market. It’s a car that’s full of class and oozes plenty of style. Consider sibling Tucson from Hyundai, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Renault’s brilliant Koleos, VW Tiguan and you get the idea of what it’s up against. With a strong list of standard equipment, a free revving petrol engine (and the diesel’s pretty damned good), a comfortable drive, and that seven year warranty, it acquits itself with dignity and poise. Kia’s 2017 Sportage range deserves to be on your radar when looking out for a new mid sized SUV.
For specifications and more, head over to :Kia Australia’s website and Sportage

Car Review: 2017 Kia Soul

Kia’s Soul is one of those cars that slips under the radar for no really good reason. Who knows if it’s the perception of the brand or of the name or the look, but it’s grossly unfair to disregard this car. Full stop.
Yes, it’s squarish. Yes, it looks somewhat odd, like the two or three other squarish designs. However, it’s roomy, effective, and a surprise. A mostly good surprise. Here’s a look at the 2017 Kia Soul, with the test vehicle fitted with a few extras.The 2017 model has undergone a mild facelift inside and out as of October 2016. It’s recognisably Kia inside, with a look familiar to anyone that has spent time in one of the brand’s cars. Outside, it’s a change to the grille & air intake, front bumper, fog lamps, reflectors, and wheels. The interior gets a five inch screen for the audio system, with RDS (Radio Data Service) not included, the FlexSteer drive system with associated engine mapping and steering changes, a centre dash refresh, and changes to the seat coverings and door trims.It’s smaller outside than the design would have you believe, with an overall length of just 4140 mm and a wheelbase of 2570 mm maximises interior space. Overall width is decent at 1800 mm with shoulder room aplenty for four aboard. There’s one wheel size; 17 inches is the diameter and rubber comes from Nexus at 215/55. The spare is a spacesaver.The test car came clad in Inferno Red on the body and a Cherry Black roof, a $910 option cost over a single colour choice. Any single metallic is now just $620. A Clear White and Red roof combo will also be cost effective at $390. The review car came fitted with carpeted floor mats ($160), dash mat ($93 and superb at reducing windscreen reflection), an embossed and moulded cargo bay liner ($147), weathershields for the windows ($296) and an alloy roof rack set ($552) for a total cost of $1249 over the $24990 base cost and metallic paint. It’s a boxy shape, yes, but curvaceous enough to not be a completely hard edged look either. The window shields also aided in softening the edge plus it sits high enough in looks to almost be taken for a kind of SUV.The engine is a 112 kilowatt petrol four at two litres capacity. Peak torque of 192 Nm is available at 4000 rpm, 2200 below peak power. The sole transmission choice is a six speed auto with a decidedly dual clutch feel in change under way, yet lacks the roll forward found in DCTs. Kia rates the 2.0L engine as consuming a combined figure of 8.0L per 100 kilometres driven, 6.2L/100 km on the highway and a far too thirsty 11.0L/100 km in the suburban jungle. The tank holds just 54 litres and it’s this fuel figure that is one potential reason why the Soul hasn’t had the penetration it otherwise may deserve.Due to a last minute change of circumstances, the Soul became freed up to be taken away to Bega, the cheese capital of Australia and no doubt inspiration for many Monty Python related gags….Over a period of 54 hours, from departure to arrival back at AWT HQ, the Soul faced strong head and cross winds, from south of Sydney on the Hume through to Canberra and the plains south of there, through to the road east from the driver’s delight of Brown Mountain. And return. After a round trip of 1111 kilometres, the final average fuel consumption was 8.4L per 100 kilometres. It wasn’t until returning the Soul that the claimed figure of 8.0L/100 km was seen, and that was on an unusually quiet freeway run.

