Recommended. With the Optima, Kia finally comes up with a convincing large family saloon. Read our Kia Optima review to find out more.
Kia has a long and unremarkable history of trying to sell the large Magentis saloon in the UK. No matter how cheap it was, British buyers were just not convinced, but they are going to be a lot more interested in the Optima. To start with, Kia has a vastly improved image now, and has proven it can easily sell £20K SUV models in this country. Secondly, the Optima is actually well-suited to the UK market, with is diesel-only range, sharp styling and copious equipment.
First impressions in our Kia Optima review are very good. The styling of large Asian saloons has tended to veer between dull and contrived, but the Optima looks more classy and certain. The big hunk of metal around the C-pillar (the back of the rear passenger door) may not be to everyone's liking, but it is distinctive and gives a tiny hint of a coupe. Above all, it says that Kia has found its own design language and it is not trying to imitate anyone, which is a huge step forward compared to 10 years ago. The interior is similarly striking. The dashboard arguably looks a little hectic and the plastic around the ventilation controls is a bit hard and shiny, but overall it compares favourably with those standard-bearers, the Ford Mondeo and the Vauxhall Insignia.
In our Kia Optima road test, the surprises continue. The ride is quite firm, but well controlled with good damping - again the exact opposite of its wallowing predecessors. This makes the Kia Optima quite an entertaining drive, although the light (if accurate) steering reins in the fun-factor somewhat. Performance is best described as satisfactory. The 1.7 litre engine is relatively small for a car of this size, but the 134 bhp output does a good job of hiding this fact. When pulling away from rest in our Kia Optima road test, the engine takes a little time to get into its powerband, and, in the automatic, you can tell that the engine has to work hard up steep hills. However, the 57.6 mpg official fuel consumption for the manual version more than outweighs these minor inconveniences.
As you would expect, all versions are well equipped, with the base model having Bluetooth, air-conditioning, alloy wheels and electrically folding mirrors. Our choice would be the 2 Tech trim level, which includes an excellent 12 speaker Infinity audio (Infinity is a sub brand of Harmon/Kardon), sat-nav and part leather seats.
Next: ratings and breakdown