A case of selling out as the temperature plummets.
BACK when I had my first car, I waged war on unnecessary equipment. As a 19-year-old in a Mazda RX-7 of the same age, these included the jack, spare wheel and washer bottle. This made it a stripped-out, race-ready special, you see.
Part of that personal philosophy has always stayed with me. The average modern car, by my purist’s rationale, is chock full of flagrantly useless crap. While I wasn’t about to rip out the Optima GT’s heated front seats or steering wheel or blind-spot monitor, I vowed never to use such weight-adding, performance-sapping luxuries designed for people lacking my resolve and skill.
But I’ve been infected by the insidious disease that is the convenience feature. “The heaters are already there, contributing to the Kia’s 1605kg kerb weight, Jimmy,” went my subconscious. “Go on, indulge!”
So in the middle of winter, early one freezing morning, I hit the buttons for the heated seats and the toasted tiller. And it was quite nice. Now I use them all the time, and it makes me warm, comfortable… and a sell-out.
It turns out that the headline features – the ones in my mind are where modern cars have given up and gotten fat – are the ones I’ve started to like the most. But there are still others that reaffirm my hardcore stance on excess stuff.
While reversing the Kia Optima into my driveway the other day, I pressed the button to disable the parking sensors so as not to wake my daughter sleeping in the back. Then the phone rang, so I reached to bar the call on the multimedia screen, only to discover that the reversing camera display meant I couldn’t do this. I slotted the gearbox into drive to exit the reversing camera screen (I could’ve pressed the button on the wheel, but the pressure of keeping her ladyship asleep removed the possibility of quick, logical thought), barred the call, then slotted back into reverse. At which point the parking sensors started their merry beeping...
Finally, once parked, I inadvertently restarted the car (I pressed the start button only intending to enliven the cabin electrics to close a power window that had been left open) and the radio comes back on at a pre-set volume, even though I’d been driving with it muted.
Thankfully, Little Miss slept through it all, including the cursing and shouting, leaving me to dream up my ideal tarmac-rally Optima RS, which would have no spare, washer bottle or equipment… but I’ll keep the heated steering wheel and driver’s seat.
Driving me spare
Many carmakers are finally onto what I knew at 19: you don’t need a spare. In some cases it’s for the same reason I once left mine at home (to save weight) but mostly it’s because they figure you would sooner call roadside assist than abandon your nice heated seat and get your hands dirty changing a flat. Kia is not one of those manufacturers, though, and the Optima GT gets a full-size alloy in the boot that, naturally, I’ve ditched.
Kia Optima GT
Price as tested: $43,990
Part 5: 334km @ 12.4L/100km
Overall: 3184km @ 13.3L/100km
Date acquired: February 2016