Sunday, June 21, 2015


At the launch of the current Optima, Peter Schreyer, Kia's group president and chief design officer, described its new stylish looks as having the crispness of a fine Italian suit.
It's certainly stylish, well-cut and stands out from the crowd but, I'm sorry Peter, I think there's a few very famous Italian coachmakers out there that might not take kindly to that comparison.

But, what the Optima is, is a very good family saloon. It might not be quite as good as the new Volkswagen Passat or the new Mondeo but it offers good value for money, plenty of kit, ample comfort and space and it comes with Kia's impressive seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

The car was revised in 2014 in an attempt to make it more fun to drive and quieter at speed. Its distinctive styling was fiddled with only slightly – updated with revised LED daytime running lights, new alloy wheels and reshaped lower air intake. The front foglights – LED with the higher trim grades – adopt the love-it-or-hate-it 'ice cube' design first seen on the pro_cee'd GT.

Targeting the fleet and leasing industries, the Optima is available in the UK with only one engine, a 134bhp 1.7-litre diesel which can be mated with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox.

In manual mode it officially returns 57.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 128g/km. Over several hundred miles, I managed a creditable 40.8mpg.

And remember, the emissions figure translates to free road tax for the first year of ownership and an annual bill of £110 after that.

The six-speed automatic, which costs just over £1,500 more, can only manage 47.1mpg, according to Kia, and emissions leap to 158g/km, so road tax costs £70 a year more and you don't get a tax-free first year.

The Optima's trim levels must surely be the simplest in the market – just 1, 2 and 3. That's it.

With a starting price of £19,995, all models get alloy wheels, electronic stability control, driver, passenger and curtain airbags, active front-seat head restraints which minimise the risk of whiplash in an accident, and aircon as standard.

Now, the Mazda6 and the new Mondeo are certainly more dynamic and fun to drive but is that really what you're looking for in a large family saloon. I'm not really sure that it is…

The manual will accelerate from 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds and push on to a top speed of 125mph. The Optima handles well enough for any everyday driver, we already know it's fairly stylish and boy, is it comfortable.

Yes, despite Kia's claims that the new cabin is more than three decibels quieter due to new door seals, extra soundproofing and thicker carpets, the engine remains a little noisy at speed, and it could do with a little more torque for overtaking, but these are not major issues.

Inside the spacious cabin, there's a stylish dashboard which is delicately slanted towards the driver so all buttons and controls not already on the steering wheel are within easy reach. The panoramic sunroof on the 3 model I was driving also made it delightfully light and airy and all round vision was good.

The tapered bonnet did make it seem like you were sat almost right at the front of a long vehicle but a fully-adjustable seat and steering wheel made it easy for me to find a comfortable driving position.

As I've already hinted at, there's plenty of space in the front and in the back there seems like acres of head and leg room.

The boot size is not class-leading but at 505-litres it is usefully large and the back seats do fold flat and split 60:40 to add more versatility.

The Optima 2 adds larger alloys, a seven-inch touchscreen with sat nav, black leather upholstery, a reversing camera, heated front seats and an awesome 550w stereo which pumps fabulous sound through 12 speakers in eight different locations throughout the car, including a boot-mounted sub-woofer. At £22,895, it's almost certainly the pick of the bunch.

The 3 gets the aforementioned panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and start, mood lighting, an autonomous parking system – Smart Park Assist – and xenon headlights.

Standard on the top-grade Optimas are safety features such as a tyre pressure monitoring system, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Keeping Assist System and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

It's no Armani but I enjoyed the Optima a lot. It's certainly as well-made and as business-like as a two-piece from M&S.

And, as there's a newer version on the horizon, deals may well be available in the near future.

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