Without any reverential fears, the Korean mid-sized sedan takes on even the most popular European models in the same class,  unleashing its best weapons based on quality and tailored-made technology to fit the global market. Most recently, the Kia group, a brand belonging to a Korean industrial giant controlled by Hyundai Motor Company, has been focusing on products that are a far cry from those cheap and sometimes approximate models that featured so predominantly during the early days of the Asian automotive industry, aligning itself with Western demands and embracing the future, as shown by some of the most recent sports and electric models, the likely protagonists of the present as well as the future of the industry.

In a rather wide range of vehicles dedicated to an increasingly globalized market, though outnumbered by city cars, small sedans and SUV, Kia’s Optima, now in its fourth version,  represents the company’s top of the range available as both a three-volume sedan and family sportswagon.


Sights on Europe

Size does count: 4.85 metres long, 1.86 wide and 1.46 high, with a 2.8 metre wheelbase, place  Optima among segment D sedans and wagons, with enough electronic devices and accessories to qualify it as a true premium car.

Sporty, streamlined and a gritty design, even more accentuated by the GT Line version, Optima boasts many of the features common to the Kia family, such as the distinctive “Tigernose” with Kia’s trademark grille design, large air intakes in the lower section under the LED headlights that extend all the way to embrace the side of the vehicle, both at the front and rear. A dynamic look that continues along the side panels, with inclined pillars and large windows, slanting towards the rear boot, in the sedan versions, or designing a slightly inclined rear section on the Sportswagon. A captivating look, in line with the demands of the European market, and comparable to other high-end models.

Inside five passengers can sit comfortably thanks to roomy interiors while the simple and sober design starting from the dashboard, is dominated by the infotainment system’s 7 or 8-inch display. Standard features include a two-zone automatic A/C system, with separate ventilation for rear passengers, KiaNavigation System enriched by a DAB+ digital radio system, as well as KiaConnected Service, able to supply a whole range of driving information available through the TomTom circuit, such as real-time traffic, weather forecasts and presence of speed traps along the road. As expected, especially in a car of this size, the space reserved for baggage is rather generous, 510 litres on the sedan, which become more than 550 on the wagon, which increases three-fold when the rear seats are reclined.

In addition, Kia’s Around View Monitor, managed by four cameras, reproduces on the monitor a 360° view all around the car.

Optima’s safety frame benefits from the extensive use of high-strength steels, stiffening the bodywork while reducing the overall weight of the vehicle to about 1.6 tons, combined with an extensive set of electronic drive assist systems controlled by sensors, cameras as well as short- and long-range radars. No wonder Optima gained, first Kia ever, 5 Euro NCAP stars in collision tests.

After all, the quality of the project is a guarantee of strength and reliability as evidenced by the 7 years or 150,000 kilometres warranty applied, enough to accompany the driver throughout the vehicle’s life cycle - or at least a large part of it.


Diesel, petrol… and hybrid

The 141 hp CRDI 1.7-litre engine takes the lion’s share, the only Diesel option currently available in this range. The revamped four-cylinder direct-injection engine has a maximum power of 141 hp, with 34.7 kgm of torque available between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm, while the average consumption is declared at around 23.8 km/litre, combined with a classic six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automatic with sequential dual-clutch DCT (22.7 km/litre average fuel consumption in this configuration), fast clutch engagement and great driving fun.

At one stage Kia offered also a powerful 2-litre direct injection turbocharged petrol unit, specifically designed to equip the Sportswagon GT version, managed by a sequential 6-speed automatic transmission capable of propelling the Optima, thanks to its 245 hp of power, to a top speed of 232 km/h, but that option is no longer available. You probably will not see many entering a workshop, as unfortunately it did not enjoy great commercial success in our market.

Finally, aimed at maximum respect for the environment, the range includes a plug-in PHEV hybrid engine, the combination of a 156 hp 2-litre petrol engine and a 50 kW (68 hp) electric motor, for a total combined output of 205 hp, and a rather generous torque of 38.2 kgm, and a maximum driving range of 62.5 km/litre with both units in action, or 54 kilometres - in electric mode only. The 9.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack can be recharged either from fast-recharging stations or from a standard domestic socket. Recharging time is estimated around 3 to 6 hours respectively.

Besides sophisticated technology and cutting-edge mechanical layout, the high-torsion strength Optima platform boasts Independent, Spring McPherson, with stabilizer at the front, and a double wishbone layout at the back. Though not the best car to show off with, Kia’s Optima proves easy to drive thanks to a wide footprint, courtesy of 215/55 and 235/45 tires respectively mounted on 17-inch and 18-inch wheels, combining adequate performance and comfort. Only on the gritty GT version can boast larger 245/40 R19 tires, not available on the rest of the range.

In conclusion, as expected, Kia’s premium model can rely on several ADAS systems including an Advanced Smart Cruise Control, entrusted with keeping a cruising speed and safety distance, Autonomous Emergency Breaking, vital in the event of a potential collision, a Lane Keeping Assist System, preventing the vehicle from leaving its lane, and a Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which signals the arrival of a vehicle. In addition, the AEB system has both short and long range radars, recognizing obstacles from a distance faster than traditional systems.