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Kia Optima 4 1.7 CRDi 7DCT ISG

Click to view picture gallery“Kias Optima saloon is back in
the all-new model is
  classier looking and better to drive,
  and i
s fighting its corner in the
  family car ring from a position of

UNDENIABLY A 'LOOKER' and fronted by the brand's hallmark 'tiger nose' grille, the wider and longer Optima's 1.7-litre CRDi turbodiesel has gained a bit more power and torque along with a worthwhile 25% improvement in fuel economy. Also strongly adding to its appeal is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

Measuring a smidgen short of 4.9 metres nose-to-tail, the Optima's got both street presence and kerb appeal; viewed from any angle it's a sporty-looking machine. Particularly so at the nose where wide wraparound light units create a shapely unbroken band with the black-and-chrome 3D-effect grille, running back into the wings and the blistered front wheelarches housing machine-faced 18-inch alloy wheels.

Inside the Optima
you’ll find the
reason a significant
number of drivers still
prefer big saloon cars —
Of which, courtesy of
its increased wheelbase
and extra width, the Kia
has plenty...”
Subtle but savoury touches add class: the clusters of triple pentagonal-shaped fog lights grouped either side of the lower grille; tasteful chrome inserts in the door handles; and the chrome strip running down from the roof over the flowing rear three-quarter panel to the spoiler-shaped boot lid.

Inside you'll find the reason a significant number of drivers still prefer big saloon cars space. Of which, courtesy of the Optima's increased wheelbase and extra width, you'll find plenty.

Swing open a front door they open wide for easy entry and exit. The driver's seat is the easiest to get into thanks to a 'comfort' feature that automatically retracts it (normal or extended, depending what suits you best) when you open the door. Once you're seated, it moves back to precisely where you had it last time you drove. A two-setting memory makes it more convenient if you need to share driving duties with another.

The seats, upholstered in black leather with perforated centre panels, are well-contoured and accommodating. With 8-way power adjustment as well as four-way power lumbar they're comfortable from the off; and thanks to 3-stage heating and 3-stage cooling they're even comfier on long journeys, summer or winter. There's loads of space around each seat, even for taller and stockier drivers, and legroom is especially good and doesn't short-change the passenger sitting immediately behind.

It's not just your back that will be warm on cold days but your hands and fingers too because the sporty, satin black, three-spoke steering wheel's rim is also heated. Top-trim versions with the dual-clutch autobox also get paddle shifters on the wheel for when you want to be master and commander and override the autobox to make manual gear changes.

A Drive Mode Select function offers the choice of three different driving modes: Eco, Normal, or Sport. And you'll find an aluminium-finish engine Start/Stop button on the fascia behind the grippy leather wheel-rim.

It goes without saying that a perfect driving position is easily set (and memorised) and it's made better by excellent visibility from behind the wheel. The instrument pack contains two easy-to-read traditional dials for revs and speed, set either side of a 4.3-inch digital display screen.

Another welcome ‘first’
is the wireless charger
for mobile devices.
It switches on
automatically when a
phone is placed in the
charging tray and warns
drivers and passengers
if they are about to
leave the car with their
phone still on
the charging pad...”
This easily configured driver's information display shows all the normal trip data such as range and mpg as well as essentials such as roadside speed limit signs (also repeated on the main screen's navigation maps), current gear, and a digital mph read-out. Add to that the raft of functions controlled by your fingers on the wheel itself (voice, media, navigation, cruise, etc) and you'll always be as informed as you need to be.

Also making life easy in the top-spec '4' model is keyless entry and start, 2-zone climate control, electric park brake (with auto hold), auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated powerfold door mirrors (on demand and automatically on locking and leaving), auto lights and wipes, automatic drive-off door locking, a reversing camera (with audible front and rear parking sensors), a tilting and sliding panoramic glass roof with one-shot operation, electric windows (all one-shot up/down), DAB radio with MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth hands-free with audio streaming, and Kia Connected Services with TomTom that provides traffic and speed camera alerts, weather reports and local search information.

The quieter interior is also a good place to listen to the 590-watt, 10-speaker harman kardon Premium Sound system that's been optimised for the Optima. It comes with an external amplifier with programmed Digital Signal Processing and QuantumLogic Surround, which identifies individual instruments and voices and presents them in a precise, multi-channel sound stage.

Another welcome 'first' in its class is the Optima's wireless charger for mobile devices. Located in the base of the centre console it switches on automatically when a phone (or MP3 player) is placed there and displays the phone's charge status in the instrument cluster. An inbuilt safety system prevents overheating, and drivers and passengers are warned if they are about to leave the car with their phone still on the charging pad.

On top of all that, occupying centre-stage in the dash is an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with SatNav. The touchscreen responds quickly to your fingertip and graphics are sharp and clear; 'hard' buttons beneath the screen can be used for direct access to all the infotainment menus.

For a family car the Optima comes with enough cubbies and storage to satisfy the average clan the lockable glovebox is refreshingly large, there's a drop-down holder for your sunglasses, plenty of cupholders, and a very large bin between the front seats with a lift-out top tray capped by a lift-up armrest.

Travelling in the
Optima’s back cabin is a
very civilised affair:
the backrests are set at
lounging angles so
occupants can stretch
out and make use of
the decent leg and
knee room.
The well-shaped seats
are comfy and
all the better for having
two-stage heating...”
Driver aids and new active safety features 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).

Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Dynamic Bending Headlights, 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 mounted cameras to give the driver a bird's-eye view of the car when manoeuvring), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (warns a driver who is about to back out of a perpendicular parking bay that there is a vehicle approaching at right angles), Lane Keep Assist (alerts a tired driver who may be about to stray into the path of a vehicle approaching from behind very effective!).

In addition there's Speed Limit Information, Blind Spot Monitoring, High Beam Assist (switches automatically between full and dipped beam when there are other vehicles in its vicinity), Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability Management, Hill-start Assist, and Tyre Pressure Monitoring. And when it comes to airbags, both front seats have them front and side, plus there are also two full-length side curtain bags.

But it's not just the advanced connectivity systems and sheer number of helpful driver aids that make the Optima's cabin a good place to be, but also the fittings and furnishings along with the de rigueur leather and pampering heated and ventilated seats, there's an all-new fascia enhanced by stylish high-gloss piano black inserts and tasteful satin highlights.

Travelling in the Optima's rear cabin is a very civilised affair: the backrests are set at proper lounging angles so occupants can stretch out and make use of the decent leg and knee room. The seats are well-shaped and comfy, and all the better for having two-stage heating. Rear passengers have their own heating controls as well as side mesh sunshades that pull up out of the doors. Cup holders are built into the wide central armrest than folds away if three need to use the back seat.

Other niceties include USB charging points for larger devices, door bins able to hold cans and small bottles, magazine pockets, nice reading lights and damped grabs. Capping it all is the large glass roof that runs quite a way back and keeps the pleasant ambiance well lit. If the sun's rays aren't for you then there's a powered sunblind to keeps things cool on cricket-friendly days.

Theres a nice spread of
power and it
s all
easily accessible via
the autobox whether you
choose to leave it to just
get on with it or select
Sport mode for a more
get-up-and-go drive...”

Big car; big boot. The large boot lid flips up over the rear screen out of the way for unrestricted loading into the wide and fairly long boot; despite a short drop over the sill to the boot floor, 510 litres of luggage can be easily packed in. Pulling the release levers in the boot drops the 60:40 split/fold seatbacks down level on their bases and creates a versatile cargo bay for bigger loads.

Under the bonnet is Kia's extensively revised 1.7-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel; outputs have been raised and the EU6 emissions-compliant unit now delivers 139bhp and 250lb ft of toque from 1,750rpm.

Paired with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed (7DCT) dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the paper figures are good with the Optima taking 10.6 seconds to hit 60mph from standstill and running on to a top speed of 126mph. And when it comes to road tax its 116g/km of CO2 keeps it down at a low 30 from year two.

There's a nice spread of power and it's all easily accessible via the dual-clutch autobox whether you choose to leave it to just get on with it or select the Sport mode for a more get-up-and-go driving style. Whichever you choose, the 1.7 is smoothly up to the task. If you don't want the on-the-boil urge of Sport then Normal is fine as you've got the steering wheel paddles to quickly downshift for sudden bursts of acceleration which keeps things far more under your control than flooring the accelerator pedal and triggering kick-down.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Eco mode is very easy to live with driveability isn't compromised even though it's saving you fuel. Even in the Eco setting the 1.7 pulls tellingly from low down with real-world economy staying on the good side of 45mpg all without making you feel that you're 'driving economically'.

With the body's torsional rigidity up by 50% and major revisions to the suspension and steering, the Optima sports sharper dynamics. A rack-mounted, motor-driven power-assisted system has made the steering quicker and more responsive. Grip is good and you feel connected to the blacktop, body roll is well controlled and the handling is tidy and well mannered, all of which makes for a more engaging drive. On motorways, even blustery ones, the Optima feels securely planted and inside it's unruffled and quiet 'in the cruise'.

Big car; big boot.
The large boot lid flips
up over the rear screen
out of the way for
unrestricted loading into
a wide and fairly long
boot that holds 510 litres
of luggage...”
Ride comfort also benefits from the stiffer body and suspension tweaks on the move the Optima feels compliant and unfazed by bumps and poorer blacktop and Kia's engineers have clearly made the right call when signing-off on the Optima's handling and ride compromise drivers will feel confident pressing-on while their passengers will remain at ease. Exactly how it should be in a sporty family saloon.

In a similar way to how Volvo now offers a level playing-field alternative to an Audi, BMW or Merc, the Optima adds an attractive and credible 'fourth way' to those already contemplating the likes of a Mondeo, Insignia or Passat. The distinctive-looking Optima is a polished 'all-rounder'. And don't forget that when it comes to warranty, the Optima holds a trump card over all its rivals Kia's industry-leading seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.

More breaking good news: later this year (2016) the petrol-engined GT will be available, as well as a sporty GT-Line trim model. And by early autumn there'll be a plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV) Optima with a commuter-friendly, all-electric drive range with even lower emissions and greater taxation advantages. Watch this space!

Kia Optima 4 1.7 CRDi 7DCT ISG | 28,895
Maximum speed: 126mph | 0-60mph: 10.6 seconds | Test Average: 46.1mpg
Power: 139bhp | Torque: 250lb ft | CO2: 116g/km