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2014 Kia Optima Review: 'Platinum' Petrol Auto Photo:
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What's Hot
Stylish looks, plenty of equipment, value for money.
What's Not
Transmission, throttle and steering need work.
X-Factor
Optima has the looks, but beauty may be skin-deep with this one.
Tony O'Kane | Apr, 24 2014 | 8 Comments

2014 KIA OPTIMA REVIEW

Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $40,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 148kW/250Nm 2.4 4cyl petrol | 6sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.9 l/100km | tested: 9.5 l/100km


 

OVERVIEW

The Kia Optima landed a major update earlier this year, with cosmetic upgrades inside and out, more equipment and a price increase applied across the range.

And for the range-topping Optima Platinum, the 2014 update also saw the potentially life-saving blind-spot monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert added to the spec sheet.

But are these changes enough to keep the Optima in the running against the accomplished Mazda6, as well as the newer VW Passat and very attractively priced Skoda Octavia?

 

THE INTERIOR

  • Keyless entry and ignition, trip computer, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps, foglamps, LED daytime running lamps.
  • Comfort: Leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats (driver memory), heated/cooled front seats, dual-zone climate, tilt and reach-adjustable steering, steering wheel controls for cruise control, audio, trip computer
  • Infotainment: 7-inch colour touchscreen, sat-nav, 8-speaker Infinity audio with single-disc AM/FM tuner, USB and 3.5mm audio inputs, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming.
  • Luggage: 505 litres (VDA, seats up). 60/40 split folding rear seats.

The Optima’s interior is indeed its trump card.

It looks like something out of a more premium car, and though some of the plastics and switchgear aren’t quite luxury-grade, the design certainly looks many times fancier than your average Korean car. Even the faux woodgrain looks nice.

The range-topping Platinum model also comes with a long, long features list.

Heated and cooled seats? Power front seats with memory function? A seven-inch colour touchscreen with navigation? Smart key entry and ignition? Panoramic glass sunroof? The Platinum sports all of these and then some.

The navigation system is particularly impressive. While the graphics look a little cheap and there are a couple of small idiosyncrasies to the interface, it’s easy to figure out and the touch-screen responds quickly even to light touches.

The leather-trimmed and power-adjustable front seats now have more generous bolstering than before, but rear-seat underthigh support could be better.

The panoramic sunroof eats into rear headroom too, but there’s ample leg and footroom, along with a generous centre armrest and rear air-outlets on the back of the centre console.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • 148kW/250Nm 2.4 litre petrol inline four
  • Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
  • Disc brakes, electric power steering
  • 7.9 l/100km claimed fuel economy.

The first thing you notice after slipping behind the Optima’s wheel is that the accelerator is extremely responsive. Uncomfortably so, in fact.

It feels like Kia has deliberately given the Optima a razor-sharp throttle to help mask the engine’s otherwise lacklustre power delivery.

Those figures of 148kW and 250Nm are healthy enough, but a lot of revs are required to extract them. Couple that with a transmission that’s keen to stay in high gears, and the Optima feels sluggish unless you really sink your boot in.

The electrically-assisted steering also leaves something to be desired, with dulled feedback and a notchy engagement around dead-centre.

We know the Optima isn’t pitched as a driver’s car, but midsizers like the Mazda6 are proof that midsize sedans need not be boring.

Fuel consumption isn’t great either: Kia claims the Optima requires just 7.9 l/100km on the combined cycle, but we barely managed to get it into the 9.3 l/100km region.

By the end of our week with it we were averaging 9.5 l/100km - and that was with a great amount of highway driving.

On the right kind of road, though, the Optima rides smoothly, quietly and comfortably.

The low-profile rubber on the Platinum’s 18-inch alloys does tend to amplify the impact of sharp bumps, expansion gaps and the like, but around town the Optima’s ride is pretty easy to live with.

The new safety aids are also appreciated, particularly the blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. They work well on the Optima, and are valuable features given the large C-pillar.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: 5-Stars: this model scored 35.58 out of 37 possible points.

Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control, traction control all standard. Optima Platinum receives Rear Cross Traffic Alert, blind spot monitor, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors.

Three-point seatbelts for all occupants, anti-whiplash front headrests and pretensioning front seatbelts.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

The Optima excels in its presentation, equipment and comfort, but it falls short on driveability.

The sensitive throttle pedal (and the jerky driving it promotes) is enough to turn us off, while the steering and transmission calibration are also points of concern.

But if the things that matter most to you are styling, space and mod-cons, odds are you'll forgive the Optima for its various on-road foibles. Value for money is another strong point for the $40,490 Optima Platinum.

There's also Kia's impressive five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which works heavily in its favour when most competitor warranties are only for three years.

But the majority of the Optima’s competitors are far more polished, and though the Optima has plenty of visual appeal inside and out, its mechanicals need a bit more buffing before we’d slap a “recommended” sticker on it.

 

Pricing (excludes on-road costs)

  • 2014 Optima Si - $30,990 (up $300)
  • 2014 Optima SLi - $35,990 (up $1000)
  • 2014 Optima Platinum - $40,490 (up $1200)

 
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