The usual place to start with the Kia Opirus is the front.
Followed by a look around the sides and the back. Most of what is said or thought about the Opirus hinges on its looks (the E-class lights and unfortunate grille) and that it’s no match for anything except a rusted-out E-class on concrete blocks.
Such vehicles are Rorschach tests for automotive journalists, aren’t they? The lady protests too much, I say. The car is not assessed very charitably. At least that’s the view on this side of the mid-ocean ridge. The US press gave the Opirus quite warm reviews.
While I won’t say the Opirus is especially excellent it is not especially bad. And I also like the fact these cars exist (like XG350 I didn’t snap last month). Not everyone wants the same executive car as everyone else. Not everyone wants to pay more for a base model 2-litre diesel when you can get a 3.5 or 3.8 V6 instead. Not many do either. Nearly none. We can’t pay too much and claim that firm residuals make up for it all.
Two fat engines. That’s all Kia offered with this body, the idea being the time-worn formula of more car for less money. Such is the weird binary nature of car sales you either rake the table or sell nearly nothing. The ‘more for less’ pitch doesn’t work, as I said, making a mockery of the model of the economic-minded man or woman. You’d think that, all things considered, a low-base price, more kit and the prospect of a decade of comfy motoring would be sufficient to woo 4% of Mercedes buyers out of their habitual groove. Or even to convince 6.3% of Ford/Opel/Renault buyers to trade up from the 1.8 C-D class car to the realms of crypto-near-luxury.
It doesn’t work like that in Europe where a limited engine range is a bad strategy. This car needed a 2.0 litre diesel and a new grille (just the shiny bits) and then it might have stood a chance.
Leaving aside my second-guessing of the market, personally I really like this car probably because it’s a munter. I like the grey velour trim and the odd mix of influences. I also like austere good taste too (Peugeot 406 in black). For which do I go for were I to force myself to choose between a grey over grey Mondeo/Vectra/Accord or this grey over grey beauty? Well, I think I find myself thinking the Opirus would be a bit of fun and as much of a statement as a red Lamborghini. Some might say the statement was ‘I am an idiot’. You have to be thick-skinned or indifferent if you go for one of these. It says confident but hangs a question mark over the subject of the confidence.
AutoExpress took a rather charitable view in 2003: “Big things are happening at Kia, and the Opirus successfully delivers luxury and comfort on a budget. It may not be the most dynamically capable, but the ride is great for long distances, and the cabin’s a pleasant place to be. Unfortunately, no right-hand-drive cars are in the pipeline, but the Opirus shows what Kia can do.” And they liked the interior: “It’s inside that the Opirus really scores, though, where it offers new levels of luxury and quality for the firm. Buyers want for nothing, with the usual sound system in the front complemented by a centre console in the rear that features a separate television and CD player.”
Road and Track’s review headlines the features and quality. And note “the quality” because if the styling took another generation or two to get right, Kia’s management were spot-cut on the quality topic early on. And today they are right up there, challenging the main marques and (through Hyundai) throwing bags of gloves down in front of Lincoln.
Caranddriver (reviewing the vehicle under its Amanti name) liked the comfort. This vehicle then is very much one of the latter-day barges, driven to exinction like a mammoth hounded into a stake pit by reviewers’ insistance on handling above all. Yes, the reviews were kind about the ride but I think so many other articles create a consensus that liking a soft riding car is almost a reportable offence. Only Rolls-Royce owners are let away with that proclivity.