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Kia Optima 1.7 2 Tech

Click to view picture gallery“Kias four-door Optima saloon has
  already been a huge global success
  with over 300,000 units sold.
  And now (from 1 February 2012) you
  can buy one of these roomy and
  stylish Insignia/Mondeo-sized new
  Kias in the UK
...


WITH BUSINESS USER-CHOOSERS IN MIND, Kia in the UK are introducing the Optima only with a 134bhp 1.7-litre diesel engine. And for sound reasons: it offers good fuel economy and low CO2 emissions, both of which determine the amount of road tax and company car Benefit-in-Kind tax.

The Optima (prices start at £19,995 and range up to £25,995) was designed both in Europe and the USA — and it shows. At just over 4.8-metres long it's a substantial car to look at: nice front-end (apart from the bland grille); rising waistline coupe-style side view with muscular wheelarches; and a sleek coupe rear-end look — even though it's a saloon with a formal boot lid. Smartly styled front and rear light units complete the quality look.

“The boot is large —
505 litres; and loading is
easy due to a relatively
low rear sill. The rear
seatbacks fold down to
increase the load space
significantly but,
being a saloon,
loading has to be done
through the side doors or
boot which is why
hatchbacks in this sector
are more popular
...”
And it gets even better inside — thanks to a long wheelbase, rear seat legroom is really good. Also praiseworthy is the quality of fixtures and fittings. The only downside, for six-footers, is the lack of headroom on versions with a sunroof.

The boot is large — 505 litres; and loading is easy due to a relatively low rear sill. The rear seatbacks fold down to increase the load space significantly but, being a saloon, loading has to be done through the side doors or boot which is why hatchbacks in this sector are more popular. If demand is strong enough an estate — but no five-door — might well follow.

Customers might be limited to just one engine but they can choose between a six-speed manual or Kia's own new six-speed auto 'box. Around 20% of buyers are expected to specify the auto, which costs an extra £1,500. Four levels of trim and equipment are available using Kia's no-nonsense 1, 2 and 3 specs (midrange 2 versions also offer the options of two variants: Luxe or Tech).

Standard features include AirCon, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming, leather-clad steering wheel with remote audio controls, four power windows, electric folding mirrors, cruise control, speed limiter, and alloy wheels — and the headline-grabbing price for this version is a keen £19,995.

Move up to the mid-grade 2 spec and you additionally get an eight-way powered driver's seat with memory setting, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, solar glass with auto defogging, auto wipers, reverse parking camera, iPod connectivity, a premium Supervision instrument cluster and, on automatic models, steering-wheel paddle-shifters.

The Optima 2 Luxe version sports a panoramic sunroof with electric blinds, grey leather seats with a grey cloth trim, reversing camera in the rear-view mirror, 18-inch alloy wheels, black-painted front brake callipers, black and chrome radiator grille surround, sculptured side sill mouldings and front and rear valances. As such it looks a little sportier outside but the interior headroom is slightly lower and the larger wheels firm up the ride.

“The Optima’s 1.7-litre turbodiesel develops 134bhp along with
239lb ft of torque.
It’s adequately lively and responsive and the top speed is 125mph with zero to 60mph done and dusted in a sprightly
10.2 seconds
...”
The 'Best Buy' is, I believe, the Optima 2 Tech. This comes fitted with black leather and cloth upholstery, a 7-inch touchscreen SatNav (with European mapping) and an integrated reversing camera, a 12-speaker premium Infinity audio system (including a centre speaker, an external 11-channel amplifier and an eight-inch subwoofer) and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Both the Luxe and Tech variants cost the same — £21,695. For me it would be the Tech because the ride is more comfortable with the 17-inch alloys and the SatNav of more use than a sunroof.

The range-topping Optima 3 provides a combination of the mid-grade 2 equipment with additional features. It includes the Infinity audio system and touchscreen SatNav with integrated reversing camera as well as the panoramic sunroof and auto lights. There's also a cool-ventilated seat for the driver, heated rear seats, Xenon headlamps with automatic levelling, full black leather upholstery and, unique to the 3, an automatic parallel parking assist system.

And there's more: Smart key with start/stop ignition button, stainless steel door scuff plates with front illumination, mood lighting and an alloy pedal set complete the top-of-the-range Optima's impressively-high kit list. And all for… £24,495!

The Optima's 1.7-litre turbodiesel develops 134bhp along with 239lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm. Despite its less-than-the-norm cubic capacity for this class, it's nevertheless adequately lively and responsive. Top speed is 125mph with zero to 60mph done and dusted in a sprightly 10.2 seconds.

The manual 'box's six ratios are nicely chosen and the four-cylinder engine remains responsive at low speeds, even in high gears. The official 57.6mpg in the Combined Cycle looks impressive — and what certainly did impress me was the real-world 51.8mpg I saw driving in Hampshire commuter land traffic and on the M3 and M4 motorways. For those thinking of going for the auto, a test drive in the automatic model over the same route returned 45.1mpg.

“Whoever buys an Optima will be getting real value for money combined with classy looks and a saloon that’s worthy of its flagship status...”
But before you decide, note the big advantage the manual version has over the automatic — its much lower CO2 emissions: 128g/km versus 158g/km for the auto.

In monetary terms this means road tax costs £0 for the manual version in the first year and then an affordable £90 per annum for the second year onwards. The auto's road tax charge is £165 every year including the first.

Sticking with the manual vs auto cost comparison, company car drivers will pay 18% BIK for the manual and 24% for the auto. No doubt that the manual Optimas make the most financial sense — they're also £1,500 cheaper to buy.

Against? Models with a sunroof restrict front seat headroom for tall people and the 18-inch alloys unsettle the ride comfort. On the plus side you get classy styling, a roomy and comfortable cabin with a high specification, low taxes and running costs and very competitive pricing.

No surprise then that Kia is very optimistic that the Optima will open doors to the lucrative business-user sector. But whoever buys one, they'll be getting real value for money combined with classy looks and a saloon that's worthy of its flagship status. — David Miles

Kia Optima 1.7 2 Tech | £21,695
Maximum speed: 125mph | 0-60mph: 10.2 seconds | Overall test MPG: 51.8mpg
Power: 134bhp | Torque: 239lb ft | CO2 128g/km