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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
Kia Optima Sportswagon ‘3’ 1.7 CRDi ISG

Click to view picture gallerySales of compact crossovers are
  booming but something unpredicted
  by the pollsters is happening —
  more and more family buyers are
  turning away from large crossovers
  and SUVs and making sleek estate
  cars their Alpha set of wheels...”


MORE GOOD NEWS is that the prestige and premium brands no longer offer the only game in town — providing equally as much pizzazz for your pound is the Optima Sportswagon, from Kia.

While our intense test regime lasting eight days and seven nights gives us enough feedback to pinpoint the good, the bad and the ugly about a car, a month is clearly better. Sadly it's not possible to review as many cars each year as we do for more than a week apiece but happily we can occasionally fit in a long-termer.

Recently we managed to find a five-week-window perfect for an extended review whilst taking in the best of Dorset and Devon. The big question was which car? As it was going to be a 'touring' trip with all but the proverbial kitchen sink taken with us, we plumped for Kia's first-rate estate the Optima Sportswagon.

While the Sportswagon
more than matches the
upmarket-badged
lifestyle estates in the
looks department,
it doesn’t cost anywhere
near as much
to put one on your drive:
£22K will do it...”
While it more than matches the upmarket-badged lifestyle estates in the looks department, it doesn't cost anywhere near as much to put one on your drive: £22K will do it.

And although the range-topping GT-Line S sells for £31K, all Optima Sportswagons run with the same engine a 1.7-litre CRDi turbodiesel. If you're a two-pedal driver then there's also a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle-shifters that's fitted to the penultimate '3' (the DCT auto) as well the range-topping GT-Line S.

The Sportswagon is fronted by a full-width metallic effect 'tiger-nose' grille flanked by slim headlights inset into the upper front wings as far back as the flat-cut front wheelarch flares. Lightly crafted flanks flow into strong, rising shoulder lines that together with a tapering roofline all meet in a raked tailgate with wide wraparound tail lamps to create a self-confident and athletic body.

Given that many Sportswagons will primarily serve a family, the cabin is still the most important room in the house. Fortunately the Sportswagon's interior is as accommodating as the swept-back glasshouse implies. Inner space is generous, boosted by the spick-and-span 'widescreen' cabin architecture, and there's room and to spare for your front passenger to shank-stretch without stealing legroom from anyone sitting behind.

The driver is particularly well cared for with 8-way power operation plus 4-way power lumbar support for the well-cushioned and nicely bolstered driver's seat whoever's riding shotgun enjoys an equally comfortable chair but with smooth manual adjustment. Both seats, by the way, get 3-stage heating. And drivers will not only appreciate the two-setting memory but will also be glad of the easy-access feature that can be left off or set to move a little or even a lot to make entry easy-peasy.

Black mesh-effect cloth with a metallic sheen (mixed with persuasively good-looking faux leather) is the covering for the seats which was great news during our 1,000-mile-plus mini-heat-wave trip (no ooh-ahhs on first contact after the car had been left standing in the fierce sun); they'll be equally welcoming during the chilly winter months, as will the steering wheel's heated rim.

Undoubtedly comfy, the Sportswagon also scores with its inviting ambiance and smart trim, with soft-touch materials and fine fit-and-finish so much so that even just popping round the corner for a takeaway is a feel-good experience.

Your fingertips can
operate a variety of
important functions from
the steering wheel
s
keypads — everything
from navigation to cruise.
For the record, not only
are the 3D navigation
maps idiot-proof but so
too are the clearly spoken
directions —
even well off the beaten
track the Sportswagon
s
trustworthy
SatNag
never once got it
wrong...”
Amongst many other 'pluses' is a first-rate driving position made even better by the first class visibility. The instrument cluster is clarity-led; straightforward dials are separated by a clear multifunction trip display that along with the expected info also shows roadside speed limit signs (repeated on the large 8-inch central touchscreen's mapping) and the oh-so-essential digital speed readout.

Plus your fingertips can operate a variety of important core functions from the steering wheel's keypads everything from navigation to cruise. For the record, not only are the 3D navigation maps idiot-proof but so too are the clearly spoken directions even well off the beaten track along Devon's narrow twisting lanes the Sportswagon's trustworthy 'SatNag' never once got it wrong.

Another well-considered touch: the main infotainment screen is set at the same horizontal level as the dials, so glancing between them is quicker and safer. 'Hard' buttons around the screen let you instantly jump into another menu while a 'climate' button displays all the current climate settings on the touchscreen so no distracting 'eyes down' for adjustments on the move.

Comms is a key factor for today's tech-savvy buyers and the Sportswagon won't leave them short of ways to stay in touch on the go: standard-fit are Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone connectivity with audio streaming, Android Auto (for smartphone connected Google Maps, Google Play, hands-free calls and texts and voice recognition), Kia's Connected Services with TomTom serving up not just timely directions but speed camera and traffic alerts, weather reports and even facilitating searches for local point-of-interest information. You'll also find front and rear USB charging points and 12v power sockets.

Higher up the trim ladder wireless smartphone charging is included just rest your mobile in the tray ahead of the gear lever and charging is automatically activated; helpfully, the charge status is shown in the instrument cluster. It's clever, too you'll be warned if you attempt to leave the car without removing your smartphone!

Inside the Sportswagon you really can, when you're pootling around as well as when you're in the cruise, hear the sound of silence. But if you would prefer to listen to Simon & Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence in all its glory then you'll be pleased to know that the Sportswagon comes with a harman/kardon Premium Sound system with 8 speakers including a 4-inch central speaker, 490w external amp and 8-inch subwoofer. Cool.

