Monday, 7 May 2012


Kia South Africa launched what is sure to be one of the most beautiful cars on Mzansi roads, the all-new Optima sedan. Optima, which used to be called Magentis (K5 internally at Kia), was first unveiled at the New York International Auto Show in 2010, and subsequently shown locally at JIMS 2011. It will compete to win in a segment that’s recently been ignited by its company cousin, the Hyundai Sonata.

Kia sold almost 2.5 million cars worldwide last year and is poised to once again increase that tally for the 2012 year. Even in Mzansi a lot of successes have been recorded. As such, Kia says it’s planning on selling 150 units a month, or just under 2 000 Optimas a year. BMW sells about the same number of MINIs, so does Audi with its A1 range.

Optima is really a direct competitor for cars like the Volkswagen Passat, Honda Accord, Peugeot 508, Suzuki Kizashi and Volvo S40, large family cars with modern technology and a high emphasis on space and value. Unfortunately it’s not exactly a growing segment anymore, at least since the Toyota Camry left the scene, although Sonata appears to be the new Camry. As far as space is concerned, Optima is quite present, measuring 4.8 metres long, 1.45m high, 1.8m wide and has a long wheelbase of 2.8m.

Some might be put off by the carnival standard wheels, but will soon be soothed by the elegant front grille featuring Kia’s “tiger” design as created by the brand’s masterful chief designer Peter Schreyer. This car is a far cry from the old, unattractive Magentis I reluctantly drove around 2001. Big eyes and a divided front end, featuring standard LED daytime running lights makes it more standout. The side profile is characterised by very long front and rear overhangs, smaller windows and a slippery rear profile. I couldn’t help but see the Jaguar XF rear end though, although both cars came out at a similar time.

The interior marries leather pieces with some wood-like touches and brushed aluminium on areas like the foot pedals. Seats are a combination of woven cloth and leather, giving a sporty feel. Kia prides itself in offering a wide range of features free of charge, with only the panoramic sunroof coming in as an option at R10 000. The rest reads like the who’s who of modern family sedan features. By that I mean power steering, Bluetooth connectivity, an 8-speaker Infinity sound system, keyless entry and drive, dual front climate control, a leather-covered steering wheel with some satellite controls and so on and on. There are even shift paddles behind the steering wheel, actuating the 6-speed automatic gearbox to send all torque to the 18-inch alloys with its 225/45 R18 tyres.

Not that this car will find these any useful really, no thanks to the flat engine. The chosen motor is a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated unit whose talents quickly run out at 132kW and 231Nm of torque. Even down at the coast where the air is thick and birds are fly, very little could be done to persuade it to push any faster. That the 132kW comes at 6000rpm is also not of much help. For its part, Kia reckons the Optima accelerates from 0 - 100km/h in 9.5 seconds. We know for sure that this is very optimistic. It also says 8.7 litres per 100km in fuel can be achieved, with emissions of 207 g/km alongside it.

Some markets are blessed with a 1.7-litre turbo diesel making 330Nm, as well as a 2.0-litre turbo with 204kW. Both of these would be preferable to our rather lazy 2.4.

Safety systems include Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control, Hill Assist Control, ABS and a reversing colour camera that shows you clearly where you are reversing to. Instead of being placed on the dashboard like most other similar systems, the pictures show up on the interior rear view mirror. Quite good, considering that you are already looking at that particular mirror anyway.

Undoubtedly the new Kia Optima will do well, thanks to a seriously stylish outlook on life, a full house spec sheet as standard, and a very good pricing strategy. Those seeking more vuma from their motors won’t find it here though. But for the rest, it will impress.

Kia Optima Pricing
Optima 2.4 (R305 995)


Lupi said...

beauty at it's very best

Anonymous said...

pretty front end. The design is very good and lovely