2019 Kia Optima Si headlight
2019 Kia Optima Si headlight

Forgotten Optima won’t break the bank

2019 Kia Optima Si front quarter

What is it?

Optima is the forgotten member of the dwindling sedan family on Aussie roads.

Not that they’re not selling, there just seems to be fewer of them around — and that’s a shame.

Sitting below the GT, the Si becomes the junior member of a recently overhauled, two-model lineup. 

It’s a good looking machine, well equipped in Si trim, packs room enough for a family, and has enough oomph to compare favourably with other offerings in the market.

Power is 138kW and peak torque from the 2.4-litre four cylinder engine is 241Nm at 4000rpm.

Transmission is a superbly crafted 6-speed “normal” auto; normal in that it’s not a CVT or dual-clutch setup.

Fuel capacity is 70 litres and Kia rates the Optima’s combined consumption figure at 8.3L/100km.

On our urban test cycle over a week that figure was equalled, which is a good sign for a reasonably hefty car (it weighs close to 1700kg with a full tank and one passenger).

2019 Kia Optima Si rear quarter

What’s it cost?

At the time of testing, Si was priced at $33,390, with premium paint another $595.

It’s a big car at 4855mm in length and rolls on a 2805mm wheelbase, which makes it just a few centimetres shorter than Holden’s VF Commodore.

Boot space is on a par at 510 litres and it is able to swallow a family’s shopping without issue.

Kia gave the Optima a mild exterior overhaul in 2018.

The lower front bar now has a pair of more edgy and defined housings for the cornering and LED fog lights, with a widened lower air intake as a result.

The grille is edgeless and looks toothier than before.

There’s a resemblance to the Maserati grille, as it’s now deeper set than before.

Chrome trim rings the grille’s upper and lower sides, joining the line of the headlights outer design.

The Si doesn’t get LED tail lights, the GT does. There are LED daytime running lights that wrap around the non-LED powered headlights and it makes for an assertive, imposing, presence.

Kia have not fitted a driver’s knee airbag to the Optima, which isn’t a biggy, as it has the standard front, curtain, and side bags.

The Si also misses out on Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Change Assist. But AEB, or Autonomous Emergency Braking, is fitted.

Dusk sensing headlights, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, and a pair of ISOFIX child seat mounts round out the safety package.

Audio comes in the form of FM/AM, Bluetooth streaming, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Those last two are needed if you want a form of satnav, as Kia has deleted that feature from the Si’s equipment list.

The touchscreen is a dullish looking 7.0-inch setup, housed in a typically clinical, and easy to read, centre stack.

One of Kia’s real ergonomic strengths is the layout of its switchgear and clarity of the lettering. That extends to the dials inside the binnacle, albeit in an analogue, not LCD format.

Overall cabin presence is quite good, with a Euro style arch below the windscreen, tactile plastics and a soft touch feel, cloth seats with a firm and supportive squab, and oodles of head and leg room front and rear.

Back seat passengers also get swivelling air vents and a pair of charging ports: one USB, one 12V.

2019 Kia Optima Si front2

What’s it go like?

Although that 241Nm is reached at 4000rpm, there is enough underneath to give the Si some torque steer. Yes, two words almost eradicated from the dictionary of front wheel drive cars.  

But Kia have specified super grippy Continental rubber, at 215/55/17. Torque steer it may, but it will also launch hard enough to please anyone with a sporting inclination — and that sums up the Si’s suspension, ride, and handling.

It’s a firm, yet not uncomfortable. Kia’s continual fettling of its Australian specification cars has the Optima well up there in terms of comfort on road.

Absorption rates have been played with, and across all but truly broken tarmac the Si is composed and unflustered. Get it out on a flat highway and it sits rock solid.

The steering is well assisted yet needs a bit of a push/pull to move it off centre. This gives it a sporty feel, with a sense of weight and heft.

As a result the drive feel is involving and with Eco, Normal, and Sport modes — Normal is really all that’s needed.

The engine is a free-spinning unit, racing the tacho needle around the dial easily from a standing start. And it’s here that Kia’s work on the auto shines through.

It’s brilliant, simply brilliant. The changes are so smooth they’re non-existent in feel. There’s no hunting, with the calibration working hand in hand with the rapid response throttle to have the Optima Si’s gears just where they need to be.

It’ll hold gear on downhill runs and slip up a cog once the sensors determine that’s no longer needed.

It’s one of the best sorted autos currently available in a sedan.

2019 Kia Optima Si front seats

What we like?

  • Beautifully calibrated auto
  • Good looks on a slinky sedan body
  • Good urban fuel economy

2019 Kia Optima Si dash

What we don’t like?

  • Sporty feel may put off some buyers
  • Maserati grille not to everyone’s taste
  • Touchscreen lacks visual appeal, no DAB in either trim level

2019 Kia Optima Si rear seats

The bottom line?

Well priced and spec’d, good looking, and of course Kia’s seven year warranty, make opting for the Optima a seeming no-brainer.

A fluid chassis and suspension appeals to the sporting driver and economy for a big and heavy four cylinder sedan is liveable.

Capped price servicing over the seven years sees a worst cost of $599 in year six. At just over 10 bucks a week, or two coffees a week from a vendor — it won’t break the bank.

CHECKOUT: Kia tries to kick start Optima

CHECKOUT: Kia map updates: the final word


Kia Optima Si, priced from $33,390
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 8/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 7.5/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
  • Tech - 7/10
  • Value - 8/10

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