What is it?
The Kia Optima GT, slated for introduction in UK showrooms in autumn 2017, is the most powerful production model that Kia has sold in Europe.
Part of the gradual process of moving the perception of the Kia brand upmarket and giving its cars more of a ‘developed in Europe’ handling feel, the Optima GT will become the second official performance derivative from Kia after the Ceed/Proceed GT of 2013. But it’s also the first such model to benefit from the influence of recently installed Hyundai-Kia performance car supremo Albert Biermann. And Biermann’s last job, in case you’d missed the rather eye-grabbing appointment, was engineering boss of BMW’s M division.
The story goes that Biermann asked to drive the latest prototype of the Optima GT when informed about its existence by his team of engineers in 2015 – only to be told he was actually driving it at the time of asking. “This is not a GT” is reportedly how he responded, promptly sending the car back through the development process and ordering a more transformative job to be done on the car, including suspension, braking, steering, engine, transmission and interior.
The Optima GT just launched in European markets is what has resulted: a car available as either a saloon or estate, with a 242bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, front-wheel drive, a near-150mph top speed and the potential for sub-7.5sec 0-62mph acceleration.
All of which may not quite sound like the stuff of boyhood dreams, but for Kia, it’s a bold effort to take on the brand equity and development expertise of some of Europe’s biggest industry powers in a market niche that it wouldn’t have contemplated entering 10 years ago.