Thursday, 19 April 2012

2012 Kia Optima FULL ROAD TEST

Words and Photos by Rob McSorley 

Technical Data

Price as tested: ££21,695
Engine: 1.7 16v 134bhp - 0-62mph: 10.2 secs - Maximum Speed: 125mph -
Economy: 49.6 mpg (urban) –64.2 mpg (extra-urban), 57.6 mpg (combined) Emissions: 128g/km (Band D) - VED (12 months): £95
Dimensions: Length: 4845mm - Width: 1830mm - Height: 1455mm - Wheelbase: 2795mm
*data from Kia UK

What is it?

library image
The Optima is Kia's latest model to be launched in the UK but has been on sale in some markets since 2010. In Korea and China it is known as the K5. The Optima's predecessor, the Magentis wasn’t a big seller on our shores failing to compete with more established rivals due to its poor dynamics and dull looks. The new range starts at a competitive £19,595 for the “1” rising to £26,000 for the lavishly equipped “3”.

Rivals; Ford Mondeo, Peugeot 508 and Volkswagen Passat

 Key Features

Sleek rear end has more than a hint of Audi
  • 18" inch alloy wheels
  • Daytime running lights
  • Heated leather seats
  • Reversing Camera
  • Dual zone climate control
  • Automatic lights and wipers
  • Cruise control 
  • Twin sunroof
  • Powerfold mirrors
  • ABS,EBD,ESS,ESC & Brake Assist
  • 7 year/100,000 mile warranty 

If you ask any car enthusiast which mainstream brand has made the most progress over the past five years there is only one answer, and that is Kia. We have already been impressed by the vastly improved Picanto and the superbly refined Rio - the Optima is the next model in Kia’s product offensive. 

The Optima is designed to rival the class dominators such as the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat which isn’t going to be easy but Kia is confident that they can steal sales.

Let’s be honest, none of this cars rivals can be described as lookers but the Optima is, in our eyes the best looking car in this class. With its mix of sharp, masculine lines, imposing front profile, sleek roof line with chrome strip running from front to rear and a well-proportioned Audi-esque rear the Optima turn heads wherever it goes. Our test cars looks were enhanced further by its futuristic 18” alloys wheels and Santorini Blue paintwork.

Aircraft style cabin looks great and is clearly laid out but quality is lacking in places
The interior also has a distinctive design dominated by a dash heavily angled towards the driver bringing all of the controls into easy reach. The deeply cowled dials look great with a high quality screen in between that displays useful information for the driver. We found the interior quality patchy with the main section of the dash and door panels constructed of soft touch plastic but elsewhere the trim felt low-rent and the artificial wood grain effect fails to look premium. Many of the buttons such as the window switches are the same as you would find in a Picanto so aren’t damped and feel cheap to the touch.

Reversing camera mounted in the rear view mirror is a touch of genius and is really 

Cabin space as you would expect from a saloon measuring 4845mm in length is very good, legroom in the rear is very generous helped further by the flat floor, headroom is more limited especially if your Optima comes with the twin sunroofs as ours did but it shouldn’t be a problem for most. Usefully three passengers can easily fit across the wide cabin and there are plenty of useful storage spaces and the boot is massive at 505 litres.
Wing vents are for show only

All versions come well equipped. Our mid-spec Lux 2 came with dual zone climate control, Bluetooth connection, leather seats as well as twin sunroofs and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera neatly integrated into the rear-view mirror.

Choosing an engine is easy as there is only one, a gutsy 134bhp 1.7 CRDi diesel which with the help of stop-start can return up to 57.6 mpg and emits just 128g/km of CO2. We found the 6 speed manual gearbox had a smooth precise feel that made it a pleasure to use

On the road the Optima really impresses with good body control, excellent levels of grip and a sharp turn in. It’s only let down has to be the steering which although decently weighted lacks the feel that keen drivers demand and makes it difficult to know what the front wheels are up to.

Refinement is decent enough with engine and wind noise kept to a minimum but we found the stiff suspension spoilt the otherwise good ride quality and those large wheels with low-profile tyres generate far too much roar at speed. 

At £21,695 our Optima undercuts the similarly equipped Mondeo by around £2500 which represents excellent value for money and Kia’s class leading 7 year/100,000 mile warranty sweetens the deal further.

Words and Photos by Rob McSorley 

The Verdict 

The Optima is yet another thoroughly competent product from Kia. We really liked its looks, superb economy and decent on-road manners. There are rivals that offer a bit more in terms of build quality, refinement and steering feel but none of these detract too much from what is an otherwise great all-round package. We would however recommend you choose your wheels carefully as comfort is compromised. Overall the Optima is well worth a look especially considering it also comes with Kia’s industry leading 7 year/100,000 mile warranty.

You will like
  • Looks
  • Cabin and boot space
  • Economy
  • Handling 
You won't like 
  • Tyre roar from 18" wheels 
  • Quality of some interior surfaces 
  • Steering lacking in feel
 Special Thanks to; Kia Motors (UK) Limited, 2 The Heights , Brooklands, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 0NY

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