XCeeding expectations: new Kia XCeed crossover is coming

Kia XCeed revealed

Kia has revealed the first picture of its upcoming crossover, the XCeed. It should come as no surprise that the clever – if somewhat eye-roll-inducing name – is attached to an urban crossover version of the familiar Ceed hatch.

The XCeed is an ambitious attempt to cross sportiness with a high riding position. It certainly looks sharp, even with its elevated ride height and chunky utilitarian arches. It’s designed to make the likes of Volkswagen’s T-Cross and Tiguan look a little square, and give the sharper T-Roc a bloody nose.

XCeed: sportier than an SUV but just as practical

Kia XCeed

On the inside, we’re told to expect commendable cabin space and room for luggage, in line with Europe’s best-selling luxury SUVs. The XCeed wants to be a jack of all crossover and SUV trades, and a master of most. We suspect it won’t out-strip a Defender on a green lane…

Kia’s new sporty urban crossover will debut in full at the end of June 2019 and is likely to offer similar engine options, equipment levels to the Ceed hatchback, albeit at a slightly higher price. As for how much more, we won’t know until the summer.

Kia XCeed

“The sporty design and demeanour of the new Kia XCeed CUV makes it more innately desirable than many taller, larger SUVs,” said Emilio Herrera, COO at Kia Motors Europe.

“Yet it offers this without compromising on versatility, with its intelligent packaging achieving the cabin and storage space of an SUV in a sportier body and more compact footprint.”

New Kia Imagine: an electric car that defies categorisation

Kia Imagine conceptKia has unveiled its ground-breaking Imagine concept at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.

It’s an electric car, but not like we’ve seen before from the Korean marque. Not that the Soul EV or e-Niro are particularly derivative – but the Imagine deliberately breaks the mould.

A category buster

Just look at it. Is it a crossover? Is it a saloon? Is it an SUV? Much like the Polestar 2 EV,  the Imagine borrows the handsome, chiselled proportions of a sporting car for an SUV-addicted audience.

Kia Imagine concept

“It’s a large C-segment car – the vehicle size that’s incredibly popular in Europe – but the only things it holds on to are Kia’s brand values,” explains Gregory Guillaume, vice president of design for Kia Europe.

“It hints at something familiar, but is something entirely new. I think of it as a category-buster, and a disruptor – it’s familiar and understood but at the same time progressive and new.”

A category buster, you say? Sounds good to us. if you’re re-inventing powertrains, why not reinvent cars altogether? The Imagine could potentially re-invent Kia, too. The styling at the front including the ‘suspended lights’ and ‘tiger mask’ are the possible future corporate face for the marque’s electric cars.

Kia Imagine concept

“The inspiration for the ‘tiger mask’ was to create the look and feel of the headlamps being suspended within a transparent block of glass,” explains Guillaume. “This identifiable lighting signature could potentially be deployed as a unifying design element across Kia’s future electric vehicle range.”

Underneath the distinctive skin is a ‘low-mounted induction-charged battery pack, powering a compact drivetrain’. There’s no word yet on what range that provides, but suffice to say it’ll top the current e-Niro’s 300-plus miles.

Helping the Imagine on its way is a smooth, aerodynamic design. “The front air curtain, the way the double-skin bonnet channels air through the nose, up and over the front screen and roof, the double skinned C-pillar that creates an air spoiler, the completely enclosed underbody, the wind-cheating ‘wingcams’ and the hard-edged break-away around the car’s rear – all these features collectively boost aerodynamic efficiency and reduce turbulence and drag,” Guillaume says.

Kia Imagine concept

Completing the look on the outside are standard-issue concept car wheels – a massive 22 inches in diameter.

A cabin with “a twinkle in its eye”

Inside, Kia wanted this concept to have a sense of humour: a “twinkle in its eye”.

That wrap-around wall of displays for instance, is Kia biting its thumb at the stuffy attitude the industry has to screens, and how they’ve more or less remained stubbornly fixed to centre consoles for 20 years or more.

