From £18,945
Kia is making an assault on mainstream saloon territory with its new Magentis. Although much better, there's plenty of room for improvement too.

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.

  • First Drive

    Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi

    Handsome, spacious, well-priced Kia Optima is easily good enough to measure up – in the right spec
  • First Drive

    Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi

    The Kia Optima blends high equipment and high value in a roomy, fine-looking package, but manual diesel isn't always on the case
21 February 2006

What's new? Everything. Kia’s three-box saloon still has oodles of standard specification but now wears a prettier, European influenced body. And at last, there is a diesel engine on offer. 2.0-litre and 2.8-litre V6 petrol versions will be available from June; the much anticipated 2.0-litre CRD common rail unit will follow one month later. The Magentis’ price will also be new - expect the introductory 2.0-litre petrol and diesel to start from around £14,500. That’s a substantial 35% hike over the previous entry-level Magentis, but it’s designed to move Kia away from its cheap car image so it can take on traditional fleet favourites like the Ford Mondeo. There will be two trim levels available, LX and the higher specification EX, though both will receive ABS, ESP, traction control, electric windows and air conditioning.What's it like? Average, although it is a definite improvement on the previous Magentis. The diesel option will now increase appeal beyond the retail sector, but the mini-cab faithful will still be attracted by the even bigger interior, thanks to an extra 20mm in the wheelbase and 70mm gain in height. It’s a smarter place to sit now too, though judging by the nastiness of the cloth seats, the leather pack is essential. Wind noise, particularly around the A-pillars, and diesel clatter is well suppressed, the engine delivering its power in a linear fashion but otherwise performing with average ability. Unfortunately, approach anything that resembles a corner and you feel the body flex, pitch and roll. The sensation is exaggerated by the soft suspension set-up and lack of lateral support in the driver’s seat. Combined with poor steering feel, this highlights the car’s lack of dynamic ability against new rivals such as the Mondeo or Mazda 6. Should I buy one? It’s not a bad car; just an uninspiring one that is wearing the wrong price. Kia is a fast-moving manufacturer, investing heavily in R&D every year and constantly renewing their models in an expensive game of technological catch-up. Though attempting to climb the social ladder is a bold and desirable move for any car company, for now Kia should adhere to its traditional mantra of cheap cars and plentiful specification.Jon Quirk

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