On a similar run 12 months ago, AWT achieved sub 5.0L/100 km in a revamped small SUV from a niche Japanese brand. A smaller engine, turbo charged, and diesel…An 11.0L urban figure in a small SUV style vehicle just doesn’t cut it any more.
What did work, for the most part, was the six speed auto. Quiet, smooth, from stopped to go and under way. The only times it felt uncertain was in sixth at around 110 kmh on the slightest of uphill slopes, where you could feel the transmission “drag” against the spin of the engine, feeling as if it wanted to do something but didn’t know exactly what that something was. Otherwise, it’s reasonably geared, with 110 kmh seeing 2400 rpm on the tacho. But overtaking meant a solid press on the go pedal you’ll see the tacho needling zinging around well over 4000 rpm, also contributing to the fuel consumption.It’s typical Kia on the inside, meaning a well laid out dash and console, mostly matt black plastic for the dash, easy to use controls, and superbly comfortable seats (needed after a long country run). The driver sees a dash of red and black, with a centre circle, located inside the speedometer central location, showing information such as overall fuel consumption and trip meters, accessed via the standard steering wheel tabs. The speed and rev counter are analogue still, as are the temperature and fuel gauges to the right side. Cruise control and audio are also located on the tiller as are the bluetooth phone tabs. There’s a semi-circular motif embossed into the doors and some characterful designing for the airvents at each end of the dash. They sit directly underneath the horizontally located speakers and have one thinking something pagoda-like. The ovoid theme is continued with the gear selector and touchscreen both surrounded in a similar motif.As a drive, it’s engaging. The steering ratio is quick, with around 3.5 turns lock to lock and is ideal for shopping centre car parks or roadside tight parking thanks to its electronically assisted lightness. Ride quality is very good, with a slightly tighter rear than the front. The suspension is the tried and true McPherson strut/torsion beam combination and works well enough on the road. It’s nicely tied down as well, with rebound a short travel and that’s it with no pogoing. On the highways south of Canberra it was smooth sailing, even on some of the slightly unsettled and rutted surfaces, and crossing some cattle grids in Bega had plenty of rattatatta into the cabin but no body movement. On the long sweepers on the Monaro Highway it was flat and composed, with no body roll evident.Light braking of the 1375 kilogram mass plus passengers had the Soul easily controlled whilst hard braking via the progressive pedal saw little dive at the front. Hard acceleration saw no torque steer and the barest hint of a list of the nose. Slower speed corners were easily controlled either by a little less throttle in and a touch more out or a brushing of the brakes to settle the nose. The broad footprint aids in stability and the 215/55 tyres provide plenty of grip.With a cargo space (seats up) of 238 litres, there’s enough for a couple of overnight backs, until you lift the cargo space floor and see three compartments located underneath. Seats down, it increases to 878 litres. There’s bottle holders in all doors and a pair of cup holders in the centre console, plus a pair of 12V sockets bracketing a USB port and 3.5 mm socket. Standard equipment such as Auto headlights, speed related locking, rear view camera, sensors front and rear, tyre pressure monitoring and the suite of airbags and driving aids complete the picture.At The End Of The Drive.
At a tick under $27K the Soul is not expensive. Consider the seven year warranty and fixed priced servicing as well. Over seven years your service costs will be $2688.00 or $388 per year. Or, just over a dollar per day…It’s well featured, is comfortable drive and to ride in, and there’s plenty of room inside.
So why doesn’t the Soul have a better perception? You’re not spoiled for choice with just the one trim level available. It’s an unusual look in an environment populated with slick looking SUVs of various sizes and shapes or sleek European sedans. Is it the fuel economy?
Perhaps.
So it could be a combination of suburban thirst and a styling that is perhaps a little too unusual? If you were to ask the junior members of the AWT family, it’s the latter…yet they observed that from inside you couldn’t see the outside. Sage advice for any prospective buyers that would be missing out on a thoroughly competent vehicle.
As a certain Akubra wearing former TV host used to say: “Do yourself a favour” and try the Soul. Here’s where you can go to check it out and book the test drive: 2017 Kia Soul

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

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: 2016 Kia Carnival S Petrol.

2016 Kia Carnival S petrolDesigning a people mover for the road is simple: take a box, slap on four wheels and you’re done. But what do you do if you want a truly stylish people mover? Many companies have tried and some have failed. Some have come out with award winners, such as Honda and their Odyssey. To make a BIG people mover look nice is no easy task yet Korea’s Kia have done so with their 2016 Carnival. Carnival is also the vehicle of choice for a company that specialises in producing vehicles for disabled and wheelchair bound people, Automobility.

