In the UK at least we seem to have fallen out of love with saloon cars, fixated as we are with hatchbacks, crossovers and the like. That’s a shame because, if a great gaping boot access isn’t a priority in your life then you could be missing out. This Kia Optima saloon is a case in point.
On The Outside
From humble origins Kia have built a great track record in quality, value for money motors and the Optima is no exception. It is a handsome and extremely well equipped car plus, as ever, it comes with the estimable seven year warranty. See the detailed specification below. I don’t need to describe it because it’s right there in the images.
The four-door saloon car sector is small but competitive. Prices are keen across the board. The Kia Optima 1.7L CRDi ‘3’ ISG, priced at £23,495, competes well against the likes of, for example, the rather staid VW Passat and the Ford Mondeo – which has become bloated and fat like an ageing rep – and scores highly in the beauty pageant race with perhaps only the Mazda 6 getting top honours in the looks department.
Under The Bonnet
At the time of writing the Kia Optima is only available with an underwhelming 1.7L diesel engine. It’s okay, but lacks sparkle and that extra bit of shove that makes driving enjoyable. Badged as ‘ECOdynamics’, the emphasis is clearly on economy and low emissions (110g/km). Whilst acceleration is perfectly adequate, the engine needs to be worked hard if you want to crack on but quickly runs out of puff so you might just as well keep an eye on the dashboard readout and drive frugally.
The official economy is given as 67.3mpg and I can see that figure might well be approachable if not actually achievable under real-world conditions. I easily achieved 45+mpg without trying.
I was going to demand the provision of a petrol engine in the range but, like life in general, Kia are way ahead of me. The news is the imminent arrival of a GT version of the Optima, powered by a new 242bhp, 260lb ft 2.0L turbo petrol engine. There’s also a plug-in hybrid and an estate version in the pipeline. The station-wagon could well attract an audience thanks to the extra load space.
On The Inside
The cabin is typically Kia, with loads of kit, safety and otherwise, a generous touchscreen dominating a smart and simple looking dash. Quality is impressive with attractive soft-touch plastics. No cow-hide but the seats are extremely comfortable in a mix of cloth and faux-leather. A feature I especially liked was the electrically powered driver’s seat which lowers itself from the set position when the door is opened. This helped with shifting my bulk out of the motor.
There’s lot of nice touches like that and hints of bright metal lift the interior. Rear seat passengers can stretch out, spread-eagle even, such is the amount of legroom in the back. The boot lid is light and wide for easy access. There’s a proper space-saver spare too. The rear seats fold 60:40 and the boot also features handy hooks and a luggage net. Very versatile for a saloon car.
On The Road
If I’m honest, the Kia Optima is not that exciting to drive. With strong competition like the plump but driver-focused Ford Mondeo and the sharp Mazda 6, it would have to go some but that is not really its forté.
Ride quality is exceptionally good and is something of a highlight. The car coped well over most road surfaces but there’s some body lean when cornering. Although it isn’t dynamic enough for jaded drivers like me, many people will be happy with the Optima thanks to a high level of comfort and that diesel-sipping engine. Personally, I’m looking forward to the petrol GT and hope that it won’t just be a case of sticking a lively motor into the existing car. For a more exciting drive the handling will need some fettling.
The Kia Optima makes a good alternative to the usual suspects for our friends in the business community who spend their lives on the road. It is tax-friendly although we never know what the Chancellor has up his sleeve at any one time to rake in even more cash from we poor, benighted motorists.
I found much to like with this car and am slightly surprised that it hasn’t caught the eye of the public in the UK. I guess we are so hatchback-focused that saloons don’t really get a look in, which is a shame. The Kia Optima is without doubt a bit of a looker, it’s comfortable, but it just isn’t as involving as some of us might like. It is very competent, inexpensive to run and well worthy of consideration. I just feel there’s an even better motor inside trying to get out. Geoff Maxted