KIA OPTIMA REVIEW
The 2011 Optima enters as a brand-new contender in the medium sedan segment.
Available in Australia in top-shelf Platinum grade only, the lower-spec Optima Si and SLi models will arrive towards the end of the year.
- Quality: Plastics, leather seats and dash materials feel as good as any competitor; fit and finish is equally good.
- Comfort: Although the seats need more bolstering in the squab - they’re too flat - the power-adjustable lumbar support and seatback bolstering is good.
Steering is height and reach adjustable; dash controls are well laid out and within easy reach.
With a very long 2795mm wheelbase, the Optima offers exceptional front and rear legroom. Rear head and shoulder room is also good.
- Equipment: Cruise control, dual-zone aircon, ventilated and heated power-adjustable seats, 530W eight-speaker Infinity audio, iPod/Bluetooth connectivity, LED daytime-running lights, high-intensity discharge headlights, cornering lights, keyless entry and start are standard.
A panoramic glass roof, with sliding sunroof, is also standard.
Touch-screen and GPS navigation are conspicuously absent for now, due to be added in the fourth quarter of 2011. An electronic parking brake will also then replace the foot-operated brake.
- Storage: With 505 litres of rear storage, boot space in the Optima is about average for the segment. The rear seats also offer 60/40 split-folding for increased storage access.
ON THE ROAD
- Driveability: The Optima’s GDI engine provides good acceleration, although lacking power and torque until around 3000rpm. For overtaking, a down-shift or two with either the steering-mounted paddles or centre shifter helps the Optima find its feet.
It also benefits from a tight 10.9 metres turning circle, compared to the shorter Camry’s 11.8 metres. Headchecks are compromised by the coupe-like C-pillars, although the large side mirrors help.
- Refinement: Despite riding on 18-inch alloy rims to accommodate the large brakes, road noise in the Optima is low, as is wind noise. Engine noise however is a little harsh above 5000rpm.
- Suspension: MacPherson struts up front and multi-link rear. Australian models get specially-tuned suspension which, combined with larger wheels and low-profile tyres, results in a well-connected ride and surprisingly good handling.
Uneven surfaces can intrude, but, overall, the Optima is a comfortable drive.
- Braking: Large ventilated discs up front and solid rear discs provide good braking performance with a smooth pedal feel.
- ANCAP rating: (Not yet ANCAP tested.)
- Safety features: Six airbags, active front headrests, ESC, Hill-Start Assist, ABS braking, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Brake Assist System, five-seat seatbelt reminder, reversing camera and side sensors,
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: Five-year / unlimited-kilometres.
- Service costs: None over $400, with most services around the $250 mark. Consult with your dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
- Hyundai i45 Premium ($38,990) - Same platform as the Optima, with the same engine, transmission, wheelbase, storage capacity and warranty. That said, they do have different suspension tunes and both feel like different cars. The Optima carries a $2000 price advantage. (See i45 reviews)
- Toyota Camry Grande ($39,990) - Optima is longer, roomier (20 litres smaller boot), more powerful (but 20kg heavier), with comparable features and better fuel economy. Camry has more brand cachet, but the Optima costs $3000 less. (See Camry reviews)
- Honda Accord Euro Luxury ($43,290) - Equal power, similar torque and comparable features - but a much heavier price. The Euro however is the benchmark leader in the sub-$50k medium segment. (See Accord Euro reviews)
Other Competitors offering similar power, features and driving quality:
- Mazda6 Luxury ($40,905)
- Ford Mondeo Titanium ($43,490)
- Skoda Octavia ($35,790)
- Suzuki Kizashi Sport ($39,990)
- Subaru Liberty Sports Premium ($43,490)
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The stylish Optima Platinum is, as an overall package, a genuine competitor for the best in the medium segment and a serious buyer option right up to the $45,000 mark.
At the wheel, there is a sense that a $36,990 sticker-price for this Kia sedan, an absurd notion 10 years ago, is perfectly appropriate today. Kia’s Optima Platinum is good buying.