Toyota Camry VS Kia Optima
- Very roomy
- Great ownership plan
- Decent price
- Removed some good stuff to lower price
- Not as good looking as pre-facelift model
- A bit basic inside
I've got a line of Camry jokes that stretches to Mars and back, and I'm not alone. Heck, even Akio Toyoda sledged his own company's products when he famously delcared it would produce "no more boring cars". To be fair, the company is still struggling with that promise.
The new version has, sadly, knocked some of the stuffing out of my established Camry repartee. Until today, I had not yet had a go in the new car, and thus it was something of a shock to realise that it doesn't even look terrible any more.
My cruel colleagues, however, muttered darkly that this was still a Camry, just not as we've always known it.
Hmmm. I'm getting too old to deal with change. This Camry Ascent Sport Hybrid had better be boring.
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
There are plenty of reasons why you should still consider a mid-sized sedan like the Kia Optima. I’m sure there are… just let me think about this for a sec…
Okay, so this part of the market is dying. A decade ago, sedans like this were really popular, but now there are heaps of alternative options. Yep, people are going for mid-sized SUVs rather than mid-sized sedans like this.
But that doesn’t mean models like the just-updated 2018 Kia Optima are without their reasons for being. I’m just not sure the facelift has made it more appealing to look at…
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
It's a pity families don't buy sedans any more, because this is a terrific family car, particularly if you're not bothered by badge cache or speed, but do like an easy-to-drive, cheap-to-run car. Just a few years ago it would have been almost laughable to contemplate a car this big, for this money, being so cheap to own and run.
I'm also really annoyed that my hackneyed Camry jokes are no longer just not funny, they're not funny because they're not (as) true. No, it's not a super-fun excitement machine, but that's not the point. It is a very good car, with all the Toyota goodness of old, added warranty and the bonus of genuinely feeling good to drive. And you're a mild shade of enviro-green to go with it.
Is it true? Has the Camry shaken off most of its dowdy image?
Kia Optima 7.6/10
If you travel long distances, want a good amount of space and don’t want to pay big bucks for a new car, then yeah, maybe there is a reason sedans like this will hang around for a while longer.
Sure, the appeal of sedans mightn’t be as strong as it once was, but models like the Kia Optima prove they still have a reason to exist.
Is a sedan on your shopping list? Let us know in the comments section below.
Some key changes to the design approach on the new Camry means it's not as knock-kneed and simpering as the last, um, six or so generations.
To be fair, the previous one wasn't terrible but there are actual hints of mild bravery, with an angry front-end look, some interesting surface detailing and, even what might be called a "Lexus-lite" look for the rest of it.
The new Camry is lower, has big wheel arches that the 17s struggle to fill but it has some genuine style, rather than looking like the clay modellers knocked off before lunch. The dual exhaust seemed incongruous to me, but is, in fact, a styling win.
Jokes aside, I don't mind it at all. It's no Supra, but it's no mid-90s Camry, either. Yeah, I bet you don't remember which one I'm talking about, either.
I really like the cabin. The dash design is quite something and shows some real flair. William Chergowsky told me last year that this interior was going to be more emotional and memorable. And it really is, along with Toyota's impressive build quality. Even the volume knob feels substantial, the materials are nice but the steering wheel is... well, more of that later.
Kia Optima 7/10
Cosmetic changes for the facelifted 2018 Kia Optima include new headlights and tail-lights with revised LED signatures (but still halogen lamps in the base model), and there are newly sculpted bumpers and new wheel designs across the two-model range.
We had the base model Si, which doesn’t look as good as the GT model, because it has smaller wheels, the sporty body kit and misses out on the LED headlights, but the LED daytime running lights are still present.
The GT has a more aggressive look, and the side skirts, front spoiler and rear diffuser fit it better - there are dual exhausts, but not sporty quad exhaust tips.
In fact, this model is a bit like the old-man version of the Optima. No offence intended to old men, of course. The GT is just heaps sportier, and I reckon it’s considerably more attractive as a result.
Still, the inherent sleek styling of the Optima remains - the chrome highlighting along the window line is a bit too sheeny for me, but the angles and stance of this model are quite gracious. I really dig the fact the top of the windscreen mirrors the ‘Tiger Nose’ grille shape.
I'm no exterior designer, but I liked the existing Optima more - it just looked a bit neater, even though it had a decent amount of bling with its Mercedes-like diamond-pattern grille, as opposed to the cheese grater look seen here.
