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Kia Optima Sportswagon 1.7 CRDi GT-Line S Auto

Click to view picture gallery“Traditionally, estate cars were for business users and saloon cars for private use, but as bulky SUVs and high-riding crossovers have invaded the roads, those not enamoured of their kind have themselves crossed over to estate cars...”

SERIOUSLY BACK IN FASHION after years as workhorses, estate cars are now very much a statement of style indeed, you'll find them in the line-ups of all the prestige brands from Audi to Mercedes-Benz. 'Lifestyle' and touring styling treatments have also helped the family-friendly 'wagon' to take pride of place over other bodystyles on an increasing number of driveways.

But you don't have to sell your soul to acquire a svelte estate with kerb appeal — Kia will sell you one of its classy Optima Sportswagons for just over £22K. Top of the current four-trim Sportswagon range is the sporty GT-Line S, which costs more but gives you a lot extra for your £30,595 and comes with 1.7-litre turbodiesel power and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. And dashed good looks.

These days, just looking
good is not enough;
buyers want kit and
plenty of it, especially
the connectivity stuff.
And the Optima
brings it on.
But while drivers have
a hunger for high-tech
gadgetry, they’re also
practical — which is
something else Kia
satisfies better than any
other carmaker with
its industry-best seven-
year/100,000-mile
warranty...”
Seen from the front and identified immediately by its widened hallmark 'tiger-nose' grille, the Sportswagon has an imposing upmarket appearance. Long, slim headlamp units 'wrap around' the 'corners', nestling tightly alongside the bonnet and cutting into the upper front wings as far back as the blistered wheel arches. The flowing, lightly sculptured flanks are capped by a handsome glasshouse.

Not surprisingly the Sportswagon, resplendent in white, drew plenty of admiring glances in almost every car park we stopped off in, sitting astride the blacktop with a 'planted', thoroughbred air as self-confident as any BMW or Merc.

These days, though, just looking good is not enough; buyers want kit and plenty of it, especially the connectivity stuff. And the Optima brings it on. While there's a hunger for high-tech gadgetry driving most buyers, there's also a strong streak of practicality — something else Kia also satisfies, and better than any other carmaker, with its unmatched, industry-best seven-year / 100,000-mile warranty.

Until the plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV) version arrives (it's already in the Optima saloon), the Sportswagon can only be had with Kia's 139bhp 1.7-litre CRDi turbodiesel engine; there is a choice of transmissions though — a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. More about that later but for now just step inside, where the premium vibes continue with plenty of soft-touch and quality trim and the refreshingly uncluttered 'widescreen' cabin architecture.

Getting behind the wheel couldn't be easier as when you open the driver's door the seat automatically retracts (you can choose how far) to give you maximum room before, once you're in, gliding back to precisely where you last had it. If you share driving duties with a significant other you'll be glad of the two-setting seat and mirror memory.

The well-cushioned, black leather-upholstered seats feature inviting ribbed centre panels and decent bolstering that's nicely holding but never pinching. With 8-way power operation for the driver plus power lumbar adjustability as well as heating and fan ventilated cooling (three-stage for both), they're ideal for all weathers and all journeys. Plus there's plenty of space above and around each front seat, with well-cushioned outer armrests and legroom that doesn't come at the expense of passengers sitting behind.

More good news — you hands also get pampered, with a heated perforated leather rim on the sporty, flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel that also features paddle-shifters for the automatic transmission. And getaways are made even quicker by the illuminated, aluminium-finish engine Start button on the fascia.

A first-rate driving position is assured and once set the driver enjoys excellent visibility. Two easy-to-read dials sit either side of a TFT driver's information display screen that shows all the usual trip data as well as crucial information such as roadside speed limit signs (repeated on the touchscreen mapping) and digital mph. Plus your fingers can operate a raft of functions directly from the wheel keypads (voice, media, navigation, cruise, etc). Incidentally, navigational directions are clear-cut and easy to follow.