Kia Imagine concept

“These 21 incredibly thin screens are a humorous and irreverent riposte to the ongoing competition between some automotive manufacturers to see who can produce the car with the biggest screen,” said Ralph Kluge, Kia Motors Europe’s general manager of interior design.

Imagine is clearly an important car for Kia, with those responsible for bringing it to life being proud of their leftfield creation. It’s a statement of intent, that the marque intends to diversify the EV marketplace with a strong, appealing and quirky range of cars in the coming years.

2019 Kia Proceed review: the shooting brake you CAN afford

2019 Kia ProCeedNobody wants family-sized three-door coupes anymore. That’s why Volkswagen canned the Scirocco for the T-Roc. And it’s now why Kia has ditched the three-door pro_cee’d (sic) for this sleek-looking replacement. Praise be, it even now has a sensible name: Proceed.

You’ll recognise its influences right away: Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake, Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo. Only instead of costing more than £50,000, you can get one of these for under £24,000. Believe me, as I found on the first drive event in Barcelona, you’ll turn just as many heads.  

The third Ceed

2019 Kia ProCeed

The Proceed sits above the Ceed five-door hatch and Ceed Sportswagon in the range. You could argue Kia now has two estates in this sector, but while the Proceed has a voluminous boot, it’s very much about sleek style over cargo-carrying clout.

It’s going to compete with its Hyundai sister car, the i30 Fastback. That’s more of a hatchback-coupe than a genuine shooting brake, though, while the Proceed genuinely bears comparison with such exalted company. Other rivals: there aren’t many. The Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake is the most obvious similar-size alternative, but the starting price for that is at least £5,000 more.

Proceed up the range

2019 Kia ProCeed

The Proceed is only being sold in ‘posh’ trims: GT-Line, sporty GT and fully-loaded GT-Line S. There are three engine choices: 138hp 1.4-litre turbo petrol, 201hp 1.6-litre turbo petrol and 134hp 1.6-litre turbodiesel. The 1.4 will sell best, and petrol versions come with the DCT semi-auto gearbox only. Diesel buyers can opt for DCT or manual. 

Kia reckons there will be two likely customers: retail buyers looking for a more standout alternative to a family hatchback (but who don’t want an SUV), and company car drivers who need the practicality of an estate but, well, don’t want an estate. Regardless, it will be a niche model: 20 percent of overall Ceed sales.

Porsche will be miffed

2019 Kia ProCeed

The Proceed’s USP is how it looks: like a compact, better-proportioned Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo. It appears long, low and elegant, but is not too big or heavy, with well-crafted lines and clean, curvaceous surfaces. In blue, with a decent set of alloys, it could pass for a car costing £10,000 more (and from a premium brand, too).

It turned heads for two days while on the Spanish first-drive event. Twitter seemed to love it, too. That you can buy a car that looks this good for less than £25,000 means full marks to Kia. It’s a machine you’ll be proud to have on your driveway.

How is the Proceed different to the Ceed and Ceed Sportswagon?

2019 Kia ProCeed

The Proceed is lower and longer than its sister cars. It rides lower to the ground and, for maximum impact, has ‘ice cube’ LED running lights and a Porsche-style LED light bar at the rear. The chrome ‘shark blade’ side window feature is pretty neat.

The rear screen is much more angled than other Ceeds. It’s 13 degrees more inclined than the squared-off Sportswagon, and sits a few degrees flatter even than the hatch. And this has benefits when you open the boot.

A boot for pros

2019 Kia ProCeed

The boot is a mammoth 594 litres, not far shy of the estate’s 625 litres. Of course, you won’t be able to carry big, boxy items – slam the tailgate and you’ll smash the rear glass – but there is another surprise benefit to this open-plan load space: you can easily lean in and retrieve things.

No ducking down and crawling into the boot here. A high, flat boot floor eases things further, and if you pick the GT-Line S, you get 40:20:40-split rear seats. And a plethora of hidden cubbies beneath the boot floor. Cars this stylish are rarely as practical as the Proceed.

