We drove the Kia Optima GT: the delights of sportiness

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If you think that in today’s traffic and driving conditions not much fun is to be had with a car that has a zest of sportiness, than just get behind the wheel of this Optima GT. The Korean designers have made their homework to put a broad smile on your face…

Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We already drove the very able diesel engined version of the Optima, and were very impressed by its outstanding all round qualities. The diesel engine left little to be desired in terms of performance, frugality and refinement. But the Kia Optima range includes also a GT version, and we were very keen to drive it.

Understandably, we will focus here on the drivetrain, suspension and handling of this GT version.Delightful sound and responsiveness.

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Pushing the starting knob and you are greeted with a delightful throb of the 245 HP four cylinder, the most powerful passenger car Kia so far. The lucky driver can choose between three driving modes: “sport”, “normal” and “eco.”

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Choosing the sport mode lets the engine sound rather like a small block V8, and this might be an eyewink to the US, middle east and other global markets, which are keen to the sound and fury of V8 power. Fury this 2 liter high performance has indeed. The ample torque of not less than 353 Nm over a very wide rev range between 1350 and 4000 rpm lets you enjoy power, and lots of it.

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On top of all this, the six speed auto box is ideally mated to the engine, and transmits the power without the slightest hesitation yet super smoothly to the wheels. It lets you enjoy truly superb performance, with an acceleration time from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,6 seconds. On the Autobahnen, the Optima GT is well and truly fast, with a top speed of not less than 245 km/h. Of course, engine management and gearbox behavior as well as chassis and steering responsiveness varies with the chosen driving mode.

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But in every mode, the Optima remains beautifully responsive, and adapts in any case to your mood. For instance, even when you feel like just quietly pottering around town at crawling speeds and you have chosen the sport mode, the engine behaves then docile as a lamb and the gearbox chooses ever so smoothly the ideal gear which matches your progress. That is what we call superb engineering when it comes to setting up a thoroughbred car or at least a car with sporting character for everyday use. The Kia (and Hyundai…) engineers have done their job very well indeed.

Tried and tested in the “green hell”…

In setting up the Optima GT and developing its sporting character, Kia pulled all the stops. What to say of the extensive test programme Kia engineers and test pilots have set out for this car?

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They covered more than 500 laps, or more than 10,000 kilometers, on the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit. This corresponds with a good 160,000 kilometers on the road. Don’t forget, the Nordschleife counts not less than 73 curves, 300 meter height difference and gradients of up to 17 pct!

The engineers did strike a right balance between handling and comfort. The riding height was lowered by 10 mm but damping force was strengthened by 11pct in front and 10 pct in the rear, resulting in more surefooted, precise and positive handling. The Optima GT has standard an Electronically-Controlled Suspension System (ECS), which makes individual damping of the four wheels possible, thanks to steering the internal valves in each of the four shock absorbers.

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The system reacts on electronic inputs form the G-force sensor in the ECU and 2 other G-sensors in each of the front wheels. Further data are coming from the throttle position and the chosen driving mode, either Normal, Eco or Sport.

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Besides a further refined electronic steering assistance, the GT has also bigger brakes, with ventilated disks also at the rear. The Rüsselsheim based Kia development engineers have tested the GT on the legendary Grossglockner pass in Austria, and have further refined also the Electronic Stability Control sytem while testing on the “Green Hell”.

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But as said, the Kia drives very civilized in heavy urban traffic; and consumption is also quite reasonable indeed. In town, driven in a spirited manner, 11,8 liters and more will flow through the injectors per 100 km, on the open road, things get more reasonable. The official average consumption figure is given at 8,2 liter/100 km, with CO2 emissions being 191 g/km.

Active Sound System enhances driving experience…

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We told you already about the sound, especially in “sport” mode. The electronic sound generator produces the sound at the base of the front screen, using the screen as an amplifier to push the sound into the cabin. Imputs are received from throttle position and engine revs, and in the sport mode, the sound is amplified by as much as 4 db when accelerating hard. A pure delight, we can tell you.

Of course, not only engine sound will soothe your ears. Of course there is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and our test car came with the DAB+ radio, 8 inch touchscreen and Kia Connected Services powered by TomTom. We all know the excellent qualities of the TomTom gear, as we use it with delight on our youngtimers like the Volvo 850, BMW Z3 and New Beetle Cabrio.

Last but not least there is the powerful Harman Kardon Premium Sound system of 490 Watt with 8 speakers. Also our MP3 files came through wonderfully thanks to the Clari-Fi technology.

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Safe and practical

Indeed, the Sportswagon has lots of room, 1,686 liters of it with rear seats folded, and of course there is the very practical Smart Power Tailgate.

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Safety is also written large, with seven airbags and Advanced High Strength Steel Body. Of course, the Optima boasts Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keeping Assist System, High Beam Assist, Speed Limit Information Function, Blind Spot Detection en Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Need we say more?

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Conclusion

Delightful sportiness is to be had in this Kia, with genuine driving pleasure being yours. Performance is brilliant, handling is quite entertaining indeed. But there is more, much more. Everyday docility, urban nimbleness and easiness, superb finish, comfort, roominess, lavish equipment. With all this, quite pleasing styling and complete peace of mind with low service costs and a 7 year 150.000 km warranty. Indeed, a car which deserves a long hard look, and a subsequent drive… as a happy owner!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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