FACED with a choice of either Kia’s successful Optima saloon or a VW Passat, a friend of a relative tossed a coin and took the keys to the German.
He was allegedly swayed by the greater engine choice available with the VW – a point hard to overlook when the Kia has but one on offer – but dismissing the Korean out of hand is a mistake.
It’s a car configured to catch the eye of the UK business driver, and while you can only have that 1.7 litre 134bhp version, it comes with an awful lot of equipment to make the buying decision that much harder.
When embarking on a lengthy trip, as business user/choosers do, it’s wise to be doing it in something that is both roomy and comfortable – so enter, stage right, the Optima, argued by some to be a good car to take on Jonny Bosch and his dominant Gerrmanic offerings.
Limo levels of legroom, headroom that’s in truth is a little impaired by the large panoramic roof, but otherwise a neat, very comfortable and roomy cabin, finished off by some neat black wood effect trimming.
More toys to play with than you’ll find in Hamleys has always been an Optima feature, and the latest features a high end Infinity sound system, with 12 speakers and a boot mounted sub woofer. You can also tick the boxes for Smart Park Assist, heated and cooled ventilated seats, cornering lights and an automatic cabin defogging system.
Smart entry (where you don’t need the key) with an ignition stop/start button is standard on the top versions. A reversing camera and an electric parking brake also find their way into the spec from the midrange ‘2’ model and above.
The latest model has sharper styling front and rear, and a profile that hammers home what a sleek car it is. Our test car, in brilliant white with that black panoramic roof, certainly caught the eye.
The new headlight units incorporate LED daytime running lights, blending into the Kia tiger nose grille, and the front fog lights adopt the ice cube design first seen on the pro_cee’d GT. The 18 inch alloys fit the arches nicely and enhance that sleek profile view.
Despite its relatively small capacity, and the fact it’s probably noisier than you might wish, the engine is no triumph of optimism over mechanical fact. It has respectable performance, reaching 60mph in 11.5 seconds with the automatic transmission fitted to our test car, going on to a 122mph top anywhere you can get away with it. Its overall fuel figure is 47.1mpg, so our 43.2mpg figure wasn’t too far wide of the mark.
With auto transmission you also get Drive Mode Select – three programmes (Normal, Eco, Sport) which alter the shift timing, accelerator mapping and steering weighting depending on what’s selected.
It’s also got Neutral Control, which shifts the gearing from D to N when the car stops for a few seconds, reducing the load on the engine and cutting fuel consumption.
Road noise is pretty well contained and there are plenty driver aids available to make going about your business a safe affair.
Neat touch? The stainless steel door plates that light up the Kia logo in red at night. Classy touch on a classy looking saloon.
FASTFACTS: Kia Optima 3; £27,350 OTR; 1685cc four cylinder CRDi, 134bhp, 325Nm; six speed automatic; top speed 122mph, 0-60mph 11.5secs; fuel (70 litre tank) – urban 35.8, extra urban 57.6, combined 47.1; CO2 158g/km; will it fit the garage? 4845/1830/1455 (l/w/h); seven year warranty.