Kia Optima

     As the popularity of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) continues on its meteoric rise and their sales figures continue to climb the best seller charts pushing aside hatchbacks as they go, it’s almost all too easy to overlook the traditional family-orientated saloon car. For instance: Would you believe it if I were to tell you that these days BMW’s 3 Series outsells Ford’s Mondeo, or what if I told you that Nissan’s Qashqai and Vauxhall’s Mokka outsell  them both? Who would’ve thought eh? Statistically that makes the once-on-every-street-corner Mondeo the most exclusive of the lot of them.

    Recently however, I sampled something that makes all of the aforementioned motors seem ubiquitous: The Kia Optima.

    The Kia what? That certainly seemed to be the reaction I got when I told people what it was I was going to be driving, Optimas you see aren’t exactly two-a-penny in these parts. They’re not abundant in any parts from what I can gather; even the delivery driver said he’d only seen a couple. So then what exactly are we missing out on?

     Designed by Peter Scheyer (he of original Audi TT fame), the Optima is a large stylish and sporty looking saloon. It offers space in abundance and once inside five adults to can sprawl out in comfort and still find room to spare. The boot is huge too, and will easily swallow the largest of suitcases, or indeed golf-bags – the Optima is aimed at the kind of people for, one imagines, such things are deemed important; It’s not usually something I’d mention.  It’s handsome too. In the metal it looks not unlike either the Jaguar XJ or Lexus’s LS from more than just a few angles, albeit with Kia’s trademark Tigger nose grille firmly attached, and it even comes with a very Bentley- esque vent in its front wing.

  Thankfully however the Optima is nowhere near as expensive as anything that comes out of Crewe, or Coventry, or even Kyushu for that matter. Prices start at £21,495, for the “2”, and rise to £28,895 for the fully loaded “4” complete with a 7-speed DCT auto ‘box. The “3” specced Optima Kia kindly lent me, needless to say, sits somewhere in between at £23,435 on the road.  

    Regardless of spec there’s only one engine choice: Kia’s 1.7 CRDi 139bhp 4-cylinder diesel. It offers adequate rather than earth shattering performance and seems happy to thrum along all-day-long with little complaint. It can get a bit noisy though.  Coupled to the 6-speed manual and driven conservatively real-world mpg seems to be somewhere in the mid-50s. That falls short of Kia claims of 67.3 combined,  but it’s perhaps no worse a discrepancy than that of Kia’s more illustrious Bavarian rivals whose names there’s no need to mention.

    Driving wise the Optima proves to be surprisingly agile, especially so considering its considerable kerbweight. Granted, one look at it is all it takes to tells you it’s no sports car, but there’s plenty of grip and it rides well too, the soft suspension ironing out the bumps even on the 18” rims. It is definitely most at home taking on the comfortable cruiser roll though. The steering is very light, so things can feel a bit vague and un-involving when appointments become more pressing. 

      Better then to just sit back, relax and enjoy the Optima’s cabin and generous standard kit. If anything, one or two hard plastic bits aside, the Optima feels plush and well built; premium you might even say. There’s all the usual toys; touchscreen, Bluetooth, Isofix, heated seats etc etc. Plus the Optima gets Blind Spot Detection, a Lane Keeping Assist System and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, the latter of which  warns of traffic moving behind the when you’re reversing. The myriad of warning buzzers, beeps and Micro-soft-esque tunes the Optima plays on start-up and switch off might (just) about be worth putting up for for all of that.

      All things considered, and given its appealing combination of style, performance, comfort, equipment, and let’s not forget an industry leading 7 year warranty too, the Optima is well worthy of being on your shopping list if you don’t fancy yet another follow-the-crowd SUV. It’s a bit pricey when compared to Skoda’s similarly sized Superb perhaps, but haggle hard and you never know…

   You might well bag yourself one of the most exclusive cars £23K or thereabouts can buy.


Kia Optima 1.7 CRDI “3” ISG

Engine: 1,685 cc 4Cyl, 16V turbo-diesel

Transmission: 6 speed Manual, front wheel drive.

Power:  139bhp @ 4,000pm

Torque: 340 lbft @1,750 – 2,500rpm

0-62MPH: 9.7 Sec

Max Speed: 121 mph

CO2: 110 g/km

MPG: 67.3 combined

Price: from £23,495


Many thanks to Moyosola at KIA’s UK press office for the loan of the OPTIMA



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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