From £18,945
No benchmark, but comfortable and well-judged. Hybrid powertrain best left in the US

Our Verdict

Kia Optima

The Kia Optima has looks, practicality and value on its side. But in a class of talented models, it is an also-ran.

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14 September 2011

What is it?

A US-spec version of the Kia Optima, which we will see in UK showrooms in January next year featuring a 1.7-litre CRDi motor rather than the 2.4-litre petrol-electric hybrid in this car.

Kia hasn’t historically done very well in the Mondeo market. In fact, they sold one example of the archaic and best-forgotten Magentis last year, so it’s about time that the Korean giant brought out a rather more competitive model, and this is it.

What’s it like?

Initial impressions prove promising, though frankly it’s a good choice on Kia’s part to leave the hybrid powertrain in the US. With the 2.4-litre petrol motor tested here the maximum power combined reaches 205bhp and 195lb ft, which is sent through a six-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels.

But it simply doesn’t feel like it delivers that level of power, responding quickly enough at lower speeds but certainly not with the sort of energy you might expect. To add to this, the auto ‘box works effectively enough when just cruising but is never as intuitive or seamless as the best automatics currently available. Emissions and economy are also unimpressive.

What is more likeable is the Optima itself. It’s a comfortable place to cover miles, aided by decent space and visibility levels, and reasonably effective damping that soaks up the worst of the road’s imperfections. Equally, all the major controls are well weighted and intuitive. Step-off is gradual and easy to judge, the steering is as responsive as you want it to be, and whilst the brakes can take a little familiarisation they’re effective and offer just about enough feel.

Essentially, the Optima does not have the same level of comprehensive ability and appeal that some of Kia’s recent and finest cars have achieved, nor the all-round brilliance that the best rivals offer. It will need a price incentive to make sense – particularly in the fleet market that is expected to account for 80 per cent of the sales. Given that the diesel-only UK range is likely to start at just under £20k it seems that Kia came to the same conclusion.

Should I buy one?

It’s impossible to make a definitive verdict given how different this American car is from the diesel-only UK model. Suffice to say the world of family saloons is not about to be dramatically changed by the Optima, but it is a sleek-looking thing with healthy amounts of usability and comfort. For many buyers, that will be enough.

Kia Optima Hybrid


Price: NA; Top speed: 120mph (est); 0-62mph 8.5sec (est); Economy 48.7mpg; Co2 136g/km; Kerb weight 1583kg; Engine type 2359cc, 4cyl, petrol plus electric motor; Power 205bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 195lb ft at 4250rpm; Gearbox 6-speed auto

Join the debate

Comments
15

20 September 2011

Not sure there is much point in testing this as the difference between the Uk market diesel and the US market hybrid will be too great to justify any real comparison..

20 September 2011

Not a bad looking motor- detailing too fussy (but that's a common issue these days) and the interior looks like an update to the Volvo S60/V70, especially the dashboard. The c-pillar is unusual but not altogether successful.

None of that matters in UK- it'll live or die on it's pricing.

20 September 2011

Smart enough and if the underpinnings are related to the i40 it should be quite a competent machine. Just hope they tweek the suspension a little to keep it in line with Kia's new "sporty" image.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

20 September 2011

[quote TegTypeR]Smart enough and if the underpinnings are related to the i40 it should be quite a competent machine[/quote] it's pretty much all the same under the skin I think teg.

20 September 2011

Only sold one last year - I quite like the sound of that. having something brand new, but unique appeals somehow. Easier to find in a car park, for example

DKW

20 September 2011

I love how we've managed to keep it a secret all these years that it's possible to use something other than grey plastic for a fascia.

20 September 2011

I'm usually not that impressed by Kia's styling efforts, finding them very derivative, if not outright copycats of bits of other makes. But this Optima looks really handsome and quite distinctive.

The ex-VW designer is obviously making an impact. I wouldn't buy the hybrid though. Best wait for the diesels.

20 September 2011

stick a petrol in it or larger diesel and i would buy - but i don't fancy a 1.7 derv.

Drove a kia forte when we hired one in usa and tbh I was impressed - very comfortable for the 2600 miles we did in two weeks. Yes dash wasn't the best not the most sexy thing to look at either - but it was perfect for our trip. Handling was fine in the mountain roads of yosemite.

Only problem was the 2.4 engine we had was approx 180 bhp - so wasn't quick and did struggle a bit but I guess the added weight in this one makes this car similar in speed.

20 September 2011

[quote TegTypeR]Just hope they tweek the suspension a little to keep it in line with Kia's new "sporty" image[/quote]

To be honest, I'd prefer it to be less sporty, and more honest about itself, by providing a nice and smooth ride. I can see the appeal of it with a sporty drive, but I'd much prefer to waft in the Optima than race around in it.

That said, I agree with you, Teg, that it should be a very complete car, and what with the i40 underpinnings, it may have some of the mainstream models quaking in their boots.

As a cheaper alternative to the Mondeo, Insignia, Passat, etc, I think it would make most sense with a low spec and an entry level petrol engine.

20 September 2011

[quote TegTypeR]Just hope they tweek the suspension a little to keep it in line with Kia's new "sporty" image[/quote]

To be honest, I'd prefer it to be less sporty, and more honest about itself, by providing a nice and smooth ride. I can see the appeal of it with a sporty drive, but I'd much prefer to waft in the Optima than race around in it.

That said, I agree with you, Teg, that it should be a very complete car, and what with the i40 underpinnings, it may have some of the mainstream models quaking in their boots.

As a cheaper alternative to the Mondeo, Insignia, Passat, etc, I think it would make most sense with a low spec and an entry level petrol engine.

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