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Driven: Kia lobs refreshed Optima

Term two: Kia’s mid-sized Optima was sent back to chassis finishing school to enhance its refinement in the facelifted model.

Kia’s Camry-fighting Optima gets a nip and tuck – and price increases – for 2014

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20 Jan 2014

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) has quietly run its Optima mid-sized sedan through its local chassis tuning program for a tweak as part of its mid-generation 2014 facelift.

The formal release this week of the revised mid-range Optima SLi and top-shelf Platinum variants at the Kia-sponsored Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne completes the Optima II roll-out that started with the base Si late last year.

Much to the disappointment of local Kia executives, the turbo-charged 2.0-litre petrol engine available in North America is still off-limits for this market, with the Australian Optima continuing with the 148kW/250Nm normally aspirated 2.4-litre GDi petrol engine mated to the six-speed automatic transmission.

KMAu chief operating officer Tony Barlow told GoAuto that demand for the turbo engine in both Optima and Sportage in the US was such that the company had none spare for Australia for now.

But Mr Barlow indicated that Australia had asked head office to consider the turbo for Australia at the first opportunity.

“Our interest is strongly registered,” he said.

The hybrid version available in the US is also off the agenda for now, but KMAu is not ruling it out in a future generation.

And unlike sister company Hyundai’s i40, no diesel option is available either, although that also might change in future.

Although Kia did not make a hue and cry about it in its media release, the local team gave the Optima’s chassis another pull-through to enhance the facelifted version’s ride quality and handling in line with Kia’s latest models.

The Optima was one of the first models to get the localised suspension and steering treatment, but, with a lot of experience now under their collective belts, the chassis team decided to revisit Optima.

Body wise, the light facelift includes a new front treatment, including a revised grille, HID Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and – on the Platinum model – stylish fog lights comprising a pod of four LEDs in the lower bumper on either side of the car.

At the back, the revised rear end includes a redesigned diffuser and new boot lid that now includes an integrated aerodynamic lip.

The designers resisted the temptation to mess with the overall shape of the car wrought by Kia’s Peter Schreyer who won wide praise for the sleek lines of Optima when it replaced the unloved Magentis in January 2011.

Now, new equipment includes front and rear parking sensors on all models, along with more supportive front seats and a redesigned steering wheel. Adding to the new air of sophistication is a satin chrome interior trim, replacing the bright chrome of its predecessor.

The flagship Optima Platinum also gets blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. The latter warns of approaching traffic when reversing out of a parking bay or driveway.

The Platinum also gains seat ventilation for the front seat passenger as well as the driver, plus a sharper TFT data screen for the trip computer between the speedo and tacho. A dash-mounted seven-inch colour screen with sat-nav and reversing camera remains standard equipment on the top two variants.

On the SLi and Platinum, a new 18-inch alloy wheel design (with 225/45 tyres) is said to be both stronger and quieter, contributing to a range of new noise suppression measures for greater on-board refinement.

The fleet-friendly base Optima Si, which has 17-inch alloys with 215/55 tyres, was released in its facelifted form late last year when it became available from the factory, rather than hold up the launch. Apart from the general improvements wrought to all Optima models, the Si gained the front parking sensors.

This resulted in a $300 price hike, taking the Si list price to $30,990 (plus on-road costs), which is $500 more than the locally made Toyota Camry Altise, but $2470 cheaper than the base Mazda6 Sport.

The mid-range Optima SLi gains the front parking sensors and leather trim, with a $1000 price rise, to $35,990.

The flagship Platinum gets the biggest price rise of all – up $1200 – for its suite of new features, and now tops $40k at $40,490, which is $500 dearer than the Camry Atara SL.

Kia Australia has modest aspirations for the Optima, saying it hopes from incremental growth this year in a highly competitive market segment.

“We think there is an opportunity there this year to grow it a little bit more,” Mr Barlow said.

“We have now been working with our fleet customers pretty well, in terms of Optima, and I think some of that awareness of the product will come through in 2014.

“The mid-sized car segment is under a lot of pressure, and certainly it is very competitive.

“There is a very strong local competitor (Camry) in that segment that sets the pace, in various aspects of the market, but I think Optima is recognised now as an extremely good value for money proposition, and styling wise as well.”

Last year, Kia sold 1823 Optimas in Australia, down 19.6 per cent in a market segment down 16.4 per cent.

2014 Kia Optima pricing*
Si (a)$30,990
SLi (a)$35,990
Platinum (a)$40,490
premium paint$595
*Excludes on-road costs.

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