What's the used Kia Optima saloon like?
It might seem like the large executive saloon has had some of its thunder stolen by the relentless rise of the SUV, but around 10% of all sales are still for cars of this type.
The Optima has been Kia’s offering in this class for the past few years, but it only really started to catch people’s attention in its third generation, at which time Kia was undergoing a design revolution that spawned a range of attractively styled models ranging from city cars to large SUVs. This Optima is the fourth generation, tweaked in its looks to make it even more attractive and substantially revised underneath to make it more competitive against Europe’s best in terms of driveability.
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 (PHEV). 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 leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearknob. Added luxuries on 3 trim include 18in alloy 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 1.7 diesel engine is punchy from low revs, but it’s a bit gravelly and can be too noisy, especially when cold. The PHEV combines a 154bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine with a 67bhp electric motor. It can be plugged in and charged up rather than just rely on the engine, and with a full battery it can travel up to 33 miles on pure electric power. 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 its steering is vague and it’s not as engaging to drive down a winding road as its rivals. Ride quality is also a mixed bag. At low speeds across broken town roads, the Optima fidgets and thuds away, but if you swap suburban streets for the motorway it works better, feeling more settled and comfortable.
But the area in which the Optima really scores is in 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 abreast will be happy for most journeys. Equally impressive is the boot – although it's not as big as the magnificent Skoda Superb’s, it is huge and provides good access and a low boot floor.
The interior materials vary from slightly too scratchy black plastic to a pleasing mix of soft-touch ones. 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 controls. You get a cracking infotainment system, with either a 7.0in or 8.0in colour touchscreen depending on the trim you go for. The screen is bright, while the menus are responsive and easy to navigate.