Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi

6 Dec, 2011 2:54pm Luke Madden

We drive the new Mondeo-rivalling Kia Optima, hoping to storm the family saloon class with its striking looks and value for money


With only one diesel model and no estate variant, Kia is only hoping to sell around 2,500 Optimas a year in the UK. That won’t be enough to worry Ford or Volkswagen but the Optima proves that Kia is capable of producing an executive model to compete with the best.
The Ford Mondeo, VW Passat and Toyota Avensis; all very capable cars but definitely not the most striking or exciting models on the road. Kia believes there’s space for something a little more daring in this segment so it’s introducing the Optima – a model that has already racked up over 200,000 sales elsewhere in the world. But can it continue that success here in the UK? 

It certainly has the looks to win people over. The Optima is longer, lower and wider than a Passat and it gives it a genuinely sporty profile, while the front end lends it a menacing look. 

The interior is well designed too. Admittedly, a few of the plastics feel cheaper than they do in some rivals but overall it feels extremely well put together and there are a few classy touches, like the light rings that surround the heater controls and the glossy wooden insert on the steering wheel rim. 

Thanks to a wheelbase that is 82mm longer than that of the VW Passat, the Optima boasts a huge amount of legroom in the rear – easily enough for tall adults – and a 505-litre boot. 

It also comes packed full of equipment, especially in the highest-spec model we drove. Lane keep assist, 18-inch alloys, full leather upholstery, sat-nav, a rear view camera and a 12-speaker stereo are all on the standard equipment list. We were told to expect this model to cost around £25,000, which is about as much as the most expensive Mondeo or Passat, so the Optima must deliver on the road. 

We’re driving the best-seller – a 1.7-litre diesel with 134bhp – but Kia will also offer a 168bhp 2.0-litre petrol from May and a hybrid with a total of 187bhp towards the end of 2012 – though this is unlikely to make it to the UK.  On the move, the diesel never feels that quick but performance is strong enough to accelerate the Optima from 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 125mph.

Fitted with stop-start as standard, Kia has managed to bring emissions down to 128g/km and fuel economy stands at 57.6mpg. 

Cars in this segment generally have to be good at motorway cruising and the Optima is no different. On the huge 18-inch wheels of our test car, there was occasionally a little too much vibration in the cabin but otherwise the ride is supple enough. The diesel engine is relatively hushed as well and can barely be heard at all when cruising at motorway speeds. 

Once off the motorway and on to twisty backroads, there’s not much body-roll through the bends but the front wheels tend to lose grip quite quickly. The steering is quick and responsive but is geared for ease of use rather than driver thrills so there’s not much feedback and it’s a bit too light. 

It's not the driver's choice, and it's not the most comfortable or the cheapest in this class but it has a wide range of positives that add up to make the Optima a genuine contender in this competitive segment. 

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25K, for a Kia?

This car's driving dynamics do not sound good enough to earn it a 4 star rating, especially at that price compared to its very capable rivals. Love the looks though.

25 thousand is a bit much for the model and not sure you're going to get much for the money.
If they price it lower it will sell better


I do like it, it reminds me of a Saab in many ways with the styling details of the bonnet and C pillar.

Bit expensive, but with the 7 year warranty a possible contender.

I agree £25k for a Kia is a lot. Looks great though...

Come on Kia,
25k for a bit of flash.
Just because your cars no longer look like a bread delivery van, don't think you can charge the same as the Europeans.
Depreciation is the worst thing of buying a car and i see no sign of Kia cars not hemoraging money as they have done in the past.

This is a great alternative to a Mundaneo which looses 9 grand in 3 years! and then your warranty is up.
The Kia would be my choice on looks alone,who cares if it does'nt drive as good,with a car this size does it matter.
If you want sporty buy a Focus,why does everyone think 'old school Kia' (in the past).New Kia's retain there value as good as any and some better mainly due to a great warranty see here.....
If you want to throw your money away buy a 'Euro' Merc'
U.S Optima Sales alone tell the story.

