Entry point Optima, but no diesel

Kia Optima
Kia Optima
Kia Optima
Kia Optima
Kia Optima
Kia Optima

To be fair, it appears that demand for the Kia/Hyundai 1.7-litre R-type turbodiesel that finds itself under the bonnet of iX35, i40, Sportage and Cee'd models as well as the Optima sedan in Britain and Europe is so great that we probably couldn't get it for the car here however hard we begged.

There is some good news from the Kia camp in terms of its stunningly styled Camry-sized family four-door, however, in the form of a well-priced entry model, with no sign of it being a low-rent version - or "stripper", as they say in the trade.

Aimed at business and fleet buyers, but surely just as attractive to those not willing to succumb to the mum-and-dad SUV market, but need family space nonetheless, is the Kia Optima LX, which at $41,990 is $3000 cheaper than the least expensive Camry.

The Optima LX sticks with the model's single powertrain choice, which is a 148kW/250Nm 2.4-litre direct-injected petrol engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, and retains the paddle shifters, too.

While it would have been possible to opt for a 2.0-litre version of the same engine, Kia New Zealand general manager Todd McDonald says the decision to specify the larger 2.4-litre engine was its direct-injection technology.

This is understandable because it is unlikely the smaller block would be any more economical than the 2.4's commendable 7.9L/100km rating anyway.

"The new Optima LX has to be one of the best buys in the new-car market," says McDonald, adding that his company has worked with the factory to come up with the package. He says it "is streets ahead of competitors in this price point".

The Optima is one of the largest vehicles in its segment, with generous interior space thanks to the compact front-drive mechanical layout combined with a long wheelbase and cab-forward cabin design. The LX model has LED daytime running lights and dual-projection headlights, foglights and smart cornering lamps that light the direction the vehicle is turning. It also retains a full-colour reversing camera as well as reverse warning "beeper" for added safety.

Inside, the LX is velour upholstered, with leather-look seat bolsters, which all looks pretty convincing, especially when combined with its leather-rimmed steering wheel and gearshift knob.

The car's $41,990 sticker includes dual-zone climate air as standard, rain-sensing wipers, steering wheel-mounted cruise control and audio system controls. There's also Bluetooth connectivity, an LCD screen trip computer and a glovebox chiller, while remote door locking and alarm, power windows, heated/electric door mirrors and 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks are also retained for the more expensive models. Wheels are smaller, 17-inch alloys, with a full-size spare in the boot.

The new LX also retains electronic stability programme (ESP) and ABS brakes as well as electronic brake distribution/brake assist and six passenger airbags. The car has a 5-star Ancap safety rating. The price includes a five-year/100,000km warranty programme, with 24-hour roadside assistance.

Now all it needs is a 1.7-litre diesel option at around the same price.