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Car group tests

Kia Optima vs Ford Mondeo vs Vauxhall Insignia

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.

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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.

Head-to-head

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.

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

Quality

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.

Verdict

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: £23,155Engine: 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: £22,090Engine: 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.

Figures

 Vauxhall Insignia 1.6 CDTi Tech LineKia Optima 3 1.7 CRDiFord 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/cost17/£590/A/£020/£610/B/£2023/£610/B/£20
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£149/£249/£149£329 (3yrs)£590 (3yrs)
    
Length/wheelbase4,842/2,737mm4,855/2,805mm4,871/2,850mm
Height/width1,498/1,856mm1,465/1,860mm1,482/1,852mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,598cc4cyl in-line/1,685cc4cyl in-line/1,997cc
Peak power/revs 134/3,500 bhp/rpm139/4,000 bhp/rpm148/3,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 320/2,000 Nm/rpm340/1,750 Nm/rpm370/2,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
    
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel70 litres/repair kit70 litres/space saver60 litres/£100
Boot capacity (seats up/down)530/1,470 litres510 litres/N/A541/1,437 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,538/582/1,800kg1,590/480/1,800kg1,578/682/2,000kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.4 metres/N/A10.9 metres/0.29Cd11.5 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr7yrs (100,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers20,000 (1yr)/40420,000 (1yr)/170 18,000 (2yrs)/781 
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.30th/19th19th/14th25th/26th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars94/79/40/5 (2009)89/86/67/5 (2015)86/82/66/5 (2014)
    
0-60/30-70mph9.9/9.5 secs9.5/9.6 secs10.1/9.0 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.9/5.7 secs3.8/5.8 secs4.5/7.0 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th7.7/11.0 secs8.8/15.7 secs10.1/14.4 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 130mph/2,000rpm121mph/1,700rpm134mph/1,950rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 50.2/31.1/9.9m48.5/33.0/10.0m45.8/32.2/9.7m
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range55.7/12.2/858 miles53.6/11.8/825 miles44.1/9.7/582 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 62.8/85.6/74.3mpg55.4/76.3/67.3mpg58.9/74.3/67.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 13.8/18.8/16.3mpl12.2/16.8/14.8mpl13.0/16.3/14.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket136/99g/km/17%141/110g/km/20%172/109g/km/19%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/£450/£300Six/yes/yes/yesSeven/y/£450/£250
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise control£1,645/yes/yes£1,400/yes/yes£1,500/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/£1,045/£500*Yes/no/yesYes/no/£300*
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£545/£890**/£395£545/yes/no£545/no/£400
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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