2019 Kia Optima Si Review
Isaac Bober’s 2019 Kia Optima Si Review with price, warranty, performance, ride and handling, ownership, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Recent tweaks to the Kia Optima have made it more attractive and more competitive in the medium passenger segment.
2019 Kia Optima Si Specifications
Price From $33,390+ORC Warranty seven-years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months, 15,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 138kW at 6000rpm Torque 241Nm at 4000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4855mm long, 1860mm wide, 1465mm high, 2805mm wheelbase Turning Circle 10.9m Kerb Weight 1540kg Seats five Boot Space 510L Spare full-size alloy Fuel Tank 70L Thirst 8.3L/100km claimed combined
In June (2018) Kia made some running changes to the Optima range which included deleting a few features from both the Si and GT variants but at the same time adding safety features and slashing the price. There was also some fine tuning of the ride and handling via its local engineering team and a new grille along with some infotainment improvements.
On the surface, it seemed like Kia was being a little stingy in its update but after spending a week with the Optima Si buyers won’t miss what’s no longer available.
What’s in the range and how much does it cost?
There are two models in the Optima line-up, the entry-level Si we’re testing here and the top-spec GT variant. Both variants run different petrol engines. The Si has seen an $1100 price drop down to $33,390+ORC with the main changes being the loss of native sat-nav and HID headlights in favour of dual projector-type headlights.
However, the Si picked up a new infotainment system with a 7.0-inch screen (8.0-inches in the GT) offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you could argue the loss of native sat-nav is cancelled out. The active safety suite also saw driver attention alert, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist added.
The GT variant saw a $1200 price drop to $43,290+ORC and lost powered passenger front seat, panoramic sunroof, high beam assist and tyre pressure monitoring (which is the only element that’s a proper disappointment). Both the Si and GT have also received some ride and handling fettling.
Kia’s argument was that it wanted to improve the Optima’s market relevance and, while on the surface deleting features might not seem like the right way forward, the Optima, for the coin, no matter the variant, is incredibly well kitted out compared with its key rivals. And this helps the Korean car maker get away with just the two variants compared with rivals offering four or more. And, let’s not forget the passenger car segment is sinking. And fast. What Kia really needs to have done with the Optima tweaks is build a better Camry fighter. And it has.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
If you’ve ever seen inside a modern Kia then the interior of the Optima will be very familiar. The dashboard design is simple and clean with everything within easy reach of the driver.
Sat behind the steering wheel there are plenty of hidey holes and storage bins for your phone, wallet, etc. There are dedicated bottle holders in the door bins as well as extra storage and the centre console bin is deep with a top shelf too. The glovebox is a decent size and there are 12V, auxiliary and USB outlets and a small storage tray with retractable cover at the base of the dashboard. There are cup holders alongside the gear shifter.
While the seat looks broad and unsupportive it’s anything but with good lateral support and excellent under thigh support which is great for those of is with long legs. Seat adjustment is manual but there’s excellent movement both up and down and fore and aft. The steering wheel offers good reach and height adjustment.
There’s good vision right around the vehicle from the driver’s seat and the wing mirrors, while they look slim offer excellent vision and adjustability down the side of the vehicle.
Into the back seat and these are amongst the roomiest in the class with excellent toe-wiggle room under the front seats and acres of leg and knee room. The outboard seats are well shaped and comfortable. The middle seat, despite lacking the shape of the two seats beside it is broad in the base meaning an adult can sit there and not feel like they’re perching between the two other seats. There’s good headroom in all three seats. There are directional rear air vents and two charging outlets.
The boot is a decent size with a good opening making it easy to load and unload. It offers 510 litres of storage which is bettered by the Camry Ascent Petrol but there’s a reason for that which will be explained in the ‘spare tyre’ section below, if I haven’t already given away the reason.
What are the controls and infotainment like?
The Optima sticks with Kia’s familiar and practical dashboard layout. Some would say it’s a little conservative and that Kia’s dash design is due for a refresh but if it ain’t broken… All the controls are within easy reach of the driver and clearly labelled making them easy to see in either bright or low light conditions.
The 7.0-inch infotainment screen is small compared to the 8.0-inch screens that are becoming the norm but it’s easy to read, resistant to finger smudges and unaffected by glare. There’s no native sat-nav offered on the Si (it was one of the deletions) but you do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity which is possibly better for those more familiar with the mapping functionality on their phones. And the smartphone connectivity is quick and easy; it’s literally plug and play.
