Kia Optima Video Review

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Below is a transcript of this video


The Kia Optima is unlikely to make any Japanese car company particularly happy. That’s because the Japanese are being squeezed – from both ends. European carmakers are introducing a flood of cheap entry-level cars that compete on price, but carry a lot more cachet. And cars like the Kia Optima offer a tremendous combination of cutting-edge features at an unbeatable price.

So, move over Honda Accord and Mazda6 – the Kia Optima is not only the best value proposition in mid-sized cars. It’s also the best looking.

There are two Kia Optima models available – the Si and the Platinum. Both Kia Optima models are very well equipped.

Standard across the Kia Optima range are six airbags, stability control and a reversing camera with parking guidelines. That’s a real plus for precision parking and for driveway safety around kids. The Kia Optima also offers dusk-sensing headlamps, dual-zone climate control air conditioning and wheel-mounted controls for the audio system. You also get Bluetooth for mobile phone and music streaming. There’s a full-sized alloy spare in the boot, too – not a cheap, nasty space-saver.

That’s all standard in the Kia Optima Si, which kicks off at $30,490. If you add $6500, you’re into the Kia Optima Platinum, which adds daytime running lamps, cornering lamps, a smart key, engine start/stop button, leather upholstery, power front seats and uprated headlamps and taillights. You also get a massive panorama glass roof, upmarket instrument cluster, alloy sports pedals, an uprated sound system with a sub-woofer and a heated and air-conditioned driver’s seat with position memory function.

The Kia Optima Si gets 17-inch alloys and the Kia Optima Platinum steps up to 18s.

The Kia Optima has simply overtaken the Japanese on features, matched them on quality, and undercut them on price.

The Kia Optima is a twin under the skin to the Hyundai i45 – but while the i45 tries too hard, the Optima is relaxed, refined and elegant. Same story inside – brilliant driver-oriented cockpit in the Optima; under-done and over-designed interior in the i45.

You can put the Optima’s in-house advantages down to the work of Kia design boss Peter Schreyer – the bloke who, earlier on, designed the stunning Audi TT.

The Optima is also much better sorted on ride and handling than the i45, as well as being better equipped and cheaper. If you’re thinking about buying an i45 – do yourself a favour: you absolutely must test-drive the Optima.

The Optima is a very pleasant car to drive – but it’s no sports car. You’ll be disappointed if you start driving it like one. But for commutes and cruising the Optima is hard to beat.

The 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder engine has the latest direct injection technology, but that still doesn’t make it a V6. If it did, the Optima would be awesome.

The 2.4 makes 148kW and 250Nm – but it does both only at very high revs. So you need to rev it hard to make it deliver the goods. And even then, performance scores only about 6 out of 10.

Overall refinement scores 9. There are paddle shifters (as well as a conventional one) for the silky smooth six-speed auto, and the Optima boasts great steering weight and feel, as well as being almost too nimble for its size. This is a big point of difference, compared with the i45. The Optima gets exactly the same drivetrain as the i45, but it also gets its own suspension and steering setup. Dynamically, it’s light-years ahead of the i45.

If you want a mid-sized car with more than adequate rear legroom, forget the Honda Accord Euro – the Optima will accommodate adults in the rear with ease – as well as big, strapping teenaged kids.

In total I’ve spent three or four weeks driving various Optimas. About the only thing I detested was the foot-pedal parking brake – which just screams ‘we did it for the Americans’. I also wanted more engine performance.

But the main impression you get from the Optima is: how could they do all that for the price? Why would anyone buy a Camry or a Honda Accord, or a Mazda6?

You could put Volkswagen, Renault or Peugeot badges on an Optima, and up the ante by 10 grand, and it would still be an authentic selling proposition. The Optima is the mainstream mid-size market’s ‘sweet spot car’.