Optima enhances style, space and performance

by Michael Moroney

Kia’s new Optima SW estate car is sleeker and more modern than before. This is a car that challenges the established larger estate cars with a combination of modern looks, low running costs and value for money.

On its own, the new Kia Optima SW has certain appeal; the car looks modern, it drives well and its value for money relative to the likes of the Ford Mondeo, Toyota Avensis or Volkswagen Passat. This is the market segment that the Optima SW and its related Hyundai i40 SW both trade in but at a slightly more competitive price offering.

While the Kia name has been linked to the seven year warranty offer, there’s more to owning a car than that alone. You have to like getting into the car, like its styling because for many people it’s the place where you can spend up to 20% of your life.

The full upgrade for the new Optima SW has enhanced the appeal of the car. The international Red Dot design team voted the Optima design one of the best modern cars for 2016.

I agree largely with their view and I love the slightly devious look of the front grille in the Optima. Somehow it reminds me of a cartoon caricature of a smiling shark so there is a slightly humorous look to the car that sort of pleased me every time that I approached it.

Apart from the new look, Kia has done some serious work under the skin of the new Optima SW. Its lighter and claimed to be stronger and safer due to the use of more higher grade steel in its manufacture.

The internal look of the car is very modern and airy. The dash is slightly lower than some of the competition giving a great frontal view. It’s very clean and uncluttered with a large central screen to house the information and sat-nav system.

Personally, I prefer a slightly higher dash, but that’s my own prejudice. The infotainment system works well and is very easy to navigate, with simple set-up for the Bluetooth mobile phone connection.

The car feels spacious with ample headroom in the rear. The leather affect seats were comfortable, with durable and washable rear covers on the rear front seats that are easy to keep clean.

The glove box is big but there are not too many other large storage areas. The electronic handbrake was easy to get used to and included the hill hold facility for easier hill starting.

The rear visibility is reasonable and reversing is helped by the standard reversing camera system that transmits on the large central info screen.

The improved 1.7-litre turbo-diesel engine is claimed to be more economical and gives slightly more power up from 136bhp to 141bhp. The car has more engine torque to give better acceleration, making its slightly faster than some of the competition.

Kia use what they call the Idle Stop & Go (ISG) engine stop/start system on all models and this they claim has reduced the CO2 emissions levels by 14% to 110g/km. The rated fuel economy level has also improved to 23km/litre (4.4/100km or 64mpg) which is very competitive. Add the two together and you get a low running cost car.

I found that this rated fuel economy figure was not possible to achieve on the road; my performance figure was about 40% poorer at 17km/litre. This is a realistic figure and I was impressed that the 70-litre capacity fuel tank, one of the largest in the segment, meant that the car was able for a range of more than 1,000km before a refill.

If you are an outdoor person that uses your estate car for towing a boat you’ll note that the Optima’s towing rating is low at 1.5 tonnes compared to the German competition while the boot space is also smaller. Kia fit a space saver spare wheel in there, which is a benefit.

The entry price is €29,950 which is real value when you look at the specification of the car, even relative to the Hyundai i40. This is just €2,000 over the entry price for the saloon car version.

The entry level Optima SW EX model comes very well equipped with sat-nav, auto light control, rain sensor wipers and reversing camera included in the package, along with 17-inch alloy wheels.

The seven-year Kia warranty is the other appeal factor that you just can’t dismiss and now there are new performance levels and better road holding to add to the driving pleasure.

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