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New Kia Optima Review
The Optima has been on sale in North America since 2010 and it seems that US buyers just can’t get enough of it. Sales arerunning at around 12,000 a month there,out of global monthly sales of around 16,500. Over 217,000 have already been sold around the world.
With combined Kia and Hyundai globalsales for the January to October 2011 period of 5,924,146 - 18% up on thesame period in 2010, placing the company ahead of Ford, it’s easy to understand whythe company is feeling upbeat. Kia wasblazing a trail in Europe in 2011 too, with growth of 10% in sales to the end of October, set against a market that is still falling, even though decline has slowed to around 1% on average.
Against that backdrop you could arguethat either Kia can afford to take a gamble on launching into the declining EuropeanD-segment, or Kia’s European operation is making a mistake. In reality, it won’t makea whole lot of difference, because of those sales figures. European models will bes hipped in from Korea (where it is sold asthe K5) and even if sales are comparatively modest, that won’t stop Kia’s onward march, or the Optima, in their tracks.
Kia’s European chief Paul Philpott told us thatmargin-crunching business is off limits,suggesting the company won’t be beatinga path to daily rental companies.Power choices for Europe come down toeither Kia’s 1.7-litre common rail diesel,pushing out a healthy 136PS, with carbondioxide emissions of 133g/km or with optional EcoDynamics pack, 128g/km EUc ombined, meaning 4.9l/100km (57.6mpgimperial/48.0 US) or from May 2012, atwo-litre 170PS petrol engine, which Kiahopes will deliver 155g/km CO2, equating to fuel consumption of 6.5l/100km EU combined (43.5mpg imperial/36.2mpgUS). Standard transmission is a six-speedmanual with the option of a six-speed auto.
These power options will be joinedby a petrol hybrid in the second half of2012, also using the 2.0-litre petrol enginein down-tuned 150PS guise with 40psfrom the electric motor. Kia has not yettalked fuel consumption and emissions forthe hybrid.
Approach the Optima from any angleand it’s clearly a crisp, modern design. Thedistinctive lines make it hard to place atfirst – it isn’t obviously a Korean car and afar cry from Kia’s offerings just a few yearsago. Having established that it is a Kia, it’s tempting to think that this is anotherKia/Hyundai twin, the Hyundai i40/Sonatabeing its sibling. Not so, says Kia. The Optima is slightly larger with a longerwheelbase and in fact the car is bigger thana VW Passat. To be precise, 76mm longer,15mm lower and 10mm wider than thePassat and 83mm longer in the wheelbase.
The fact that it doesn’t look it is anotherbrownie point for the design team.On the road, Optima lacks the finesse ofthe Passat, Ford Mondeo and other leadingD-segment rivals where ride is concerned.It tends to jar over potholes anddoes not have the absorbent ride of thoserivals. The handling impressed though,with precise, responsive steering.
The 1.7-litre diesel, like many other Euro5 diesels, is anything but quiet from cold,but noise levels drop noticeably once it haswarmed up. The result is an impressivelyrefined car. It performs well too, thanks torespectable power output and 325Nm(240lbft) of torque from 2,000-2,500rpm.