Korea's Kia Optima v Japan's Toyota Camry: who wins?
Top-spec medium sedans are down the list for many buyers but they pack safety gear, comfort items and brisk performance
TOYOTA CAMRY V6 SL
$48,400 drive-away 19 pts
The new Camry range starts at $31,500 drive-away and comes with four-cylinder, hybrid or V6 power in most grades. The flagship SL V6 comes with the works: radar cruise control, leather trim, electric adjustment for front seats and 18-inch alloys. Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km (up from six months/10,000km on other Toyotas). Routine maintenance is just $585 for three years. Warranty is below average at three years/100,000km. Resale value is above average.
The best-looking Camry by far. You know the world has truly changed when a Camry has the design edge over a Holden Commodore - and most other mid-size sedan rivals. The bold styling has a low, wide stance and the glass area is huge, so it's easy to see out of when manoeuvring. The interior is one of the roomiest in class. There is only a space-saver spare in the huge boot.
The 3.5-litre V6 has serious mumbo (224kW/362Nm). With eight-speed auto, it gets to the speed limit briskly. We stopped the clocks in the 0-100km/h dash in 6.7 seconds. It has a lusty sound that revheads will appreciate and passengers hopefully won't notice. It's a touch thirsty, claiming 8.9L/100km.
All models come with high and low-speed autonomous emergency braking, seven airbags and lane-keeping that's a bit hit and miss. The flagship gets the works, gaining rear cross-traffic alert and blind zone warning. An up-to-date crash safety rating means this five-star ANCAP score really counts.
Here's the tricky part. The SL is a rocket in a straight line but not so competent in corners. The 18-inch alloys and low-profile tyres aren't as good at soaking up bumps as other Camrys on 17s with more rubber around the rims. It can jar as the suspension and tyres can't dampen the impact quickly enough.
KIA OPTIMA GT
$48,900 drive-away 19.5 pts
The Optima starts from $38,600 drive-away. In the Optima GT with 2.0-litre turbo, standard fare above the Camry SL includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and full-size alloy spare. Short service intervals of six months/7500km mean costly routine maintenance - $1575 for first three years. Warranty is industry-leading: seven years/unlimited kilometres.
It's more understated than the Camry, as with most mid-size cars. The interior is roomy but can't match the Toyota. Cabin layout is practical, if a little dated, but there are ample storage cubbies and centre console is a decent size. Outward vision is good even with slightly tapered side windows. Boot is marginally smaller than the Camry's but fits the full-size spare.
The turbo four (180kW/350Nm) might not sound like much but it has plenty of get-up-and-go. With a six-speed auto it clocks 6.8 seconds for 0-100km/h. It takes regular unleaded although exploiting that power is thirsty work (8.5L/100km). It may lack the V6's character but has the oomph to match it.
Similar kit to the top-grade Camry: autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, front and rear sensors, blind zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert and six airbags should the worst happen. The Optima has an up-to-date five-star ANCAP rating. The Camry and Optima are docked half a star from our rating due to a lack of rear-AEB and speed sign recognition.
This is a gem to drive. A minor suspension tweak was part of the update earlier this year. It feels light on its feet, composed over bumps, gripping with confidence thanks to sticky Michelin tyres. The brakes have a reassuring feel. Driving enthusiasts might not see themselves in an Optima but they would like the driving experience if they put bias aside.
The Camry V6 sounds great, its resale value is unbeatable - but the Optima GT is the better drive. Aim to haggle on price.