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Car reviews - Kia - Optima - Platinum sedan

The Car

18 Mar 2011

KIA’s classy new Optima is now on sale in Australia, where the burgeoning Korean brand’s all-new medium sedan is available in just one highly specified ‘Platinum’ model grade priced at $36,990 plus on-road costs.

As we reported when we first drove the Optima in Dubai last October, the belated replacement for Kia’s slow-selling Magentis combines coupe-like styling and impressive refinement with top-class efficiency with Kia’s generous five-year/unlimited mileage warranty.

Representing an outstanding new alternative in Australia’s highly competitive medium sedan segment, the Optima is based on the same new Hyundai-Kia group global mid-size platform that underpins Hyundai’s i45 sedan and forthcoming i40 wagon.

The otherwise well sorted i45 was criticised after its 2010 launch for its sub-standard steering and ride/handling combination compared to accomplished rivals like the popular Mazda6, Honda Accord Euro, Ford Mondeo and even Toyota’s top-selling Camry, Hyundai responded quickly with suspension damping revisions for the MY11 version, which GoAuto is yet to drive.

While the i45 scored top marks for design, which raised the bar for Hyundai passenger cars to a surprising new level, the Optima goes one step further on both counts, offering an even sharper European-style interior and exterior design and unique steering and suspension systems developed in Australia for local conditions.

Like the i45, the Optima - sales of which will be limited to just 1000 vehicles due to strong global demand, leading to delivery delays of up to five months – is powered by the Korean auto giant’s new 2.4-litre Theta II GDI (gasoline direct injection) four-cylinder petrol engine, matched exclusively with the car-maker’s new six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle shifters.

At less than $37,000, the Optima Platinum is priced significantly lower than similarly specified versions of its most direct rivals, including Hyundai’s own $38,990 i45 Premium flagship.

For now, all Australian Optima come standard with 18-inch flush-faced alloy wheels, black-bezelled Xenon headlights with washers and static cornering lights, foglights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights, wing mirror-integrated LED side repeater lights, twin chromed outboard exhaust outlets and chromed door-handles.

The luxury theme continues inside, where standard Optima Platinum features include full black leather trim, dual-zone climate-control, a reversing camera with colour interior mirrors display, rear parking sensors, speed-sensing automatic door locks, mood lighting on the centre console and doors, woodgrain gearshift and door switch surrounds, six airbags including side curtains, active front head restraints and seatbelt reminders for all five occupants.

Also standard is eight-way power seat adjustment with two memory positions and ventilation for the driver, a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, heated front seats, a 3.5-inch colour TFT instrument panel display for the seven-function trip computer, eight-speaker Infinity six-CD sound system with MP3, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, rear glass-mounted aerial, keyless push-button starting, remote central locking and a three-piece full-width panoramic sunroof.

Rounding out the extensive standard equipment list are illuminated door scuffs, a four-spoke leather-clad steering wheel with audio, a large cooled glovebox, cruise and phone controls, plus an ‘Eco’ button that is claimed to reduce fuel consumption by up to 7.5 per cent by optimising air-conditioning and drivetrain power use.

Metallic paint ($450) will be the only option available for the Optima Platinum, which can be had in seven exterior paint colours. Satellite-navigation is not yet available, but is expected to become an option later this year.

Motivating a new chassis that features a 75mm longer wheelbase than the Magentis’ at 2795mm but still weighs a relatively solid 1475kg, the 148kW/250Nm engine accelerates the Optima to 100km/h in nine seconds (down from 9.5 seconds for the 132kW/231Nm 2.4-litre Magentis).

Overall, the new Optima – a name used for Kia’s mid-size model in Australia between 2001 and 2006 – is also longer (4845mm), wider (1835mm), lower (1455mm) and more commodious than before, with a sizeable 505 litres of luggage space.

Despite offering more power almost all its competitors except the Accord Euro, combined fuel consumption of just 7.9L/100km (and CO2 emissions of 189g/km – the same as the i45) is down from 8.1L/100km.

As we’ve reported, the Optima’s new platform comprises larger brakes than before, along with MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension design with separate coil springs and dampers.

Kia expects the Optima, which features a sleek aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.29Cd, to receive a maximum five-star crash safety rating in Australia, the US (where it went on sale to critical acclaim last year) and Europe, where sales commence in April.

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