I’ve had my eye on the third generation Optima since they came out last year. The early ones were – how can I put this – uninspiring to look at, but recently Kia have seriously upped their game, and the new Optima is a really smart looking car.
Technology and safety-wise it’s up there too, with six airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Warning. Inside the cabin there’s satnav, keyless entry and start, power front memory seats with heating and cooling, heated steering wheel, to name just a few.
There are two trim levels, EX and Limited with a price difference of $3200. Our review car was in the top Limited spec which gives a few features you don’t get get on the EX, including leather seats, panoramic sunroof, Harman/Kardon media system, some cosmetic improvements and a couple of the safety features including lane change assist.
Our test car came in Platinum Graphite – a dark metallic grey. It does suit the car well, but I think it looks better in the white, or especially the deep metallic Temptation Red. Walking around the car, it has an air of quality about it, fit and finish is very good. I think it looks great, a modern, smart design with some nice touches, such as the chrome highlights and the tri-section LED front foglamps.
It shows that they’ve put some thought into things, like the lock and unlock buttons on the remote being different shapes so you can find them easily in your pocket, or the keyless boot entry which pops the boot when you stand by it for three seconds with the key on your person.
The doors open and shut with a reassuringly solid thunk, and the whole car has a feeling of quality about it.
Inside is a similar story. The materials are good quality, and the finish is excellent. Definitely on par with some of the premium brands. There are brushed metal inlays around the groups of buttons and the vents, which really lift the quality feel.
The leather seats are nicely shaped and very comfortable. Unusually, both front seats are electrically adjustable, including lumbar support, and the driver’s side also has seat memory. The front seats can be either heated or cooled, and for those cold morning starts there’s even a heated steering wheel. I tried this and it was quite pleasant at first, but did get a bit warmer than I liked after a while. The wheel is comfortable to hold, finished in decent leather, and has buttons on the face for the phone, stereo and cruise control functions.
In front of the driver are two big, clear white-lit dials for revs and speedo, with a 4.3” colour TFT information display in the centre. This can be configured to show all sorts of different information including road speed, lane departure system, radar cruise distance etc.
There’s also an 8” touch screen in the centre for the media system, as well as physical buttons below it for the main functions, including a knob for volume control – something I really like to have in a car. Input can be via USB, aux jack or Bluetooth and the phone pairing process was seamless. In the front there’s an inductive charger, if your phone supports it. A nice touch to have as standard.
There’s even an extra power socket and USB input in the rear under the central rear heating/cooling vent.
The Limited spec has a ten speaker Harman/Kardon stereo with a 12 channel amp, which sounds excellent, and goes louder than I’d ever want.
In the back, there’s loads of legroom – a surprisingly large amount in fact. There are some luxuries like pull-up window blinds in the rear doors, and the seats are comfortable too. The back gives the best view of the massive panoramic sunroof. The rear section is a large fixed piece of glass but the front opens, either tilting, or sliding all the way back, and popping up a fly-catching wind deflector at the front. If you don’t want to see the sky you can close it and a full length electric blind covers the lot. I found the system of buttons for the roof a bit fiddly at first, getting the blind and opening where I wanted it, but soon made sense of it.
The boot is huge too, 510 litres to be exact, and it’s very deep. Some luggage hooks would be nice, to stop things sliding around. The rear seats fold almost flat and split 60/40, allowing longer items to be carried. The opening is limited a bit by the rear arches, but I was surprised that managed to fit in five two-metre coat stands that I needed to shift.
Both Optima trim levels come with the same 2.4l normally-aspirated four-cylinder, which produces 138kW and 241Nm. It’s a little bit old-school I suppose, as manufacturers move towards smaller capacity turbocharged engines. But it does a great job, giving plenty of power for the odd overtake, or a little bit of fun on a quiet back road. The quoted combined fuel usage is 8.3l/100km which is decent for a 2.4l engine. I struggled to get it under 11 but I did make a lot of shorter journeys.
The shifter paddles behind the steering wheel can be used to provide engine braking, or to shift manually if you want. Full manual mode can be selected by flicking the shifter to one side. There are also three driving modes, Normal, Sport and Eco and there’s a noticeable difference between each. Sport definitely improved pickup and throttle response.
The Optima has a very good ride, smoothing out bumps well despite its 18” wheels and 235mm tyres. It’s well damped and comfortable, but this doesn’t translate to body roll on the corners, it corners really well with a neutral feel. The electric steering is light, but gives some feedback and firms up nicely at higher speeds. On my favourite understeer-testing corner it didn’t understeer at all, it just took the turn with no obvious intervention from the safety systems. Pretty impressive.
The cruise control is excellent, easy to set, with the set-speed appearing on the central display, and easy to adjust using the wheel-mounted buttons. It’s radar guided, so set the speed you want, and let the car sort it out. I set the cruise just before the top of Wellington’s Ngauranga Gorge, in rush hour traffic, and didn’t touch the pedals until I got to my off-ramp. The car comes to a complete stop if needed, just requiring a flick of the resume button or tap of the accelerator to set off again. Very relaxing in heavy traffic.
I really enjoyed the Optima. It has just about every feature I can think of, short of maybe auto-parking. It’s solid and well built, has a good warranty, and feels like it’s a real quality product which I’d be happy to drive every day.
|Brand / Model
|Price Highest to Lowest
|Mazda 6 Sedan
|2.5l 4 cylinder
|Nissan Altima Ti
|2.5l 4 cylinder
|Toyota Aurion Sportivo
|3.5l 4 cylinder
|Hyundai i40 CRDi Elite
|1.7 litre 4 cylinder turbodiesel
|Toyota Camry Atara SX
|2.5l 4 cylinder
|VW Passat Highline
|1.8l 4 cylinder turbo
|Subaru Legacy RS
|3.6 litre 6 cylinder
|Hyundai Sonata Elite
|2.4l 4 cylinder
|2.0l 4 cylinder turbo
|Kia Optima Limited
|2.4l 4 cylinder
|2.0l 4 cylinder turbodiesel
|Holden Malibu CDX
|2.4l 4 cylinder
The pros and cons
What we think
The Optima is one of those cars that’s really easy to get along with. It just does everything you expect of it, and does it well. It’s well built, inside and out, and comes with a five year warranty.
There’s loads of technology for both safety and comfort, it’s well implemented and easy to use. It really is a great value car, and if you’re looking for a family sedan, the Optima is an excellent choice. It’s not often we give a five star rating but I think the Optima deserves it. I expected it to be good, but it exceeded my expectations.
Rating – Chevron rating 5 out of 5
|$45,790 + on-road costs
|$48,990 + on-road costs
|2.4L DOHC GDI D-CVVT Petrol Engine
|6 speed automatic with sequential sports shift
|0 – 100 kph
|Length x Width x Height
|4855 x 1860 x 1765mm
|ANCAP Safety Ratings
|5 year/100,000km warranty
5 year/unlimited km roadside assist
5 year incident care service