THERE’S NO MYSTERY BEHIND KIA’S GROWING GLOBAL SALES SUCCESS - IT IS BEING DRIVEN BY SMART CAPABLE PRODUCTS, GOOD PRICING AND LONG FEATURE LISTS.
Want proof? We refer you to the 2016 Kia Optima mid-size sedan.
The previous generation Optima showed (again) why these days the terms ‘Kia’ and ‘handsome’ are no longer mutually incompatible and the all-new model continues the trend.
In a segment which contains some excellent cars (Mazda6, Subaru Liberty, Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat to name a few), the Kia Optima can more than hold its own and is a ‘must-include’ on buyers’ short lists.
Vehicle Style: Mid-Size Sedan
Price: $34,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 138kW/241Nm 2.4 4cyl petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.3l/100kms | Tested: 8.8l/100kms
In any car range, the gloss and glamour may go to the premium model grades but the real sales volume is garnered by the entry-level variants. This is especially so if the car in question is on the radar of major fleet and car rental companies.
Which is why TMR asked Kia for an Si model Optima.
Kia has its entry-level mid-size sedan listed at $34,490 which is a bit more than some major rivals but here’s a couple of considerations: the Optima Si boasts a level of standard equipment which leaves much of its opposition in the shade.
And secondly, Kia dealers have shown a willingness to sharpen their pencils if pressed.
- Standard features: Cruise control, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, auto high-beam, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, cloth trim, electronic lumbar support drivers’ seat
- Infotainment: Satellite navigation, 6-speaker audio MP3 compatible with Bluetooth connectivity, AUX/USB input, 7-inch colour LCD touchscreen
- Cargo volume: 510 litres
Since German designer Peter Schreyer assumed command of the crayons at Kia there has been a massive upshift in style both outside and in.
The latest Optima is no exception, it looks smart on approach and equally smart once settled at the wheel.
Even in the entry-grade Kia Optima Si as tested we’re talking high-gloss black and metallic trim highlights, a stylish leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel and cloth trim which is of a noticeably superior quality than in the previous generation.
We liked the driving position (rake/reach adjustment for the steering wheel) and the seats, while not deeply scalloped, are appealingly trimmed and comfortable on a long haul.
The dashboard and instrumentation, while functional, may not get the pulse racing, but, with sat-nav, 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, six-speaker audio, reversing camera and dual-zone climate control, there is no shortage of features for a car at this price range.
The phone pairs easily and the functions are intuitive enough to pose no problems to a tech-luddite.
The TMR teenagers found plenty of legroom in the rear (in fact most dimensions are up over the previous generation).
And our Kia Optima cruised through the ‘MGB’ (Multiple Golf Bags) test thanks to impressive 510-litres of cargo space with the rear seat in-place. That seat split-folds 60:40 for load carrying versatility.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 138kW/241Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front/ independent multi-link rear
- Brakes: 320mm ventilated front discs, 284mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electronically-assisted, turning circle 10.9-metres
- Towing capacity: 1700kg brakes, 750kg unbraked
The new turbocharged 2.0-litre engine powering the range-topping Kia Optima GT is the range hero, but there is nothing wrong with the naturally-aspirated 2.4-litre engine in the Si grade we’re testing.
It gets the job done very nicely.
We found the Kia Optima Si to be a refined operator with excellent isolation from road noises and the ‘atmo’ 2.4-litre engine and six-speed automatic transmission are nicely matched to provide smooth acceleration under full or partial throttle.
And it’s certainly brisk enough for family or fleet buyers. There is enough urge there not to leave you red-faced when overtaking and ample torque to keep the show moving effortlessly on hills.
Likewise, the ride and handling package (enhanced via unique Australia calibration after extensive local testing) works well on Australian roads – both city and country.
While leaning to comfort over sportiness, it nonetheless steers well and has a neutral feel on the highway although feeling a little wooden and lifeless through the wheel.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t embarrassed when we tossed the Optima into our favourite twisty high-speed test route. It turns in accurately and offers reasonable front-end grip when pushing harder, but is perhaps a smidge too light in the front (just a bit more rebound in the dampers would help).
Fuel consumption was impressive - despite belting over the nearby mountain roads on a couple of occasions and the loaded-up run Saturday boys’ golf day, our Kia Optima Si averaged 8.8 l/100kms for the week.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - The Kia Optima scored the maximim 5-star rating when tested in 2015
Safety Features: Six airbags, reversing camera, traction and stability control, lane departure warning system, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, high beam assist, front and rear parking sensors, and hill start assist.
Warranty: 7 years, unlimited kilometers with roadside assistance
Servicing: 7 years capped price servicing
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Mazda6 is the car to beat in the mid-size league and continues to shatter sales records. A starting price of $32,490 for the ‘Sport’ Mazda6 sedan commands attention but check the standard and optional kit to get a true value comparison.
A few more bucks ($33,190) steers you into Ford’s German-origin Mondeo ‘Ambiente’. Mondeo rivals the Mazda 6 for segment-best driving dynamics and outguns the Kia Optima Si courtesy of Ford’s 149kW/345Nm 2.0-litre engine - but again you need to carefully study the standard/optional equipment lists to get a handle on the value comparison with the Kia.
Entry to the Volkswagen Passat range is the handily priced 132TSI at $34,990. It offers similar engine performance (132kW/250Nm for Volkswagen’s turbocharged 1.8-litre engine, a very smart interior and a very nice drive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
We’re betting mid-size sedan buyers on a tight budget could be drawn to the Kia Optima exclusively by that industry-best seven year warranty (we know we would).
Truth is, good as Kia’s after-sales program is – and nothing beats it – that is in fact selling the all-new Optima short.
Sure, at first glance the Optima Si’s $34,490 sticker-price is a smidge higher than comparable rivals, but you need to dig deeper and compare the standard and optional equipment lists.
In this era of ‘user-chooser’ fleet sales, it’s that comprehensive standard equipment which underscores the allure of the Optima Si more so than the warranty.
And of course the same goes for private buyers. When you consider ‘bang for your bucks’ – what you get behind that price – the very well-configured and quietly capable Kia Optima Si has a good story to tell here.
It’s not quite the four-star drive, but ‘solid’ everywhere.