AT A GLANCE
Korean makers shed their cheap-and-cheerful tag long ago but it was still a surprise to find Kia getting in on the Aussie sedan act when it launched the Optima.
The Optima, rather than being a full-size car to rival the Commodore and Falcon, was a marginally smaller mid-sizer aimed at Holden and Ford buyers wanting to downsize.
Former rusted-on Commodore or Falcon buyers had three Optima specs to choose from, kicking off with the Si, topping out with the feature-packed Platinum and, positioned between them for a short period, the SLi. A stylish sedan that seamlessly blended in with the local landscape, the Optima also could accommodate five adults in decent comfort, front and back.
Add a good-sized boot and the flexibility of a split-fold rear seat and you have a pretty impressive and usable package.
For the drivetrain, Kia used 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic that delivered an attractive blend of performance and economy.
Making it even more appealing to local buyers was the news that local engineers had tuned the suspension to better suit our roads. The result: impressive ride and handling. The Optima also gained five safety stars from ANCAP thanks to a powerful array of features including front, head and side airbags and emergency braking assistance.
The numerous standard features included climatecontrolled aircon, cruise control, leather trim, xenon headlamps and CD audio.
On top of that, the Optima‘s seven-year warranty was a comfort to anyone doubting Kia’s build quality and reliability.
Few complaints cross the Carsguide desk regarding the Optima or, for that matter, Kia cars in general. It’s a resounding endorsement for the company’s ability to build quality and reliability into its cars.
Cars directly sampled over the past year or two have been well built and pleasant to drive. Without rattles and squeaks, they appear to be holding up well over the longer term.
The earliest examples of the TF Optima, which came here in 2011, have done on average 80,000km-130,000km so the showroom gloss is fading.
Owners are generally a contented lot and we have little to suggest they shouldn’t be. Still, it’s important to thoroughly road test any car before buying it.
It’s particularly important to identify any signs of owner abuse or lack of care, either by damage, even superficial, to the body or interior, and particularly through lack of maintenance.
Check your chosen car’s service record to ensure it’s been well maintained.
The Optima has a conventional auto, so it doesn’t have the driving quirks of DSGs or CVTs, but make sure that it shifts smoothly and without hesitation.
There have been no recalls of the Optima.
Megan Tudor I love my 2012 Optima Platinum. It looks stunning, goes well and is packed with features. Barry Burton I think the Optima is greatly underrated,
KIA OPTIMA 2011-14 PRICE NEW
Si $13,000-$23,000, SLi $17,500-$21,000, Platinum $15,000-$30,000 5 stars 2.4-litre 4-cyl, 148kW/250Nm
6-speed auto; FWD 7.9L/100km
It’s a Toyota. Nothing exciting but it’s well built, a car you can rely on.
Pay $9500-$26,000 VW JETTA 2011-14
Does everything well but, given VW’s recent reliability woes, should be approached with caution.
Pay $9000-$28,000 HONDA ACCORD 2011-14
Well-built, reliable, safe, drives well and is featurepacked. A delight.
I’ve had two and never had an ounce of trouble with either of them. They’re inexpensive, safe and packed with features. Trevor Harrington The Optima is great value for money and the seven-year warranty gives great peace of mind. It handles well, is comfortable, has a large boot and looks good. Ken Price My 2013 Platinum is stylish, practical, packed with features and has a great warranty. It’s no rocket ship but it’s not too bad. Don Storrar My 2013 Platinum has been reliable and troublefree from the day I bought it new. It handles and performs well, and easily accommodates my family of five. It’s a joy to drive.
It’s an appealing and affordable mid-sized sedan for the family.