Wagons are cool, right? There’s a definite trend towards practicality among new car buyers in the UK. Just look at the success of crossovers, and we’re increasingly buying more estates than conventional D-segment saloons.
But, until now, Kia has never sold an estate version of its Mondeo-rivalling Optima. And that might go some way towards explaining why it’s never sold particularly well.
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Having cashed in on its seven-year warranty and exceptional value for money, Kia (along with sister brand Hyundai) is gradually attempting a move upmarket. When it revealed its Sportspace concept, it was clear change was on the horizon.
Not only was the Optima-previewing concept absolutely drop-dead gorgeous (something the Optima has never previously been), it was also shooting brake in shape.
When Kia revealed the new Optima at Geneva 2016, it was no surprise, then, to see an estate (or ‘Sportswagon’ in Kia terminology – SW for short) in the line-up. In fact, the firm says it expects around three quarters of all Optimas sold in the UK will be the wagon.
The new Optima SW certainly looks the part, but should you buy one over a rival such as the Ford Mondeo or Skoda Superb? We’re spending six months putting it to the test.
Introduction: Kia Optima SW 1.7 CRDi GT-Line S estate
Car company bosses often seem ashamed to admit that they’re targeting company car drivers with a new model. The suggestion that private buyers won’t be stumping up their own cold, hard cash upfront for a car is frowned upon.
Kia’s different. It accepts that business users make up the vast majority of buyers in this segment – no one buys a new Ford Mondeo for themselves. More than 80% of Optima buyers will be business users, and that’s why it’s kept things simple, offering just two efficient engines.
You can pick from a 1.7-litre diesel (emitting 113g/km CO2, meaning 19% company car tax), or a plug-in hybrid (37g/km CO2). There’s no petrol, for now – although a high-performance GT is set to follow in 2017.
We’ve opted for the diesel and, out of the four models on offer, we’ve chosen the top-spec GT-Line S. This comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard (resulting in a rise in emissions to 120g/km). With a £30,595 price tag, is it an overpriced Korean estate or a genuine premium go-getter?
First impressions suggest this could be the car for shedding Kia’s ‘Asda Price’ image – it’s absolutely loaded with kit. Highlights include 18-inch alloys, an openable panoramic sunroof and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system incorporating sat-nav and Android Auto connectivity (but not Apple CarPlay, yet). It even has a wireless phone charger.
Oh, and there are plenty of comforts to make the upcoming winter months more bearable: think heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats (er…), and leather upholstery with red stitching.
While the inside certainly does a good impression of a premium vehicle, the exterior makes many rivals look bland. With more than a passing resemblance to the concept on which it’s based, we’ve already noticed passers-by taking a second glance. That wouldn’t happen in a Skoda Superb.
Will our positive first impressions continue as we spend more time with the Kia Optima? We’ll be living with it for six months to find out.