Ceed inside

2019 Kia ProCeed

Inside, it’s more stock Ceed. That’s not a bad thing, as the new model has an upmarket appearance, a quality finish, and evidence of the soft-touch plastics they use on Audis and BMWs. The standard eight-inch touchscreen is easy to use (sat nav, Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard on all) and the GT-Line S gets wireless smartphone charging.

The lower roofline doesn’t seem to hurt headroom, but rear footroom and legroom is a bit tight, due to the well-bolstered seats (and the standard power-operation on the S). Electric seats are mounted a touch high, but they’re firm and supportive, with chunky bolstering. A black rooflining and D-shaped steering wheel further up the sportiness.

Proceed to the road

2019 Kia ProCeed

Once underway, refinement is the first thing that strikes you. This is an extremely quiet and classy cruiser, with little wind noise and forgivable levels of road roar. The ride has a plush feel, with just an underlay of knobble (and the occasional bit of harshness) on the 18-inch wheels of the GT-Line S test car.

We drove the 1.4-litre petrol engine with DCT auto. It’s a very good motor, hushed at lower revs and bearable even when revved, until you go over 5,000rpm, when it becomes thrashy and weedy-sounding. There are times you wish for a bit more pull, but generally its muscle is more than ample. The seven-speed auto complements it perfectly.

Plush points

2019 Kia ProCeed

The Proceed proved to be an adept fast-road cruiser on scarred Spanish backroads. Quick steering, an engine that gives its best at mid-range revs and expensively-engineered suspension (it has a high-end multi-link setup front and rear, like a premium car) mean it punches above its price bracket.

The comfortable ride does mean it can roll a bit in corners if you chuck it around; there’s a firmer GT model (see below) if that’s your sort of thing. Better instead to enjoy the ride – oh, and the feel of the brakes, which are as nice to use as a BMW’s anchors. Again, they feel much classier than you expect in this sector. They’re a small, telling detail.

Proceed quickly

2019 Kia Proceed GT

Want to go faster? The £28,135, 201hp GT is for you. It has stiffer suspension, so it rolls less and remains better controlled at speed, with admirably limited effect on the ride quality. For fast-road motoring, it’s satisfying – again, the quality suspension makes the difference.

The aged-feeling engine isn’t great, though. A 201hp output doesn’t go far these days. It only really starts to surge above 5,000rpm, and becomes uncomfortably loud beyond 6,000rpm. And it’s thirsty: we saw 22mpg after an hour’s fast-road driving (official is a poor 37mpg). It’s a GT, not a hot hatch. Unless extra speed is all, you’re better spending a just a few hundred more on the better-equipped 1.4 GT-Line S. It’s simply a nicer car.

Proceed noisily

2019 Kia Proceed 1.6 CRDi

There’s also a diesel, supposedly a new ‘Smartstream’ 1.6 CRDi 134, complete with NOx-reducing SCR selective catalytic reduction tech (it has a nozzle for AdBlue in the fuel filler). It emits around 20g/km CO2 less than the petrol (claimed economy is 56.5mpg compared with 45.6mpg).

But it’s also not a great engine. The Smartstream makeover seems to have made it noisier and lumpier. Pulling away when cold, it sounds a little like a knackered Transit van. It hates revving much over 3,000rpm and makes a terrible racket, while only the DCT auto has the full measure of pulling power – torque is restricted in the manual, so it doesn’t feel as strong.

Unless your company car manager insists, go for the petrol (thanks to Britain’s ludicrous new diesel tax rules, the difference in your tax bill will be minimal, anyway).

What you get for your money

2019 Kia ProCeed

Kia Proceed prices start from £23,835. That gets you a GT-Line 1.4 T-GDI. The diesel is £850 more, and a DCT is £1,100 extra (it’s standard on the GT). Even GT-Line gets heated seats and steering wheel, 17-inch alloys, reverse camera and sensors plus keyless entry.

