ROAD TEST: Kia Optima Sportswagon

By Ian Strachan

The Kia Optima Sportswagon marks a new departure for the Korean manufacturer. Designed in Europe specifically for the European market it is Kia’s first attempt at an upper medium estate car.

And it’s a good attempt, with a stylish design and bags of practicality. As well as 552 litres of luggage space, you get roof rails, underfloor storage and folding rear seats which increase cargo space to 1,686 litres.

The Kia Optima saloon got off to a flying start. It shot to the top of the Korean best seller list on launch a few years back, and demand in the US was so big that Kia had to start building them there in a new factory in Georgia. The exclusively-European estate is a welcome addition to the range.

This is a very classy car which has more in common with European vehicles in this sector than Far Eastern offerings. Its elegant design cues, clean lines, great engine, solid quality and appealing price combine to guarantee it will appeal to UK buyers.

For a start you don’t have to agonise over which engine option to go for. There’s only one. Every Kia Optima comes with a state-of-the-art 1.7 litre 139 bhp turbo-diesel engine. It’s modern, refined and efficient, and quite frankly, you couldn’t ask for more to power a family saloon.

In fact Kia has kept the Optima Sportswagon model range refreshingly simple. There’s one engine choice and just three trim levels. The only decision you have to make is a six-speed manual or Kia’s own seven-speed automatic. The automatic version has a choice of operating as a full automatic, or a semi-automatic mode which allows clutchless gear changing using steering wheel mounted paddles.

The Optima Sportswagon oozes quality. It’s often an intangible feeling, but when you sit in this roomy estate you know you’re in an exceptionally well built car.

In addition, it has distinctive, slightly understated, classy styling and its shark-like good looks are complemented by high levels of comfort.

Inside too, this feels like a car of a more vaunted pedigree. It is spacious, well laid out and comfortable, with plenty of head and legroom for rear seat passengers and a high specification .

I test drove the seven-speed automatic version inGT-Line S  trim level. Despite delivering 139 horsepower, this unit will still give  61.4 miles to the gallon in mixed driving. Impressive for a big car.

Handling is excellent with pleasantly weighted power steering and flat cornering. This Kia also comes with a long list of safety features including all-round airbags, all-round height adjustable headrests, ABS, speed-sensing door locks and electronic stability control as well as blind spot detection and lane-keeping warning system.

High specification on this Optima means that you get plenty of car for your money. Cruise control, 18-inch alloy wheels, black leather upholstery, touch-screen satellite navigation, premium eight-speaker sound system with DAB radio, steering wheel mounted controls and Bluetooth, dual automatic air conditioning, all round electric windows, panoramic tilt/slide sunroof, all round parking sensors with cameras, park-assist system, electric heated door  mirrors and front fog lights all come as standard.

You also get daytime running lights, powered adjustable driver’s memory seat, front heated or air-ventilated seats, wireless mobile phone charger and hill start assist.

One thing you will notice about the Optima Sportswagon is how quiet it is. The engine is virtually silent inside the car, and wind and road noise are minimal.

I have to admit I like everything about this car. It has brought luxury car specification to the upper medium estate sector and is a delight to drive, with some nice gadgetry and attention to detail. It’s not expensive either, starting at just £22,455 on the road. The version I tested comes at £30,595.

This is an impressive car – all the more so, thanks to a seven year 100,000 mile warranty.

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