There’s not quite as much bling inside the cabin of the Si, either, but it is still a well-designed space - just not as special as the premium package offering of the GT (which gets leather trim - not nappa leather, but still a quality cowhide finish, and more). Check out our interior photos to see if you agree - but size and interior dimensions of the Optima are hard to argue against.
The new, stretched wheelbase has meant a lot more interior space for passengers, particularly in the rear. The Camry hasn't really been small for a very long time, but this one's generous rear legroom is probably why it's a smash-hit with the Uber crowd. The seats are comfortable too, if trimmed in what appears to be neoprene.
Front and rear passengers each have a pair of cupholders for a total of four, plus there's a deep central console bin and a space under the stereo for a phone. There's even a coin slot. Each door also has a bottle holder.
The boot in the Ascent Sport is a voluminous 524 litres - the Ascent has a full-size spare that swallows up 30 litres of that space. The seats fold down 60/40, but the cargo volume when they are down is not readily available.
Kia Optima 8/10
I really like the way Kia designs its cabins. Sure, there’s a lot of black in here, but there’s also a lot of thought put into the usability of the space.
The high-mounted 7.0-inch infotainment and multimedia touch screen in the Si is simple to use, and for 2018 the Optima range gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - you couldn’t get that in the Optima up to this point.
Also included are a reversing camera, USB input, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and six speakers. The Si model misses out on sat nav - you’ll have to use the maps app on your phone. No DVD player either.
Storage is well thought out in here, with big bottle holders in the doors, a good sized pair of cup holders up front, and a nice little storage bin for your phone, wallet, keys and so on.
There’s a driver info screen with a digital speedo, and even on this base model you get a dual-zone climate control air conditioner. The updated Optima gets a new steering wheel, too.
Now, what about the back seat?
It may be considered a ‘mid-sized’ sedan, but there’s limo-like space. With the driver’s seat in my position (I’m about six feet tall) there was still heaps of rear legroom in the rear seat, with ample knee room, good foot room and decent shoulder space, too - three of me could slot across the back bench comfortably, which means kids will fit easily, too. There are three top-tether points and two ISOFIX points as well.
Kids and adults alike will be happy with the rear air vents back here, and there’s a flip down armrest with cupholders, too. Again, big bottle holders appear in the doors, and there are map pockets in the back seats.
What about boot space? With so many people choosing SUVs over sedans because they’re theoretically more practical, the Optima offers good food for thought - it has enough luggage capacity for a bunch of suitcases (510 litres VDA in size) and there’s a full-size alloy spare under the boot floor. If you need more, you could always invest in a roof rack setup?
Price and features
The hybrid drivetrain is available on the Ascent, Ascent Sport and SL. I had the $31,990 Ascent Sport for the week.
It comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker stereo (with CD player!), dual-zone climate control, cloth trim, with space-saver spare wheel, electric driver's seat, auto LED headlights, keyless entry and start, sat nav, reversing camera, active cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, an impressive safety package, power mirrors and windows. Did I mention the CD player?
The six-speaker stereo is powered from the 8.0-inch touchscreen and the software is...um...not great. Which wouldn't matter if it had Android Auto and/or Apple CarPlay but Toyota Australia stubbornly refuses to include them. The damn Seppos get it in their Toyotas, so it's not like it's impossible. But our version does have a CD player. Hipsters rejoice!
Kia Optima 7/10
Kia dropped prices for this updated and facelifted model range - and not by a small amount, either. So, what's the price? How much does it cost?
The Si model is the entry-grade of two models, and it comes in at the bottom of the price list at $33,290 plus on-road costs (rrp) - an $1100 drop over the previous version. The Si, then, is a value-focused sedan that you might consider if you’ve looked at a Toyota Camry Ascent, Hyundai Sonata Active, Mazda6 Sport or Subaru Liberty 2.5i.
The standard equipment list is pretty good - although there have been some deletions, because the price is down $1100. The rather good HID headlamps with washers have been dumped in favour of halogen projector lights (yeah, not even xenons), and the satellite navigation system (GPS) is gone.
But now the 7.0-inch media screen is capable of doing the Apple CarPlay iPhone connectivity and Android Auto phone mirroring thing, and that’ll serve most people’s purposes pretty well, but there is no digital DAB radio, and no CD player for the sound system. Other standard kit includes a digital driver info display with digital speedo, dual-zone climate control, cloth seat trim, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, auto headlights and rain sensing wipers, and 17-inch alloy wheels (with a full-size spare).
New equipment for the Si includes driver-fatigue monitoring and an active lane-keeping assistance system (in place of the old lane-departure-warning buzzer).
