From £20,8457
New Kia estate looks the part, has good space and handles tidily, but its engine's flexibility and refinement let it down

Our Verdict

Kia Optima

Latest Optima looks to right the wrongs of the old model with improved quality, refinement and handling, but is it successful

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25 August 2016

What is it?

Kia’s belated acknowledgement that the Optima saloon really doesn’t appeal very strongly to Europeans. Although it will be built in Korea, the new Optima Sportswagon – that’s Kia-speak for estate – has been designed specifically for Europe and won’t be sold in any other territories. The company reckons it will make up more than two-thirds of Optima sales in the UK next year. 

By the utilitarian standards of D-segment estates, the Sportswagon is a handsome beast, sticking closely to the styling of the Sportspace concept that floated the idea of a bigger-booted Optima at last year’s Geneva motor show. Despite that, it’s not one of those cramped lifestyle estates, with 552 litres of luggage space with the rear seats in place and an impressive 1686 litres with them folded, meaning it’s more commodious than a Mondeo wagon.

Some markets will have the option of a 2.0-litre petrol engine, but the only motor to be offered in the UK will be Kia’s familiar 1.7-litre CRDi diesel, producing 139bhp. The basic 2 trim level combines this with a six-speed manual gearbox, with Kia’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission being offered as an option on the mid-ranking 3 and coming as standard on the range-topping GT-Line S. Prices start at £22,295 for the 2 and rise to a steep £30,595 for the GT-Line S. 

What's it like?

Very sensible. The Sportswagon’s star feature is definitely the sheer acreage of load space behind the rear hatchback, with a wide, flat luggage area and carrying capacity cleverly increased by deep cut-outs behind the rear wheel arches. Passenger accommodation is good, too, with generous space front and rear for adult occupants. Minicab drivers must be salivating.

As with the Optima saloon, there’s no upmarket vibe to the interior’s dark, tough-feeling materials, but standard equipment is generous. Even the basic 2 has sat-nav, while the range-topping GT-Line S is pretty much groaning under the weight of standard kit, from active safety systems to high-beam assist, heated and cooled front seats and a power tailgate.

The good news is that, unlike the new Optima PHEV, the Sportswagon does indeed show some evidence of having benefited from Kia’s commitment to sharpening driving dynamics. It’s certainly not the most incisive steer in the segment, but the basics are mostly decent, with accurate steering (behind springy-feeling assistance), good grip from the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 3s and, although the ride is on the firm side, good body control. Kia even allowed us to take it on track at the company’s Namyang proving ground, the unlikely environment proving that it can indeed be hustled along at a respectable pace without complaint.

The engine remains the disappointment. Kia has improved the refinement of its 1.7 CRDi, but it still makes some industrial noises when worked hard and suffers from a narrow powerband. Despite Kia’s claim that it produces its 251lb ft from just 1750rpm, there’s a boostless zone just below that which is easy to fall into with the manual gearbox, especially when slowing for speed bumps or junctions.

The DCT dual-clutch auto doesn’t suffer from any such problems, downshifting neatly to buzz the engine into life, but it also features an unnecessary Sport mode that turns it pointlessly aggressive.

Should I buy one?

The more relevant question is probably whether your friendly local fleet manager will. Kia acknowledges that only a quarter of Optima Sportswagons will be sold to private buyers, and its appeal, at least at the bottom of the range, has clearly been focused on those seeking to minimise the cost-per-mile figure.

The entry-level Sportswagon 2 is cheaper than both the Ford Mondeo 1.5 TDCi Style and Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI S estates, although not by enough to offset the effect of its higher CO2 emissions for company users. But it’s a likeable, honest car, and one that’s backed by what remains the best warranty out there.

Further up the range the Sportswagon’s appeal wanes, though. Despite the toyshop equipment levels, the GT-Line S finds itself priced against some considerably more talented rivals. 

Kia Optima Sportswagon 2

Location Korea; On sale Autumn 2016; Price £22,295-£30,595; Engine 4 cyls, 1685cc, diesel; Power 139bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 251lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1620kg; 0-60mph 9.8sec; Top speed 124mph; Economy 64.2mpg (combined); CO2 rating/tax band 113g/km, 19%

Join the debate

Comments
13

25 August 2016
Ou probably meant tidily.

25 August 2016
Bothapi wrote:

Ou probably meant tidily.

You probably meant 'you'? Do a self check before being a grammar nazi yourself.

25 August 2016
"Ou prolly meant tiddly" - I think you've had enough Sir.

25 August 2016
michael knight wrote:

"Ou prolly meant tiddly" - I think you've had enough Sir.

Indeed! And always check if there is CCTV on the train before fabricating stories...

25 August 2016
The Apprentice wrote:
michael knight wrote:

"Ou prolly meant tiddly" - I think you've had enough Sir.

Indeed! And always check if there is CCTV on the train before fabricating stories...

You're fired!

25 August 2016
Bothapi wrote:

Ou probably meant tidily.

You probably meant "YOU"

25 August 2016
My work car is the Hyundai equivalent and to be honest while in many ways a good practical car, roomy, very capable cruiser the details let it down - particularly the engine range.

The Kia clearly looks better than the i40 but Mazda and Skoda now offer equally good looking cars with a much broader spread of engines to compete in this shrinking sector. I suspect a 2 year old top of the range model may be an attractive proposition if priced properly.

25 August 2016
Why not have an S-Max or Grand Picasso? Brilliant, van like boot space and seven seats when required. They drive well, are economical and are loaded with kit.

25 August 2016
jmd67 wrote:

Why not have an S-Max or Grand Picasso? Brilliant, van like boot space and seven seats when required. They drive well, are economical and are loaded with kit.

True enough...but i quite like a wagon. I know a taller SUV/MPV thingy makes sense, and there's something quite old-fashioned about estate cars now. But..i still like them. The concept this was based on looked fantastic too.

25 August 2016
An estate represents an ideal middle ground in my opinion. Near identical driving dynamics to the saloon but with added practicality. MPVs are great if your priority is space, but for me at least, an estate is the happy medium and I even like how they look in general.

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