GT-Line S is top grade, only available as a 1.4 T-GDI DCT, for £28,685. It adds full leather seats (heated in the rear, too), 18-inch alloys, full LED headlights, a power tailgate, JBL audio, a large sunroof and blind spot warning. It’s a car that costs a similar amount to a basic Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake. We know which one we’d have.

Kia Proceed verdict: 4 stars

2019 Kia ProCeed

The Kia Proceed is a refreshing addition to the family car sector. Shooting brake-style ‘coupe-estates’ have been restricted to the premium sector for years, so it’s great to see Kia bringing one to the affordable family car arena. Particularly one that looks as good as this.

It’s surprisingly practical, decent value for money, drives nicely and generally offers a fittingly classy and upmarket experience. If you’re bored of family hatches, it shows you don’t need to move into an SUV to get something different – and you’ll win far more admiring glances with one of these, take our word for it.

Kia Telluride

Opinion: The super-sized Kia Telluride SUV should come to the UK

Kia Telluride

It might have a Korean badge, but there are few cars more American than the Kia Telluride. If only we could buy it in the UK…

Kia describes its new monster truck as “ranch-ready with saddle-like leather accents”. Granted, that’s with reference to the New York Fashion Week concept version seen here, but you get the point. The Telluride is an extra large – with extra cheese – blunderbuss of a car, named after a town in the Colorado Rocky mountains.

All-American hyperbole aside, it’s a large SUV not unlike the Audi Q7. It seats eight, looks great and is most certainly not lightweight. It makes us wonder whether Kia could score a home run by offering this type of flagship SUV in the UK, complete with a bombproof warranty to worry German rivals.

Kia Telluride

Could the Kia Telluride have a place in the UK?

That’s the question, isn’t it? Kia is keen on making statements of intent at the minute. The Stinger GT is all about affirming the company’s place as a legitimate alternative to the premium executive stalwarts, and does so really rather well. Truth be told, it sticks out like a sore thumb in the current range of value-for-money volume fodder.

With the eight-seater, Georgia-built Telluride by its side, Kia’s range of premium cars would gain strength and no little style.

It is premium, too. Underneath all that Texan garnish the cabin features lovely styling with similar design language to what we saw in the Stinger’s cabin. On the outside you could take the badges off, stick it in a Grand Theft Auto game and players would mistake it for a fictitious recreation of the Bentayga. It really does have that kind of presence – and no, that’s not an illusion generated by all the adventuring paraphernalia on the car pictured.

What’s more, Kia isn’t seemingly betraying any brand values or hero cars of old by offering a big hairy truck. Envy that, Maserati, Ferrari and Lamborghini…

Kia Telluride

Is the King Kia too big for our roads?

A big truck is a halo car and a statement, just like Volkswagen’s Touareg, the Audi Q7 and, of course, the SUV that started it all: the Range Rover. A premium SUV at the head of the range adds brand kudos – just ask BMW (although they might be busy readying their X7 flagship SUV).

On the X7, there’s the argument about size. The argument is ongoing about whether certain cars are too big for UK roads. Yet here we are about to receive a proper American-sized (and American-built) German bus onto our Tarmac – the largest BMW ever made. Why shouldn’t the Kia join it?

A beefy X7-sized truck with Stinger-esque feel, eight seats and a seven-year warranty, and for thousands less than the aforementioned German bruiser, sounds like a winner to us.

Some Euro-centric tweaks – like a competent hybrid model and a toning-down of any chrome lashings – and it’ll be ripe for sale, we reckon. At the very least, it’s another mega boost to Kia’s brand image, picking up where the Stinger left off.

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Kia Stinger Surrey County Cricket

Howzat! Surrey County cricketers catch bright yellow Kia Stingers

Kia Stinger Surrey County Cricket

The two captains of Surrey County Cricket Club’s men’s teams will be arriving in Sunset Yellow Kia Stinger GT-Line models for the remainder of the season.

Rory Burns, captain of the County Championship and One-Day Cup sides, and Jade Dernbach, captain of the T20 team, will be standing out in the 2.0 T-GDi GT-Line version of Kia’s flagship model, and not the Audi-baiting twin-turbocharged GT-S model.

