AUSTRALIA gets the pick of the Optima range but none of that went on show when the car held its international launch this week in Dubai.
Basically, what was served up by Kia was the higher-spec body – which we will call Platinum – but without the Aussie-bound tauter suspension, tighter all-hydraulic steering and the 2.4-litre GDI engine.
Our test cars had the 2.4-litre non-GDI engine and standard soft suspension – both not on our shopping list.
‘‘ There is beauty in the exterior but there’s also a spacious and very friendly interior that has strong overtones of cars including Volkswagen’s Passat
But on top-class bitumen ribbons that alternate from rifle-barrel straights through the moonscape dunes to squiggles up and down rocky hills devoid of vegetation, these preproduction cars showed that Kia is on to a good thing.
Specifically, the six-speed automatic gearbox works very well with the base engine. It’s smooth and the ratios spread right out so 110km/h comes up at only 2000 revs.
There is beauty in the exterior – and that will win sales – but there’s also a spacious and very friendly interior that has strong overtones of cars including Volkswagen’s Passat, a car Kia puts top of its list as the benchmark for its new Optima.
The driving position is more like a sports sedan than a mid-size family car.
Adapting to the driver’s seat is made easy by electric adjustment and tilt/telescopic movement for the steering wheel.
Controls are well laid out, the stitched vinyl dashboard pad looks great and the Infinity sound system is a welcome addition to a car that I found both quiet and with a supple ride.
However, the final ride comfort rating won’t be known until its January launch in Australia.
Seat comfort is very good despite the small width of the cushions, but the foot-operated park brake is old-fashioned in this car, as is the red illumination for the radio and vent controls.
It’s impressive, and the downsides of this test – the engine could do with more pep and the steering was vague – will, says Kia, be addressed by the time the car hits our shores.