Kia is no longer a cheap, poorly made brand. They’ve hired world-renowned designers and engineers from European rivals, and are making cars that on the spec sheets impress, especially when all its cars have a 7-year unlimited kilometres warranty.
None have been as bold a statement as the Optima GT. It’s $44k sedan that promises enough poke and equipment to make you reconsider spending an extra $20k on that BMW 3 Series or Lexus IS you were perhaps considering.
The current model isn’t all that different from its previous iteration, which isn’t a problem at all. It’s a genuinely attractive design, and is something you could easily fool people into thinking, if you hid the badges, that it came from Europe. The GT model Business Insider drove looks like a proper sporty sedan.
Under the bonnet, there’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine generating 180kW of power and 360Nm of torque adds a bit of go to those looks. It’s all sent to the front wheels through a silky-smooth 6-speed automatic gearbox.
The interior is where the Optima GT really impresses, and easily leaves you forgetting this is a car worth less than 50 grand. There’s a sense of style and purpose, with leather seats and trim throughout the cabin. Everything feels very well made, even the gear shifter feel like it’s from a class above. The driver and passengers feel like they’re in something worth a lot more money.
All the usual “optional” gadgets are included too, with heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, panoramic sunroof, digital instrument cluster, and my personal favourite – wireless phone charging. This means if you have a supported mobile, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S7, you can drop a phone on the rubber plate in the centre console and it’ll charge without you worrying about plugging anything in or remembering cords.
There’s an abundance of autonomous safety features too, including blind spot warning, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning – the sorts of things Volvo likes to boast about in an XC90 at twice the price.
While it’s not an Apple CarPlay/Android Auto unit, the infotainment system is easy to use and pairs to a phone very easily. The built-in satellite navigation is via the 8-inch touchscreen. In the GT spec, there’s also a 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo.
On the road, the Optima GT isn’t the last word on sportiness, but it’s certainly not a bad car to drive. That turbocharged engine is a peach, with acceleration from all points in the rev range impressive and strong.
The best part is the adaptation Kia made to the ride and handling, with local engineers tuning the Optima GT for Australian roads. It really shows.
There’s enough fun in the chassis, and enough balance to throw the car around some corners at some considerable speeds and enjoy it, while at the same time, it’s perfectly comfortable around town. The suspension soaks up bumps and poor surfaces with ease, and is great for long trips.
If buyers looking at medium-to-large cars end up opting for an SUV rather than Kia’s latest, they have more money than sense, because it’s truly a spectacular car for the money.
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