Kia has a habit of carrying out light-handed facelifts – the Sportage, Sorento and now the Kia Optima have all survived mid-life tweaks without dramatic changes. But when the original product looked as sharp as the Optima – Kia’s rival to the Ford Mondeo – who cares?
New for 2014 are Cee’d GT-style ‘ice cube’ LED lights, revised bumpers and new wheel designs. Although you get typically generous equipment and the brand’s unbeatable seven-year warranty, the Optima’s progressive looks are at odds with a driving experience that’s very old-school Kia.
The steering has no weight whatsoever and an inconsistent self-centring elasticity, while there’s a notchy manual gearchange with a tacky plastic lever, plus a squidgy response from all three pedals. The ride is soft, so as a result body control is far from dynamic in bends. Should that matter? As the Optima is battling for sales with entertaining machines like the Mondeo and Mazda 6, we’d have to say it does.
The engine’s a mixed bag, which is a real handicap given it’s the only one to choose from. It’s Kia’s familiar 1.7-litre turbodiesel, delivering 134bhp and 325Nm. Wait for the turbo to spin up and there’s adequate acceleration from a standstill, but in-gear punch at motorway speeds leaves much to be desired, as that maximum torque figure only lasts between 2,000rpm and 2,500rpm. There was also enough vibration from the ageing engine to rattle the dubious imitation wood trim of our Optima 2 test car.
Occupying the middle ground between the entry-level Optima 1 and range-topping 3, the 2 offers a lot of kit for £21,895. Stylish 18-inch alloys complement the clean-cut bodywork, but the well equipped, spacious cabin can’t match newer Kias for material quality.
However, seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, heated leather seats, a reversing camera and a whopping 12-speaker sound system are all fitted as standard.