Edward Stephens checks out Kia’s saloon that stands out from the crowd
When you buy a new car, it’s nice to be able to choose something different rather than something that is seen in abundance in every car park.
So if you’re in the market for a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia-size saloon, try thinking outside the box – and take a look at the latest model from Kia.
The new Kia Optima is a breath of fresh air in this sector of the market and is aimed at people who want to stand out from the crowd.
It may not be cheaper than the alternative mainstream manufacturer’s models but it will certainly give you far more equipment for your money. In fact, £2,000 more, according to Kia.
Get behind the wheel, for example, and the powered seat will automatically move you forward to your desired seating position and move away again when you turn off the ignition to allow you to get out easily – just like a Jaguar.
What’s more the front seats are heated – as are the rear seats if you opt for the flagship Optima 3. And you can set your seating position in the car’s memory, should someone else in the family drive it.
Like a lot of cars today, the Optima has a stop/start system – when you stop, so does the engine – to save fuel. But if you’ve ever driven a car with this feature on it and wondered after a journey how long the engine has been switched off for, this car provides the answer – with a digital stopwatch built into the dashboard. Now that’s different and that’s smart.
But perhaps the really surprising thing about the Optima is the amount of space available for both passengers and luggage.
With the driver’s seat in the ideal position for me, I found I could sit in the rear passenger seat behind it and almost extend my legs completely. And the boot – which takes 505 litres – is large enough to take a family of four’s holiday luggage for a fortnight and still have room for the kitchen sink.
This sleek executive saloon really looks the business and drives as good as it looks. It’s powered by a 134bhp, 1.7-litre turbo diesel engine which will average more than 57 miles per gallon, hit 60 mph in 10.2 seconds and go on to a top speed of 125 mph.
The range starts from £19,595 for the entry level model, the Optima 1, although it’s anticipated that most sales will be of the middle of the range Optima 2 at £21,695.
Unusually, buyers of the Optima 2 have a choice of two different spec levels – Optima 2 Luxe and Optima 2 Tech – for the same price. Both have a high level of standard features on board, such as air conditioning. cruise control, powered windows, reversing camera daylight driving lights and alloy wheels, to name but a few.
Opt for the Luxe version, however, and you also get features such as side and front body skirts, 18-inch rather than 17-inch alloys and a double panoramic sun roof. Select the Tech version, and you get a sat nav system and a 550W Infiniti premium sound system with 12 speakers instead. So you pay your money and take your choice.
Should you want the best of both worlds, you can always buy the Optima 3 which has all the features of both.
I liked the cabin of the Optima with crisp, easy-to-read dials and a centre console which is neatly angled towards the driver so your eyes are off the road for less time when you need to alter the climate control or change radio stations. The multi-function steering wheel has at least a dozen controls on it and as you turn off the ignition you get a “Thank you, see you again” message on the dashboard.
On the road, the Optima offers gutsy performance and plenty of torque from the free revving turbo diesel engine. It’s quick and responsive with plenty of flexibility.
The suspension is on the firm side – although not at the expense of comfort – making it an enjoyable driver’s car with plenty of grip when you want to push on quickly.
For buyers who prefer a six-speed automatic rather than the six speed manual gearbox the Korean car maker has designed, developed and built its own for this car, and is one of only three manufacturers to achieved this.
The auto box – which costs an extra £1,500 – offers seamless gear changes and instant response on kickdow and comes with paddles behind the steering wheel so you can change gear manually if you want to. The only drawback is, as with most automatics, fuel consumption increases. In this case to an average of 47.1mpg.
The Optima goes on sale on February 1 and, like all Kia’s, comes with a seven-year warranty.
Price: From £19,595
Mechanical: 134bhp, 1.7-litre turbo diesel engine, 6spd auto or manual gearbox
Max speed: 125 mph 0-60mph: 10.2 seconds
Combined mpg: 57
CO2 emissions: 128g/km
Warranty: 7 years/ 100,000 miles