What's the used Kia Optima PHEV estate like?
Despite the current trend for electrifying cars, one area of the market where development has been slow is in large estate cars. There aren’t many new ones around and even fewer are available used. Most examples come from expensive, premium brands, but there is one from a more mainstream manufacturer that’s a bit more affordable for those looking out for a used plug-in hybrid: the Kia Optima Sportswagon.
When we say the market for big plug-in hybrid estates is small, we’re not joking. If you really want to shun conventional petrol and diesel-powered cars, you have a choice of the Volvo V60 hybrid, the Volkswagen Passat GTE or the Mercedes C350e. Considering that the V60 and C350e have smaller boots and the Passat GTE is rare and expensive, the Optima Sportswagon starts to make sense. That's especially true if you buy a two-year-old car using Kia’s approved used scheme that tops the warranty back up to seven years – a point where most of its rivals have only one year left.
Under the bonnet is a 154bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine and a 67bhp electric motor. When both power sources work together, performance is fairly brisk, given the size and weight of the Optima. However, the main reason for the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) system is its electric range; on a full charge, you can get up to 33 miles. Charging times range from four to six hours from a standard three-pin plug, or two to three hours from a dedicated wallbox. If you drive mainly on battery power, you should see some high fuel economy numbers. Unfortunately, even when you select Eco mode for electric power only, the engine will kick in promptly when a turn of speed is needed.
In corners, the Optima grips well, but the extra weight of the batteries blunts the handling. The steering is vague and the car isn’t engaging to drive, and the feel of the brake pedal can take some getting used to, due to its regenerative braking system. Ride quality is also a mixed bag, because at low speeds across broken town roads, the Optima Sportswagon fidgets and thuds away, but it works better when you swap suburban streets for the motorway, feeling more settled and comfortable.
But the area in which the Optima Sportswagon really scores is space. There’s loads of it up front and the rear is pretty good, too, with plenty of leg and head room for six-footers and taller; even three sitting side by side will be happy for most journeys. Unlike the saloon version, the additional batteries don’t have much of an impact on boot space, so transporting large items such as a child’s pushchair or a set of golf clubs is no problem.
The interior materials vary from slightly too scratchy black plastic to a pleasing mix of soft-touch ones. The driving position is rather good, with lots of adjustment in the seats and steering wheel, and the dashboard layout is logical, with easy-to-use switches. You get a cracking infotainment system, too, with a screen that’s responsive and has easy-to-navigate menus.
What used Kia Optima PHEV estate will I get for my budget?
Prices for the Optima PHEV start around £22,000 for an early example, while a nearly new one is about £25,000-£26,000.
Check the value of a used Optima Sportswagon PHEV with What Car? Valuations
How much does it cost to run a Kia Optima PHEV estate?
If you recharge the battery regularly, the Optima Sportswagon PHEV shouldn’t cost you much money to run. Weirdly, the official NEDC combined average of the Sportswagon is considerably higher than that of the saloon version, at 201.8mpg. As with the saloon, this figure is rather unrealistic, but you should be able to achieve 40mpg in normal driving and more if you regularly exploit the 33-mile electric-only range.
Buy an Optima PHEV registered before 1 April 2017 and you shouldn’t have to pay any road tax – but don’t forget to still register it with the DVLA, otherwise they’ll fine you for not taxing the car. If you buy one registered after this point, it’ll be £130 per year, because it’s an alternative-fuel vehicle.
Servicing costs will be similar to the standard Optima and you can spread the cost of this with one of Kia’s service plans.
Which used Kia Optima PHEV estate should I buy?
There are no alternatives for either the engine or specification level, so there isn’t much to add to this section. Fortunately, the Optima PHEV comes stuffed with equipment such as LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, half-faux leather seats, a premium sound system, an electrically operated driver’s seat, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, lane-keeping assistance and a traffic sign display system. Blindspot monitoring and automatic emergency braking are also standard.
Our favourite Kia Optima Sportswagon PHEV: PHEV
What alternatives should I consider to a used Kia Optima PHEV estate?
There aren’t many other plug-in hybrid rivals to an Optima Sportswagon PHEV, particularly ones that match it for interior space.
The Volvo V60 hybrid was a curious car when it was launched, because instead of the normal petrol engine with an electric motor combo of most regular hybrids, Volvo fitted a large diesel engine. The idea is that you get to use the electric motor in town and therefore cut urban pollution, but still have an efficient diesel for when you hit the motorway. Trouble is, the boot isn’t particularly big and the engine is noisy.
You could also take a look at the Volkswagen Passat GTE, which is just as spacious as the Optima. It hasn’t been on sale for as long as the Optima, and it is quite rare on the used market, so it's more expensive to buy.
If you fancy something a bit more premium, the Mercedes C-Class C350e might fit the bill. Pricing isn't much higher than it is for a used Optima and there are plenty of slightly older examples around for less than £20,000.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? Newsletter here