"The Optima is Kia's first model in the saloon segment that can battle it out with the best thanks to its bold looks and well-rounded drive."
The Kia Optima is an attempt to introduce something a little more daring to a class of the market that includes dull but worthy models like the Toyota Avensis. The bold looks and well appointed cabin will draw some attention, while the car also comes equipped with a 1.7-litre diesel engine that provides a good balance between performance and running costs. An eco-friendly hybrid model will appear in showrooms later in 2012, too.
When the Optima went on sale in January 2012, it came only with a 1.7-litre diesel engine producing 134bhp. A 2.0-litre petrol car and a hybrid with 187bhp will become available later in 2012. We’ve only driven the diesel and while it's not especially quick – with a 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds – it feels brisk enough and is quiet on the move. The handling isn’t quite a match for the Ford Mondeo, yet there's no body roll in corners and the steering is responsive. It's not the driver's choice, but is a fantastic all-rounder.
Kia claims that the Optima leads the class on legroom for rear passengers and headroom for those in the front – the former is down to the fact that the car's wheelbase is 82mm longer than that of a VW Passat. The suspension is also well judged, allowing everyday lumps and bumps to be soaked up easily. On large 18-inch wheels there are more vibrations transmitted to the driver than with the smaller alloy wheels.
The Optima has been on sale elsewhere in the world since 2009 and there have been no major reliability issues yet. To provide even more peace of mind, Kia offers a seven-year warranty and this can even be passed on to new owners if the car is sold. Euro NCAP hasn’t yet crash-tested the Optima, but in America it has been awarded the top score for crash safety.
The boot isn’t the largest in this class, but with 505 litres of space buyers won’t often be left wishing for more. When more room is needed, the rear seats fold down flat to liberate more space and the process is made easy with one-touch switches in the boot.
Value for money
The entry-level 1 model comes with a generous amount of equipment for its £19,595 price tag. The list includes cruise control, climate control, alloy wheels and Bluetooth. More expensive 2 models feature part-leather trim, electrically adjustable heated seats and a reversing camera.
The 1.7-litre diesel is the most efficient and cheapest version to run. When paired with the six-speed manual gearbox it emits 128g/km of CO2 and can return 57.6mpg. The six-speed automatic box pushes up the Road Tax bill and increases fuel costs too.