THREE years after it appeared on the local automotive scene, the Kia Optima K5 has been refreshed, and its extensive list of standard equipment, upgraded. The K5, which the Korean carmaker calls a sports sedan, bears the familiar "tiger face" of recent Kia models. This face has since been updated with new-look head lamps incorporating LED daytime running lights, and flanked by a cluster of four-point LED fog lamps. At the back, new tail lamps pair up with the dual exhausts in the new rear diffuser.
Inside, the more ergonomic interior has a wider range of convenience and safety features. One of these is Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist. If the turn indicator is used when there is another vehicle just behind in the next lane, an auditory warning sounds.
Other new features include a lovely eight-speaker Infinity sound system, the so-called D-shaped multi-function steering wheel with "drive mode", a speed limiter, an auto-hold function, front and rear parking sensors and larger disc brakes.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel is new and it offers a selection of driving modes - eco, normal and sport - at the press of a button, while the bigger brakes have more bite for increased confidence.
This breathtaking array of features in what is an affordably priced executive saloon continues to be the most impressive aspect of the Optima. There is the usual panoramic sunroof, comprising an electric sunroof in front and fixed moonroof behind, each with its own powered sunblind, as well as standard equipment not always found in similar-sized European luxury models, such as ventilated front seats and the electric parking brake's auto-hold function.
All this is in a stylish and roomy package that doesn't cost more than a Japanese equivalent. True, the faux aluminium steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts look flimsy, but they do the job perfectly.
Another complaint is the lack of electronic display real estate. The centre touchscreen is not much bigger than an iPhone 5 but twice as far away as how you would normally use it. That, and the small, multi-function display in the instrument cluster mean that clarity is not one of the K5's manifold attributes.
Neither is the 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which is the only option, now that the erstwhile 2.0L has lost its appeal in this era of high COE premiums. The naturally aspirated unit is relatively large but has merely adequate performance. It is saved only by the responsive six-speed automatic gearbox, which, when changed manually, is satisfyingly direct.
Running on new 18-inch alloy wheels, the big Optima K5 presents a smooth and composed drive. It may not be a fun drive but it does offer a comfortable ride with its long 2,795 mm wheelbase. Few cars possess this blend of spaciousness, stylishness and equipment at this price point. Being great value for money has to be this attractive Kia's best feature.
Kia Optima K5 2.4L
Engine 2,359cc inline-4
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Max power 180 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Max torque 231 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
0-100 kmh 9.5 secs
Top speed 210 kmh
CO2 emissions 197 g/km
Average OMV $24,000
Price $158,999 (with COE)
Distributor Cycle & Carriage Kia
Tel: 6427 8888