The Optima represents Kia’s latest foray into the local D-segment saloon market. Its Peter Schreyer-penned design has certainly banished any worries about the Optima fading into the background like its dowdy predecessor, the Magentis, but does this well-equipped newcomer have what it takes to ruffle the feathers of the established players in its segment?
Styling and Packaging:
The top brass at Kia must still be beaming from ear to ear at the acquisition of former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, who has worked magic with the company’s latest offerings and appears to have done the job again with the Optima. The front features the now-signature Tiger nose grille flanked by swept-back headlamps and a lower air dam section that echoes the grille/headlamp line and plays host to foglamps crowned with LED daytime running lights. There’s a coupe-like flavour to the profile, thanks to the steeply raked A-pillars and curved roofline while the rear, with its wraparound brakelamps, a deep rear valance with dual exhaust ports looks suitably sporty, especially with the whole shooting match rolling on a set of dual-tone 18-inch alloy wheels. Given that it’s taking at tilt at the likes of the Volvo S40, Honda Accord, VW Passat and Peugeot 508, the Optima is one of the more distinctive offerings in its bracket. It’s fair to say that, when viewed in the context of the exterior, the cabin lacks a sense of occasion. Still, it’s not a bad place to be, with plentiful room, both fore and aft, and a sizeable boot measuring 505 dm3. The facia, which apparently draws inspiration from aeronautic design, is reminiscent of a Saab dash – being flat and angled towards the driver. It may not be the most exciting design, but it places all of the ancillary controls clearly in the driver’s line of sight. Material fit and finish appears to be good as is the overall refinement.
Engine and Drive:
Initially, the Optima will only be offered with a 2,4-litre MPI petrol engine. Developing 132 kW and 231 N.m of torque, it’s a fairly gruff unit and serves up a sufficient amount of grunt. The six-speed automatic transmission works well enough in this application when left to its own devices, but becomes a bit dull-witted when controlled via the paddle shifters. Although the 2,4 Optima’s claimed performance figures are leisurely (read 0-100 km/h in a claimed 9,5 seconds and a top speed of 210 km/h), the engine is quite frugal (8,7L/100 km combined cycle) thanks in part to an ECO function that moderate pedal input and a number of other drivetrain parameters. Although it is underpinned by the same platform as the Hyundai Sonata, Kia has given the suspension set-up a slightly more sporting bias. It’s supple enough to deal with poor road surfaces, but doesn’t exhibit the unnerving waftiness that the Hyundai serves up at speed. The hydraulic power steering, although more on the light/easy-to-use side of the handling spectrum, is precise and the Optima is generally a pleasure to pilot in everyday driving situations. Those wanting a bit more oomph will have to wait and see if Kia will introduce the 2,0 GDI turbopetrol engine – although it will require cleaner fuel than what we currently have access to, this unit pumps out a respectable 204 kW and could find its way over here within the next couple of years.
This is where the Optima really hopes to take it to the opposition and forms the crux of Kia’s marketing payoff line for this model: “the all-inclusive Optima”. The standard kit includes (deep breath, now): rear parking assist with camera and mirror-borne display, Infinity audio system with USB/iPod/Bluetooth, electric windows/mirrors, HID Xenon headlamps with dynamic beam, dual-zone climate control, keyless go, 6 airbags, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, stability control, hill start assist, partial leather seats with electrical adjustment and heating/ventilation (front), cruise control, auto lights and wipers and steering wheel-mounted audio/cruise/trip computer controls (gasp). The only extra is a R10 000 panoramic sunroof. Throw in a 5 year/100 000 km warranty, 5 year 90 000 km service plan and 3 years roadside assistance and at R305 995 the Optima looks like terrific value.
Given the amount of (good looking) metal and kit that the Optima serves up for the money, it looks as though it should find a receptive audience. The engine still feels a bit underwhelming for a 2,4-litre unit, but it generally does the job. Otherwise, it looks as though the likes of the aforementioned D-segment staples could have a tough time of it with the Optima around…
Model: Kia Optima 2,4 MPI AT
Engine: 2,4-litre, petrol
Power: 132 kW at 6 000 r/min
Torque: 231 N.m at 4 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 9,5 seconds
Fuel consumption: 8,7 L/100 km
CO2: 207 g/km
Top speed: 210 km/h
Price: R305 995
Service plan: 5 year/90 000 km
Click on the DOCUMENTS at at the top of the article to download a brochure on the Kia Optima