Kia Optima 2018 review
Kia's Optima may not have the highest profile in the Aussie new car market, but this well-equipped, well-priced mid-size sedan does so many things, so well.
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Mid-size sedans. Remember them? I don't mean premium-brand German ones, I mean the sorts of cars we all bought when we didn't want a Falcon or a Commodore. The kind of cars that used to be made here, like the Camry, Magna (yeah, I know; pipe-down granddad), or the Sigma.
But we've also had a bit of a love affair with one particular Japanese import - Mazda's 6. They were pretty, they went alright, and they were well-priced.
And yet now they're being out-sold by cars double the price. It's a weird world.
Mazda, however, won't let us give up on the 6. For the past few years, the Japanese company has steadily addressed a number of problems the 6 had (more on that in a moment), and a recent facelift came with something even better - a turbocharged 2.5-litre petrol engine.
|Mazda 6 2018: GT (5YR)|
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The GT is third in a four-model line-up that starts with the $32,940 Sport and ends with the $50,090 Atenza diesel. The GT is the first in the range to feature the turbocharged petrol engine, which is kind of sad, because a turbo-powered Sport would be brilliant.
Starting at $43,990, you get 19-inch alloys, active LED headlights, black or white leather seats, power heated and folding mirrors, power windows, electric seats, an 11-speaker Bose stereo, auto headlights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, leather steering wheel and shifter, sat nav, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, adaptive headlights, front and rear parking sensors, heated front and rear seats and a space-saver spare.
Mazda's 'MZD Connect' multimedia system is accessible through the dash-mounted touchscreen and a console-mounted rotary dial. And my usual whinge about the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now has a happy-ish ending - by the end of 2018, you'll be able to retrofit both. Not perfect, but even older Mazdas dating back to 2014 are upgradeable.
The 6 is a seriously good-looking car, and I mean that in a head-turning, wolf-whistling kind of way.
Mazda's Kodo design language rarely disappoints. Here in the 6, the facelift is similar in nature to the CX-5 - slimmed headlights, simplified shapes front and rear, but a muscular, lithe profile.
Changes in the cabin have been more noticeable, because unlike the exterior design, Things Needed To Happen. The old interior wasn't bad, but Mazda had this terrible habit of making its cabins dark and gloomy.
A simple thing like sending some of the indicator lights up into a unit with the rear vision mirror significantly reduced the clutter on the centre console. There's a distinct Audi influence in the way the horizontal stacked sections make the cabin feel wider and more airy, too. Just about everything has been changed, except the steering wheel and the shifter, and it's worked.
Front-seat passengers score a pair of cupholders with a neat cover for when they're not in use. The centre console is on the smaller side, but a decent phone cubby under the climate controls makes up for that. The fold-down centre armrest features a pair of cupholders, too, plus there's a slot to hold a phone or small tablet upright, and a small lidded tray with a pair of USB ports.
There is plenty of room for front-seat passengers, and even those in the rear won't run into any headroom trouble. There is plenty of leg room, too, as well as decent foot room. Smaller folks will be okay in the middle seat.
Boot space isn't too bad, at 474 litres (VDA) with the rear seats in place.
Mazda slaps a 'SkyActiv' badge on just about everything, so it will be no surprise to find that this engine bears the name. The GT's 2.5-litre four cylinder spins up 170kW and 420Nm - the same figure as the CX-9, but with a quite a few less kilos to haul.
Towing capacity is rated at 550kg unbraked and 1550kg braked.
Mazda says that the 2.5-litre turbo drinks 91RON (yep, the cheaper stuff) at the rate of 7.5L/100km.
My week with the car in mostly urban driving yielded a disappointing 11.3L/100km. That might have had something to do with my right foot, but that's classified information.
Okay, I feel I've misled you a little, way back at the beginning of this story.
I feel like I may have intimated that shoving this turbocharged engine under the bonnet meant a transformation to something a bit hotter. After all, it has a lot more torque than the fondly remembered 6 MPS, and isn't all that short of that monster's power figure either.
It's nowhere near a replacement for the 6 MPS, though. In fact, it's better than that.
Mazda got out of performance cars a long time ago, preferring to just pretend there's another RX-7 on the way (that story always surfaces in April for some reason). The new turbo engine isn't a huffing, puffing performer. It's actually borderline dull. It isn't peaky or laggy, but super-quiet and super smooth.
You can surf along on the torque, overtake with far less planning and buttock-clenching.
Adding the turbo engine to the 6 fixes what was an extremely competent car looking for a good engine. The standard petrol in the lower-spec cars is adequate, but it's not really up to the task of swift, effortless progress.
This turbocharged unit actually calms the driving experience because you know you can surf along on the torque, overtake with far less planning and buttock-clenching.
The rest of the car? Well it's as lovely and easygoing as ever. The new car is stiffer than before, and, like most Mazda updates, is filled with detail changes that add up to a significant improvement.
It's so much quieter, too, with just a bit of racket from the GT's bigger wheels over coarse surfaces. Most of the suspension noise from the older cars is gone.
Passengers really liked the interior of the 6, with its broader, airier feel, and in Soul Red with the white interior, it looks properly classy.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The 6 arrives with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, high beam control, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, forward and reverse AEB, reverse cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera and traffic-sign recognition.
ANCAP awarded the Mazda a maximum five stars in 2012.
Mazda recently increased its long-standing three-year warranty to five years/unlimited kilometres, which was odd, because at the car's launch in May, they said three years was plenty. Still, I'm not arguing with the change.
Roadside assist, sadly, is not part of the deal. It costs between $99 and $109 per year.
Service intervals are a bit close at 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. Prices are capped for the first five years, alternating between $312 and $341 for a total of $1618 for the first 50,000km.
The Mazda 6's competition is not nearly as good looking, and none have that smooth 2.5-litre turbo to get them whistling along with such little fuss.
You can buy a Camry and enjoy the solid drive, or a Kia Optima and enjoy the, erm, exclusivity. Or the turbo Hyundai Sonata, which is also somewhat exclusive.
The GT is a terrific car, and it's terrific because of its smooth, powerful and calming engine. It's a shame that the engine is only available in the top end of the range, though...
|Sport||2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$17,600 – 24,530||2018 Mazda 6 2018 Sport Pricing and Specs|
|Sport||2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$18,300 – 25,520||2018 Mazda 6 2018 Sport Pricing and Specs|
|Touring||2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$19,700 – 27,390||2018 Mazda 6 2018 Touring Pricing and Specs|
|Touring||2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$23,100 – 31,350||2018 Mazda 6 2018 Touring Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||8|