Loaded with active safety features, the Optima, and other Kia models, offer you the option of deactivating things like the lane keep assist. And, depending on the road you’re driving on it’s probably worth doing that as it can sometimes be sucked in by phantom lines. More than this, when the system is active it creates artificial weight in the steering wheel. I’m not suggesting it’s not a good system because it is, just that it’s probably better suited to the highway rather than around town or twisting roads.
What’s the performance like?
There are two engines to choose from, sort of, the Si gets a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol (Euro V) while the GT gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. The former produces 138kW at 6000rpm and 241Nm of torque at 4000rpm while the latter makes 180kW at 6000rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1350-4000rpm. Fuel consumption is a claimed combined 8.3L/100km and we got pretty close to that across the week, returning 9L/100km.
Not having driven an Optima GT I can’t comment on how the thing would feel with the turbocharged engine, but we know other Kia product where this engine is used that it’s a lusty feeling thing indeed. But, back to the Optima Si. The 2.4L petrol engine offers plenty of grunt and ease of acceleration and feels well matched to the six-speed automatic (both variants run the same transmission).
In our week of testing the Optima was used for shopping and school runs, tootling about town, some highway runs and, of course, was put through its paces across the Practical Motoring road loop. This loop takes in dirt, highway bitumen, twisting roads and pockmarked backroads. Across the week, the Optima Si showed it’s got more than enough oomph to keep up with traffic whether driving up or down hills or along the highway. Even when pushed the engine remains smooth and refined in its delivery with the transmission working well the engine and also your right foot.
What’s it like on the road?
With the minor tweaks to the Optima, Kia said it’s engineering team got out the spanners and made some adjustments to the ride and handling. If you’d driven an Optima before you couldn’t fail to be impressed by the step up in behaviour achieved on this refreshed model. The changes might only be subtle but they’ve made an already very good handling vehicle and turned it into one that’s easily one of the best riding and handling medium passenger cars in the segment.
Through twists and turns the body control, loaded or unloaded, is impressive as is the vehicle’s composure across rougher sections of bitumen. There’s no thump through into the cabin, even when you hit those large out of nowhere holes and there’s no bumping of the steering either.
Performance is smooth and refined, as mentioned, and both into and out of corners the Optima Si is a lot of fun. Some vehicles in this segment can struggle as speed increases with the suspension struggling as the speed rises and the bumps arrive thick and fast but not so the Optima Si which retains its composure and enthusiastic turn in. Grip is good too.
The steering lacks feel but the action is direct and consistent with decent weighting although while the throttle pedal feels progressive the brake is a little grabby until you get used to it – the brakes performed well in all test conditions.
Kia’s done a good job of insulating the cabin from engine, road and wind noise, even the thump from larger potholes is a hushed bump inside the cabin and at highway speeds the wind noise from around the wing mirrors is a whisper. Across course bitumen the Continental rubber is quiet and across dirt they offer good grip, no doubt contributing to the Optima’s keen turn-in.
What’s it like to park?
Easy. The steering is light enough for easy manoeuvring and there’s good forwards, side and rear vision. The rear parking sensors and reversing camera help too. There are also front parking sensors so nosing it into carparks is a cinch.
Does it have a spare?
Yes. The Optima, unlike many of its competitors offers a full-size alloy spare on both variants. This contributes to its slightly smaller boot when compared to the likes of the Camry. But, it’s hard to complain about 510 litres of storage and a full-size spare.
Can you tow with it?
Yes-ish. The maximum braked towing capacity is 1700kg but the towball download is only 80kg. We’d suggest a small box trailer for weekend trips to the garbage tip but that’s about it.
What about ownership?
Kia offers the longest warranty in the business, with its seven-years, unlimited kilometres more than twice as long as anything from Toyota and Subaru, and two years longer than the likes of Hyundai, Holden, Ford and Mazda. Servicing intervals are 12 months or 15,000km with a complementary three-month ‘health check’. Pricing runs from $289 to $599 depending on the service.
What about safety?
The Optima carries over its five-star ANCAP rating from 2016 with ANCAP making note of the safety tweaks to the updated model in July. Passive safety features include airbags for driver and passenger as well as curtain airbags covering those in the back. There are side door impact beams and impact-sensing auto door unlocking. The active safety list is a long one and starts with the usual traction and stability controls, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, lane keep assist, static cornering lights, speed sensing door locks, LED daytime running lights, autonomous emergency braking, dusk-sensing headlights and ISOFOX mounts (x2).