With MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link rear (along with coil springs and gas-filled dampers), the Optima follows a well-trodden, cost-effective path. However, Kia's engineers haven’t quite found the same dynamic blend of compliance and responsiveness that characterises the class leaders. The key issue is control – the driver’s control of the car via the steering wheel and the car’s control of its own sprung mass.
Kia’s Motor-Driven Power Steering returns a credible impression of heft much of the time, but it doesn’t completely conceal the curious ungainliness to its function. Most likely this is because the system stops drawing power from the engine when it senses that no assistance is required, namely when the car is going straight. Consequently, there is a muddiness to the on-centre feel that is made worse by the comparative weightlessness of initial inputs as the motor kicks back in. The transition between the two is most noticeable on the motorway, where accurate placing of the car’s nose wavers between comatose and clumsy.
It’s a similar story with the ride quality. On chaste surfacing, the car bustles along with neatness and poise. Even presented with England-specific obstacles, the Kia adapts without becoming needlessly crashy. The problem is how long it takes for the saloon to settle after each abrupt negotiation. Meet too many deep deflections one after the other, and the Optima will either buffet on its suspension travel or bristle noisily before it’s pacified by smoother ground. The result is by no means a ruinous lack of comfort, but the saloon’s failure to isolate its occupants from very poor road conditions – or navigate confidently between them – is unequivocally what divides it from the class best.