The pair figured that the lower-powered version would make more sense on the congested roads around the Kia Oval, especially as the GT-Line is still able to cut a dash in any car park, especially in Sunset Yellow, which happens to be the only no-cost colour option.

David Hilbert, marketing director at Kia Motors (UK) Limited, said: “These two guys are doing a great job leading the Surrey Men’s team this season and we are delighted they are going to be turning heads on the road and on the pitch now they are driving Stinger.”

The Stinger range starts at £32,025, with even the entry-level GT-Line boasting 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, memory driver’s seat, heated seats, an eight-inch display, front and rear parking sensors, head-up display, smart cruise control and a limited slip differential.

The GT-Line S adds LED headlights, electric tailgate, 15-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system, sunroof, wireless phone charger and 360º around view monitor. The flagship GT-S boasts Brembo brakes, Nappa leather and electronic controlled suspension.

The cricket captains will have to live without the sublime 370hp 3.3-litre V6 engine found in the GT-S, but the 2.0 T-GDi offers far more than a medium-pace delivery, with a 0-62mph time of 5.8sec, just 1.1sec slower than the V6 version.

Surrey County Cricket Club runs a fleet of Kia vehicles, with the Oval car park featuring the likes of Sportage, Optima Sportswagon and Sorento models.

2018 Kia Ceed

2018 Kia Ceed prices from £18,295

2018 Kia CeedKia has revealed prices for the new 2018 Ceed range – and, starting from £18,295, they open at a higher price point than many expected when the new car was revealed at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show.

It’s also a £1,000 hike over the current Kia cee’d.

Note the name change: after two generations of annoying grammar zealots, Kia has finally both dropped the apostrophe and capitalised the first letter: Ceed still stands for ‘Community of Europe, with European Design’, but it’s no longer a spellchecker’s nightmare to write down.

Kia hasn’t revealed the full price rundown yet, but has confirmed the new Ceed will be sold in 2, Blue Edition, 3 and First Edition grades at launch. Engines will include a 100hp 1.4-litre, 120hp 1.0-litre T-GDI, 140hp 1.4-litre T-GDI, plus a 1.6-litre CRDi diesel with either 115hp or 136hp.

The fastest petrol will do 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds; the greenest diesel will average 74.3mpg.

Kia’s sold 1.26 million Ceed since it was launched in late 2006, and it wants to step up a gear with this third-generation car. Indeed, it’s a vital Kia launch that’s essential to the firm’s growth plans.

Emilio Herrera, COO for Kia Motors Europe, said: “2006 saw Kia’s European market share reach 1.5 percent, and just over a decade later, in 2017, it’s grown to 3.0 percent. Since the introduction of the Ceed, Kia’s annual European sales have more than doubled, with over 472,000 cars sold last year.

“The Ceed model family will play a major role in our efforts to achieve annual sales in excess of half a million vehicles this year and beyond.”

That’s why so much has gone into the new car, which Kia has designed to look lower, sleeker and sportier. It’s longer, wider and has a longer rear overhang; there are more straight lines rather than rounded-off edges, and the cab-forward look of the old model has been moved back.

Kia says 60 percent of sales will be of the five-door hatch, but the 40 percent mix of Sportwagon estate sales is why it’s made sure the wagon is available from launch. The Sportwagon’s boot is an eye-opening 18 percent larger than before, with 625 litres even with the seats up. That’s bigger than many cars from the class above…

The new Ceed should also drive much better. Kia says the front springs are 40 percent stiffer, the steering is 17 percent more direct and it’s even offering optional Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres which deliver more grip in bends.

First drives for the new Ceed will take place in July, just ahead of ordering opening on 1 August. Come back then to find out if it’s the family hatch you should be ordering for September new registration delivery…

2018 Kia Ceed

2018 Kia Ceed and Sportswagon revealed in Geneva

2018 Kia CeedCan’t wait for the new Ford Focus? Kia has revealed its new Ceed hatchback and Ceed Sportswagon estate at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show.

