A midlife revision to a car that passes many large family car buyers by - the Kia Optima. The Korean brand’s D-segment offering is hardly flavour of the month at the best of times, but with the introduction of the sharper, more exciting Stinger, it's looking increasingly unloved.
It also finds itself in a segment that has seen significant decline over the past few years - even the Ford Mondeo’s future hangs in the balance. SUVs are all many buyers want to know about now, and even those who do plump for a traditional three-box model are far more likely to choose a nice monthly lease deal with one of the premium brands.
But those who immediately dismiss the Optima, in particular the Sportswagon estate we have here, are missing out on a quietly competent, handsome and fuss-free family holdall that has only become more appealing with the latest revisions.
What has Kia done to keep the Optima up to date?
Little has changed to the Optima’s exterior look, which is no black mark as it’s still one of Kia’s more visually successful designs. There is a redesigned grille, new lights front and rear, tweaked bumpers and additional black trim on top-spec cars. But only the most hardened family estate enthusiast would pick the facelifted car out of a line-up.
Visual changes to the cabin don’t extend much beyond a new steering wheel and multi-colour ambient lighting, as Kia has instead chosen to bolster the kit tally. There’s now a driver attention warning system, autonomous braking with pedestrian detection and lane keep assist, along with auto high-beam full-LED headlights.
Importantly, the rather rattly old 1.7-litre diesel engine has been replaced by a new 1.6, bringing with it a raft of new emissions reduction add-ons to help it meet the latest regulations. That's had an undesirable effect, however: power is down by 5bhp, while torque is also reduced by 15lb ft, while claimed economy is identical.
The Optima drives better than you might expect, but by no means an exciting prospect for keen drivers. The Optima SW’s smart styling is complemented by a cabin that largely looks and feels as plush as it needs to at this price point.
Fit-and-finish is good, while there’s enough glossy black plastic and soft-touch material in more common touch points that the Kia doesn’t feel too far behind a Volkswagen Passat for perceived quality, even if it’s not quite on the same level for ergonomics. Button placement on the Optima’s dash is a little haphazard, while the infotainment screen could be more intuitive and visually sharper.