$30,490 – $38,790
Good: Brilliant coupe-like styling that competitors can’t beat, powerful direct-injection 2.4L engine that offers 6 cylinder power with 4 cylinder economy, stylish and feature packed interior with impressive refinement, the full-length panoramic sunroof creates a lovely airy cabin ambience, ticks in all the boxes on the safety front.
Not so Good: Kia’s ride and handling is much improved but not yet a worry to the class best, and entry level grades won’t arrive until late 2011. A super frugal hybrid variant is even further away from arriving on our shores.
Design and Engineering
Good : Arriving Down Under in January 2011, the sexy Kia Optima sits low on the road with a wide stance, and big 18 inch alloys pumped out for that desired, sporty look. It turns heads with its aerodynamic, class leading styling and coupe-like looks. This model is longer, wider, lower and roomier than previous big Kia’s, and is built on the same new Hyundai-Kia group global, mid-size platform that underpins Hyundai’s i45. With the Optima gaining unique steering and suspension systems developed in Australia for our unique road conditions.
Not so good : At the moment Australia misses out on the hybrid and turbo variants, however a less expensive and less powerful entry level grade isn’t far away.
Interior and Styling
Good : The great design continues inside. From the moment the doors close with a good quality thud, you can’t miss the impressive refinement, extra space up front, and many storage spots. Soft-touch plastics and imitation stitched leather around the dash are nice touches.
From a sporty driving position, you can better enjoy the comfortable seats that offer good levels of support. The steering wheel adjusts for both rake (up and down) and reach (in and out) and clearly marked gauges sit in a driver’s panel that looks unsurprisingly similar to that of the luxury brand Audi, as Kia’s chief designer is the highly regarded Peter Schreyer, former lead designer at Audi and Volkswagen.
Further enhancing the serenity is a quality Infinity sound system with eight speakers, MP3, USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
A huge, full-length panoramic glass roof adds to the luxurious feel and the longer wheelbase equates to more rear legroom with the wide rear bench seat carrying three adults.
There is also a big boot with 505 litres of capacity, and the rear seats can fold down (60:40 split).
The Platinum’s features include leather seats with 8 way power adjustment and memory trim for the driver, dual-zone climate-control, cruise control, mood lighting on the centre console and doors, woodgrain gearshift and door switch surrounds, a 3.5 inch colour screen for the feature laden trip computer, keyless push-button start and remote central locking.
Not so good : Fit and finish is still not class best with some of the interior plastics. Still a way off Volkswagen Passat levels of quality.
The unattractive feeling interior door handles and climate and audio read-outs look less than premium. Steering wheel leather also feels a little slippery.
Even as an option there is no satellite navigation, and although there is a foot operated park brake, we prefer the conventional hand brake lever or the newer electric park brake button.
Rear headroom is only average and rear vision is slightly restricted due to the small rear window. Little kids in the back might not like the high side window line, but love the panoramic roof.
Good : The four cylinder 2.4-litre petrol engine produces a healthy 148kW of power and 250Nm of torque, and is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. The fact it replaces the outgoing petrol V6 says more power, less fuel consumption.
An ECO setting activated by a big button on the dash can cut fuel consumption by a manufacturer claim of 7.5 per cent. The official fuel consumption is a respectable 7.9L per 100kms.
This engine offers a healthy amount of oomph, and is happy clocking up big highway miles at low revs or accelerating with enthusiasm out of a corner.
Not so good : The 2.4-litre engine needs to be given a boot for sports car like acceleration, with fuel economy coming out worse. It also sounds buzzy at higher revs.
Road noise is more evident than in some of the competition, most noticeable over rough road surfaces.
Ride and Handling
Good : The unique steering and suspension systems were developed in Australia for local conditions, and equate to a smooth ride over most surfaces which is supple at lower speeds, and noteworthy considering the low profile 18 inch tyres. Steering is nice and direct with decent levels of feel.
The Optima Sedan handles way better than Kia’s previous medium cars, sitting flat through corners.
Not so good : Undesirable steering ‘kick-back’ is evident over bumpy surfaces and the steering is still not at the level to scare the best sports cars.
It can’t intimidate an Accord Euro or Ford Mondeo when the road turns twisty.
Buying and Owning
Good : The highly specked Platinum grade is priced significantly lower than the competition’s top of the range variants, yet often shames them for features.
The Optima ticks the safety box with six air-bags, active front head restraints, seatbelt reminders for all five occupants, stability control and a reversing camera as standard.
Comes with a generous five-year / unlimited kilometre warranty.
Not so good : Strong global demand in the first full year of sales has lead to delayed deliveries for many buyers.
Satellite-navigation is not yet available, but is expected to become an option soon.