Based on Kia’s new K2 platform, the new Ceed (note the lack of an apostrophe – at last) is 20mm wider and 23mm lower than its predecessor. Its wheelbase remains the same, while a rear overhang extended by 20mm compensates for a 20mm shorter front overhang.2018 Kia Ceed

Engineered especially for Europe – something that has helped Kia become one of the big boys over here in recent years – the new Ceed will come with a variety of petrol and diesel engines.

The petrol line-up is made up of a 100hp 1.4-litre, a 120hp 1.0 turbo and a turbocharged 140hp 1.4. Diesel buyers are catered for with a 1.6 in 115hp and 136hp guises. There’s also a choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed double-clutch auto transmissions.

The Stinger effect

2018 Kia Ceed

Built alongside the Sportage and Venga in Slovakia, the Ceed marks a clear step upwards in terms of quality. Sitting in the cabin at Geneva, cues from recent Kia models such as the upmarket Stinger are obvious. There’s a new infotainment system, available with a five- seven- or eight-inch screen, while a variety of drive modes cater for all driving styles.

The boot’s 15 litres bigger than before, up to 395 litres in the hatchback (which, incidentally, is now only available as a five-door). The Sportswagon accounted for around 40 percent of all sales of the outgoing Ceed, with the new model boasting a boot size of 600 litres (bigger than the larger Optima Sportswagon but short of the Honda Civic’s 624 litres).

2018 Kia Ceed

Technology includes level two autonomy in the form of lane-following assist. This tracks vehicles in front of the Ceed in traffic and uses road markings to keep the car in its lane on the motorway. It can control the steering, acceleration and braking using sensors to monitor vehicles ahead. It operates at speeds between 0mph and 80mph.

Prices are yet to be announced, but we doubt there’ll be much of an increase over the current £15,365 start-price. In true Kia fashion, the new Ceed will come with a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty with sales starting in summer. Still tempted to hold on for that Focus?

2018 Kia Ceed

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Update 2: Everything we rate (and hate) about the Kia Optima SW

Kia Optima Sportswagon 1.7 CRDi GT-Line S estate (2016): long-term review

Kia Optima Sportswagon 1.7 CRDi GT-Line S estate (2016): long-term review

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.

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.

Report 2: everything we rate (and hate) about life with the Kia Optima SW

Update 2: Everything we rate (and hate) about the Kia Optima SW

I’ve done a lot of miles in the Kia Optima since I introduced it to the MR long-term test fleet. I could write a lengthy piece about how good it was for driving to Wales for Christmas duties (hence the picture of it looking filthy above), how a Nordic Fir slotted into the boot and how it copes brilliantly with the daily grind, but you probably know all that. So I thought I’d do one of those trendy listicles about what I like and dislike about the Optima SW.

Good things about life with the Kia Optima SW

Good things about life with the Kia Optima SW

The seats are brilliant

OK, it might sound like a silly, minor thing. All cars have relatively comfortable seats, right, especially if you spend more than £30,000 on the top-spec leather-trimmed GT-Line variant? Well, yeah, but I eternally find myself aching after a long stint in pretty much any Volkswagen Group product (I think I’m the wrong shape for German seats). In the Optima, I’m as fresh as the proverbial daisy even after a slog of several hundred miles.

My mates like it

Yeah, this is an odd one. I’m a 20-something car writer type whose mates should appreciate Civic Type Rs and other hooligan specials. But, without fail, they love being driven about in the Optima. That’s probably because it feels safe and I don’t even bother trying to drive it fast. Also…

The sound system is really good

I’m no audio snob, but all grades of the Optima SW from the ‘3’ up feature a Harman Kardon sound system. The speakers (eight in total) do a commendable job of mimicking a premium car’s sound system. Combine this with Spotify through my phone (we’ll come onto that shortly…) and the Kia becomes a mobile disco.

