WITH A TURBOCHARGED 2.0-LITRE ENGINE AND LOADED WITH TOP-END FEATURES, KIA’S OPTIMA GT GETS 'STAR BILLING' IN THE KIA RANGE.
But none in the Optima range is setting the house on fire with buyers. In the mid-size segment however, which is dominated by Toyota's Camry, the stylish Optima deserves to sell in bigger numbers than it does.
Mind you, Australia’s love affair with SUVs isn’t being kind to 'conventional' passenger cars, neither large nor mid-sizers like the Optima. At the end of July, large cars were down by 9.7 percent year-on-year and mid-sizers were down by 3.9 percent.
It’s confounding because the Kia Optima GT has plenty of family-friendly space, boasts impressive levels of equipment and drives very well.
Vehicle Style: Medium Sedan
Price: $43,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 180kW/350Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.3l/100kms | Tested: 9.1l/100kms
Priced at $43,990 (plus on-roads), the Kia Optima GT commands a $9000 premium over the Si variant.
But, justifying those extra dollars, it comes equipped with a host of technical and styling enhancements including the turbocharged 2.0-litre powerplant, 18-inch alloy wheels with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport3 tyres, sharpened steering, stylish leather seats (fronts heated and cooled), bi-xenon headlights and even a heated steering wheel.
Safety also gets a boost with the GT model picking-up Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (both Kia Optima models feature Autonomous Emergency Braking and Lane Departure Warning System).
Our test car was painted in a ‘Platinum Graphite’ which perhaps isn’t the best colour to highlight the exterior look, but the interior featured a ‘reddish-brown’ leather which provided a definite up-market look and feel.
Apart from those 18-inch alloy wheels, on the outside the Kia Optima GT gains unique bumpers front and rear, black side sills and red-painted brake calipers.
- Standard Features: Leather seats (heated, cooled and eight-way power adjustment for the driver), leather-wrapped steering wheel, colour TFT instruments, alloy scuff plates and pedals, aluminium highlights, wireless phone changing, panoramic glass sunroof, rear door window sun shades
- Infotainment: 10-speaker audio with iPod and Bluetooth compatibility, eight-inch colour touchscreen, and AUX/USB inputs
- Cargo Volume: 510-litres
Open the door and the Kia Optima GT shows its wares as the range-topper - the handsome leather-trimmed seats with embroidered ‘GT’ logos immediately catch your eye.
Settle into the drivers’ seat, and, as well as noticing the massive panoramic glass sunroof, you have eight-way power adjustment (including four-way lumber support) plus rake/reach adjustment for the steering wheel to get you set for some serious driving.
The wheel itself is leather-wrapped and features a sporty flat-bottom.
In-front, the instruments pick-up a colour TFT ‘Supervision’ cluster and to the left is the eight-inch colour LCD touchscreen for the 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and satellite navigation/multimedia operation.
Sound quality and imaging is good, and not greatly interferred with by road or wind noise, which, despite the larger 18-inch rubber down below, is reasonably well-dampened.
Unfortunately, the front-seat passenger is presented with a rather plain-looking dashboard (it has a downmarket look compared to the rest of the stylish interior).
Rear seat space is a definite plus for the Kia Optima. As is the boot - it’s deep with 510-litres of capacity and an easy pass for our golf bag test.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 180kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
- Brakes: 320mm ventilated front discs, 284mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 10.9-metre turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1400kgs braked, 750kgs unbraked
A surprising technical upgrade for the Kia Optima GT is its rack-mounted electric motor for the power steering (unlike the Si variant which runs an electric motor in the steering column).
You’d think, when the cars are going down the same assembly lines, that this is an expensive way of doing things. But we’re not complaining.
The Kia Optima GT feels sharper and certainly more responsive at the wheel than the naturally-aspirated Si.
But improved steering response is just part of the driving dynamics story. The locally-tuned suspension and bigger wheels (18-inch on our GT versus 17-inch on the Si) with grippy Michelin tyres also contribute to a more 'alive' feel at the wheel.
And don’t underestimate the 180kW/350Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre engine in the Kia Optima GT.
It delivers plenty of pep in the mid-range (for overtaking and accelerating out of corners) and a pleasingly sporty exhaust note when you get some revs on-board.
Over our favourite mountain 'test loop', we were surprised by its agility and that sense that there is a lot still in reserve if you really wanted to crack the whip.
Fuel consumption was noticeable -10.9 l/100kms at one stage when pressing-on hard over the hills and an average of 9.1 l/100kms for the week (an offset for that excellent standing start and mid-range urge).
As a package, there is certainly more 'grand tourer' to the Kia Optima GT than we were expecting.
It doesn't have the razor dynamics of a sporting European, but makes the right concessions to comfort and liveability. Good steering response, a sporty ride (although not too harsh on broken or rippled tarmac), poise and balance on the limit and all accompanied by that punchy turbocharged engine.
Around town too the GT is refined and easy to drive with good noise isolation and manoeuvrability.
Parking in tight spots presents no challenge thanks to a handy 10.9-metre turning circle and rear-view camera with dynamic parking guidelines.
ANCAP Rating: 5-stars - Crash test results for the Kia Optima were gleaned from data obtained by Euro NCAP and ANCAP in 2015.
Safety features: Six airbags, reversing camera, traction and stability control, lane departure warning system, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist, front and rear parking sensors, hill-start assist
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 7 years, unlimited kilometers with roadside assistance
Servicing: Kia offers seven years capped-price servicing, with service intervals for the Optima GT set at every six months or 7500km (whichever comes first). Service pricing varies between $191 and $769 (for the major 48 month/60,000km service). Service pricing includes labour, genuine parts, and fluids as prescribed in the service handbook, for full terms and conditions see your Kia dealer.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Mazda6 GT is the closest match. Although seriously out-punched in the engine department (138kW/250Nm for Mazda’s naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre engine), the sporty ‘6’ compensates with a classy interior and saves you a few bucks with its $42,690 sticker.
Definitely worth a look is the Skoda Octavia RS ($38,790 for the six-speed auto). There’s 162kW/350Nm on-tap from the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, and plenty of space in the stylish interior.
Toyota Camry Atara SL at $37,490 is handily priced but just doesn’t match the sportiness of the Kia Optima GT nor the Mazda 6. Interior styling also isn’t on the same page.
With the same engine under the bonnet, but its own unique Australian-tuned suspension set-up, the Hyundai Sonata Premium ($45,490) serves up similar performance, and a 'just right' ride (but is more conservatively styled).
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
A Kia Optima for enthusiast drivers? Well, that punchy turbo 2.0-litre is a beauty and combines with sharper handling to provide a driving dynamic which is noticeably superior to the standard Si model.
Throw-in that nice leather-trimmed interior (maybe overlook that plain left-side dashboard) and the GT version is a car we’d be happy to own.
Kia has been building some pretty good cars in recent years - getting better all the time and backing them with an 'industry best' warranty - and we'd include this Optima GT as one of the better buys of the moment.
Nicely styled, solidly built and comfortable, we think the Kia Optima GT is a definite ‘must-consider’ for medium sedan buyers. And, yes, it lives up to that GT badge - try it and you'll see.