Kia Optima is a credible competitor

The new Kia Optima
The new Kia Optima

KIA’S stylish new saloon, the Optima, which became Korea’s top selling car within a month of going on sale and is so popular in the United States that a factory is being built there to meet the demand is now attracting a lot of interest in the UK since recently going on sale writes Bryan Longworth.

This is not really surprising because the Optima which competes against rivals like the Passat and Mondeo is a handsome car with bags of street appeal that has been designed by Kia’s Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer, who used to design Audi cars.

Optima also represents a seismic shift in the design of Kia’s large saloons which hitherto had not been noted for their style so that the car would attract new customers who previously would not have considered Kia in this market sector including business users especially.

So I was really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the £21,695 Optima 1.7 CRDI 2 Tech ISG test car with its 1.7-litre 134bhp turbodiesel engine which is the only engine available for the new model.

Since Peter Schreyer moved to Kia there has been a significant change in the design and style of the Korean company’s new models and the Optima is yet another example of his influence with its very shapely body and even Audi style LED daytime running lights up front.

He has also created an impressive interior with user friendly controls and instruments although I would have preferred an easier to see colour for the speedometer needle as the dark colour was difficult to see in certain light conditions.

And I found my left hand occasionally caught the handbrake lever when I was using the six speed manual gearbox - an electronic handbrake would have prevented this but would have probably added to the overall cost of the car.

Statistics of the four cylinder diesel engine show it to have a top speed of 125mph, a zero to 62mph time of 10.2 seconds, a combined fuel consumption of 57.6mpg (the on board computer showed the average consumption around 50mpg) and C02 emissions of 128g/km.

This particular model is in the middle of the Optima range and it was well loaded with standard equipment that included an electrically adjustable drivers seat, heated front seats, steering wheel mounted controls, cruise control and speed limiter, touch screen sat nav with reversing camera, cornering lights plus that tempting seven year warranty.

I have found that cars from this part of the world tend to have unimpressive steering systems but not so the Optima which had very precise steering, impressive handling, plenty of interior space and a high ride comfort level.

With the Optima Kia have a classy looking saloon that should appeal to both private and business users as an alternative to rivals such as the Mondeo and it is without doubt the best big car to come from Korea.

My Verdict: A very credible competitor in this market segment.