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Optimistic Optima

by Kelly Lodewyks on 28/10/2010

Comments: 0

The new Kia Optima has just been launched internationally and is set to reach local shores by early 2011.

Peter Schreyer’s design skills have certainly contributed to Kia’s recent quick rise to fame, and with the new Optima, this Korean manufacturer proves once again that his employment was probably one of the best moves that it has made.

The black grille outlined in chrome, large sweeping headlamps and BMW-like fender vents follows the appealing designs we have come to see on recent Kia models, while the coupe-like silhouette is similar to that seen on sister company Hyundai’s Sonata. At the rear the design is also quite familiar with a crease in the boot lid similar to that of an Audi A4 and lights that hint at the Maserati GT. “Borrowed” design cues or not – the overall look of the new Kia is definitely striking and somewhat…beautiful. A few years ago, this was not something I thought I’d say about a Korean car.

At the wheel of this car it was easy to find my suited driving position with rake and reach adjustment available on the steering column, as well as a wide range of adjustment for the driver's seat which, along with the front passenger pew, features both heating and cooling functions. The plastic paddle shifters that sit behind the steering wheel are the only elements that slightly cheapen the overall look of what is otherwise a classy cabin.

Sharing the powerplants found under the bonnet of the Sonata, two models are currently on offer internationally – a 2,0-litre unit with a maximum power output of 121 kW and a torque figure of 198 N.m, as well as a 132 kW 2,4-litre model. Both are offered with the choice of either a six-speed manual transmission as standard or an optional six-speed auto ‘box.

Driving across the desert proved hassle free (roaming camels aside) behind the wheel of the 2,4 automatic model. Its 231 N.m of torque fprovided a satisfactory amount of thrust for strong pull aways. In this particular model, drivetrain components are suitably matched for smooth performance, but there were complaints about gear hunting from journos who drove the "lesser" 2,0 model.

Having recently driven the Hyundai Sonata I was a little worried that the Optima (it's no secret that it's closely linked to the Sonata) would offer up the same problems – light steering and a vague suspension that did little to inspire confidence when pressing on. However, the Optima's set-up, comprising front MacPherson struts and a multi-link layout at the rear, comes fitted with stiffer dampers and springs which, when driving along the smooth tar surfaces in Dubai, offers a pleasant driving experience. I have to wonder however, if us locals who are used to our not-so-perfect road conditions would appreciate the stiffer set-up…

The Kia Optima has impressed me so far, and even though it’s said that first impressions are the ones that count the most, I look forward to the local launch of this model so that I can spend a little more time behind the wheel under our conditions.

South African models, pricing and the local name (Optima, K5 or Magentis) are yet to be finalized.

  • anthony

    We once had a Kia minivan,which was a lemon.

    I think the Honda Accord should be a far better choice.

  • Jan Prinsloo

    I feel that the public should be warned in friendly-as-possible manner. I very much like the new Kia models (this new Optima, new Sportage, Cerato etc.), in fact, I do not have any problem with the products as such, they are on par with the best. The problem which I first hand dealt with, is parts supply. The result was a insurance claim dragging on for 3 months and the client of course sitting without his almost brand new Cerato 4 door for the same amount of time. Parts had to be ordered from overseas, and when the repair work was finally started, more damage was discovered (yes, you think right). Now all I’m suggesting thus, please buy careful and maybe wait 6 months before buying. I am positive that a full range of parts will be available in SA by then. Loving the new design language from Kia! Looks stunning

  • MetalHed

    Kia uses Hyundai parts, engines etc. This should be one great car to rival the BMW’s Audis etc for half the price.

  • sam

    I wrote and said a few months ago that the German trio and also the Japs— get worried. Well I think worry has arrived.— especially when their “Nissan V6″ equivalents start arriving. Its not going to be much longer and that Euro snob appeal is going to shrink—rapidly.Go check out the Sonata– besides limited engine choice,(for know), there is not much you can add to this car–its got all the gismos that count. Damn someone betterpay me ,I don’t eve work for these folk!

  • Fluent

    “Driving across the dessert”… really… you may wanna fix that booboo Kelly :)

  • sam

    Today I checked out the Sorento 4D and Koup IN THE FLESH to get a feel for the Optima having sussed out the Sonata a few days ago. The gems and jewels will soon be coming from KIA AND big H. AND ALSO LEARNED YOU CAN GET A 7 YEAR WARANTY WITH SECURITY COVER.

  • Ruan Maritz

    We currently have a new Sportage. I’d much rather let current events dicate my future, and I can tell you it is awesome. Sure beats that 1980 Ballade I had years ago, which was a lemon too, if the prevailing logic is to be applied.