Times have certainly changed in Australia. Growing up it was all about the latest Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon. Families had one or the other in their garages and most other brands were seen as inferior or not welcome. Nowadays, the Falcon is ultimately dead, as is the Commodore. There are many arguments as to why this is the case, one of which is that they simply didn’t keep up with the innovation and value for money that these other “inferior” brands didn’t offer, but here we are.
Meet the Kia Optima GT. This is a car that could be what fills the void in your “Holden Cars Only” garage space or pleases the “First On Race Day” Ford fans. Firstly, on paper this car has specifications we’ve never seen from the Korean car maker before. Being a GT it had to have some power under the hood and this Optima has a 2L turbo charged four cylinder producing 180Kw of power propelling the front-wheel drive from 0 – 100km/h in 8.5 seconds. Sure, it won’t put up a fight to the Ford Xr8 but for a rather economical car it isn’t a slouch. Speaking of fuel economy, Kia claims 8.L/100km however our real world tests produced an average of 10.1L/100km. Some of this may be a result of the rather spirited drive. The Kia Optima GT has an engine note (inside the car) that resembles a WRX, a gurble reminding you there is a turbo under the hood. It makes you feel like you’re driving a real performance car.
On the outside though, the car is whisper quiet and won’t upset the neighbours. The gearbox does hesitate off the mark and doesn’t provide an aggressive launch, it is rather tame below 3000rpm, beyond that though you smile so much that you laugh at the sound being produced from a manufacturer you don’t expect it from.
On the inside the Kia is well beyond what you’ll find in the Holden or Ford camp over and above the list price. Sitting in the leather seats you’ll notice the large 8 inch display, climate control, heated steering wheel trigger, cooling seat controls, heated seat controls and more. You can’t help but feel comfortable in any outfit, in any season. The seat controls are electric, everything is in reach of the driver and the configurable displays in the dash are providing you all the information you need. The car also comes with radar cruise control, this can enable you to accelerate, slow down and maintain the gap to the car in front without touching any peddles.
This makes the commute to work a breeze as your main focus is just turning corners. What is noticeably missing from the in car stereo however is DAB, Apple Car Play or Android Auto, yet the centre tray below the dash has Qi Wireless Phone charging! Amazing to see wireless phone charging yet no true phone integration. In any case, it was hardly an issue, the navigation on the Optima is fantastic and works just fine.
Room in the cabin is plenty, lots of storage areas in the doors, centre console and in the boot. The backseat will comfortably fit two adults and a slight squeeze for the third. The backseat passengers will also have access to a 12v port and USB charging. The boot is worth another mention, it is SO SO big. Whether you’re putting golf clubs in the boot or a pram, you’ll appreciate the space. Looking at the car on the outside you’ll start to wonder how Holden and Ford got it all so wrong. The Optima GT looks good, not just “for a Kia” but it actually looks rather sporty. The diffuser fins at the back, the LED running lights at the front and the sexy 18inch wheels all combine to provide a nice package, as a 30-something we were proud to be seen, sadly not heard. We wished the Kia put out some real exhaust note to at least come close to what we were hearing in the cabin.
Price from $43,990 you’ll have no choice but to test drive this car if you’re looking to spend less than $50,000 on your next family car. NRMA recently placed the Kia Optima GT in third behind the Subaru Liberty 2.5 Premium and the Mazda 6 Touring. Add these to your list for that weekend test drive session and feel free to report back.