Freedom versus Liberty
Escaping the city puts our Optima in a good light
EASTER brought the opportunity to use the Optima in the way that its GT badge and spacious rear seat suggest it is intended – as a family tourer.
The decision to take the Kia to Nan’s in Katoomba instead of our family wagon, a 2004 Subaru Liberty GT, was pretty easy. The Subaru is none too economical, even on the highway, and with 165,000km on the clock it doesn’t ride brilliantly – even, annoyingly, after I had four new dampers fitted last year. I had little doubt the Kia would be more economical and comfortable.
Being a wagon, the Subaru has more cargo space, and it’s more easily accessible, but this trip would provide a good test for the Kia’s boot. I think the Liberty is marginally more fun, but that wouldn’t be a factor on a double-demerits weekend. Putting the Optima to the obligatory wife-and-kids test would be more interesting.
Preparing to head off, the 510-litre boot swallowed everything we needed to take, and there was plenty. Inbuilt top tether hooks made it easy to install Grace’s booster and Lucy’s child seat, and the roll-up mesh window shades would prove to be handy, as would the centre armrest (with twin cupholders) for holding toys and things.
Five minutes of fiddling with preferences paid off and for 100km there was peace, with no complaints from the girls. Even when little Lucy cracked it, the problem was not Kia-related. We were supplying snacks, just not of the required quality or quantity, apparently. A stop to play at a park and a chocolate egg fixed it.
On resumption, as the trip computer fuel average continued to tumble from urban highs near 15L/100km, I was enjoying the drive. The GT rides with the expected level of comfort and shuts out tyre and suspension noise well, though the density of holidaygoers on the road limited any assessment of the dynamics or the engine’s upper reaches.
The Kia’s various driver assistance systems work largely unobtrusively, other than the radar cruise control. While doing as it should and reducing speed to maintain the gap to the car ahead, I actually wanted to overtake a L-plater doing 80km/h, not slot in behind him. And I could have done without automatic braking when I knew the car ahead was about to exit the motorway, but the system didn’t.
Doing the reverse trip with a full tank and five up (Nan joined us) sealed the Kia’s credentials as a decent and efficient family tourer, with country figures in the high fives; the old Liberty would be in the sevens.
BETTER WITH AGE I parked near a previous-gen Optima (above) the other day; it’s definitely better looking than the new one