While some brands
have rushed into
touchscreen control for
every last function,
the Sportswagon’s
climate control is still,
happily, operated by
more user-friendly ‘hard’
switches on the dash.
As many drivers are
discovering, scrolling
through touchscreen
menus on the move can
be as distracting as
using a mobile...”
The centre stack favours the driver; not only is it angled towards you the better for you to see the large 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, but the display is helpfully set at the same level as the main instrument cluster so switching glances between them is even quicker and safer. Screen graphics are sharp and clear, and there are useful 'trigger' buttons for direct access to all menus.

While some brands have rushed into touchscreen control for every last function, the Sportswagon's climate control is, happily, still operated by more user-friendly 'hard' switches on the dash. As many drivers are discovering, scrolling through touchscreen menus on the move can be as distracting as using a mobile. So well done Kia for keeping a sensible balance.

As befits its range-topping status, the GT-Line S comes generously equipped with leather upholstery and powered driver's seat, four heated seats (two also with cooling), keyless entry and start, one-shot tilt-and-slide panoramic glass sunroof with electric roller blinds, 2-zone climate control, electric parking brake (with auto hold), voice recognition, reversing camera (with front and rear parking sensors), DAB radio, one-shot electric windows, heated powerfold door mirrors (on demand and automatically on locking and leaving), auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto lights and wipes, automatic drive-away door locking, and alloy pedals.

For those who value their connectivity there's Bluetooth hands-free with audio streaming, Android Auto, and Kia Connected Services with TomTom providing traffic and speed camera alerts, weather reports and local search information. And there's wireless smartphone charging: placing your phone in the charging tray at the base of the centre stack automatically activates charging, with the charge status shown in the instrument cluster.

And another well-considered touch: you'll be warned if you try to leave the car without removing your phone. For those who appreciate quality listening there's a harman/kardon Premium Sound system — it's standard-fit, and comes with 8 speakers including a 4-inch central speaker and 8-inch subwoofer and a 490w external amp.

Driver aids and safety features are equally well-specced and include unique-in-class twin-radar Autonomous Emergency Braking (this uses both short- and long-range radar systems to detect vehicles and pedestrians: the short-range radar operates at typical city speeds of up to 31mph; between 19mph and 50mph the longer-range radar also comes into play. The pedestrian detection function operates at up to 37mph).

Plus you get Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Smart Park Assist (guides the car in and out of parallel and perpendicular spaces; it also has a 360-degree Around View Monitor linked to four strategically placed cameras to give the driver a bird's-eye view of the car when manoeuvring), Lane Keep Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (warns when reversing out of a drive or a perpendicular parking space if there's an unseen vehicle approaching from the side).

For those who value
their connectivity
there’s Bluetooth hands-
free with audio
streaming, Android Auto,
and Kia Connected
Services with TomTom
providing traffic and
speed camera alerts,
weather reports and local
search information.
Plus there’s wireless
smartphone charging...”
And the kit-list just goes on with twin front and side airbags plus two full-length side curtain bags, Speed Limit Information, Blind Spot Monitoring, Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability Management, Hill-start Assist, tyre pressure monitoring, height-adjustable front seatbelts, LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED rear combination lights, dynamic cornering lights, and headlamp washers.

Even for a family car the Sportswagon has ample cubbies to keep things neat and tidy — including a large, lockable glovebox, sunglasses holder, cupholders, long roomy door pockets, and a very large storage bin with a lift-out top tray below the front central armrest.

And you can take our word for it that it's not just travelling in the front that's soothing; the rear cabin is equally airy and hospitable, with 2-stage heated and well-shaped ribbed outer seats, backrests with good built-in lumbar support set at restful lounging angles, plenty of headroom as well as space to stretch, and a wide, well-padded centre armrest (with cupholders) that's easily folded away if three will be sharing the back seat. Rear passengers also get extra privacy/sun-protection with side mesh blinds that pull up out of the door cappings.