If you want all the fruit you really need to fork out the extra cash for the GT, which lists at $43,290 plus on-roads (vs $33,290 for the Si). That is getting perilously close to Kia Stinger territory… but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves - this isn't a model comparison!
You get a fair bit more for your dough, but even the GT has seen a few deletions to help justify its $1200 price drop compared to the pre-facelift model, such as the front passenger seat being 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. And while it rides on 18-inch rims with a new design, the tyre-pressure-monitoring system has been removed.
It uses a new 8.0-inch media screen with extended smartphone connectivity and in-built sat nav (with 10 years of maps included and SUNA live traffic updates), and it also gains redesigned LED headlights but they lose the smart auto high-beam assistance of the old model. The tech doesn't go as far as to include Homelink garage door opening here in Australia, either.
Other standard kit in the GT includes leather seats, electric driver’s seat adjustment with memory settings, smart key (keyless entry) and push button start, a sports body kit, a harman/kardon audio system with 10 speakers and a subwoofer, wireless phone charging (Qi) but no Wi-Fi hotspot, rear sunshades (but no tinted windows), different interior trim finishes, a heated steering wheel, and a colour driver-information screen.
The GT also gets the new lane assist system and driver-fatigue monitor, and the entire safety approach has been improved across the range. See the safety section below for more detail.
There is no launch edition, nor is there a sports edition, but there is a decent array of colours (or colors, depending on where you're reading this) available - black, white, blue, red, grey and silver can be chosen, but not brown, purple or gold... if you wanted those.
Accessories available across both trim levels include tailored floor mats, a dash mat and weathershields, among other items.
Engine & trans
While the standard Camry packs the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder, the Hybrid's ICE output is slightly lower, at 131kW. When paired with a hybrid motor, the total power figure is a pretty decent 160kW, but the torque figure appears to be unaffected, at 202Nm. Toyota doesn't quote combined torque figures, because it's tricky with the type of transmission it uses.
The front wheels are driven by Toyota's favoured e-CVT, with six artifical steps to make it feel like a proper auto, if you're feeling racy.
Kia Optima 7/10
The Si model is powered by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which has seen no changes to its specifications for this mid-life update.
Engine specs remain at 138kW of power at 6000rpm, while torque is rated at 241Nm at 4000rpm. It makes use of a six-speed automatic transmission only - there’s no manual transmission here, but you do get paddle shifters - and it's front wheel drive (the Optima isn't available with AWD, or as a 4x4, or in rear wheel drive - the latter is left to its bigger brother, the Stinger).
The GT gets a zestier drivetrain with more horsepower - it has a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine with 180kW/350Nm, which is much more desirable, but also louder than the Si’s 2.4. It also has a six-speed auto transmission, and is FWD. If you're into ratings and statistics, that 2.0-litre with a turbocharger is one of the perkier offerings for its engine size in the class.
There is no hybrid model available, despite a plug in hybrid petrol version (allowing you to run in EV mode) being sold in European markets. No diesel here, either, while other markets get a 1.7-litre turbo diesel. No LPG model here, or anywhere else, for that matter.
If you're concerned about engine problems, suspension problems, clutch and transmission issues, be sure to check out our Kia Optima problems page.
The Hybrid's windscreen sticker makes the bold claim of 4.2L/100km on the combined cycle, which is amazing for a big sedan. Reality isn't quite so amazing. In our week with the car, 5.7L/100km was the best I could get, but it was mostly city driving, the weather was really humid and, it turns out, this isn't a bad thing to drive, which means you're tempted to hit the throttle regularly.
Kia Optima 8/10
Kia claims a very realistic fuel economy rating of 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres for the Si model, and we saw damn close to that consumption during our week of testing. On the highway it will sit at around 6.5L/100km, ensuring good mileage, while city driving will push usage above 12.0L/100km. Our overall average was 8.5L/100km, which is good. Use the eco mode, and you'll get a little better use.
The turbocharged GT model uses a little more, according to Kia’s 8.5L/100km combined average claim, but we guarantee you’ll actually use more than that because it’s more eager to please.
Fuel tank capacity is 70 litres - plenty of size for long distance drives.
All the Camry markers are here. It's easy to get in and out of and easy to get comfortable. The dash isn't too high and, uh, the steering wheel is plastic, which is genuinely disappointing. A Mazda6 (no, not a hybrid, I know) doesn't have a plastic steering wheel. The Toyota one is pretty cheap-feeling.
