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New York show: Kia optimises Optima

Refreshed: Kia has given the striking Optima mid-size sedan a subtle facelift and packed in extra tech – but the new gadgets may not make it Down Under.

Australia may miss out on facelifted Kia Optima’s new technology

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Kia logo28 Mar 2013

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

KIA has boosted its mid-size Optima sedan with the latest internet-connected infotainment and blind-spot monitoring technology on the facelifted model unveiled at the New York motor show.

However there is no guarantee the new technology will make it Down Under when it arrives in the first quarter of next year.

The infotainment system, which relies heavily on North America’s Sirius digital satellite radio service, is not yet localised for the Australian market and there could be an obstacle to adopting blind-spot monitoring.

Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) public relations general manager Kevin Hepworth told GoAuto that even if the new infotainment system could be made to work via Bluetooth smartphone tethering, there was no guarantee the head units would be available through the South Korean factory.

And while Mr Hepworth conceded there should be no technical reason the Optima could not become the first Kia sold in Australia with blind-spot monitoring, the way the factory packages specification items could be a hurdle.

“For example on one of the models if you want a rear-view camera you have to take heated seats and something else as well so it is not as simple (as just selecting the option),” he said.

In addition to cost factors of bundling on-board technologies, Mr Hepworth said they can sometimes be tied to region-specific items like the blinking red tail-light indicators of North American models.

Good news for Optima fans is that KMAu continues to consider the potent 204kW/369Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine offered overseas – and the facelift could provide the company with an ideal opportunity to introduce it.

The facelifted Optima’s updated styling is dominated by a revised front bumper featuring distinctive four lens fog-light arrays linked with the deeper lower air intake by a strip of gloss black plastic.

A more delicate chrome strip around the signature Kia grille gives it a more open-mouthed look while the LED daytime running lights are now integrated with the headlight units rather than located on the bumper.

Chrome-trimmed side skirts balance out the strip running along the top of the windows and down the C-pillar toward the restyled LED tail-lights, beneath which is a new diffuser design.

Inside are new materials and seats, a redesigned centre stack with eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, an eight-speaker Infinity audio system and 4.3-inch colour multi-function display in the instrument panel.

The new blind-spot monitoring system includes rear cross-traffic alert to warn the driver of oncoming vehicles when reversing out of a driveway or parking space.

Other new features include rear parking sensors and a three-mode driving mode selector that alters throttle response, steering weight and transmission shift points.

Also on the Kia stand at New York were the second-generation Cerato Koup and Soul small cars, which will respectively arrive in Australia in the fourth quarter of this year and the first half of 2014.

Kia has sold 3449 Optimas in Australia since its launch in January 2011 and sales took off into triple digits as of January 2012, regularly hitting the 200s from September until the end of year.

Sales in January and Feburary this year have been down to 189 and 163 respectively, but this still represents a sales spike of 55.8 per cent over the same period last year.

Mr Hepworth said the Optima has been popular among novated lease buyers, with customers “not strictly” traditional fleet customers but “fleet driven”.

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