A Wheel Thing was pencilled in to sample the diesel engined Carnival, however due to an incident with that car, was given the keys to the petrol powered S, the entry level model. It’s an interesting price point, too, for the big car (it’s 5115 mm long) at $41490 as it’s both well featured as standard and just $500 more than the Optima Platinum…2016 Kia Carnival S petrol engine

Kia has fitted the Carnival with a 3.3L V6 and a 2.2L diesel four cylinder, with both available through the four level range. Power and torque from the petrol engine is 206 kW (6000 rpm) and 336 torques, at a high 5200 revs. This contributes to the woeful economy of the petrol powered version, with Kia’s own figures quoting 15.9L of unleaded for every 100 klicks covered in an urban environment, right where the Carnival’s main usage would be. It also explains an 80L fuel tank being fitted. Compare that to 147 kW (3800 rpm) and a more than handy 400 Nm of torque between 1750 and 2500 rpm, with six litres of diesel LESS being consumed over 100 kilometres.2016 Kia Carnival S petrol cabin

Transmission is a six speed auto and it’s one of the best around. Under almost all driving circumstances, gear changes were invisible, with the flick of the rev counter the only indication of a change. It’s responsive, reacting to throttle input instantly and works well enough in hustling the 2048 kg beastie along nicely. There’s plenty of whoa to match the go, with a beautifully weighted pedal feel, with bite on the 320mm/324mm discs, front and rear, as soon as you touch the brake pedal and hauls the Carnival up nicely.

Ride quality surprised, surprised in that it was softer than expected. The S rolls on 17 inch steel wheels, with 235/65 rubber, with that sidewall height accounting for some of it, surely. Driven at appropriate speed over the speed calming bumps locally had the Carnival barely registering their existence. 2016 Kia Carnival S petrol wheelHandling, however, wasn’t compromised, with a surefooted and deft feel to the steering being communicated. Turn in was mostly well balanced, with perhaps too much for some drivers. A Wheel Thing was certainly surprised by the alacrity at which the Carnival responded to a turn of the tiller.

Somehow, Kia’s design team have taken a box and made it look European. Complete with the brand’s “tiger nose” signature, the sweeping headlights and a kick in the window line, the looks bely the length, the near two metre width and 1755 mm height. They’ve engineered in a 11.2 metre turning circle, wonderful for the size.2016 Kia Carnival S petrol front2016 Kia Carnival S petrol rear view

There’s no shortage of interior space, with a 3060 mm wheelbase, even with seating for eight. Kia have spent time and money here as it’s a beautiful place to be and the mechanisms for folding the seats are no more complicated than pulling a lever. There’s not just split folding either, as each seat is individually mounted on rails. There’s aircon controls for the rear and with vents for both middle and rear seats. Family friendly? Oh yes, indeedy. With seats folded and removed, there’s a massive 4022L of space available.2016 Kia Carnival S petrol rear seats2016 Kia Carnival S petrol cargo

All the seats themselves are wonderfully comfortable, especially for the driver and passenger. They also face a simple yet elegant dash, complete with dashboard mounted chiller for SLi and Platinum (the S gets a non chilled unit), a huge centre console storage locker, some of the best ergonomics you’ll see for a family car and a pleasing mix of plastcs, both for tactile and visual looks.2016 Kia Carnival S petrol cooler

Being the entry level model, it’s a small screen for the radio (Really wish the Koreans would do RDS…) and a small display for the dash, with a insert that shows what can be shown further up the range (3.5 inch OLED display for Si and SLi, 7 inch screen for Platinum).2016 Kia Carnival S petrol dash

Being a family car, it’s loaded with safety, with airbags, electronics for driving aids (the Platinum gets the extra toppings like Lane Awareness and Rear Cross Traffic Alert) plus the 7 year unlimited kilometre warranty to sweeten the deal. Lob in 3 USB charging ports and 12V sockets, 14 cup and bottle holders and it’s abundantly clear just how much thought has gone into the Carnival.2016 Kia Carnival S petrol middle row seats

The Wrap.
The U.S. market is fickle, predominantly a 4WD ute or pickup market, yet the Carnival (Sedona in the states) has cut through enough to be named the best minivan. Even with the S being the entry level model, There’s plenty to love about the big people mover, bar the fuel economy for the petrol engine. It’s fun, this Carnival.
For the complete rundown on the range, click here: The incredible 8 seater Kia Carnival.