The decision to leave out the 1.6-litre turbo - which is coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission - appears to be due to local positioning and weakening demand in the medium-car segment.
Kia Australia’s head of public relations, Kevin Hepworth, confirmed the car’s absence from Australia.
“It wouldn’t make sense to put a 1.6 [litre] that has an equivalency [in terms of relative power and price] with your 2.4 [litre].” Hepworth told CarAdvice at the New York auto show.
“You need to put a step up if you’re going to have a model line where your high spec vehicle has the turbo and new technology engine, there’s no point having it with equal or less performance than your lower range car.”
The 1.6-litre turbo has 133kW of power and 264Nm of torque against the 2.4's 138kW and 241Nm.
In North America, where the Optima is the best selling Kia with over 160,000 units sold in 2014 (compared with 1274 for Australia), the smaller-capacity turbocharged vehicle itself is posing a challenge.
Kia Motors America vice president of product planning, Orth Hedrick, said there has been plenty of internal discussion around how to position the product in the lineup.
“We are going to position the 1.6 as an eco play, for someone who is willing to spend the premium to get a better [fuel] economy and maybe doesn’t necessarily want to go to a hybrid.” Hedrick said.
In North America, the 1.6-litre turbo will be placed under the 2.0-litre turbo, which Australia is getting, and slightly higher than the 2.4-litre naturally aspirated which sits alongside the hybrid.
Australia also misses out on the Optima hybrid due to minimal demand.
An upscaled version of this 1.6-litre turbo engine already serves in the Hyundai Veloster Turbo and Kia Pro_Cee'd GT in Australia, albeit with a standard six-speed automatic instead of a dual-clutch transmission (which is used in the naturally-aspirated Veloster).
Would the 1.6-litre Kia Optima work in Australia if it was priced alongside or slightly higher than the 2.4-litre naturally aspirated model?