Kia Optima a rational rather than emotional choice

Having recently driven the new Kia Niro – which targets two growing market sectors, crossovers and hybrids – I’ve now been given the chance to try the latest Kia Optima in estate car form. It is a reminder that the estate car market is also enjoying growth at the moment. In Britain, in particular, more and more people are opting for the greater flexibility and space provided by estate cars.

The Kia Optima Sportswagon competes with cars like the Ford Modeo Estate and the Skoda Superb Estate (recently tested in this blog). Its looks follow Kia’s current design language with the now-familiar Kia corporate ‘tiger’ grille enhanced with an attractive chequered brightwork effect for a welcome touch of style.

Kia Optima Sportwagon 3

There are three different trim levels that you can specify for your Sportwagon – logically (if unexcitingly) named 2, 3 and GT-Line S. The test car was the Kia Optima Sportwagon 3. While you have some choices to make in terms of trim level, you don’t have to juggle with different engine options. There’s just one – the 139 bhp 1.7-litre diesel.

Estate cars are all about space and on the Sportwagon it starts with space for the driver and passengers. I usually find I leave just one additional rearward slot in seat adjustment, on the Optima there is more than ample adjustment.

Although it doesn’t challenge the Skoda Superb for rear seat legroom, the Sportwagon has good space in the back for two – three if you are willing to accept a little more squeeze and less cosseting.

Round the back, the Kia Optima Sportwagon slots between the Ford Mondeo Estate and the Skoda Superb Estate in terms of load space. The large tailgate looks a bit vulnerable to parking bumps, but it does open wide to make loading easy.

Kia Optima Sportwagon 3

Although it doesn’t quite match the look and feel of the best European interiors, the interior finish comes pretty close. The eight-inch colour touchscreen, standard on the Optima 3, works well and is commendably easy to use, catering for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The high spec on the Optima Sportwagon 3 comes with features like driver’s electric seat with memory, heated seats and electric lumbar support adjustment. A rare, but very welcome luxury in cold weather, is the heated steering wheel. It may not get much use in the summer, but you will definitely welcome it on a cold winter morning!

In addition, in the Optima 3 also offers all the modern electronic kit including Bluetooth, DAB radio, no less than two USB ports and Xenon headlights.

As I said, the Optima Sportwagon comes with just one power unit – a 1.7-litre diesel. It does bring reasonable (if not outstanding) economy and low emissions. But, it is hard to forget that it is an oil burner under the bonnet. The diesel grumble starts at low revs and remains audible as you raise the revs. The throttle response is also very obviously old-school turbo-diesel with its ‘elastic’ throttle response.

Combine that with a rather short power band and sustained acceleration (such as when leaving a dual carriageway junction) tends to come in short bursts of surge, interrupted by notable retardation when the throttle is lifted to change gear. This and the rather notchy gearchange left me wondering if the seven-speed automatic might be a better (if more expensive) option.

As you may guess, with a 139 bhp output in a relatively large vehicle, performance is good, rather than lively. Factor in the rather lifeless steering and that elastic throttle response and this is not a car for the enthusiast.

On the other hand, as practical and comfortable transport to get from A to B, the Sportwagon is considerably more convincing. Add in the seven-year warranty and the rational, logical appeal becomes all the stronger.

Kia Optima Sportwagon 3

That probably sums it up the car perfectly. The Kia Optima Sportwagon is a sensible addition to the short list for the average owner. It is good at getting you and a full complement of passengers plus a good sized load from A to B in comfort and without fuss – with the added peace of mind of that warranty.

Given that this is what most Kia Optima Sportwagon buyers will be wanting, it is will satisfy many.

Kia Optima Sportswagon 3 ISG CRDi Estate
Carbon dioxide emissions: 113 g/km
Combined fuel economy 64.2 mpg
Top speed: 112 mph
0-62: 10.0 secs
Power 139 bhp
Engine size 1685cc petrol
Boot capacity 552/1686 litres (back seats up/folded)

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