Loaded lev­eller

Kia kits out the Op­tima to take on big­ger-ticket ri­vals

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

Aus­tralia only able to get 1000 this year. But those ar­rive here in a sin­gle up­scale Plat­inum spec level, with great looks, and some suc­cess in the maker’s at­tempts to bet­ter suit the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing to Aus­tralian tastes.

VALUE

The $36,990 Op­tima is as-well kit­ted out— or bet­ter— than some of its higher-priced com­peti­tors. The stan­dard list in­cludes full-leather up­hol­stery, eight-way pow­ered driver’s seat (four-way for front pas­sen­ger and heat­ing/cool­ing for both), premium In­fin­ity au­dio sys­tem with aux/USB/ iPod com­pat­i­bil­ity, elec­tric fold­ing mir­rors, head­light wash­ers, panoramic sun­roof, cool­ing glove­box, rear park­ing cam­era with di­rec­tion guides in­te­grated into the rear view mir­ror, re­verse park­ing sen­sors and dusk-sens­ing au­to­matic head­lights. Sadly, how­ever, there is no sat­nav at this stage.

The Bel­gian-built Ford Mon­deo Zetec hatch is $750 more and it misses out on most of the Op­tima’s higher-spec equip­ment, but has a bet­ter en­gine with the ben­e­fit of tur­bocharg­ing.

The Op­tima’s kiss­ing cousin is the Hyundai i45 Premium sedan (there’s no hatch) at $2000 more with the same plat­form, great styling and sim­i­lar spec, adds sat­nav but has poorer ride and han­dling.

The Toy­ota Camry Grande is $3000 more, and has sim­i­lar spec to the Op­tima, although it rides on 17-inch al­loys and a sun­roof costs ex­tra. The Camry leads the sales race with more than dou­ble the num­ber of the sec­ond-placed Mon­deo and that’s prob­a­bly not go­ing to change any time soon.

Honda’s Ac­cord Euro Lux­ury is $3150 more, but is still the best all-rounder pack­age in the seg­ment, com­bin­ing a good en­gine with solid qual­ity, ex­cel­lent com­fort and well-stacked equip­ment list, in­clud­ing 10-speaker au­dio, front park­ing sen­sors and trailer sway sen­sors.

The Mazda6 Lux­ury sedan is the most ex­pen­sive of the sales lead­ers at nearly $4000 more and is also about on par with spec— with the ma­jor omis­sion a re­vers­ing cam­era. This is the one for a fun drive but the firm ride could be tir­ing

if it’s used as a fam­ily ve­hi­cle.

DE­SIGN

The Op­tima looks classy and sharp but with styling in­side and out pitched to ap­peal to a broad range of tastes. Vis­i­bil­ity is good, and the panoramic dou­ble sun­roof helps to open up the cabin vis­ually, although it’s a trial for tall-torso driv­ers. Split-fold rear seats help make the most of the space.

Touches that give it that bit ex­tra in­clude the al­loy sports ped­als and il­lu­mi­nated badg­ing

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