£20,000 - £28,000 Price range
63 - 67 MPG
The Kia Optima is a mid-size saloon car that is a stylish alternative to the more mainstream Ford Mondeo, VW Passat and Mazda 6. It offers great value for money thanks to its seven-year warranty. In 2016 the car was given a facelift that brought with it minor styling changes and improved running costs.
A new dashboard design is the most notable change and the Optima’s interior now reflects what you’ll find in the Sportage and Sorento SUVs. Interior quality is improved over the previous generation and a larger touchscreen for the infotainment results in fewer buttons dotted about the dashboard. The new Optima is also longer and more spacious as a result of the extra length.
Testers say the Optima is now better to drive thanks to decent body control and better steering. Nevertheless it’s still not up there with the best from Ford and Mazda. It is, however, quiet and comfortable on the motorway.
The US market Optima gets a range of engines, but for the UK market it has only one – a 1.7-litre diesel. It’s arguably the company’s best engine – decently powerful and fuel efficient, but some buyers might want more choice. A great addition is the new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that is smooth and fast-changing.
Kia wants to steal customers from its well-established rivals so it offers more equipment as standard. That includes a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment and a rear-view camera on every model.
Inside, testers agree the new Optima is a more premium and high-quality place to sit than the old model, but still not up to the standards of rivals such as the VW Passat. There’s plenty of soft touch materials, piano black plastics and fake metal trim accents, and the general design is pleasing on the eye.
Carried over from the Sorento is the central display that measures seven inches in the entry level models rising to eight inches on top-spec cars. Reviewers have no qualms with it – it’s fast, intuitive and has plenty of connected features such as live traffic updates for the standard TomTom sat-nav as well as Bluetooth music streaming.
Kia Optima passenger space
The new model is wider as well as longer and the increase in body size liberates more rear headroom. The headroom-sapping panoramic sunroof now uses carbon reinforced plastic to minimise the amount it eats into cabin space.
Kia Optima boot space
Boot space has increased from 505 to 510 litres – more than the 486-litre Mazda 6’s boot. However, main rivals such as the VW Passat and Ford Mondeo have bigger load bays at 586 litres and 550 litres respectively.
A stiffer suspension set-up means the new Optima is more agile in corners and doesn’t get out of shape when you ask it to perform quick changes of direction. Yet the suspension is still comfortable, soaking up the worst bumps in the road even when the car is fitted with larger 18-inch alloy wheels.
Kia has also revised the car’s steering rack – it’s now more direct, making it easier to drive the through a quick series of corners. While the improvements to driver enjoyment are definitely noticeable, the Ford Mondeo or Mazda 6 are still better choices if you’re looking for a dynamic family car.
Where the Kia feels most at home is on the motorway, where extensive sound deadening means it’s quiet and relaxed, although the larger wheels do amplify road noise.
While the Ford Mondeo has 14 engine choices, the Optima gets just one. The 1.7-litre four-cylinder diesel is the same as in the old model, but gets a modest five horsepower boost and an increase in torque, up from 239 lb ft to 250 lb ft. It doesn’t sound like much, but reduces the amount of gear changes needed to keep up with traffic.
The upgraded 1.7-litre engine also brings better fuel economy and lower road tax costs – fuel consumption has improved by 10mpg to 67.8mpg combined and CO2 emissions are down by 20g/km to 110g/km resulting in road tax costing £20 a year. Sprinting from 0-62mph takes 10 seconds – faster than 1.6-litre rivals such as the VW Passat (10.8 seconds) and Ford Mondeo (12.3 seconds).
Another bonus is that the old six-speed automatic gearbox has been ditched for a modern dual-clutch version with seven speeds, which provides smooth shifts and doesn’t harm fuel economy.
The Kia Optima was awarded five stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP. It’s based on the Sorento that was given one of the highest occupant protection scores in its class, so you can be assured it’s a safe car to transport your family in.
The saloon can be equipped with all the active and passive safety systems that are currently available on rivals – adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert (which tells you when a car is approaching if you are pulling out of a parking space) and an emergency city braking system that can also recognise pedestrians.
Kia has still to make a decent impact in the family car sector and to help the Optima appeal to new buyers the company has loaded it with kit. That means sat-nav – an option on all main rivals – comes as standard. It operates via a seven-inch display that doubles as a monitor for the car’s reversing camera. Buyers also get climate control, cruise control, heated and folding door mirrors, and electrical lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat.
Kia Optima 3
In the Optima 3 an eight-inch display for the sat-nav screen makes the system easier to use and means the mid-range Optima looks smarter inside than the basic model. The part-leather-trimmed seats raise its game still further. The driver’s seat features eight-way electrical adjustment and both front seats are heated. The stereo also gets a significant upgrade – the standard one being dumped in favour of a premium system from Harman Kardon.
Kia Optima 4
Leather upholstery marks the top-of-the-range model out from the rest of the range, and that added doze of luxury is joined by a pair of ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and rear-window blinds. Equipment includes automatic cruise control (which can slow the car when it detects another vehicle before returning to a preset speed) and automatic city braking. From the outside,18-inch alloy wheels and black detailing give away this is the top-of-the-range model.
Underneath, the new Optima is a better car than the old one in almost any way – it’s more spacious, has improved interior quality, the engine is now up to rivals’ performance and the ride quality is decent. It combines all that is good about it’s rivals in a package that is smart-looking, but lacking in character. Think of it as a greatest hits album played by a talented tribute band and you’ll not be far off the mark.