VER­DICT

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - CARS GUIDE - Call Great Western Kia, Gt Western Hwy, Kingswood on 1300 795916. Also Lan­der Kia, Black­town Rd, Black­town on 8822 4477.

The Op­tima is a big step up for Kia in terms of qual­ity and driv­ing dy­nam­ics. It is ac­com­pa­nied by an equally large lift in price. Kia is smart enough to ex­pect that to put some buy­ers off but con­fi­dent enough to pre­dict it will still earn sales from those look­ing for a main­stream sedan with more than a hint of lux­ury.

“We’re not ex­pect­ing huge num­bers but we are ex­pect­ing it to ap­peal to buy­ers who want an ex­ec­u­tive stan­dard and style.”

Stan­dard gear on the GT in­cludes an eight-inch touch­screen with sat­nav and a re­vers­ing cam­era, 10-speaker Har­man/Kar­don sound sys­tem, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, blind spot and lane-de­par­ture warn­ings, rear cross-traf­fic alert, adap­tive head­lamps and tyre pres­sure mon­i­tors.

Both front seats are pow­ered and fit­ted with heaters and fans and the cabin qual­ity steps up to chal­lenge the best in class in terms of soft-touch ma­te­ri­als and

of fea­tures but­ton lay­out. There’s also in­duc­tive charg­ing for (se­lected) An­droid mo­bile phones and a panoramic sun­roof.

The styling is rel­a­tively un­changed, with new lights and a longer, leaner “Schreyer” grille with Mercedes-like di­a­mond ef­fect studs. The Si stands out with a trio of LEDS making up each fog light, while the GT has larger ver­ti­cal vents with chrome struts mounted in ei­ther edge of the front bumper to chan­nel air around the front wheels and a dif­fuser on the rear bumper.

ANCAP has yet to rate the Op­tima but it is rea­son­able to ex­pect a five-star rat­ing given the Hyundai Sonata earned top marks with­out the Kia’s ac­tive safety suite.

ON THE ROAD

AS the fastest kid in the mid­sized field the Op­tima jus­ti­fies the GT tag adorn­ing its rear end and em­bla­zoned on the seat backs and flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheel. It’s no sports car but it is more than ca­pa­ble of re­ward­ing driv­ers with a spir­ited run on moun­tain roads.

Turn-in grip from the 18-inch Miche­lins is great and changes to the sus­pen­sion have im­proved the Kia’s ride and han­dling com­pared to the pre­vi­ous model. The sportier fo­cus for the GT means it makes mi­nor con­ces­sions to around-town cos­set­ing in favour of bet­ter re­sponse and re­ac­tion to higher speed hits.

Noise sup­pres­sion is a high­light, as is rear head and legroom and the gap­ing boot which still houses a full-size spare. The length of the cargo area means push­ing smaller items to the back may re­quire some con­tort­ing to re­trieve them.

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