Other appreciated features include front and rear USB points, door bins capable of holding cans and small bottles, magazine pockets, and damped grabs. The huge glass roof is a defining feature but thanks to twin blackout sun blinds you can stay shaded in the rear cabin even when those up front are basking in the rays. Plus it's quiet in the back — and not just when your driver's cruisin'.

The 1.7 puts out a useful 139bhp but it's the muscular torque that settles it: 250lb ft from 1,750rpm. Mated to Kia's new seven-speed dual-clutch autobox that's enough to satisfy most drivers as it delivers a 124mph top speed and off-the-line acceleration to 60mph in 10.7 seconds. And with an official Combined Cycle consumption of 61.4mpg and emissions of 120g/km, running it isn't going to break the bank. For the record, there's no road tax due for the first year and after that it's a measly £30 annually.

On the move the 1.7 serves up punchy acceleration, easily accessible via the dual-clutch autobox with seven ratios to keep the engine in its sweet spot. Shifts are smooth and the only real clue that they're taking place is the changing numbers shown in the gearchange indicator.

For those wishing to hurry things along, the paddle-shifters on the steering wheel are always ready and waiting for your fingertip commands — and when focused acceleration is required, they keep things far more under your control than flooring the accelerator pedal and triggering kickdown.

On the move the 1.7
serves up punchy
acceleration,
easily accessible via
the dual-clutch autobox
with seven ratios
to keep the engine in
its sweet spot.
Shifts are smooth but for
those wishing to hurry
things along,
the paddle-shifters on
the steering wheel are
always ready and waiting
for your fingertip
commands...”
The Sportswagon also comes with Drive Mode Select — this offers three different driving styles: Normal, Eco and Sport. We mixed-and-matched them quite frequently, mostly between Eco (very driveable; you certainly don't feel you've lost out on driving pleasure just to save some fuel!) and some well-enjoyed Sport for winding country road routes, and our overall test average still came out at a pretty good 44.6mpg.

It's a smooth-riding wagon this Optima, generally unfazed by bumps and degraded road surfaces, and definitely injects some 'grand' into any touring road trips while staying compliant when asked to drive over mediocre blacktop.

Handling-wise, it's easy to forget the Sportswagon's length (a shade over 4.8 metres nose-to-tail) as it's unexpectedly agile with quick, responsive steering and tidy road manners.

And while it's not designed to rip up the tarmac like a hot-hatch, it feels well enough connected to it to make pressing-on something it, and you, will be happy to do. Good to know, too, that for something that is quite likely to travel fully laden it feels secure at higher speeds, even on blustery motorways.

Making full use of the Sportswagon's accommodating boot and loadbay is easy thanks to the wide, powered tailgate. Open it up and there's an initial 552 litres for luggage (along with handy underfloor storage boxes). Pull the release lever in the boot and the 40:20:40-split rear seats fold down to create a 1,686-litre cargo hold which sees off most rivals. Another welcome time-saving feature: the rear seatbelts stay well out of the way when the seats are dropped/raised.

There's also a full-size load-through hatch which can double as a table for the kids, along with a multi-configurable aluminium rail system so you can corral just about anything exactly where you want it either by itself or while mixed in with other items — great for segregating the vino from the rest of your weekly shop!

And if you like to load 'outside of the box', the automatic Sportswagon will haul 1,500kg braked (the manual gearbox version will pull even more: 1,800kg). Alternatively, you could always make use of the slim satin-silver roof rails — they'll take 100kg of luggage.

Kia's Optima Sportswagon is a fine-looking estate that sends badge snobbery packing. Highly-specced, comfortable and roomy, and at a price that's very nice, it should definitely be on your shortlist… actually, it should be on your driveway! ~ MotorBar
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Kia Optima Sportswagon 1.7 CRDi GT-Line S Auto | £30,595
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-60mph: 10.7 seconds | Test Average: 44.6mpg
Power: 139bhp | Torque: 250lb ft | CO2: 120g/km

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