Kia has really pulled its socks up in recent years and now, under former Audi design chief Peter Schreyer, they’re producing some of the best looking cars around.
The Optima is its first credible entry into the D segment dominated by Ford’s Mondeo, and replaces the Magentis, a car so awful that even Kia’s official Optima press pack describes it as having ”no credibility whatsoever.”
It goes on sale on February 1, with prices starting at £19,595. Its trump card isn’t exactly kept up its sleeve. The Optima is beautiful enough to stand out in a market segment dominated by very dull looking cars.
Kia make no bones that they’re gunning for the company car market, and that’s one of the reasons the Optima is only available as a diesel in the UK.
The 1.7 litre unit develops 134 bhp, enough to take it from 0-62 in 10.2 seconds. It’s not startlingly fast but it’s speedy enough and has plenty of oomph from low range.
It’ll achieve 57.6mpg and emits 128g/km, making it economical to run as a private or company car.
Although not in the league of fancy double clutch units found in VW, BMW and others, the automatic box is surprisingly smooth although it extends the 0-62mph time by 1.3 seconds, increases fuel consumption to 46.1mpg and emissions to 158g/km, putting it in a more expensive VED bracket.
The interior doesn’t have quite the same design flair as the exterior but it’s modern and well laid out.
More importantly, there’s a ton of space. Leg and head room front and back is exceptional, and the boot holds an excellent 505 litres. Nothing short of the real-life Tardis that is Skoda’s Superb can beat it for space.
The Optima comes in Kia’s familiar 1, 2 and 3 trim levels, but from midrange onwards there are Luxe and Tech versions.
All Optimas have (very smart) alloy wheels, air con, daytime running LED lights, leather steering wheel, Bluetooth with voice recognition, wheel-mounted stereo controls and cruise control.
Higher grades start to bring in features like leather seats, parking assist system, 7” sat nav screen, sunroof and so on.
There’s also the option of a 550 watt Infinity sound system, which sounds better than any stereo ever before fitted to a Kia and should keep company car man happily tapping his feet to Steve Wright’s oldies of an afternoon.
As is the case with all their cars, the Optima comes with Kia’s industry leading seven-year/100,000 mile warranty, which can be transferred to subsequent owners.
As a driver’s car, the Optima falls down but not that badly. It can’t match the Mondeo in terms of grip, steering feedback, or agility. Nor does it have the Mondeo’s magic, motorway munching ride.
Not being able to match the exceptional Mondeo is not a terminal failing though, and I’d judge it every bit the equal of Vauxhall’s Insignia when it comes to driver dynamics.
It’s not the best car Kia produce that honour goes to the Scottish Car of the Year winning Sportage but it is another great effort from a company that’s finally got its eye on the ball.See the extended Motoring section every Saturday in the new compact Courier