Isaac Bober’s 2014 Kia Optima review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

In a nutshell 2014 Kia Optima adds styling tweaks and added safety features to the top-spec Optima Platinum. Pricing is up slightly across the range.

Practical Motoring says Kia’s styling tweaks to the Optima have pushed it ahead of the Mazda6 as the best-looking medium car. Impressive fit and finish, value for money and good driving dynamics make the updated Kia Optima the new benchmark medium car.

WHEN KIA LAUNCHED THE OPTIMA BACK in 2011 car buyers and motoring journalists alike fell over themselves praising the car’s looks. See, Kia had head-hunted Audi’s former chief crayon twirler, Peter Schreyer, and employed him to help reinvent the brand. And it’s worked. The Optima was his first project for the Korean car maker.

Fast forward to now and Kia has released an updated Optima, “With the latest version of the Optima, Kia continues to advance value to new levels of sophistication without any compromise on safety or core values,” Kia Australia Chief Operating Officer Tony Barlow said. “The Optima is the cornerstone of Kia’s design evolution and epitomizes the brand’s goal of building highly-captivating, value-positioned vehicles.

“Along with Kia Australia’s five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, five-year capped price servicing, roadside assist and Family Like Service commitment, the styling story on Optima paints a compelling picture.”

The 2014 Kia Optima SLi

Even the briefest of brief glances at the new Kia Optima is enough to show the designers handiwork. The already bold look of the Kia Optima has been enhanced with effective but restrained tweaks to the front and back end, including a sharpening up of the tabbed ‘Tiger nose’ which now incorporates, like the Kia pro_cee’d GT a pod of LED driving lights. Around at the back, Kia has tapered, slightly, the rear end and improved the visual flow of the rear diffuser. New 18-inch alloys round out the subtle exterior changes to the 2014 Kia Optima.

The subtle changes continue inside the Optima with improvements to the fit and finish and choice of materials. Indeed, compare the Optima with anything from the Volkswagen Group – widely considered to be the benchmark in interior design and quality – and the Optima stacks up very well. Indeed, sit behind the wheel of the Optima and squint and you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at the dashboard of an Audi.

The 2014 Kia Optima SLi

There’s plenty of room in both the front and back of the Optima and boot space is a decent 505 litres. Pricing for the updated Kia Optima starts with the Si Auto rising $300 to $30,990 (+ORC) which now gets front parking sensors added to its rear parking sensors and camera (which displays in the rear vision mirror) package, it also features dual-zone climate control, cruise control, manual adjust front seats, Bluetooth with audio streaming and more. Move up to the mid-spec Optima SLi Auto with Navigation (which we tested) and the price jumps by $1000 to $35,990 (+ORC) but adds front parking sensors to its rear parking sensors and camera package (the camera displays its image on the seven-inch sat-nav display in the centre console), it also offers a leather interior. The top-spec Platinum Auto with Navigation has increased by $1200 to $40,490 (+ORC) which adds elements including a ventilated front passenger seat (in addition to the driver’s seat) – driver and passenger now have heated and ventilated seats, blind spot detection and lane change assist, leather and more.

Under the bonnet is the unchanged 2.4-litre four-cylinder which produces a lusty 148kW of power (at 6300rpm) and 250Nm of torque (at 4250rpm). This is mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission (with steering wheel mounted paddles on the Platinum we tested), and fuel consumption is 7.9L/100km while CO2 emissions are a reasonable 189g/km.

My run in the Optima saw me schlep it up and down the Blue Mountains and into Sydney and this covers plenty of country, highway and city driving with a mixture of surfaces and both fast and slow corners – the Optima felt a lot quicker than its raw numbers would suggest. Indeed, rather than feel like a four-cylinder it comes off feeling like a small capacity V6 with effortless grunt for keeping up with traffic on the highway or flattening the Blue Mountains.

Driving the 2014 Kia Optima SLi

While the Kia Optima manages to ride and handle as well as anything else in the segment and the insulation is miles better than, say, a Mazda6 giving the Korean a greater sense of refinement. But the steering isn’t perfect. While, for the majority of time, there’s decent weight to the wheel and reasonable feel, although the speed and directness of the steering takes a kay or two to get the hang of, its on-centre feel is best described as doughy. And that’s because the Motor-Driven Power Steering cuts out when it’s not needed, like when the car is going straight ahead, and only activates once you turn the wheel.

In terms of safety, the Kia Optima receives a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating and gets the usual complement of traction and stability controls. The Platinum adds, as mentioned, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert (which helps detect things like pedestrians crossing behind the vehicle). Front and rear parking sensors and reversing cameras are now standard across the range, although daytime running lights are only available on the mid-spec SLi and top-spec Platinum models.

2014 Kia Optima SLi

Price $35,990 (+ORC) Warranty five-years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol Power/Torque 148kW/250Nm Transmission six-speed automatic Body 4845mm (L) 1830mm (W) 1455mm (H) Thirst 7.9L/100km combined


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