After showcasing their entire line-up at the 2018 Auto Expo earlier this year, Kia Motors is now gearing up to launch their first product next year. And while their all-new India-specific SUV is still not ready in production form, the only and best way for us to understand the company’s product philosophy is by driving their current cars. We did so with the Sportage SUV a few months back and now it was time to spend a few days with the Optima.
Before I go any further, let me add that this is not an Indian spec car, but it still gave me enough insights into what the brand is all about. Internationally, the Optima rubs shoulders with cars like the Volkswagen Passat which means for a market like India, the Optima will play in the Rs. 25-30 lakh bracket. Hit the play button below to watch our review in video form:
The Optima looks great for the segment – I particularly like the way it flaunts its elegance and wears the corporate suit rather well. While I won’t call it sporty, it surely looks beautiful and managed to turn more heads than I bargained for. This color shade works well, gelling with the silver alloy wheels and oodles of chrome, something that we Indians really love. The Optima is also a low slung sedan and oozes premium-ness from all angles. DRLs and LEDs are part of the package and so is the sunroof here.
The Optima rides on 18-inch alloy wheels though if it comes to India, expect smaller 16 or 17-inch wheels with larger side walls. Look closely and you also notice the chrome lining running down into the C-Pillar, something I have never seen before. The fit and finish levels, as expected, are outstanding with clever elements including the little functional air-dams on either side of the front bumper. The sloping roof looks nice without compromising on the ever important passenger space. Dimensionally, this one is almost as long and wide as the Skoda Superb which does give you a sense of its street cred. Round 1 then goes in favour of this Korean sedan.
Step inside the Optima and the lux-feel continues. The design isn’t very bling but understated in a good way. The black theme works and so does the overall quality of materials and panels. No complaints here whatsoever. I must say I was a bit apprehensive in terms of cabin space (I stand 6 feet tall and have a generous build) but was pleasantly surprised. The large glass area also helps and you feel at home instantly. Everything falls into place without you having to take that extra effort and this goes a long way in making the Optima feel well balanced. Kia is known to make feature-rich cars and this one is no different. Both the front seats are powered as well as ventilated and you get wireless charging, push button start, touch screen interface, heated steering et al.
Things at the back continue to be equally impressive. The talking point here is the space on offer, again, in spite of that low slung design and the sloping roof. The doors too open very wide and you have ample space to stretch back, cross your legs and take a power nap on the move. The Optima comes with manual sun blinds, air-con vents, twin charging outlets and an arm-rest at the back. And like this second row, space is not a concern when it comes to boot space as well.
So does it drive? The model we drove came with a 2.0-litre GDI petrol motor (turbo-charged) with 205 PS of power and 375 Nm of torque. Now, these are impressive figures by any means but unfortunately, the 6-speed automatic gearbox is not able to extract the best from the motor. Don’t get me wrong here – the transmission goes about doing its duties in an able manner but isn’t as responsive as I would have wanted it to be. True I had the Sport mode, paddle shifts and manual control over the stick but flooring the right pedal didn’t always correspond into being pushed back into the seat with a good force.
That said, the transmission-engine combination works well for most usage patterns and thanks to all that torque, picking up from lower speeds is never a stress. Kia engineers seem to have worked hard to make the cabin a very quiet place and this was evident with the Optima during my five-day stint. This coupled with a good ride quality (in spite of those 18-inch wheels) and a relatively light steering made my evening commutes so much better. If you want a comfortable companion after a long day at work, the Optima fits in like a glove in the segment.
The Optima manages to showcase Kia’s prowess when it comes to making premium vehicles and also shows that Kia is more than just a manufacturer of family cars, every reason for us to believe that from 2019 onwards, Kia will not only given a tough fight to mass segment manufacturers, but can worry German peers too. For a detailed review, do hit the Play button in the video window above.