Kia Optima vs Ford Mondeo vs Vauxhall Insignia

19 Mar, 2016 12:00pm

Kia’s stylish new Optima joins a family car class trying to hold back the SUV tide. But can it beat Ford and Vauxhall rivals?

Sales of conventional large family cars have suffered a hit over recent years, as more popular crossovers have taken the market by storm. But a core group of models continues to appeal to family and fleet buyers, offering acres of space in practical bodies, as well as plenty of equipment, at affordable prices.

The latest car to join this group is the new Kia Optima. It has striking looks, a better-quality finish than before and high-end technology that’s trickled down from the brand’s big Sorento SUV, and there’s also a 1.7-litre turbodiesel under the bonnet that promises to deliver decent everyday running costs.

Best family cars on the market

Despite the market being squashed by SUVs, competition is tough, so the Optima will have to face the latest Ford Mondeo, plus Vauxhall’s updated Insignia, which features the brand’s new 1.6-litre Whisper diesel engine.

On paper, both deliver efficiency to beat the Kia, and have the edge with their big boots and hatchback openings. Can the Optima saloon rise to the top with its new, more premium image? We get behind the wheel to find out.


Hatch vs saloon

Our two tests hatchbacks have a clear edge on practicality over the Optima saloon. Still, neither comes with a power tailgate as standard, and with the big boot doors opening so high, some owners might find them difficult to close again.

The Kia obviously doesn’t struggle here, but you’re more limited in terms of loading room.


These three cars all offer useful equipment and versatility on an affordable budget, but the Kia shows that you don’t have to sacrifice quality, either.

Both the Vauxhall and Ford’s cabins are acceptable in most areas, but small details let them down compared to the Optima.

Cost of ownership

There’s not much to split our group when it comes to kit or usability, so running costs could be a deciding factor with these value-focused models. As many will be run as company cars, it’s the cheaper, more efficient Insignia that comes out on top.


First place: Vauxhall Insignia

The Insignia only really stands out for its impressive efficiency, although it seals victory because of the way it combines a comfortable ride, decent performance and an acceptable amount of kit with a more affordable price. If you’re a private buyer, the woeful residuals might be a worry, but for business users, the Vauxhall provides the best all-round blend of attributes.

Second place: Kia Optima

It can’t match the Insignia’s CO2 emissions, which are crucial for company car users, but the Optima edges ahead of the Mondeo with its better quality, equipment and stronger residuals. Despite the saloon bodystyle, it still offers enough practicality, plus Kia’s seven-year warranty ensures it should be easy to live with.

Third place: Ford Mondeo

Poor fuel economy and a soggy chassis see the Ford finish last. It has lost its dynamic edge, and despite its advantage on paper, the larger engine didn’t perform as well. While the Mondeo has a slight edge when it comes to boot space, the extra room isn’t enough to put it ahead of its competitors. Quality is also lacking, but it isn’t cheap enough to justify it.

Other options in this category...

Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D Business Edition

Price: £23,155
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 141bhp

A more distinctive look, strong safety credentials and a neatly finished cabin make the new Avensis an appealing and individual choice. However, in a sector where CO2 emissions count, we’d expect less than 119g/km from this Business Edition. 

Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI SE Business

Price: £22,090
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 148bhp

With as much power as the Mondeo but in a sharper chassis, the Superb is great to drive. It doesn’t sacrifice space with a 625-litre boot and a refined, roomy cabin. SE Business trim offers all the kit you’re likely to need and emits 108g/km of CO2.


Vauxhall Insignia 1.6 CDTi Tech Line Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Zetec
On the road price/total as tested £22,424/£23,669 £23,495/£24,040 £23,095/£25,410
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £7,940/35.4% £10,399/44.3% £9,776/42.3%
Depreciation £14,484 £13,096 £13,319
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £760/£1,521 £938/£1,875 £876/£1,751
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £989/£1,649 £1,028/£1,714 £1,250/£2,083
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost 17/£590/A/£0 20/£610/B/£20 23/£610/B/£20
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service £149/£249/£149 £329 (3yrs) £590 (3yrs)
Length/wheelbase 4,842/2,737mm 4,855/2,805mm 4,871/2,850mm
Height/width 1,498/1,856mm 1,465/1,860mm 1,482/1,852mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,598cc 4cyl in-line/1,685cc 4cyl in-line/1,997cc
Peak power/revs  134/3,500 bhp/rpm 139/4,000 bhp/rpm 148/3,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  320/2,000 Nm/rpm 340/1,750 Nm/rpm 370/2,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission  6-spd man/fwd 6-spd man/fwd 6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 70 litres/repair kit 70 litres/space saver 60 litres/£100
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 530/1,470 litres 510 litres/N/A 541/1,437 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,538/582/1,800kg 1,590/480/1,800kg 1,578/682/2,000kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient 11.4 metres/N/A 10.9 metres/0.29Cd 11.5 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 7yrs (100,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers 20,000 (1yr)/404 20,000 (1yr)/170  18,000 (2yrs)/781 
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 30th/19th 19th/14th 25th/26th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars 94/79/40/5 (2009) 89/86/67/5 (2015) 86/82/66/5 (2014)
0-60/30-70mph 9.9/9.5 secs 9.5/9.6 secs 10.1/9.0 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 3.9/5.7 secs 3.8/5.8 secs 4.5/7.0 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 7.7/11.0 secs 8.8/15.7 secs 10.1/14.4 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  130mph/2,000rpm 121mph/1,700rpm 134mph/1,950rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  50.2/31.1/9.9m 48.5/33.0/10.0m 45.8/32.2/9.7m
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range 55.7/12.2/858 miles 53.6/11.8/825 miles 44.1/9.7/582 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  62.8/85.6/74.3mpg 55.4/76.3/67.3mpg 58.9/74.3/67.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  13.8/18.8/16.3mpl 12.2/16.8/14.8mpl 13.0/16.3/14.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 136/99g/km/17% 141/110g/km/20% 172/109g/km/19%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Six/yes/£450/£300 Six/yes/yes/yes Seven/y/£450/£250
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise control £1,645/yes/yes £1,400/yes/yes £1,500/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seats Yes/£1,045/£500* Yes/no/yes Yes/no/£300*
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go £545/£890**/£395 £545/yes/no £545/no/£400
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes