Kia: 2014 Optima Limited review

Kia: 2014 Optima Limited review

kia-optima-gdi-2014-frontWith Mazda’s excellent Mazda6 showing everyone the way, Kia’s contender in the medium car segment has been given a refresh with some new styling, new features and refined ride quality.

kia-optima-gdi-2014-rear-quarterWith a $52,490 price point, you’ll need to spend more to get the top-of-the-line Mazda6 Limited, but the Optima Limited does offer similar specification levels.

There are competitors to be had under the $50k mark, such as the Mondeo Ecoboost Zetec and even the VW Passat TSI 118, but you can also get an Optima LX from $43,990.The Kia puts in a strong showing against these. It’s not only a sharp looker, leaving most of the other competitors looking boring or frumpy, but also brings much in the way of comfort and convenience items such as blind spot warning system, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, chilled glovebox, auto windscreen defogging and smart cornering lamps.

kia-optima-gdi-2014-spotlightsThe most obvious changes are the 18-inch wheels which have moved to a design that’s less polarising (I liked the previous wheels, but apparently many prospective purchasers didn’t), and the triangular fog lights have been replaced by quad LEDs. These are striking, but perhaps more polarising than the original alloy wheels!

Less noticeable is the new grille and LED daytime running lights running across the top of the headlights. LED taillights sit under a slightly revised boot lid and above a subtle diffuser. The Optima equals or betters the Mazda6 for looks, and the Mazda6 is a class above everything else in its segment.

There are some hidden modifications, too. Some suspension fettling aims to improve the ride and help noise suppression. The results are worthwhile, if not significant; cabin noise is down 2dB. The threshold for hearing a change in volume is 3dB, so you’ll not notice the difference, but on long journeys 2dB quieter means less aural fatigue.

kia-optima-gdi-2014-front-seatsSit in the command chair and there’s an improved instrument layout and a large central touchscreen. This displays the reversing camera image and sat-nav. This large screen makes it easy to access the vehicle’s features, including easy Bluetooth phone setup. There’s a smaller ‘supervision cluster’ screen in the instrument cluster which displays the trip computer and other information.

The thing I noticed immediately upon sitting in the Optima is vastly improved seat comfort. Most Kias are a little challenging for non-padded buttocks like mine over a longer journey, and the seat squabs are considerably more compliant in this new model. Both the driver and passenger seats have two-stage heating and cooling, but the seat heater is woeful – very little heat at all.

Sitting in the back you’ll notice plenty of legroom. There’s a dual sunroof and this does seem to restrict rear headroom a little for tall passengers.

kia-optima-gdi-2014-steering-wheelThe steering wheel has some new features with a prominent Eco button. Keep this mode active and Kia reckons you’ll do 7.9l/100km, which is not class-leading as the Mazda6 will return 6.6l/100km. I couldn’t test the actual fuel economy because I am doing my Institute of

Advanced Motorists training and that requires using the paddle shift gears all the time, and keeping it in a lower gear than you’d usually drive in.

This did highlight a problem: the gearshifts from the 6-speed auto ‘box are very slow. There’s an almost ponderous nature to them sometimes, and while 99% of drivers will never bother using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, I found its lack of response occasionally frustrating.

The 0-100kph time is around 10 seconds which is hardly quick, and isn’t helped by the Kia’s slightly lardy 1500+kg kerb weight – probably as a result of all the equipment it packs in. The 2.4-litre 148kW motor does make an excellent touring unit, though, and seems to be optimised more towards overtaking performance than winning the traffic light drags.

On long, flowing corners the Optima sits nicely, with a good level of feedback from the electric steering. If you are hustling then you’ll need to be used to the brake pedal which lacks feel. While it’s not enormously nimble or entertaining to drive, this isn’t where the Optima aims to please; it provides a comfortable environment for longer journeys, packaged up in a stylish exterior.

Price: $52,490 for the Limited, or $43,990 for the base model.


  • Sharp looks
  • Lots of equipment
  • Much improved comfort
  • Dual sunroof


  • It’s expensive for a Kia
  • Tall passengers in the rear will need to duck, although there’s plenty of legroom
  • Seat heater is useless

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