Kia Optima review

  • New Kia Optima family saloon driven
  • Up to 57.7mpg; 128g/km CO2
  • Priced from 20,000 (est); on sale January
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The new Kia Optima is a saloon that's designed to take on the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat and other large family cars on a more level footing than the dated Magentis that it replaces.

The Optima isn't as closely related to sister firm Hyundai's i40 as you might think; it's slightly longer in both overall length and wheelbase. However, UK cars will use the same 1.7-litre, 134bhp diesel engine as the i40.

The Optima's nose design is Kia's boldest yet, with its chiselled corners and abundant LEDs, while shallow side windows top a wedgy, rising waistline. There's a Range Rover-like vent motif on the front wings, and top models get a glass roof with two electric blinds.

Just the saloon body style will be offered initially, because Kia says it can't keep up with demand since the Optima's launch in Korea and the US two years ago.

What's it like to drive? The Optima is a large car, but it's easy to drive thanks to quick, accurate steering whose electric power assistance feels natural, with a positive response around the straight-ahead.

The optional 18-inch wheels make the Optima feel firm over bumps, but you don't have to spec them. The ride is otherwise comfortable and well damped. This is a fluent, capable car.

The manual Optima retains a conventional handbrake, which is much better for close-quarters manoeuvring, while the automatic gets an electric brake.

The manual Optima, which emits just 128g/km of CO2 in Ecodynamics form with stop-start (133g/km otherwise), has a poor response to the accelerator at low revs until the turbocharger spins up to speed, but proves lively enough once on the move.

The automatic gearbox masks the engine's inflexible nature effectively and shifts smoothly. The penalty is a 158g/km CO2 figure.

There's also a hybrid Optima, but it won't be coming to the UK.

What's it like inside? Not quite 'premium', but close, with soft surfaces and excellent quality.

Top-model niceties include four heated seats, a cooled driver's seat, a heated steering wheel, a reversing camera, leather trim, a self-parking system and a fine Infinity stereo.

As well as having a roomy cabin, the Optima also has a big boot.

Should I buy one? If space, equipment and a relaxing drive are your priorities, then the Optima offers these in a very handsome package at a keen price across all three trims. It's a genuine alternative to Europe's best, plus there's the usual seven-year warranty.

Ford Mondeo
Volkswagen Passat

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