Optimal Appeal: Kia Optima Si

Charles Darwin espoused “The Theory of Evolution”; it certainly applies to the world of automotive transport and Kia’s Optima is a brilliant case in point. Starting off as a somewhat ugly duckling, it’s now a classy swan. With a profile not unlike Jaguar’s gorgeous XF, it cuts a sharp figure on the road, but is everything else up to the task? A Wheel Thing checks out the entry level Si Optima…Optima profile
The Driven Heart
Optima engineIt’s well and truly a common engine size at 2.4L and churns out a respectable 148 kilowatts, albeit at a high 6300 revs. Peak torque is 250 Newton metres at a revvy 4250rpm, with the engine drinking from a 70 litre tank. Economy is quoted as being 7.9L per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle, with the weak spot being the urban figure, a tick over 11.2L. A Wheel Thing averaged, over a week, a tick under 10L/100kms in a predominantly urban driving program. Tagged as GDI, for gasoline direct injection, it’s a freespirited, if slightly buzzy, piece of engineering, revving freely when asked and quietly tootling around when not.
The Clothing Store
Lithe, angular, curvaceous where it counts, the Optima has a sense of presence on the road. The vehicle provided came clad in Optima nosePlatinum Graphite, a metallic grey which looks superb on the sharp panels. A gloss black grille, swept back and wrap around style headlights give the Optima an arrow head front end, moving to a high belt line and sweeping back into a coupe Optima rearstyle rear roof line, endcapped by an angular taillight cluster. It’s cohesive and balanced. The Si misses out on the LED running lights as featured on the SLi and Platinum. At 4845mm in length, 1830mm wide and under 1500mm in height, it’s a trim and taut looking beast however it’s a touch porky at nearly 1600kg.
The Office Space
Base model it might be but the seats provided some of the best support and least stuffing around to get a comfortable seating Optima dashposition I’ve had in weeks. A mixture of manufactured leather and cloth, Optima cabinthe wrap around of the wings and what feels like just the right amount of padding go, immediately, a long way to starting a journey comfortably. An efficient dash layout, sensibly laid out switchgear, paddle shifts, wide opening doors, a 500 odd litre cargo space are let down somewhat by a cheapish looking and feeling steering wheel. Optima bootAlthough symmetrically laid out, there’s a touch too many buttons to look at plus there’s an Eco button hanging off the bottom right which could have been better located elsewhere.
The audio system screen is the tried and proven red dot matrix design, it sounds good but the menu system to adjust the sound becomes nonintuitive after the first two steps. The Si has an old tech foot operated park brake as well, somewhat out of tune with the rest of the tech, such as reverse camera (shown in the rear vision mirror), traction control and Hill Start Assist.
On The Road
The lack of torque is an issue at times, initially off the line and when required to make an overtaking move. It’s geared to be around 2000-2200 revs at freeway speeds, requiring either a bit of preplanning and a deft right foot or a hefty thump on the go pedal, sending the tacho surging past 4000 revs and the six speed auto back to fourth, sometimes third. The brake is beautifully Optima Si wheelpressured, wonderfully modulated, reading the driver’s desire to squeeze down to a stop as equally well as a momentary dab or a full emergency brake. The suspension is the well proven combination of McPherson strut front/multilink rear, providing a sublime ride on smooth surfaces and ironing out the niggles all too often found, aided by the 215/55 section rubber, wrapped around 17 inch alloys with a five spoke tuning fork design. Turn in is precise however it feels more weight on centre and lightens up left and right, feeling, oddly, as if the steering is activating the wheels from the top rather than from inside the hubs.
The Wrap
Time, money, research, result. Time and money well spent on research and the result is the Optima. The test car is priced at $31990 + ORCs and metallic paint is $595. Click here: http://www.kia.com.au/showroom/optima for more.

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