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Kia Optima TF Platinum

Famous for having a brand name that is an acronym for “Killed In Action”, Kia is also well known among Australians for pumping out cheap, yawn inducing cars in the 1990’s that you wouldn’t even wish upon your own mother-in-law.. unless you wanted her to die violently in a single vehicle accident. Along with Hyundai as their sister in crime, Kia maliciously introduced the Mentor and Sportage into the Australian market in 1997 as part of their two-pronged attack on the dignity of budget conscious motorists around the country.

Car:2012 Kia Optima Platinum
Status: Sold
Engine:2.4L ‘Theta II’ inline 4-cylinder
Power & Torque:148 kW (198 hp) – 250 Nm (184 lb-ft)
Driveline:6-speed automatic – front wheel drive
Thirst:10.5L/100km – 22.4mpg

The Optima’s party trick is that it’s simply loaded with equipment. Kia threw absolutely everything they had at this car and it benefits greatly from it. Proximity entry and keyless push button start, a full length glass roof, full-auto dual-zone climate control, an 8-speaker Infinity sound system with sub-woofer and seats made from the finest South Korean cows that are both heated and cooled were my highlights from inside – and was pretty impressive for the $37,990 entry price back in 2012.

Outside, the Optima has polished 18″ alloy wheels (with a full sized alloy spare) with HID headlights up front, teamed together with speed sensitive cornering lights and the now obligatory LED daytime running lights. The engine is a 2.4L 4cyl direct injection jobbie that was co-developed with Mitsubishi, so it should be fairly reliable long term. (At least that’s what I thought back in 2012 – just over 10 years later there have been myriad engine failures occurring in cars which have been fastidiously serviced their entire lives)

On the road, the Optima performed remarkably well. The engine and gearbox get along like a house on fire and do a great job of pushing the Optima’s 1500kg heft. A 9.5 second run to 100kph is hardly scorching but in all fairness that isn’t really what the Optima is all about.

The suspension was slightly on the firm side rather than cushy, but remained smooth enough over all but the worst bumps in the road. In the wet, the traction control stepped in when required and seemingly still allowed some minor slippage to occur, rather than cutting power all together. However, if you slammed the throttle from a standstill and you’d occasionally find yourself in a situation where the TCS cut power for a good second or two before bringing it back. Dangerous? Perhaps. But you got used to it and worked around it.

The Optima’s looks were the key to it’s appeal. When it was new, I’d never been in a mid-size sedan that turned anywhere near this many heads. The exclusivity is increased even further when you consider the Optima failed to gain a foothold in Australia mid-size car segment, where it faced off against favourites such as the Mazda6 and Volkswagen Jetta. There simply aren’t as many Optima’s on the road, which makes them a little bit unique.

My ownership of the Optima was generally all sunshine and smiles, but there are a few things that you might want to consider. For a start, there’s the question of build quality. Overall the Optima came across as being a very well screwed together car. No pieces of trim came off and nothing broke or otherwise went wrong with the car like you might have expected. Instead, it was the little things. Things like the chassis being not quite as stiff as you might expect.

It was common to hear associated flexing or popping noises coming from the glass roof arrangement, especially when entering car park ramps or other situations where the body is put under torsion. It might sound like a small issue – but it stuck out like a sore thumb against the rest of the car, which had a more premium feel to it. There were also other suspicious noises evident on my car as well. Hit a bump whilst turning a corner and an alarming knocking noise would come through the steering column. Kia later fixed the issue for me before I sold the car, but who knows if it would have happened again down the road.

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