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Kia Optima GT 2018 review

How will the Optima handle family taxi duties? My three kids and I had the weekend to find out.

Sedans are fast becoming the last kid to be picked on the schoolyard football team, but car makers seem largely undeterred as they continue to serve them up for our consideration. So are we missing something?

For my weekend review, I'm testing the updated 2018 Kia Optima GT. Priced at $43,290, it's $1200 cheaper than the pre-facelift model and comes loaded with plenty of standard kit, including a new 8.0-inch media screen with smartphone connectivity, navigation, leather seats and LED headlights. 

But it will need all that and more if it's to be considered a worthy alternative to the mid-sized family SUV models it competes against. 

How will the Optima handle family taxi duties? My three kids and I had the weekend to find out.

Priced at $43,290, it's $1200 cheaper than the pre-facelift model and comes loaded with plenty of standard kit. Priced at $43,290, it's $1200 cheaper than the pre-facelift model and comes loaded with plenty of standard kit.

Saturday

Dressed in Aurora Black and sitting on sharp-looking 18-inch rims, our Optima GT cut quite a sporty figure. Dressed in Aurora Black and sitting on sharp-looking 18-inch rims, our Optima GT cut quite a sporty figure.

Our schedule for the day included soccer in the morning and various taxi runs with the kids in the afternoon.

Dressed in Aurora Black and sitting on sharp-looking 18-inch rims, our Optima GT cut quite a sporty figure. There are a few cosmetic changes for the face-lifted Optima, starting up front with redesigned LED headlights and honeycomb grill perched above a new bumper. But it's side-on where the Optima looks best, providing the clearest hint of its performance credentials with gloss-black sills and red brake calipers.

The kids and I pile into a cabin that is decorated in a two-tone grey-and-red palette, accompanied by a GT logo stitched onto the front seats. While the seat styling is not my cup of tea, you can't argue with the sportiness of their look and, more importantly, the comfort and support they offer.

There was plenty of space in the back for the kids to spread out, with ample leg and headroom for adult passengers back there, too. Interior space in this car is impressive.

While the seat styling is not my cup of tea, you can't argue with the sportiness of their look. While the seat styling is not my cup of tea, you can't argue with the sportiness of their look.

It's in the cabin where the reasons for the $1200 price reduction for this new model become evident. The front passenger seat is now manually operated (previously electric), the cooling/ventilation of the front seats has been deleted, and the panoramic sunroof of the previous model is gone, too.

The GT comes with an 8.0-inch media screen with smartphone connectivity and navigation (with 10 years of maps included) and live traffic updates. While the traffic updates are great in theory, it quickly became an unwelcome irritant - particularly when trying to enjoy the music coming from the 10-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo. And there appeared to be no getting rid of the spoken updates, even after trawling the settings to turn off every alert option I could find.

Our GT displayed impeccable road manners throughout the day, providing a comfortable ride even on some of the nastier suburban roads. Our GT displayed impeccable road manners throughout the day, providing a comfortable ride even on some of the nastier suburban roads.

Our GT displayed impeccable road manners throughout the day, providing a comfortable ride even on some of the nastier suburban roads, and with cabin noise kept to a minimum. Steering is reasonably light and responsive, which is useful for around town.

Parking at our local supermarket was a simple exercise, with good visibility front and rear, plus a reversing camera and parking sensors to help you squeeze into any tight spot.

The GT comes with an 8.0-inch media screen with smartphone connectivity and navigation and live traffic updates. The GT comes with an 8.0-inch media screen with smartphone connectivity and navigation and live traffic updates.

Sunday

Kia is well known for putting plenty of thought into cabin storage design, and the Optima GT is no exception. Kia is well known for putting plenty of thought into cabin storage design, and the Optima GT is no exception.

Our plans for the day included a picnic in the park and a trip to visit friends.

Under the hood of our GT is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 180kW/350Nm, which is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission driving power to the front wheels. On paper, this engine has promise, but it falls short on delivering the expected sporty performance.

In Sport mode, the GT accelerates from a standing start with good urgency, yet it feels a little undercooked at mid-range speeds. Overtaking on the open road needs more runway than expected.

Kia is well known for putting plenty of thought into cabin storage design, and the Optima GT is no exception. There are big bottle holders in the doors, two cup holders up front and in the rear, a good centre console storage bin and an area in front of the gear shift for your phone or keys.

The boot has a decent 510 litres (VDA) of storage space, however the letterbox-shaped boot opening is fairly narrow and could make fitting larger objects like kids bikes more of a challenge. That aside, it provided ample space for all our picnic goodies, sporting gear and kids scooters.

The boot has a decent 510 litres (VDA) of storage space, however the letterbox-shaped boot opening is fairly narrow. The boot has a decent 510 litres (VDA) of storage space, however the letterbox-shaped boot opening is fairly narrow.

Awarded a five-star ANCAP rating in 2015, the new Optima GT comes with the same safety features of the previous model, with six air bags, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), and adaptive cruise control, with the addition of active lane-keep assistance (replacing the lane-departure warning system) and driver-fatigue monitoring.

The safety story continues with stability control, anti-lock brakes, hill-start assist and seatbelt reminders. For parents, there are three top-tether attachment points, and two ISOFIX anchors, too.

Over the weekend we covered around 380km of open road and urban driving, with the trip computer displaying a fuel consumption reading of 9.8L/100km - only slightly higher than Kia's combined average claim of 8.5L/100km. Not bad, considering the amount of driving done in Sport mode.

Overtaking on the open road needs more runway than expected. Overtaking on the open road needs more runway than expected.


The Wrap

The Optima GT does enough to put forward a reasonable case as to why you would consider a sedan over an SUV as your family taxi. If you're like my kids, though, nothing beats that view out of a high-riding SUV, plus the practicality one affords is a massive perk, too.

Do you think the Optima GT is a suitable family car? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Likes

Spacious cabin
Sports styling
Comfortable ride

Dislikes

Narrow boot opening
$1200 discount removes some premium features
Mid-range acceleration feels mild

Scores

Dan:

3.6

The Kids:

$31,990 - $41,777

Based on 13 car listings in the last 6 months

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