It’s pretty apparent upon first glace of the new Kia Optima that the Korean manufacturers are hardly messing around with this stylish executive saloon. Here’s my full review of the brand new (80 miles when I received the car, in fact!) Kia Optima.
The Optima sits in a tough segment. Of course, familiar names such as the Vauxhall Insignia and Ford Mondeo reign supreme here, but the likes of the Hyundai i40 (the Optima’s sister car) and the Peugeot 508 can be seen to a far greater extent on British roads than they used to. Buyers are opting to think more laterally when it comes to their saloon car buys, and the Kia fits in perfectly here.
The Optima comes in a number of guises, 2 through to 4, with the mid-range ‘3’ being the most likely choice for most. Kia will provide you a lovely touchscreen, with its excellent infotainment system, and some great speakers from Harman Kardon, too. Park assist and wireless charging are not as gimmicky as they sound on the top spec ‘4,’ and are becoming increasingly popular amongst buyers. They were included on this model I tested, and were very welcome.
The initial impression of the Kia Optima is that despite its size, it’s actually a very good looking and elegant car. It’s proportions might be relatively ungainly, but it holds itself well and it looks very smart indeed. It’s long, swooping, low and well poised – and is a definite step up from the previous incarnation and indeed other older versions.
The interior is excellent, and perhaps amongst the best in its class. Typically well laid out, the top spec ‘4’ version, with all options, comes with a lovely 7 speed auto box and a good park assist system. There is still a slight reliance on the screen, as you’d expect with most executive cars of this nature, but otherwise it’s a very well designed and enjoyable place to be. Interior quality overall is far better than previous cars.
The is only one engine available, and its the old 1.7L diesel powerplant, having been turned to produce less emissions and slightly more power. It’s adequate, but there’s some room for improvement here. The good news is, a hybrid version is on its way, and that promises to add an extra element of appeal for buyers who will want to see something different from this car than they can get elsewhere.
There’s no doubt that the new Optima covers ground amazingly well. It’s wonderfully quiet and smooth, and ones of the best things about this new car is the way it handles British roads. Lumps, bumps and potholes are far from a problem, and wind noise is almost none existent at the kind of motorway speeds you’d expect this car to be doing. Adaptive cruise control on the ‘4’ version made life very easy indeed, too.
Space and Practicality
There’s a huge boot on the Optima, and generally loads of space. It’s capacity beats that of the Mazda 6, although there is an issue with headroom because of the pano roof – I’m barely 6ft and noticed it – anyone taller may be ducking slightly. However, I’d take that because the panoramic roof is a lovely perk and emphasises the car’s spaciousness in terms of length and width.
On the Road
The refinement of the Optima 4 is noticeable where the car feels most at home, on the motorway. It’s smooth sailing all round, and feels stiffer and more composed through the corners. In fact, for a big car, it’s largely enjoyable, but with a better range of engines you could fully make the most out of it on smaller roads. Compared to the likes of the Mondeo, with its 14 engine choices, the Optima falls a bit short here but there’s no denying its value for money.
The Optima is more dynamic than ever before, and a revised steering rack helps with this. It’s nimble enough, but don’t expect it to set the pulses racing. It is direct though, and you’re never left wondering where the wheels are on the road. Electric steering can lack feel at times, but this isn’t really noticeable or a problem in the majority of driving conditions.
The Kia Optima is no longer bargain basement executive motoring. It’s far more refined, comfortable, agile and dare I say dynamic than ever before. It doesn’t match class leaders in terms of interior size, boot space or sheer cabin quality, but it’s still a big car that delivers a lot in terms of economy and value for money. It’s safe, sizeable and comes with as much kit for the money as you can shake a stick at. In fact, for a shade under £30,000, this top of the range model is very impressive indeed.
The biggest point here I think is that it really is a great looking car. Kia have really upped their design game, and alongside the Sorento and Sportage (reviews to follow) there’s a massive step up in how these cars look. The interior layout is excellent especially, and for the money, I can’t think of too many other places I’d rather sit to cruise the motorways of Great Britain.