The gearbox is slick

While rivals such as the Mazda 6 and Vauxhall Insignia stick with conventional automatic gearboxes, the Kia Optima gets a more upmarket dual-clutch transmission. This makes for faster gear changes – and it works brilliantly. Just don’t bother with ‘eco’ mode unless you’re motorway cruising (another thing I’ll come onto shortly).

It looks great

Finally, look at it. This doesn’t look like a downmarket offering – it attracts loads of admiring glances, especially in Temptation Red. While I’m not sure about the chintzy grille, the rest of it looks great – particularly from the rear.

Bad things about life with the Kia Optima SW

Bad things about life with the Kia Optima SW

It likes a beep

Turn the ignition on without putting your seatbelt on and it beeps. Run low on washer fluid and it beeps. Drive in cold conditions and it beeps. Stand near the boot and it beeps (before the electronic tailgate, standard on the GT-Line S, starts opening). I find beeps infuriating yet Korean and Japanese cars love them.

The reversing camera gets muddy easily

At this time of year, cars get filthy pretty quickly. Normally I’m the sort who doesn’t bother cleaning their car over winter (what’s the point when it gets dirty again so soon), but the Optima’s reversing camera (standard on all models) and clever 360-degree around view monitor (standard on the GT Line S) means I’m having to clean the Optima almost weekly. The cameras get covered in the dirt extremely easily, and there’s no washer system like on some models.

The steering is too light

No, I don’t expect super-direct steering, but the Kia Optima’s steering is so light just keeping it on the straight ahead is a bit of an effort. Feedback is non-existent, while putting in sports mode makes things heavier but not particularly communicative. Talking of which: sports mode holds onto the revs for too long, while eco mode is frustrating – roundabouts particularly (“are you sure you want to pull out rapidly,” the car says, “think of the trees!”). Why can’t I have ‘normal’ mode with slightly heavier steering?

It has a puncture repair kit

I recently got a puncture in the Optima. I can’t really blame the Kia for that, but I can blame it for having a rubbish ‘tyre mobility kit’ that only worked long enough for me to limp seven miles to my nearest ATS Euromaster. Said ATS Euromaster were too busy to fit me in for a couple of days, meaning I had to abandon the Kia in their car park and get the train. Give me a full size spare any day.

There’s no Apple CarPlay… yet

I’m a huge fan of Apple CarPlay, and if I was a company car driver looking for an estate car to cover long distances, CarPlay would be high on the list of priorities. Curiously, the Optima Sportswagon is available with Android Auto but not Apple CarPlay. It’s on its way, apparently, but I do miss it on our long-termer.

Introduction: Kia Optima SW 1.7 CRDi GT-Line S estate

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?

Introduction: Kia Optima SW 1.7 CRDi GT-Line S estate

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.

Kia's shock new Stinger will be coming to Europe with a diesel engine

Kia's shock new Stinger will be coming to Europe with a diesel engine

Kia's shock new Stinger will be coming to Europe with a diesel engine

The star of this year’s Detroit Auto Show, the Kia Stinger, has had its European specifications confirmed – with a 2.2-litre turbodiesel likely to be the biggest seller when it goes on sale in the UK.

The Stinger is a rear-wheel-drive sports saloon that could compete with upmarket offerings such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The 2.2-litre turbodiesel will produce 200hp, hit 62mph in 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 140mph.

Although economy figures haven’t been confirmed, a diesel variant could be a huge hit with company car drivers looking for something unusual. There is a caveat, however, as Kia UK hasn’t confirmed whether the diesel will be available in right-hand-drive markets.

A 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and a powerful 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 in the form of the range-topping Stinger GT are expected to be sold in the UK.

The latter produces 370hp and will hit 62mph in 5.1 seconds, making it the fastest Kia ever sold. Top speed is expected to be around 170mph.

Kia says the Stinger’s driving dynamics will live up to its sporty design. As such, the Stinger’s ride and handling were honed at Germany’s infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife, under the watch of ex-BMW Albert Biermann, Kia’s head of vehicle test and high performance development.

The prices are yet to be announced, but speculation suggests the eye-catching four-door fastback could start at around £28,000.