It’s taken a while to get to Malaysia but it’s finally here – the all-new Kia Optima K5. Launched in Korea in April 2010, it’s been slowly introduced in many countries but limited supply has prevented NazaKia Malaysia from launching the car earlier, so it has had to soldier on with the rather plain second generation for more than a year. Though it must have known it had a winner for the showrooms, the unexpectedly high demand in the US market caught Kia by surprise and it’s been sending most of the output from its Korean plant there. However, Kia’s factory in America will soon begin producing the model so output from the Korean plant can then be allocated to more countries.

“I can assure you that more cars will be sent to Malaysia next year since our US factory will take over production of the new Optima for the American market,” said Thomas Oh, Senior Executive Vice-President & COO of the International Business Division of Kia Motors are the launch this afternoon in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

The strong demand for the Optima in the US (and other countries where it has been launched) is not surprising; it is yet another confirmation of the excellence of Peter Schreyer’s design direction which has revitalized the Kia brand. Before Schreyer joined Kia in 2006 (he was with the VW Group working primarily on Audi products and was also involved in the New Beetle of 1997), Kia’s products were nondescript and dull. But setting a clear and distinctive design direction was one thing, Kia itself had also to rise above mediocrity in engineering and this too has been achieved in no small way.

The new Optima K5 takes Kia to the next level in the midsized segment, in much the same way the latest Sportage, Sorento and Forte have lifted the brand a couple of notches up. The sleek silhouette has a sporty undertone and a lot of refinement can be found in the details… even the way the door mirrors fold slightly upwards is classy. It’s right up there fender to fender with the European sedans and being labeled as one of Kia’s ‘most stunningly-designed cars’ is certainly deserved.

For power, the Optima gets a Theta II 4-cylinder petrol engine with a 2-litre displacement. Features like a straightened air intake system (less resistance to airflow) and continuously variable valve timing on intake and exhaust sides helps the engine produce 165 ps of power in a linear manner, with torque peaking at 198 Nm at 4600 rpm.

With a standard 6-speed automatic transmission (developed by Kia and Hyundai), fuel consumption is claimed to be 13.2 kms/litre. This can be improved to 14.4 kms/litre when the Active Eco system is activated. The system optimally adjusts the engine and transmission control units (ECU and TCU) as well as the compressor for the air-conditioning system to achieve this 9.1% extra fuel economy.

Though the Korean carmakers have made efforts to do everything domestically, they have also realized that in order to be truly global players, they need to also have some activities in other regions. Kia, for example, established engineering and technical centres in Europe and America where their vehicles get tuned to handle and ride in ways which are expected by customers in those regions. This is something that can’t be done from Korea and it has begun to show in many of the new models launched during the past 10 years where the feel is solid and handling responsive.

For the new Optima, the chassis has MacPherson strut front suspension with a multi-link rear suspension to provide the best and most precise location of the rear wheels. Of note is the damper construction which is tuned for high performance. Inside is a sliding valve which is incorporated with the damping power adjustment valve to provide more responsive and proportionate action on all kinds of surfaces. By giving the damping more linearity, the handling is more consistent and there are also benefits to ride comfort.

Safety has been provided in large doses and besides disc brakes on all wheels, ABS+EBD, traction control, brake assist and stability control, there is also Hill Start Assist Control. This is something which comes in handy on steep slopes as it prevents rolling back when moving off from a standstill. Brake pressure is maintained for 2 seconds after the brake pedal is released so the driver has time to switch the right foot over to the accelerator pedal and accelerate forward.

Six airbags are standard and to protect the neck from injury, active front headrests move upwards and forward to cradle the head. And at night, the bright JPJ-approved HID headlights will keep the road ahead well illuminated. There’s a ‘static bending light’ which widens illuminations when the car starts turning so the driver can see corner better.

As the version sold by NazaKia Malaysia has the full complement of passive safety features, it would be similar to the one which was crash-tested by the NHTSA (the US safety agency) and rated 5/5 stars. It is the first Korean-built car to be officially 5-star certified by the agency. Further confirming the superior levels of protection, the Optima also received a “Top Safety Pick” award by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Click here to see the NHTSA crash test of the Optima K5.

The interior, like the exterior, is very refined and has a nice blend of European functionality with Asian convenience. To say that the Optima comes ‘loaded’ might be an understatement as the list of standard equipment is long and high-quality equipment is provided. For example, the audio system is not some unknown brand that NazaKia doesn’t want to mention but is Infinity, a reputable brand associated with premium audio equipment. A 12-channel amplifier and 8 speakers should provide superlative sound reproduction whether from CDs or your own connected music player.

The instrument panel is crisp in presentation with highly legible calibrations, thanks to advanced optical technology. A 3.5-inch TFT colour LCD screen displays information that the driver should be aware of and there’s even a reminder that the wheels are not pointed straight ahead when the car is started.

A cool feature (also found in the Sorento and Sportage) is the rearview display within the surface of the rearview mirror. It’s neat and very clear, with guiding lines that will make parking in tight spots very easy. The rearview camera also allows the driver to spot children or hazards that may not be visible in the mirror.

Kia’s build quality has improved tremendously in the past 10 years and it’s rare to hear owners having problems with their vehicles. Still, there are those who may simply find it hard to believe that and to show its confidence, NazaKia offers the new Optima with a warranty that is 5 years long – and no limit on mileage.

RM143,888 is the price that NazaKia is charging for the new Optima and that’s certainly a very attractive price. Acknowledging that there still needs to be a price gap with the Japanese models, Datuk Hafiz Syed Abu Bakar, NazaKia’s COO, said that this will gradually be reduced and before long, he expects the price difference to be about 5%. Going by the way Kia’s models are advancing in all respects, buyers will certainly not have an issue with that.

To know more about the new Optima K5 and other Kia models, visit

Related article: Kia Hybrid sets Guinness World Record
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  1. Weehong78

    When k5 hybrid will reach Malaysia?

  2. My k5 optima 2012 has been detected engine problems , initially started by having knocking sound, I have been doing research online lately, knowing that Kia are recalling 2011-2014 optima due to engine failure and extended warranty to 10 years and up to 120,000 mileage usage. May I know is there any action from naza Kia malaysia. So far I don’t receive any updates regarding this. I sincerely wish naza Kia malaysia honour to this responsibility. My car now still in authorized service centre for checking.

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