What's the used Kia Optima estate like?
It’s hard to believe but it wasn’t so long ago that Kia was a relatively unknown brand in the UK.
However, its class-leading seven-year warranty and a recent line-up of sharply styled hatchbacks and neat-looking SUVs have ensured Kia now has a regular place in the best sellers list. The Optima is Kia's entry in the executive saloon class, where it fights competitors such as the Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb.
This is technically the fourth-generation Optima and is the first one to get an estate version, called the Sportswagon or SW. As well as being a handsome beast with a raised roofline and sleek window design, the SW model adds some extra boot space and ups the interior practicality. For those who need the extra flexibility but don’t fancy an SUV, it could be just the car.
Under the bonnet is a 139bhp 1.7-litre diesel, a 2.0-litre petrol unit and a 2.0-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid. Two trims are offered: 2 and 3. Even the entry-level 2 model has plenty of luxuries, such as climate and cruise controls, power-folding door mirrors, 17in alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearknob. Added luxuries on 3 include 18in wheels, half-faux-leather seats, a premium sound system, an electrically operated driver’s seat, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, lane assist and a traffic sign display system.
On the road, the Optima SW acquits itself well. The 1.7 diesel grumbles away loudly and never fully quietens down even when warm; there’s plenty of clatter if you stretch it beyond the mid-range. Even though a Superb 2.0 TDI 150 isn’t whisper-quiet, either, it’s less raucous than the Optima SW. And it’s not just the way it sounds, because you feel a fair amount of vibration sent back through the controls as well. The engine's 139bhp looks modest next to that in an equivalent Superb or Mondeo and it has a much narrower performance window. So while the unit picks up smartly from just below 2000rpm, by 3000rpm – just when you think it’s hit its stride – the oomph tails off sharply. The petrol Optima SWs are smoother, but the 2.0 T-GDi suffers at the pumps, while the hybrid version feels respectably brisk around town but a little sluggish at higher speeds. In theory, the hybrid's fuel economy depends on how far you go and how you use it, but you’re unlikely to see close to Kia's claimed figures; in our hands, around 40mpg is a more realistic figure.
The Optima SW isn't as engaging to drive as its rivals. Its steering is vague around the straight ahead, and both the Superb and Mondeo are less wallowy, steer more intuitively and are, as a consequence, more pleasant to drive over a distance. Ride quality in the Optima SW is also a mixed bag. At low speeds across broken town roads, it fidgets and thuds away, but if you swap suburban streets for the motorway it works better, feeling rather more settled and comfortable.
But the area in which the Optima SW really scores is in space. There’s loads up front and the rear is enormous, with plenty of leg and head room for anyone six feet or taller, and three abreast will be happy for most journeys. Equally impressive is the boot; although not as big as the magnificent Skoda Superb’s, it's huge and provides good access, a low boot floor and no lip at the entrance.
The interior materials used vary from scratchy black plastic to a pleasing mix of soft-touch materials. Drivers will be happy, with a multi-adjustable driving position and a handsome steering wheel and dashboard set-up, as well as logical and easy-to-use major and minor controls. You also get a cracking infotainment system, with either a 7.0in or 8.0in colour touchscreen depending on the trim you go for. The screen itself is bright, while the menus are responsive and easy to navigate.