Pressing the start-stop button, you hear the electrics switching on and, if you're backing out of the drive, you won't hear the engine until you're on the gas driving away. You may not hear anything, but your passengers might hear your tutting. The brakes are very grabby when you're in stealth, I mean, electric mode, whether you're going forward or backwards. No doubt it's something you will become accustomed to, but it's there. Toyota hybrids seem to be behind the game on this particular score.
In every other way, the Camry is exactly as it has always been. Except it isn't. Toyota kept all the good things - it's smooth, it's quiet and it rides well. Everyone is comfortable and everything works. I've already mentioned it was stinking hot the week we had it and the Camry's air-conditioning was super-fast cold.
The bit that's different, though, is that, just like the styling, things are better. Camrys past had over-light steering, marshmallows for suspension and as much grip on the road as Kanye West has on reality. This one has body control. The steering feels good. There is actual grip and you feel like you're driving the car rather than just steering it around.
Kia Optima 7/10
The Optima has some really good elements to the way it drives, but sadly some less impressive bits as well.
Let’s start with the not-so-great stuff - the 2.4-litre engine in this Si model just isn’t as enjoyable as the turbo unit, and the fact that Kia still doesn’t offer a hybrid version here, despite doing so elsewhere, is a bit of a downer.
The drivetrain isn’t terrible - the six-speed auto is smart enough, and there’s usable power if you boot it. The two more sedate drive modes, 'Eco' and 'Comfort', mean the transmission will aim to save fuel and limit throttle response, with a bit more of a lazy feel to the drive experience. But in 'Sport' mode it is definitely more rewarding in terms of acceleration and performance, offering a bit more pep and urgency (we didn't do a 0-100 km/h speed test, but take our word for it); it undoubtedly at the cost of fuel consumption.
It’s just a bit of a shame Kia doesn’t offer the turbo in this spec, too. Fuel use for the Si model is better than the turbo, however, so it could be ideal for buyers who are more worried about the bottom line than design and a sportier drive.
The thing I like most about the Optima is its road manners - the steering and suspension have been tuned for local conditions, just like all Kia products, and it shows.
The electric power steering is really well sorted, making for easy parking moves and good assuredness at higher speeds. And the turning circle is decent, too - 10.9m (so, the turning radius is 5.45m).
Plus the ride comfort is really good. On the highway it coasts along with very little fuss, and around town it deals with lumps and bumps impressively. Sharp edges can upset things a tad, and mid-corner bumps can make it jitterbug a little bit, but not to a degree that would rule it out of contention if you want a mid-sized sedan.
It’s pretty quiet on the open road, too, and the adaptive cruise control makes long-distance driving a simple task. The GT does suffer a little bit more road noise, though.
The Ascent Sport ships with seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, active cruise, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, forward AEB, reverse cross traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.
The Camry scored five ANCAP stars in November 2017.
Kia Optima 8/10
The safety rating of the Optima remains at five stars, as it was when the car was tested in this generation in 2015.
The updated Optima carries over the safety features of the previous model including autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, while the lane-departure warning system is now supplemented with lane-keeping assistance, and there’s driver-fatigue monitoring added, too. There is no park assist / self parking system.
Airbag coverage for Optima models is six: dual front, front side and full-length curtain. And parents will be happy to learn there are three top-tether attachment points, and two ISOFIX anchors, too.
If you've been wondering to yourself, "where is the Kia Optima built?"The answer is South Korea.
In news that still has me all a-tingle (okay, not really), Toyota now offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. There's till no roadside assist offered for free, though, so you have to pay extra for it.
The first five service intervals are capped at $195 each so, if you're lucky, five years of servicing will only sting you $975. Intervals are set at 12 months/15,000km.
Kia Optima 9/10
Kia remains a shining light in terms of its new-car-ownership promise, with a very strong seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. It makes a lot of sense if you plan to hang onto the car for a while. There's no extended warranty available, which is understandable.
That plan also includes a roadside-assist plan for the same seven-year period, provided you maintain your car with Kia Australia. So, given you get one year to start with, then you get an extra year of cover every time you go back to Kia to get your car serviced, you could end up with eight years of coverage. Nice!
Servicing is due every 12 months or 15,000km, with the first seven years covered by a capped-price-service cost / maintenance cost plan. The costs are: service one - $289; two - $466; three - $360; four - $559; five - $325; six - $599; seven - $345. That makes a total cost of $2943, which is competitive for its class. Keep your owners manual or logbook up to date, and your resale value should hold up better.
If you have concerns about common problems, issues, reliability ratings and durability, you should check out our Kia Optima problems page.