The Optima was Kia’s first real stab at a Mondeo or Passat rival.
Launched in the UK in 2010 in saloon guise only, it was sleek and stylish but sales failed to catch fire in the way they did for the company’s Sportage SUV.
Now Kia has launched a brand new Optima and this time it’s offering an estate version.
The latest model makes a very strong opening statement. Kia has sharpened up the styling even further, creating one of the prettiest family estate cars on sale today.
Only Mazda’s terrific looking 6 estate is better looking, and the Kia makes rivals like the Superb and Passat look positively dull in comparison.
One thing that doesn’t make as strong a first impression is the engine line up. There’s only the 1.7 litre diesel I drove and a hybrid powerplant to choose from, although a more powerful 200bhp+ GT version will join the line up soon.
The good news is the diesel engine ought to cut it for most buyers. With 139bhp, power is reasonable – 0-62mph comes up in under 10 seconds – and it returns an average of 64.2mpg, which is broadly in line with most rivals.
Emissions are 113g/km but that only really matters if you buy one in the next two weeks – as of April VED bands are set to change, meaning most buyers will pay a flat rate of £140 from the second year onwards.
The old model had an entry level version called the 1 but that has now been ditched and the latest Optima is available in 2, 3 or top spec GT-Line S trim levels. All models come with 17-inch alloys, a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav, reversing camera and dual-zone climate control.
I drove the mid-spec 3 version, which adds 18-inch alloys, a Lane Keep Assist system, eight-inch sat-nav screen and a 10-speaker, 590-Watt Harman Kardon sound system which sounds rather good.
Not having the GT-Line S model meant I missed out on a panoramic sunroof with electric blinds, and a smart key with a stop/start button.
I drove the estate model – named the Sportswagon – which commands a premium of £1,200 over the hatchback.
So what’s good and what’s bad about it? Well, it’s perfectly easy and pleasant to drive. The suspension is soft and soaks up bumps, while refinement at higher speeds is far from sublime but still perfectly fine. I drove from Dundee to Glasgow in my Optima and found it an eager dual carriageway mile-muncher.
It’s not as agile a car as a Mondeo but handling has been sharpened up and the Optima doesn’t mind a bend.
Prices look comparable to rivals like the Mondeo, Mazda 6 and VW Passat but the Optima has more standard equipment, making it better value for money. Factor in Kia’s seven-year, 100,000 mile warranty and the Optima looks an even smarter buy.
It’s roomy inside. There’s space for fully grown adults front and rear. At 552 litre the boot’s 30 litres bigger than a Mazda 6 Estate’s but if carrying capacity is essential look to the Skoda Superb, which has a mighty 660 litres.
There are some neat touches, like the false floor that can be used for hiding valuables from prying eyes or keeping muddy boots away from other gear.
The cabin doesn’t have the same quality and elegant layout as a Volkswagen but everything looks good, feels built to last and is easy to use.
The Optima is not a car I could fall in love with. It didn’t put a grin on my face every day. It did everything that I asked of it, however, and it’s hard to pinpoint any real flaws. It’s up against some tough opposition and, while not a clear category winner, it can hold its head high against its rivals.