First Drive: Kia Optima Sportswagon


By Kia's own admission, the Optima has been underperforming in the sales department. That's largely been down to the fact it has been lacking an estate variant, so now there's a Sportswagon option, does it deserve a bigger slice of the sales pie?

What is it?

Sportswagon is Kia-speak for estate and it has been built with the European market in mind because these load-lugging cars make up two-thirds of sales and 75 per cent of fleet sales in the D-segment. Kia wanted in on the action, which is why it's built its first D-segment estate.

It's almost identical to the saloon version, apart from the fact it is 5mm taller. The only change you might notice from behind the wheel is the alteration in suspension, as damper rates and alignment settings have been tweaked to accommodate a rearward-shift in weight distribution and to cope with the potential for heavier loads.

What's under the bonnet?

The Kia Optima Sportswagon is powered by a 1.7-litre turbocharged diesel engine producing 139bhp and 340Nm of torque. It feels like quite an old-school diesel, sounding unrefined and offering little in the way of performance.

Company car drivers and frugal families will be pleased to know that where the engine really delivers is in its efficiency. The manual is rated at 64.2mpg and 113g/km of CO2, while the automatic can officially achieve 61.4mpg and 120g/km

What's it like to drive?

Kia wants to be known for building cars that are fun to drive, and for the most part it has succeeded with the Optima Sportswagon.

Cars in this segment will never be particularly agile, but the Optima's suspension tweaks work well to hide the extra weight over the rear. The ride is composed and manages to feel soft without any unsettled wallowing.

From a fun perspective, the engine is a bit of a let-down. It's slow to react and there's no real surge of torque like you'll find in more pleasant diesels from the likes of Mazda. Go for the DCT automatic transmission, however, and it feels a little more responsive.

First Drive: Kia Optima Sportswagon

First Drive: Kia Optima Sportswagon

What's the spec like?

When you look at the starting price of £22,295, you'd be forgiven for thinking that creature comforts would be few and far between. Quite the opposite. The materials are high quality in all the right places and it's a lot closer to rivals such as BMW than you might expect.

A seven- or eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system sits in the middle of the dashboard and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and a rear parking camera are also standard, while a 490-watt Harman/Kardon eight-speaker sound system can be optioned.

Any rivals?

Plenty. The Kia Optima Sportswagon is attempting to build a name for itself in a busy market with a number of established opponents.

Perhaps its key rival will be the Ford Mondeo. Ubiquitous as a fleet and family car, eating into its sales will be a challenge. Where the Kia wins out is with its value for money and the driving experience.

The Mondeo feels huge and can be quite unnerving to drive away from dual carriageways and motorways, and its standard kit isn't quite so impressive.

Kia will also be hoping to steal a few sales from the big German marques. It offers fantastic value compared with cars such as the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 5-Series, especially considering the interior's quality.

AOL Verdict

The Kia Optima has always been a decent car, but with the estate version now on sale it's a genuine D-segment contender.

The running costs are low, the interior is high quality and it's fun to drive. All that's letting it down is its badge, particularly for company car sales where status is important. For those not worried about the logo affixed to the bonnet and boot lid, the Optima Sportswagon is a viable alternative that won't disappoint those new to the brand.

Model: Kia Optima Sportwagon Price: £22,295
Engine: 1.7-litre CRDI turbocharged diesel
Power: 139bhp
Max Speed: 124mph
0-60mph: 9.8 seconds (manual), 10.7 seconds (automatic)
MPG: 64.2mpg (manual), 61.4mpg (auto)
Emissions: 113g/km (manual), 120g/km (auto)