WHAT IS IT?
Kia calls this the most significant product they’ve launched in recent years. Its last competitor was the left-field and incredibly dull Magentis – a car that would never have worried Ford or Volkswagen. But Kia is on the prowl to win some D-segment sales with the Optima and aims to stick its stake into the fleet market. A very modest 1,500 units are expected to sell in 2012, though.
WHAT’S UNDER THE BONNET?
Surprisingly for a D-segment car, there’s only one engine choice. It’s the 1.7-litre diesel unit which panders to the fleet market. It comes with 134bhp while returning an impressive 57.6mpg and emits 128g/km of CO2. Performance is modest and when fitted with the six-speed manual, progress can be muted by bad turbo-lag. However, the six-speed auto is smoother. Stop/start comes as standard and is generally unobtrusive.
Following on from the rest of the Kia range, the Optima receives 1, 2 and 3 trim designations. However, there are not three models but four – ‘2’ has two specs, namely ‘Luxe’ and ‘Tech’. The line-up starts at £19,595 which has a more-than-adequate equipment list of alloys, electric folding mirrors, leather steering wheel and Bluetooth. The range tops out at £25,995 for the ‘3’ auto, but the predicted best-seller is the ‘2’ tech at £21,695.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
The Optima has been designed with the motorway in mind rather than a flowing B-road. On the motorway it’s hushed and smooth, but on a country road the front end can easily lose grip and the steering isn’t the most direct. Having said that, the ride on pot-holed roads is impressive and there’s very little body-roll for such a large car – it’s 82mm longer than a Passat.
WHAT DO THE PRESS THINK OF IT?
Auto Express was impressed saying ‘it’s a genuine competitor in this class’ while Autocar said ‘it’s an excellent effort, fully able to compete with Europe’s best’.
WHAT DO WE THINK OF IT?
Much like Kia is doing with every car it replaces, customers are sure to forget its past effort in the D-segment. The Optima is a very good car and more than lives up to Kia’s rejuvenation in the UK. It’ll win customers with the way it looks, its well-built interior, and pleasing levels of equipment. With just 1,500 units to play with, Kia could shift those easily and there might be a few queues at dealers. We understand the reasoning behind the one engine decision – it makes sense financially for Kia and for the UK fleet market – but we would like to have seen just a slightly wider variety of powerplants.