Thursday, 8 May 2014

REVIEW - Kia Optima 3

One manufacturer that has certainly come a long way in recent times is Kia. Whilst their offerings were cheaper than rivals, the quality was lesser, too. Now though, Kia’s are as well built as- if not better than- any other car on the market. They are all offered with an un-rivalled 7 year warranty, which shows the confidence in how they are put together. One of the newer models is the Optima. I grabbed one for a week, to see how well Kia could do an executive saloon car. This market is a very difficult one, with the usual players dominating all sales. But is it possible that the South Korean’s may be taking some of this dominance away…

Looks – 10/10

One of the first things I noticed as the Kia arrived on my driveway is how long it is. It certainly has the presence to be an executive saloon car. The Optima is- I believe- one of the best looking saloon cars on sale. There are some really sharp lines, particularly at the front, yet the whole car looks really sleek. Being the top of the range model, my test car had the nicer 18-inch alloy wheels. The glass roof looks very executive, although some privacy glass would have been nice. As would another exhaust pipe on the other side of the car, but the shark-fin aerial, bits of chrome and daytime running lights help ensure you look at this car and think of it as premium. I think looking in your rear view measure the Optima could look rather intimidating, and it as the recognisable Kia ‘family’ grille.

On the inside you could be forgiven for forgetting this is a Kia at all. Cover up the badges and people may well tell you it was a BMW. The materials are very high quality, and the whole cabin suits the executive exterior. I’m not so much a fan of the wood-effect trim, although being dark it isn’t as noticeable. The leather everywhere works, and the steering wheel does look surprisingly like the one in the new BMW’s… I’m just saying. I love the instrument cluster and the large touch-screen sitting nicely in the dashboard. The big start button and the rest of the controls are logically laid out and feel quality when using them, and so the whole package of the car would suit any businessman over and beyond their expectations. Sitting in this cabin you would feel like the MD.

Handling/Performance – 7/10 

The engine underneath the bonnet of this leviathan is a mere 1.7-litre diesel engine. It produces just 136PS- which doesn’t seem a lot in a car this size- but a more respectable 325Nm of torque. Through the 6-speed manual gearbox 0-62mph takes 10.2 seconds and the top speed is 125mph. But for the impressive torque between 2,000 and 3,000rpm the Optima feels rather underpowered. The in gear acceleration isn’t too bad, especially if you stay in the ‘sweet spot’, but don’t expect any ambitious forward surges. That being said, I never felt overly concerned with the lack of power. This isn’t a car that makes you want to drive around like your hair’s on fire. It’s a car for eating up miles upon miles in absolute comfort, and the Optima more than holds its own on the motorway. That’s
what matters the most in this car, and at cruising speeds it’s quiet and feels refined.

It’s the same story with the handling really. The steering is perfectly weighted. But it isn’t the sharpest I’ve ever come across, and regardless hauling this size of a car around the twisty stuff never feels enjoyable anyway. The Optima can corner well, but it never feels natural to attack corners, as you should be relaxing. And relax you will be able to, because the Optima is incredibly comfortable; whatever the surface. On the motorway it’s absolute bliss, but even on twisty, bumpy A-roads you won’t arrive at your destination with a broken back. In fact, there were certain roads I drive regularly which I had to double check hadn’t been re-laid because of how comfortable the Optima is. Having said that the plush leather seats did help a lot with that.

Economy – 9/10

Now for any frustration you may feel at the lack of grunt from the Optima, it will more than make up for it at the fuel pumps. Being a 1.7-litre engine the diesel is rather economical. Combined fuel
consumption is a satisfactory 57.6mpg, whilst CO2 emissions are 128g/km. That puts the Optima in VED band D. Road tax will cost £105 (free in the first year). Part of this economy comes from the 6-speed gearbox and Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG) technology featured. I would have liked to see the Optima slip down just one more band, but owing to the large 18-inch wheels and the sheer size of the car this may be a bit ambitious.

Practicality – 10/10

Now I’ve already mentioned how sizeable the Optima is, and that is reflected in the cabin. I was astounded at the amount of room in the back. It could be classed as a long wheelbase without question. And the same goes for room in the front. The boot is vast, but- as with all saloon cars- has a limited loading area. Being the range-topping Optima ‘3’ there is every conceivable gadget you could imagine. You get heated rear seats, for example, which are a nice luxury. The front seats are heated and ventilated to suit both hot and cold weather. There’s satellite navigation, cruise control, Bluetooth hands free telephone, dual-zone climate control and parallel park assist. Put simply the Optima is a dream to live with. And being backed by a 7-year warranty gives you peace of mind too.

Fun – 8/10

There were several aspects that made the Optima fun for me. First and foremost is the way it looks. Finished in white pearl metallic, it turned heads absolutely everywhere it went. With the aggressive stance, daytime running lights and ‘quad’ fog lamps there is a presence that leaves an impression. Seeing it parked in a car park or catching a glimpse in a shop window was always nice. Secondly there is the sheer amount of gadgetry featured. Watching people’s faces as they looked around the cabin and the resulting bewilderment kept me entertained to no end. I like a car that takes expectations, and then completely blows them out of the water. And that’s what the Kia does. Every single person who saw the Optima loved it. If only it was more fun to drive…

Concluding Remarks

Well I have to say that I was vastly impressed by the Optima. The price for the ‘3’ in manual transmission is £25,595 and given the level of equipment included I consider this incredible value for money. Backed up with the fantastic Kia warranty, this is a package which would suit any aspiring businessman down to the ground. Or- to be frank- anybody. It’s simply that good. If you want more information then head over to your local dealership and discover the Optima for yourself. Alternatively you can head over to the Kia website. Kia has the motto “The power to surprise”. The Optima epitomises this. And then some.

Total Score – 44/50 

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