Lovely looking and highly speced, similar to the US models BUT they cost $25k so how come ours will be £25k even with exchange rates! Oh yes, rights right........ripe off UK

I'm sitting here with a Citroen C5, new shape with full specs, and am waiting for someone to come out with the goods on hybrid's of this sort of class.
No longer can I afford high consumption cars. I need a big one for business reasons and driving somewhere close to 30,000 miles a year I want something hybrid'ish with a really good consumption
Citroen seem to have ignored the less expensive models of their own top marques and instead are launching the DS5 which sounds very nice but for the money you'd probably shy away. Why not just do the hybrid over here Kia?
Why don't Citroen and others who have the technology already put in a car that is established already. I love the C5. I love Citroen but would readily move to any other manufacturer who produced the goods in a decent car that doesn't actually cost really excessive amounts of money.
I guess I'll have to keep looking as the options don't seem to extend to a good size car, preferably a tourer or estate car.
Nice try Kia, love the looks but hey, the price??????

This looks like it could have been the design for the next 9-5 if it (and Saab) had ever made it - even the dash is classic Saab!!!
Daewoo (pre-Chevrolet) took the design Fiat didn't want for the current Panda and turned it into the Matiz, I bet something similar has happened here...

I love the look of this car. Does remind me of a Saab including the dash layout. One other draw back on the car, does look kinda American-ish.
Still a great looking car but you know the sort of people who will own it will be the older generation who departs from their Honda Legend which they've had since new and been in the family for long time and with all the government taxes etc.

But if badges don't bother you then it will appeal to the person who doesn't like cars and just see cars as a work horse to take family to the coast of visit families.

But let me go back to the car, it's a really good looking car it really is, i was shocked when i saw the TV advert but didn't realise it was a KIA until a C'eed popped up!

I would happily own one I really would, like i would happily own a skoda now!

Any petrol head could not turn up their local with their mates when they arrive in company Audi's BMW's Vauxhall's (for the stationary sales Manager)

Price wise got to be just under the 20k mark to make it worth it's while. Plus 7 year warranty..........i'll wait 1/2 years when then come down in price or 2nd hand market, look on the bright side still would have about 5/6 years warranty left!!

It cost ten thousand pounds less, has more space, drives and rides well and the interior is classy. Why bother with this?

it looks really smart but for £25k i would rather buy a more powerful high spec low mileage nearly new Merc C220 cdi,or an EX demonstrator Superb elegance 170tdi.The 7year warranty is good on kia's but with most manufacturers you can extend the warranty for another 3years so giving you 6years cover.When Kia's start coming out of the 7year warranty in next few years,will their value crash compared to the german and japanese competition?

How can you compare this with a suberb that's one ugly dated looking car (prob' an old Passat) and just a grand cheaper,but would be a better choice than a Merc without RAC cover,
In WhatCars reliability test the top 3 were ...
Korean & Japanese,
Bottom 3 .....Range Rover & 2 Mercs.
Mock Kia at your peril the 4th largest will soon be in the top 3 .
And it seems for the same price the germans (Passat) & japanese (Accord) do have competition.

Seemingly, the European Financial crisis is affecting petrolheads too. Most respondents have referred to the purchase price and the warrantee and whilst both may be significant in context I cannot believe that these are the factors one should use to choose a new car. I am on my 51st and have never bought a car using such staid criteria - I have bought all 51 on emotion alone.
I have yet to experience the metal of this car, but to judge it on the pictures shown - I like every part of it. Here in Aus it is doing well and we like our cars to be paceful, graceful and rugged. I say well done Kia but for heavens-sake don't rest on your laurels, like the Europeans may have done.

The fact, armac31, that you think the Superb, 'is probably based on an old Passat' shows that you don't have a clue.

I paid £15.5k for mine six months ago (OTR price at that time 14.7k)

It's your money though...spend it as you like ...

I'll put the saved 10k to better use

I really like the styling of this Kia certainly makes some it's rivals look bland and ordinary. However £20,000 is abit steep for a badge like KIA and I don't think it will deter or sway Ford, Vauxhall, Peugeot or VW consumers. As others have mentioned above, the established European and American players can no longer be complacent or naive because the Koreans and Chinese will be making bigger inroads than ever before and this car demonstrates the progress Kia has made! I wanted to also highlight why Fiat UK doesn't sell cars in this sector because in it's other markets like Brazil, Fiat sells it's Linea and Siena saloons which are very good looking and desirable cars. I really think there's a gap in the UK market for alternative and different, value for money saloons.


In the USA he Optima has a 10 year 100,000 mile warranty and prices start at only U$21,000

This car is not worth £25,000

Key specs

* Price: from £20,000
* Engine: 1.7-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, 134bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* Economy: 57.6mpg
* CO2: 128g/km
* 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
* Top speed: 125mph
* On sale: January