Kia’s TF Optima (2011 to 2015) is arguably one of the smartest-looking medium-size sedans of its time, and it has proven to be more than just a pretty face.
The TF Optima played a significant role in Kia’s coming of age as a manufacturer of quality vehicles, a break from its early reputation for the cheap and cheerful.
As part of Kia’s alliance with Hyundai, the Optima is closely related to Hyundai’s i45. They share the same platform, engine and driveline, but each company managed its own development and refinement. And Kia did the better job.
To emphasise Kia’s change in philosophy the TF was released in one technically sophisticated and generously equipped specification level – the Platinum model. Its impressive features were aimed at the premium mid-size car market.
In 2012, two lower-priced but still relatively well-equipped versions, the Si and SLi, were added. The Optima hasn’t been Kia’s biggest-selling model, but there is a reasonable selection on the used market with the Si the most popular. A significant upgrade in 2014 introduced more standard equipment.
The Optima is one of the roomiest mid-size sedans on the market. Its expansive legroom and generous width put many competitors to shame, but headroom is a different story. Taller occupants will find the sunroof robs space, while the sloping roofline, which gives the four-door sedan an attractive coupe-like look, reduces the rear headroom.
Thick pillars create a couple of blind spots but a reversing camera and sensors help when backing. The big boot swallows plenty of luggage, although large hinges intrude into the space.
Optima’s 2.4-litre engine is also one of the more sophisticated and powerful units in the class. The four-cylinder direct petrol-injected or GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine produces an impressive 148kW of power and 250Nm of torque.
Coupled with Kia’s slick-changing six-speed automatic, the ‘big four’ does a great job under normal operating conditions.
Despite the strong engine output, however, don’t expect sports car performance as the Optima has a relatively large body and the comprehensive equipment adds weight.
Kia’s local engineers put a lot of effort into tuning the suspension for Australian conditions. Optima cruises comfortably and corners well for its size. Apart from a slight vagueness just off centre, the light steering provides adequate road feel but you get a bit of kickback. The ride with the 18-inch wheels can be a touch firm and some prefer the more compliant ride with the Si’s 17-inch wheels.
We are not aware of any inherent issues with the Optima. Most of the problems RACV vehicle inspectors find are normal wear items and poor maintenance. An up-to-date service history is always valuable.
Owners we spoke with were all very happy with their Optimas. The most common gripe was how easily front spoiler and alloy wheels could be scraped when parking.
Platinum (2011-15) $17,500-$31,100
Si (2012-15) $16,600-$24,800
SLi (2012-15) $19,000-$28,700
Approximate Glass’s Guide prices.
Fuel consumption is likely to be around 8.0 to 10.5 l/100 km in normal use.
Five-star ANCAP rating.
The Optima is not intended to be a serious towing vehicle, as the maximum towing capacity is a modest 1200 kilograms.
Honda Accord, Mazda6 and Subaru Liberty.
RACV can help
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