With motorway-bound businessmen at the core of the car’s customer base, the quality of its interior is of paramount importance. The Volkswagen Group (with the VW Passat and Skoda Superb) arguably sets the standard in both form and function, and that high mark is the first hurdle at which Kia falls with the Optima.
Practically, it is fine. The car’s dimensions are too generous for it to feel anything less than spacious, and although the cockpit-inspired dashboard brings the unfortunate Saab 9-5 to mind, the design is logical and inoffensive. Centre stage in the likely best seller (the 2 Tech tested here) is a seven-inch touchscreen that encompasses sat-nav, reversing camera display and various media functions – and that’s all fine, too.
The issues arise when a congestion-stalled driver takes the time to study the details or run a free hand over the trim. All too often, the eyes and fingers are chaffed, abraded or gently offended by inferior materials or an incongruous finish. Close inspection will reveal the economising in any D-segment model, but the Optima is needlessly hindered by elementary mistakes.
USB connectivity and 12V power sockets are welcome additions, but without tucking them away in the centre console they become as visually appealing as the back of a desktop PC. The saloon doesn’t get an electronic handbrake; that’s not a problem, but using a conventional handle that wouldn’t have cut the mustard in Daewoo’s parts bin most certainly is.
Faced with such criticism, most hardened Kia fans will point to the bountiful kit list – eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone air-con, 12-speaker stereo, Bluetooth and parking sensors are all standard in the test model – and the robust build quality. But for the neutral observer well acquainted with the competition, the Optima’s impression of a bargain is likely to smack a little too smartly of the basement.