But you don't just get plenty of Audio, Communication and Information because there's also a raft of safety and driver assist systems including unique-in-class twin-radar Autonomous Emergency Braking this uses both short- and long-range radar to detect vehicles and pedestrians. Really useful when, as we found, over-eager drivers nip out of hidden side lanes.

Like to hear Simon & Garfunkel’s
The Sound of Silence
in all its glory?
Then you’ll be pleased
to know that the
Sportswagon comes with
a harman/kardon
Premium Sound system
with 8 speakers including
a 4-inch central speaker,
490w external amp and
8-inch subwoofer...”
Also fitted are Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert (warns if there's an unseen vehicle approaching from either side when reversing out of a driveway or a parking space), twin front and side airbags plus curtain bags, Speed Limit Information (handily shown on the main screen as well as in the driver's display), Blind Spot Detection, Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability Management, Hill-start Assist Control, tyre pressure monitoring, height-adjustable front seatbelts, cornering lights, headlamp washers, and LED rear combination lights.

Of course, all the 'little luxuries' are present and correct: automatic 2Zone AirCon, electric parking brake (with a smooth 'drive-through' function), voice recognition, tinted and privacy glass, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, one-shot up/down 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 a set of 18-inch alloy wheels.

Not something you'd automatically check for in the showroom or out on a test drive, but essential nonetheless in-cabin storage. No problem; there's plenty of it with a large glovebox, sunglasses holder, long roomy door pockets, and a very big storage bin with a lift-out top tray below the front central armrest along with ample cupholders for your Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino or whatever keeps you wired…

The limo-proportioned rear cabin's long side widows make for unspoilt views out and it's all made even more liveable courtesy of a fist of headroom, well-shaped outer seats with supportive backrests set at restful angles, masses of knee- and foot-room, and room to really stretch those pins. The wide, padded centre armrest (with built-in cupholders) can be folded away if three are to share the back seat there's plenty of foot-room if they do.

Also making you feel right at home in the back are 12v and USB charging ports, door bins capable of holding cans and small bottles very useful for us as we needed supplies to keep us going as we drove from Kent to Devon magazine pockets, and damped grabs. Nice, too, to have some paparazzi-proofing; privacy glass is fitted from the B-pillars back.

Regardless of what trim level you go for, you'll get the same engine in the entry-level Sportswagon as you would in the range-topper a 1.7-litre turbodiesel with a muscular 250lb ft of torque and a useful 139bhp.

It’s an agreeable engine,
this four-pot 1.7;
eager to please, it’s
decidedly willing and
you’ll never feel the need
to race through the gears
to maintain momentum.
Far from it; even with
a manual ’box it makes
Kia’s grown-up estate an
easy and unruffled drive.
Apart from which,
zipping through the gears
is a piece of cake
thanks to the manual
box’s slick change
action...”
It's an agreeable unit, this four-pot; eager to please, it's decidedly willing and you'll never feel the need to race through the gears to maintain momentum. Far from it; even with a manual 'box Kia's grown-up estate served up an easy and unruffled drive on our long journey. Apart from which, zipping through the gears is a piece of cake thanks to the manual box's slick change action.

The benchmark 60mph comes up in 9.8 seconds and top speed is 124mph. Officially the Combined Cycle figure is 64.2mpg with emissions of 113g/km so running one isn't going to cause a meltdown with your bank card. Despite the amount of low gear work required to negotiate Devon's switchback hills, our overall test average came out at a very plesing 47.1mpg.

Ride-wise the Sportswagon handles both extremes well; with a full load of cargo or a full complement of passengers it rides smoothly, taking bumps and second-grade blacktop in its stride.

Dynamically it's quite easy to forget that it measures almost five metres nose to tail because it responds well to the helm and feels fluently well-mannered. On quick A- and B-roads there's more than enough grip to encourage some pressing-on if you've a need for speed and on the testing country lanes off the so-called 'Devon Expressway', the Sportswagon never put a wheel wrong.

Easily capable of swallowing four passengers and their driver, where the Sportswagon also scores is with its versatile boot-cum-loadbay. Access is through a wide tailgate: raised, it reveals a 552-litre boot for luggage or shopping (additionally there are useful underfloor storage trays). Pulling the one-touch release levers either side of the boot drop the 40:20:40-split rear seats to form a seamlessly floored 1,686-litre cargo hold. Another timesaving feature is that the rear belts don't get in the way when raising or lowering the back seats.

The middle '20' section seatback can be dropped to accommodate large wide items while still carrying an adult either side of it; alternately it can double as an impromptu table for the kids. Really, really useful is the standard-fit multi-configurable rail system that lets you corral just about anything exactly where you want it either by itself or while mixed in with other cargo. If you absolutely need every inch of space for passengers you can still 'haul some' a braked 1,800kg. And that's not all: you can carry another 100kg on the slim roof-rails.

Handsome is as handsome does and that's absolutely true about Kia's Optima Sportswagon. Comprehensively-specced, spacious and comfortable (nary a twinge even after seven hours caught up in Bank Holiday traffic), roomy for families and their holiday luggage, and priced affordably, it will satisfy the head as well as the heart! ~ MotorBar
.
Kia Optima Sportswagon '3' 1.7 CRDi ISG | £24,495
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-60mph: 9.8 seconds | Test Average: 47.1mpg
Power: 139bhp | Torque: 250lb ft | CO2: 113g/km

.