Driving with… William Hardie

The presenter and master craftsman behind some of the most wacky, wonderful designs you will see on TV drives the All-New Kia Optima Sportswagon to the seaside

I founded Studio Hardie around 12 years ago. It grew organically out of my desire to make things and a healthy disrespect for the boundaries between design, history, philosophy, science and art. What we have now is a team of expert designers and craftsmen working on architecture, furniture, engineering projects and sculpture.

We often have the most unusual projects thrown at us where we have to start from scratch and relearn everything – it’s a constant challenge.

I use a car for all kinds of things. I’m always visiting our projects, carrying all sorts of bits and bobs, from spirit levels to ladders, so space is important. I’ve also got a family, a four- and six-year-old, so trying to jam all of our stuff into the car – buckets, spades, bicycles and bodyboards – is a regular occurrence. I do a lot of driving in the city and in the countryside, too, so it’s essential that a car can work for both.

Great design can provide a lifetime’s worth of inspiration

I decided to take the Kia Optima Sportswagon for a trip to the seaside, to a couple of spots I’ve always wanted to visit but never quite got around to – The East Beach Cafe and The Longest Bench project, both in Littlehampton. Great design can provide a lifetime’s worth of inspiration and the East Beach Cafe is by Sir Thomas Heatherwick, a real hero of mine. His practice does the most brilliant pieces. The cafe feels like a tiny object you could find on the beach with its wonderful textures and contours.

Good design needs to be functional and beautiful but it can also be surprising and playful. The Longest Bench, designed by Studio Weave, is a perfect example. It takes a bench on a wonderful meandering journey and ends up with nooks and crannies where you can find just the right spot for you to sit. It’s a great example of how far imagination can take something.

One of the most fun things about this Kia is the sunroof – the entire roof opens up and blasts the sky into the car. Another great thing is that I can jump in after a brisk walk on the beach and heat the steering wheel, as well as the seats. Then on one of those rare scorching days, I can cool the seats. I think everybody’s had that experience of getting into a hot car and burning their legs on the leather.

The Kia has a lovely combination of different materials in the car, and there is a handmade element of red stitching throughout the interior – a reminder that ultimately things like this are designed by human beings.

Eye for detail

The All-New Kia Optima Sportswagon GT-Line S blends good design and cutting-edge technology.

Advanced safety features, such as headlamps that adjust to the road ahead, come as standard, and the panoramic sunroof electrically tilts and slides, and has an automatically retractable sunblind for optimum flexibility.

In terms of interior, it has red contrast stitching across the eight-way electrically adjustable front leather seats, heated steering wheel, gear shift, console lid and rear leather seats.

The huge 1,696-litre cargo area is possible thanks to the clever one-touch seat-folding system.