What is the Kia Optima?
The time when Korean car manufacturers used to stack ’em high and sell ’em cheap seemed to have passed. These days we expect Kias and Hyundais to compete against their class rivals on pure merit. However, Kia’s large Optima saloon reminds us how things used to be. Whether it’s a time many will care to recall is another question.
Sensibly, given the lack of interest in petrol engines in this part of the market, Kia doesn’t provide any in the Optima. Indeed a 1.7-litre turbodiesel is the only available powerplant. This is not such a bad thing, as it produces a good amount of torque, is reasonably refined and endows manual-transmission Optimas with respectable acceleration and impressive economy. Avoid the auto, however, unless you are happy to lose what performance there is and take a fuel economy hit of more than 10mpg.
The chassis is less satisfactory. Nobody expects exquisite handling from a D-segment saloon, and the soft and slushy Optima isn’t about to spring any surprises here. Less easy to forgive are its inconsistent ride quality and ability to inform you of everyday lumps and bumps despite the squidginess of its springs. We’re not that taken with the light and unengaging steering either.
If you’re hoping for something a little designer, with a cool touch and a hot look, you’ve knocked on the wrong door. Inside and out, the Optima is a style desert. If, however, your sights are set at a rather less lofty altitude and you’re happy with something simple and spacious, step this way.
The driving environment is reminiscent of what we used to find in Korean cars: all the information is there and clearly displayed, but the presentation is lacking. There’s nothing attractive about the dash design, and the minor controls seem to have been scattered around the steering wheel and fascia.
But forget the quality and look at the quantity, be that the amount of legroom for back-seat passengers or the long list of equipment that comes as standard in even the lowest of the four trim grades. In terms of metal (or plastic) for your money, if in no other regard, the Optima takes some beating.
What to look out for
Optima owners are generally very happy with their purchase, although we have heard a few grumbles about sat nav issues and difficult iPod controls. With a solid seven-year warranty and helpful dealers, these issues were resolved quickly and efficiently. There are currently no recalls for the Optima.
The one to buy
Kia Optima 1.7 CRDi 2 Luxe
- £21,695 (correct at first publication)
- 1685cc, 4 cylinders
- 134bhp @ 4000rpm
- 239 lb ft @ 2000rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 10.2sec
- Top speed:
- 57.6mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- L 4845mm, W 1830mm, H 1455mm
Kia Optima used car rivals for similar money