Optima big on style and substance
KIA’S OPTIMA LOOKS SIMILAR TO WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE OUTSIDE, BUT REALLY STEPS THINGS UP INSIDE
The arrival of the redesigned Kia Optima back in 2011 caught many by surprise as it was a massive departure for a carmaker still finding its voice in Western markets.
The Korean manufacturer made much mileage of snaring the talents of design chief Peter Schreyer, having poached him from Audi.
In the revitalised 2011 Optima (the Magentis was known as an Optima in some overseas markets, so this was effectively the sedan’s third incarnation), it seemed the investment in new blood had paid off.
And that model still looks good five years down the track; something that must have been in the back of Schreyer’s mind, because from the outside the 2016 model looks very similar.
There is more brightwork around the body, specifically down the valance on each side of the car, sharp new alloy wheels and a restyled take on Kia’s rather attractive “tiger nose” grille design.
Other than that, you’d be hard-pressed to tell new from old at 50 paces.
Still, as mentioned, this is no bad thing given the success of the original sketch.
And don’t underestimate how difficult it is for some manufacturers to design a handsome sedan; Mitsubishi and Peugeot have struggled with the concept and even Audi has had off years with the A4/A6 twins (corrected with the latest iteration thankfully). And though Toyota’s Camry is a corporate catch-all, it has always lacked the elegant edge that could push it into the private market in a bigger way.
So with a successful formula in the can, you can perhaps see why Kia has erred on the side of caution here.
Anyway, it’s inside where things have been stepped up. This is one well-specified sedan, even including satellite navigation in both grades, along with a wireless charging tray for compatible smart phones.
The front seats are heated and cooled and there is a heated steering wheel, making the Optima a comfy commuter tool whatever the season.
Back seat occupants have plenty of room at their disposal, as you’d expect from a sedan with a decent 2805mm wheelbase. Boot space is similarly decent; 510-litres and the bootlid will open automatically for you if the smart key is in your pocket or bag.
The Limited grade adds to the EX with a large panoramic sunroof above, 8in colour touchscreen for accessing all entertainment features (the EX’s screen measures in at seven inches), a beefy 10-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, a 4.3in colour TFT instrument screen, leather upholstery and multi-way adjustment for the driver’s seat.
As you would expect, there is plenty of standard safety kit here too; Blind Spot Detection and Rear-Cross Traffic Alert software (on the Limited), airbags all round and a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines that move with the car to help the driver place it perfectly (handy for backing up to that trailer too).
Every Optima also features High Beam Assist which automatically dips high beam so as not to dazzle oncoming traffic, as well as a Forward Collision Warning System and a Lane Departure Warning System.
The only gripe I have with the Optima’s interior is the annoying chime that greets and farewells you as you turn the car on or off. It’s akin to the little melody your mobile phone might trill when powering up and rather makes you feel like you’re driving an appliance.
If you’re looking for even more practicality from Kia, an Optima Sportswagon has just been announced. It builds on the sedan with what looks to be a stylish station wagon shape.
Details on dimensions are scarce at present, but the overseas specification will include sliding luggage rails, 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats and a powered tailgate.
Kia New Zealand is currently evaluating the Optima Sportswagon for our market; a potential range addition which will no doubt be robustly debated internally, given New Zealand’s propensity for SUVs over wagons these days.
The same could be said of the large sedan market here, although you can’t discount the broad user-chooser executive audience for a well-specified car such as the Optima. With the sort of style and space it exhibits, the updated Optima will surely be turning more heads than ever.
2016 KIA OPTIMA
|ENGINES:||2.4-litre four cylinder GDI petrol (138kW, 241Nm)|
|PRICES:||$45,790 (2.4 EX), $48,990 (2.4 Limited)|
|PROS:||Stylish looks, great level of specification in both grades, spacious interior|
|CONS:||People might mistake your new Optima for the old Optima|