The Kia Optima isn’t a car you notice on the roads that often. I think I’ve seen half a dozen of them on my travels in the last year or so. Surprisingly, it’s actually been around in one form or another for 10 years, but has never sold in big numbers in the UK.
The originals came in for a rough ride for their failure to set themselves apart, and in truth it was a bit of a design-by-numbers effort, ticking boxes but failing to ignite the senses enough to split long established customer loyalties.
The 2012 KIA Optima is something of a symbol as to the way Kia are moving forward in general and the manufacturer has shown a new confidence over the past few years. Since ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer came in, have designed some pretty cool cars too.
Inside the finish would be more accurately described as ‘hardwearing’ as apposed to luxurious, but everything you need is here except a Sat-Nav, (available on the top model though) and it feels built to stand the bumps. The dashboard is easy to read, nothing fancy, but the stereo Is good, so is the air con. The reverse camera built inside the rear view mirror is also a great idea.
On the exterior, it can’t seem to make up its mind as to whether it wants to be a Japanese pimp-mobile or a serious company car and falls somewhere in the middle. It does catche people’s attention, and the one we had in ‘Santorini’ Blue got some admiring glances, even at Silverstone parked next to a Lamborghini. Well, I think they were looking at the Optima anyway.
The wide flat front of the car is accentuated with a sexy split black grille and the long narrow lights give the car a tougher look than the usual friendly faced Kia.
I’m 6ft 2 and found the steeped roof just a tiny bit too low, opening the sunroof compartment (not the actual roof) gave me a couple of extra inches of headroom breathing space.
The sunroof is actually a nice feature, split between the front and rear, you can either allow just the light in, or open the top to allow the sun (and noise) in too. Talking of noise, the Optima is extremely quiet even at higher speeds, something that can make a difference to drive fatigue on long journeys, and an important consideration for the high mile club.
As you would expect the Optima much prefers motorways than around town. The six-speed gear box can be hard work in the city, and at times the fairly high gear ratio works against the driver, especially in stop start traffic. Let’s face it, all city driving is stop / start. To compensate the cruise control works well to keep speeds down as well as up.
The 1.7 litre diesel engine has spirit and it feels much faster than 0.60 in 10.2 seconds. Give it a clear space to run into and it will cruise very nicely. I was averaging about 48 miles to the gallon on the motorway, with sensible driving this could probably go up a notch or two as well. The EcoDynamics version has good green credentials, a stop/start system and fairly low emissions.
It is practical too, the long rear of the car means the boot is HUGE, I’ve been shown around smaller one bedroom flats, and none of those had electric windows either. One thing though, where are the coat hangers? Not everyone can go to work in a t-shirt and flip flops.
All Kia’s come with a 7 year warranty, and while the Opitma has fierce competition, in these times of austerity, low emissions, high mpg for a comparatively low cost, make it a shrewd choice for those people unconcerned by ‘badges’.
It’s also a fairly safe bet the guy next door won’t have one either.
134bhp @ 4,000rpm
CO2 emissions of 128g/km
0.60 in 10.2 seconds
Combined MPG 57.6 (extra urban 64.2mpg, urban 49.6)
Top speed 125mph
For more info visit www.kia.co.uk