Kia Optima
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The new Kia Optima is now available at Naza Kia showrooms. Two variants are available – the basic Kia Optima EX which goes for RM102,000 and the Kia Optima EX Novus – which used to be called the EX Premium – for RM110,000, on the road with insurance. The Kia Optima EX features a 2.0 litre DOHC CVVT engine from the Hyundai-Kia Theta engine family. It makes 145PS at 6,000rpm and 189Nm of torque at 4,250rpm, and is mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission with sequential shifting. This engine is not the same as the one in the new Kia Sportage, but a newer family.

While most think the current Optima and the Sonata share the same platform like other Hyundai-Kia models, Kia has decided to develop it’s own platform for the Kia Optima. It features McPherson struts at the front and what Kia calls in-wheel multilink at the rear. In-wheel multilink is called so because it uses a compact transverse subframe to support a rear multi-link system with twin upper arms and long lower trailing arms, plus separate coil springs and dampers. The system is tightly engineered with a significant percentage of the components are mounted within, or very close to, the interior space of the 46mm offset road wheels, which gives it the “in-wheel” moniker.

Interior space is surprisingly large, and I would say it is comparable to short wheel base versions of the BMW 7-Series. Perhaps a chauffeured car for companies with a limited fleet budget? The exterior looks rather defacto three box large sedan (which I actually like), with a rear that reminds some of a Volkswagen. The front is also a non-event but I like the smoked dark headlamps. Despite the conventional outlook, Naza Kia has specified some rather unique colours for the Optima that is refreshing in a sea of what looks like generic colours used over and over again. I like the Optima in red the best, but that colour is not available in Malaysia. There is something called Dark Red though, that looks black at first glance but appears dark red under bright sunlight. The other colours include Midnight Grey, Almond Beige, Ocean Blue, Ebony Black and Bright Silver.

I had the opportunity to drive the Kia Optima EX Novus for just over a 100km or so on the way up to Penang in a media preview. With a price difference of RM8,000 you get significantly better equipment with the car. 8 grand buys you ESP stability control, fully automatic climate control, an Infinity 6.1 audio system, some nice perforated suede and leather upholstery which include some decent premium-feeling seats, automatic headlamps which turn on automatically in the dark), larger 17 inch alloy wheels versus 16 inch on the normal EX, Michelin Pilot Primacy tyres, and a powered driver’s seat.

Also, a fully black interior with aluminium trim greatly lifts the interior ambiance, giving it an upmarket feel. I think this Kia Optima is the one Korean car I’ve driven that has broken away from the cheapo Korean interior feel. No unsightly interior with acres and acres of boring grey. Of course, the engine and transmission combo is really nothing to shout about. Rather boring. It works, but that’s about it. But I think someone looking at the Optima will not be too bothered about that. The car was quite comfortable and NVH levels was up to standards. The Infinity 6.1 audio system was somewhat of a let-down though. It’s above average but it isn’t any different from what you get in 2.4 litre versions of Japanese D-segment sedans, just that here you are able to have it in a 2.0 litre Korean D-Segment sedan.

All the basic safety features are there – dual SRS airbags, active headrest, ABS brakes with EBD. The Novus is safer of course since it has ESP stability control. Not a bad alternative to C-segment Japanese sedans, but there will be many concerns on Naza Kia’s network – dealerships, aftersales service, and of course other than that there is the dreaded reputation for Korean cars to be heavy fuel guzzlers. If Naza Kia can get over these obstacles, the car should theoretically sell. This new generation of Kias use engines that can be considered modern, equipped with features like CVVT variable valve timing. This should help alot with the fuel consumption. The Optima along with the Spectra5, and Sportage also have trip computers to help you measure your fuel consumption.

Lastly, both the Kia Optima EX and Kia Optima EX Novus come with a 5 year or 125,000km warranty and a 2 years or 50,000km free service package.

More photos after the jump.