2016 Winner
Medium under $50k

Kia Optima GT

For several years, Kia has led various segments of the market for value for money, and the value it’s packed into the upgraded Optima has helped it beat all comers this year.


Besides the value proposition, Optima’s design and engineering have come of age and it can now genuinely be compared with the high-end Japanese makes.

Quick specifications
  • Engine2.0T
  • Transmission6A
  • Indicative drive away$47,988
  • Fuel economy8.5
  • Fuel typeULP
  • ANCAPNot Rated

Kias aren’t normally known for their performance, ride and handling, but they have got it pretty well right in the Optima. The combination of the turbo-petrol engine and the in-house designed and built 6spd auto are the foundation of the performance package. Add an industry-leading seven-year transferable warranty and Optima is very hard to beat in a class where the buyer is particular about what they’re getting for their money. The Optima GT’s class-leading list of standard features is one of the reasons it will be the volume seller of the range. Kia believes it has matured as a brand to the extent it now wants to be seen as more up-market. Given it’s the most expensive car in the class, it’s got to get the quality right. And the most important step to this goal is state-of-the-art technology.

The place where Kia has started is safety. The entire Optima range has active cruise control, which automatically adjusts the vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front. There’s also lane-departure warning, high-beam assist (which automatically adjusts headlight range according to other vehicles and road conditions) and autonomous emergency braking. The GT gets more safety kit with blind-spot detection and rear-cross traffic alert, a system which warns of other vehicles driving behind you when reversing in carparks. Other features such as leather trim with contrasting stitching, satellite navigation with traffic information and a wireless Android phone charger built into the console complete the premium feel in the GT. The Optima’s interior displays a sense of space, and there’s good front and rear head and leg room. A wider opening allows access to quite a spacious boot, even with a full-sized spare wheel in the cargo area.

Seat comfort is looked after with heated and fan-cooled leather front seats. They are also well bolstered and supportive in keeping with the GT theme. The heated, flat-bottomed steering wheel houses a myriad of control switches, and tucked behind it are gearshift paddles. The new 2.0L turbo-charged direct-injection petrol engine is powerful, and it has the equal-best score in the class in performance, yet it still does well on the environment front, with a four-star rating despite fuel consumption that is only ranked as average. The other area of noticeable improvement is in the sound and vibration experienced in the cabin. Quietness is again an element of the premium feel, and it is here where a lot of Kia’s research and development dollars have been spent to get it right. The refresh of the Optima has made it not only good value in the under-$50,000 market segment, but it’s now a seriously stylish car that can take it up to the premium Japanese brands.