The standard Optima saloon has been with us for a few years and is one of those hidden gems of the car market.
However, its misfortune is that it competes in one of the most competitive sectors there is, so it’s up against the mighty Mondeo and the Insignia. It’s not perfect, but it’s good value and is arguably the most handsome car in its class.
The Sportswagon isn’t just eye candy – it should be seriously considered by fleet buyers, families and taxi drivers.
Boasting 552 litres of luggage capacity and a cavernous 1,686 litres with the 40:20:40 split rear seats folded, it’s a true load-lugger. It can’t quite match the class-leading Skoda Superb for space, but then its Czech rival isn’t so pretty. However, with a wide tailgate and low loading lip, the Sportswagon is very practical.
What’s more, even with two tall people in the front, the back seat space is limo-like and there’s plenty of headroom, despite the sporty roofline.
The car comes in a refreshingly simple three trim levels. The basic ‘2’, mid-range ‘3’ and flagship GT-Line S. Prices start at £22,295 for the 2 and rise to £30,595 for the GT-Line S which is packed with extras and driver aids.
All three are powered by Kia’s 1.7-litre CRDi turbodiesel engine, which develops 139bhp. Top speed is 124mph, while 0-60mph acceleration is 9.8 seconds (manual) and 10.7 seconds (automatic).
With Kia’s Idle Stop & Go engine stop/start system as standard, CO2 emissions for manual cars are 113g/km, while potential fuel economy is 64.2mpg.
The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which sadly is not available on the basic ‘2’ trim level car, is capable of 61.4mpg and emits 120g/km of CO2.
The manual box is fine, but the auto is sweeter. One tip – if you go for the the manual option and you have long arms, make sure you can change gear freely without knocking your elbow on the cubby box between the seats.
The 1.7-litre engine is all about economy. It’s a little harsh under hard acceleration and you’ll have to floor it for overtaking, but it cruises well, which is job done because the Sportswagon is likely to spend much of its time on motorways.
However, another larger engine choice would help matters because fully loaded, the current Sportswagon probably won’t quite live up to its name or looks. A sporty high-performance GT version is promised for early 2017 for more spirited drivers.
The good news is that it drives well. The ride quality is smooth, body roll is well controlled, grip is good and the steering is light and accurate. The driving position is comfortable and the full leather seats on the GT-Line S are to be recommended.
Inside, the cabin has a quality feel with a range of decent, durable materials, but basically you get what you pay for. So whether it’s black cloth, black cloth with faux leather or black leather seats, or a 7 or 8-inch touchscreen, it’s worth scanning the spec sheets.
As you’d expect, the kit available (depending on which trim level is chosen) is extensive and includes Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, and wireless smartphone charging.
If you can stretch to £30,595 the GT-Line S comes with all the toys and looks the sharpest with 18-inch alloy wheels, sleek roof rails and a twin chrome-tipped exhaust system built into a rear diffuser.
Verdict: The Kia Optima Sportswagon is a great all-round package – a competitively-priced, economical, well-equipped, spacious estate with plenty of kerb appeal. And of course, it comes with Kia’s unbeatable seven-year warranty.