Free­dom ver­sus Lib­erty

Es­cap­ing the city puts our Op­tima in a good light

Wheels (Australia) - - Our Garage - JAMES WHITBOURN

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

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