Kia Optima review
The Kia Optima is a stylish saloon that offers plenty of kit and is great to drive, too
The Kia Optima family saloon is a sister model of the Hyundai i40. It's positioned as a rival to big-selling models such as the Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb and Vauxhall Insignia, promising a blend of smart design and reasonable running costs. All versions of the Optima are well equipped, with 16-inch alloy wheels and Bluetooth connectivity fitted as standard across the range. And like all Kias, you get the reassurance of a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
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Both the Kia Optima and its Hyundai i40 are among the most strikingly styled large saloon cars on the market. We feel the Optima is the better-looking of the two, due to its neat single-frame grille, angular LED lights and Jaguar-like rear end. Inside, a logically laid-out dashboard boasting some high-quality switchgear gives the cabin an upmarket feel. Four specification levels are offered: 1, 2 Luxe, 2 Tech and 3. Entry-level 1 has 16-inch alloys, tinted windows, front and rear fog lights, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port. Moving up the range gets you larger 18-inch wheels, automatically activated windscreen wipers and lights, a panoramic sunroof and dual-zone air-conditioning. The top-of-the range Optima 3 includes such luxury options as xenon headlamps, ambient interior lighting, full black leather upholstery and a seven-inch touchscreen satellite-navigation system. For the facelifted car, the front seats have been redesigned with bigger bolsters, though they still lack proper support.
The 1.7-litre diesel engine is the only engine option in the range. You can pair it with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, and with 134bhp and 325Nm of torque, performance is brisk, once you've conquered a deep trough of turbo lag. The Optima can cover 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds and go on to a top speed of 125mph. Sadly it's no fun once you've picked up speed, with light and vague steering, a notchy gearshift and a chassis that's nowhere near as much fun to drive as a Ford Mondeo or Mazda 6. It also rides a bit harshly and is less refined at motorway speeds.
The Optima's Hyundai i40 sister model was given a five-star crash-test rating by Euro NCAP, and scored 92 per cent for adult occupant protection. Standard safety equipment comprises ABS, ESP as well as front, side and curtain airbags for both driver and passenger. This is still a relatively new car, so long-term reliability isn't clear just yet, but Kias generally do well here. The brand was placed 12th out of 30 in our Driver Power 2012 survey and like all Kias, the Optima boasts a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
With a 505-litre boot, the Optima is reasonably practical, but it loses out to its sister model the Hyundai i40 (525 litres) and rival the Skoda Superb (565 litres) for outright carrying capacity. The rear seats fold down with one touch, but the bulkhead between the boot and cabin is awkwardly shaped and the boot itself isn't high enough to carry unusually shaped items. A longer wheelbase than the i40 gives the Optima plenty of rear-seat legroom, while a higher seating position gives the driver better visibility. There's no shortage of interior storage space, either: you get a chilled glovebox, large bottle holders and a handy lidded compartment in the centre console for odds and ends.
A standard stop-start system helps the diesel Optima return average fuel consumption of 57.6mpg and emit 128g/km of CO2. Aside from the environmental benefits, these figures also mean a low tax bill for both private and company car drivers. Be aware that choosing an automatic gearbox will have a significant impact on running costs. Figures for this transmission are 47.1mpg economy and 158g/km emissions.