Paul Maric road tests and reviews the 2013 Kia Optima.
It wasn’t that long ago that I declared the Kia Optima my car of the year. I sung its praise from rooftops and even convinced a family friend to buy one — amongst anyone else who listened to me raving about it.
About a year and a half after declaring it my car of the year, I jumped at the chance to get behind the wheel of Kia’s latest MY13 Optima.
While the MY13 Optima changes are only modest, the most beneficial change is the addition of touch screen satellite navigation to SLi and Platinum models.
Thankfully, age hasn’t affected the Optima’s design. Regardless of the angle you catch the Optima Platinum, it’s visually hard to fault. The front end features LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL), along with xenon headlights for added brightness at night.
The rear is beautifully sculpted and wears a proud Kia emblem with chrome badge highlights, while LED taillights make the Optima stand out in traffic at night
Inside the cabin, the driver and front passenger are afforded plenty of leg and headroom, with electric seats standard on the SLi variant.
Rear seat passengers also benefit from the Optima’s 4.85m length, with limousine-esque amounts of legroom. The driver and front passenger get heated seats, with the driver’s seat also cooled — an excellent feature for hot days.
Kia has improved value by adding entry and mid-spec variants named Si and SLi respectively.
The Optima now starts from $30,490 for the Si, with the step up to the SLi an additional $4,500. If the Platinum is your vice, it can be had for $3,800 more than the SLi at $38,790.
As with all Kia models, the Optima comes with a 5 year, unlimited kilometre warranty, in addition to fixed price servicing for the duration of warranty.
One of the MY13 changes that isn’t so impressive is the new steering configuration. The Optima has morphed from a comfortable cruiser to go-kart imitator — and not in the good way.
The steering is now very heavy at both low and high speeds, making the Optima a handful around the city and on the open road. The change has transformed the Optima’s persona completely, making it somewhat unenjoyable to drive.
Fortunately, heavy steering is the Kia Optima’s only shortfall. The engine’s response at higher RPM’s is raspy and punchy, working well with the six-speed automatic gearbox, which can be controlled by steering-mounted paddle shifters.
Powering the Optima is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine. Producing 148kW and 250Nm of torque, the Optima consumes just 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle.
Under full-throttle acceleration, there is a hint of torque steer, but it adds to the theatrics and matches the car’s personality.
The same can be said for the Optima’s cornering credentials. It’s certainly no supercar, but it holds its own through corners and doesn’t mind being thrown around a bit.
Brake pedal feedback and throttle response is good, with an electronic handbrake now employed for hill holding and automatic holding in traffic.
Korean build quality and fit and finish has never been better. All interior surfaces in the 2013 Kia Optima look impressive and feel even more impressive. Everything from the seats to the dashboard feels more European than Korean and more $80,000 than $39,000.
The Infinity sound system uses eight speakers and a subwoofer to punch out high-quality tunes. Bluetooth streaming, USB connectivity and auxiliary inputs cater for everyone’s music needs.
When comparing the Kia Optima to similarly priced vehicles in this segment, it’s not hard to see that it’s amazing value for money. Everything from the exterior design to the interior features has been executed with perfection in mind.
Unfortunately, the changes to the steering may not please all buyers, so make sure you test the Optima over a weekend or a week to ensure the steering matches your needs.
If the steering doesn’t suit, there’s always the option to pick up a MY12 Kia Optima second hand and still benefit from the 5 year warranty.
Either way, the Kia Optima won’t fail to impress.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 2.4 litre petrol delivering 148kW and 250Nm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Safety rating: Not tested
Warranty: 5 years
Origin: South Korea
Price: From $30,490.