As I unloaded a homemade humpty dumpty scarecrow from the boot of the Kia, I was asked ìWhat is it, 3.0-litres, six cylinder?ì I liked the enthusiasm and applaud the perspicacity, but no. We have four cylinders and just over half the cubic capacity that we both wish was there ñ that GT-Line S body kit and the wheels are deceiving.
I still crave a manual gearbox on our big-booted Optima, as Iím sure there is more to extract from the engine, which the automatic gearbox just doesnít always manage to fully utilise. It either doesnít kick down when it should or kicks down one or two cogs when it doesnít need to, the gearbox seems somewhat confused a lot of the time. But then at other times, it works perfectly-ish. So, with no chance of a manual transmission in the automatic-only sporty GT-Line S specification, we do have a compromise, or maybe an improvisation, courtesy of the ëflappy paddlesí on the steering wheel to get more in control with matters concerning the confused cogs. Aside from a long third gear, which prevents the car up-shifting from second to third until itís revving higher than in other gears, and sometimes downshifts are a little slow when youíre approaching a corner and feeling every bit as enthusiastic as the chassis and handling setup allows (thatís quite enthusiastic by the way!), the paddles are effective and it really is the best option for day to day motoring. Unless you feel lazy, of course, and want the car to do everything for you.
Iím not sure if this is a happy coincidence or not, but since making the switch to using the car in manual mode and the car hitting 10,000 miles, economy started climbing. Gone are the disappointing days where the carís computer was shamefully displaying 40 or 41mpg, and in fact, as I write, that computer is proudly displaying 44.9mpg. The positives donít stop at its lower appetite for diesel, as the engine seems to be properly coming into its own. As it is approaching the time when it is fully run in, it shows this with its extra smoothness, its eager behaviour and general refinement. Dare I say that it even feels more powerful than the earlier days too, and overtaking no longer needs quite so much planning.
Saving the greatest praise until last, and what is probably the most important factor to me with my work as a photographer, is the carís suspension. Iím prepared to make a rather large statement in that the Kia is probably the best car Iíve ever photographed out of. A suspension setup that is smooth and irons out bumps is essential to prevent my camera from shaking around too much, and the Optima does just that, and is better than anything Iíve encountered before. The suspension, combined with the low boot load floor and panoramic sunroof makes it the perfect camera car, and trust me that is a sizeable accolade for the large Kia.
Date arrived 9th December 2016
Fuel economy 61.4mpg (combined) 43.5mpg (on test)
The ventilated front seats have been a godsend in the recent heatwave.
The beeping and the chiming for everything. They’re enough to drive a man to drink.