Optimal Value | Kia Optima K5

BY Azfar Hashim

Kia’s Optima K5 mark two came silently with subtle changes; thing is, does it tick all the right boxes as a value-for-money large sedan? (Look away, badge snobs…)

Photos: Azfar Hashim

Mention Kia and the words ‘value-for-money’ immediately comes to mind. After all ever since it changed dealership more than a decade ago, the brand has been marketed aggressively as a car-for-the-masses here. Which is a good thing for consumers as it provided a valuable alternative to the Japanese that consistently commanded a premium over Kia.

However, those days are long gone ever since changes in vehicle finance policy and the vulgar increase of COE premiums.

Despite that, the inside story we received and have even seen on the roads is how well Kia is holding up here; sales of the Forte K3 is doing rather respectably.

But let’s not forget the Optima K5 large sedan. Ok, besides the by now common Optima CRDi employed as taxis, the petrol Optima K5 is a silent player in a field occupied by the more prominent Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat and even Hyundai i45. Which is unfortunate, as it is an equally promising product for local consumers whose demands have become much more, well, demanding now.

The Optima K5 is loaded with goodies. Let’s start with the exterior; 18-inch alloys wrapped in 225/45 R-18 Nexen rubbers come standard. A new face featuring headlamps (HID, mind you) integrated with LED daytime running light and usefully bright LED fog lamps (both obviously inspired by the Germans) are all factory-fitted… and don’t look cheap.

Twin exhausts at the rear, together with a bumper diffuser definitely adds a light touch of sportiness; we give two thumbs up. Oh, and sunroof (for driver and front passenger) plus a panoramic glass roof (for rear passengers): besides giving an extra sense of airiness, it goes a long way in adding a premium touch to the car. Oh and before we forget, the 2014 Optima K5 also features a new pair of ‘signature’ tail-lamps; looking like halos from a distance…

Inside, Kia did a great job of keeping things tidy and driver-oriented - again - like the Germans. Every control buttons are properly placed facing the driver. The steering wheel also comes with a myriad of controls (detonator, missile launch controller, traffic light controller, wife volume controller… ok, kidding) to ensure you do not have to take your eyes off the road just to, say, answer the phone or activate the cruise control.

With regards to gadgetry, the car also comes with blind-spot monitor (an alarm will go off when there’s a vehicle in your blind-spot as you attempt to change lanes), car computer (monitors your average and real-time fuel consumption), cooler and warmer for both driver and front passenger’s seats, new high-definition audio head-unit with Infiniti 8-channel speakers, engine start/stop button and parking brakes with automatic release. For the curious, yes, reverse camera is also present. Good enough for you, Sir?

It has not ended. Also standard here is the ‘Drive Mode’. You can leave it to run on it’s own, or swap between ‘Eco’ and ‘Sport’; what this does is adjust both the transmission and steering weight according to your mood. Honestly speaking, this compliments the electric power steering as you get to choose how you want the steering to feel as you drive along; but at low speed or during parking in any mode, the steering wheel turns feather-weight, making it oh-so-easy to manoeuvre this rather long sedan.

All that said, this car offers a generous amount of legroom for three adults. In terms of headroom however, slightly taller passengers may notice the slightly limited space due to the sweeping roof. Boot space is simply generous, and you can fit up to three golf bags in there.

Powering the Optima K5 is a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder, 16-valve powerplant. Mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, it whips out 178 bhp and 231 Nm of torque, allowing it to do the 0-100 km/h sprint in 9.5 seconds. It may not sound much, but it sure can work hard. Swapping cogs manually via the paddle-shifter in the first three gears, it is willing to stretch itself to 5,000 rpm without much problems — previously in the 2.0-litre, we can feel the car bogged down by it’s own weight. When driven automatically, upshifts are smooth while downshifts are drama-less without any rude jerks.

Out on the expressway, comfort is the order of the day. It may feel stiffer than the Camry, but it still is good enough to allow passengers to fall asleep peacefully and at the same time, provide enough satisfaction for the driver; and yours truly can attest to this, after doing several Changi Airport — Tuas runs just to really determine the K5’s positioning — compared to the popular Camry and Passat - in terms of driveability. At the same time, wind and engine noise is almost non-existent in the cabin. Tyre noise is still present, but we’re sure given a better set of comfort-biased tyres, that could improve. Anchors work very well too, with ABS constantly on high alert.

As a large sedan, the Kia Optima K5 is definitely a complete package. Firstly, it gets a long list of factory-fitted goodies. Secondly, with the bigger engine, it drives more respectably; the sort which will also be a brilliant carriage for longer jaunts up North.

Thirdly and most importantly, the $167,999 price tag makes it much more compelling than the Camry 2.5 ($182,988), Accord 2.4 ($203,900) and even Passat 1.8 ($177,800). So if you still want to be a badge snob, then go ahead and give this one a miss. If you value, well, value-for-money, you cannot go wrong with this one.