Optimizing the fun factor... A few months ago, at dinner with some car enthusiast friends, we had the discussion as to what's the most beautifully styled sedan on the market right now with no price ceiling.
A few months ago, at dinner with some car enthusiast friends, we had the discussion as to what’s the most beautifully styled sedan on the market right now with no price ceiling. Once we established that it wasn’t a performance or prestige discussion, every single one of us (keep in mind these are die-hard performance/exotic enthusiasts) came to a unanimous discussion that it was the new Kia Optima. With its beautiful (optional) 18″ wheels, its optional panoramic sunroof, and its elegant lines, the Optima appears to be styled leagues better than anything else in its class. My test car, a 2012 Kia Optima 2.0T EX T-GDI, was nearly there. It had the smaller 17″ wheels, and was painted in a relatively conservative Satin Metal Metallic with grey leather. There is no doubting just how much of a stunner this car is though.
I could go on now to say just how awesome the 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder is, with all its 260-horsepower of fury, and I most definitely will. Coupled to a 6-speed automatic, this Optima just flies. In the age of technology and falsified engine sounds (can you hear me, BMW?), a purist like me genuinely appreciates when I can feel and hear every single horse being transmitted onto the pavement by my wheels. Sure, being front-wheel-drive means that this Optima torque-steers a little bit, but the best part of this car is that it doesn’t feel artificial in the slightest bit.
One of my absolute favourite parts of the Optima was the fact that I could get 6.9-7L/100km highway with 3 people in the car and the air conditioning on the maximum setting. This is in a turbocharged engine running on regular octane fuel; unheard of! Highway driving in the Optima was quiet and serene, surpassing my prior affection with the all-new Toyota Camry as an efficient 4-person cruiser. The “Eco” button, or as I call it, the “Turn off any semblance of fun” button, was in fact useful on the highway as it improved fuel economy by 0.8-0.9L/100km. If I owned this car, I’d leave it off at all times other than highway cruising.
The interior of my EX model had some nice touches. The dash was a soft-touch leather-esque material with a high-quality feel to it. The seats were actually surprisingly comfortable both for short and long jaunts. The car was equipped with Kia‘s standard touch-screen unit with USB iPod connectivity, which I found rather irritating. I had an iPod Classic connected to the car for an entire week, and it decided to take 5-6 minutes to detect the unit every single time the car was started. I’d have been more forgiving if it did it the first time I plugged in a new device, but it got annoying not having music for the first few minutes of any drive.
Something you may notice right off the bat about this new Optima is the fact that it has a panoramic sunroof. It’s actually a very nifty unit despite only the front glass being able to retract. One touch of a button upon starting the car retracts the shade on both the front and rear sunroofs, and it definitely gets “oohs” and “aahs” from non-car people. I regret that I had the car during a blistering hot period in Toronto and was not able to make full use of the panoramic sunroof, but it was definitely a nice touch at night.
I’m a person who genuinely enjoys an enthusiast-quality drive in a practical, elegant package. This Optima simply blew me away. I know I’m going to get a ridiculous amount of flack for this, but for some reason the Kia badge still bothers me when the car is wearing a price tag north of $30,000 ($32,100 as-tested). Honestly speaking though, if they offered the fully-loaded turbocharged model with a proper 6-speed manual, this car would be on my driveway as early as yesterday.