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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

In case there was any doubt that Kia intends those legs to belong to white-collar workers, it has opted to dispense with the petrol engines and hybrid version in the UK altogether and is offering the Optima with its downsized diesel motor only, mated to either a six-speed manual or optional automatic. The four-cylinder 1.7 CRDi engine made its debut in the Sportage, but the saloon gets the more powerful 134bhp version already seen in the Hyundai i40.

Common-rail injection and variable-geometry turbocharging are both features of the German-engineered motor, yet it’s likely that fuel-saving EcoDynamics technology such as stop-start and intelligent battery management will be given the limelight at the local dealership as Kia seeks to highlight the car’s claimed 57.6mpg and 128g/km of CO2 emissions.

By pitching the Optima into the frugal end of the fleet buyers’ basket, the saloon merits an initial performance assessment based exclusively on the strength of its figures. Based on its 134bhp output, the 46.0mpg we recorded on a real-world touring run and a claimed 0-62mph time of 10.2sec (we managed 10.5sec on a rain-soaked track), the saloon would appear to be broadly competitive with its closest rivals. However, given the proliferation of small-capacity, hyper-mile versions of almost every mainstream saloon, Kia’s decision not to offer the lower-powered, 114bhp variant of the 1.7 CRDi seems like an opportunity missed. Worse still, using the 1.7 CRDi in the i40 Blue Drive Active, Hyundai has matched the Optima’s power and performance while extracting improved claimed fuel economy of 62.8mpg and just 119g/km of CO2. Subjectively, Kia’s sister firm has accomplished this feat with a better level of refinement, too.

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The CRDi engine is a gruff, grumbly unit that signposts its endeavour with a blustery voice and a murmuring reverberation through the pedals. Fortunately, its buzzing presence is accompanied by the tug of 239lb ft of torque between 2000 and 2500rpm. At 1539kg, the saloon takes a while to find its stride from a standing start and is blighted by a lack of energy before peak torque arrives, but free-flowing momentum is easy to maintain by the time third gear is selected on the unremarkable, long-legged six-speed manual ’box. There’s little to be gained from revving it hard, but with 30-50mph in fourth achieved 2.5sec quicker than in the Mondeo 2.0 TDCi, there’s enough impetus for overtaking.