The medium segment has been static or in decline for some years, with the ongoing rise of the SUV. Still, the new Mazda6 has given the sector a small fillip and it’s this car with which the 2015 MY Optima competes. Rather cleverly the top Optima, the Limited, sits at a price point midway between the GSX and Limited Mazda6 models, with specification closer to the latter. However, it costs $52,490 whereas the Mazda6 GSX sneaks below $50k, as do other front-drive contenders like Mondeo EcoBoost Zetec. Even a Passat TSI 118 can be yours for under $48k. So the handsome Optima Limited will need to be more than just spec-laden. The 2015 model year Optima gets some reasonably significant changes, the most obvious of which is the move to a quartet of LEDs for the fog lights, replacing the lone triangular units of its forebear. Whether this is an improvement is debatable. Still, there’s a new grille, and LED daytime running lights move to a site above the main units, looking smart. As does the rest of the car, with its coupe-like outline, and sports body kit on the Limited edition. A new boot lid, diffuser and LED taillights complete the external changes to Optima.. The cabin changes are significant too, with freshened instruments and a big new central touch screen for satellite navigation and reversing camera images. A change to wheel and seat design, and an Eco button round things out. An overall figure of 7.9L/100km falls short of segment leader Mazda6’s fi gure of 6.6. And the same could be said of performance.
The Mazda easily betters this, as does Mondeo EcoBoost, both by around 2.0sec. Optima’s kerb weight of 1578kg, 100kg above the Mazda’s, does it no favours. The 2.4-litre direct injection motor may not sound sporting but it boasts pretty fair numbers, with peak power just shy of 150kW. It gets round town with little apparent effort. Maximum torque of 250Nm occurs around 4200rpm, and that’s how it feels on rural runs, with gutsy overtaking brawn available from around 3500rpm and the real oil flowing from 4500rpm onwards. That does mean, however, that a hasty passing manoeuvre requires third gear. Hustle it along and fuel economy eases into double figures but then it would be even higher on any turbo-enhanced competition. Despite suspension fettling, dynamics fall short of the lighter, more nimble competition, but the car is now quieter than before by almost 2dB. In tight going where second gear works fine, the ESP is fairly insistent on slowing progress but through more open corners a good flow can be massaged from the Optima. The kerb weight doesn’t help, and the pedal lacks real bite and feel, not engendering confidence. Apart from unconvincing ‘dark wood’ trim, the interior is rather elegant, with a decent if elevated driving position. A hard edge on the centre console is an oversight, but the seat is plenty adjustable and it retracts as you exit.
The stop/start button sometimes hidden from sight by the wheel. Bluetooth phone hook-up is as simple as it gets, and the sizeable central touch screen shows most relevant data, with trip figures set between the tacho and speedo. The Limited has a dual moon roof set up, one sliding, one not, the latter meaning slightly limited headroom for rear seat passengers. Split folding is operated by releases in the boot, but the through hole is limited in size. Like all sedans the boot space is generous but the aperture makes it hard to access the furthest recesses. Aside from spec already mentioned the Limited comes with 18-inch sports alloys, parking sensors each end, a reversing camera, blind spot and lane change warnings, rear cross traffic alert, heated seats and mirrors, HID headlights and smart cornering lamps, along with power operation for both front seats. Little wonder it’s heavy. Optima doesn’t have any “buy-me” feature, other than its rakish styling. Brakes aside though, it has no great weaknesses either and a long and detailed spec list.