Most notably, suspension has been toned down since the first generation car so the ride is streets more comfortable, the only downside being a tendency for the body to float quite markedly over road surface undulations. But after years of over-tough-riding German family car occupancy, who’s complaining?
More interesting is Kia’s first plug-in hybrid, the Optima PHEV. This marries a 2.0-litre petrol engine to a 50kW electric motor replacing the torque converter in a six-speed automatic transmission to generate a maximum system output of 202bhp. A 9.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack split between under-seat and spare-tyre well locations boasts sufficient power to not only give the PHEV a claimed all-electric EV driving range of some 33 miles, but also massage fuel consumption and CO2 figures to a hilariously unattainable 176.6mpg and just 37g/km respectively.
The PHEV potters about prettily enough in EV mode, up to speeds of 75mph, though to get there from a standstill in just the one day requires a sufficiently leaden right foot to guarantee the engine will inevitably cut in to assist with proceedings. Stooging gently through traffic, however, will leave the engine utterly uninvolved, and only minimally taxed in default hybrid mode.
With the electric motor generating maximum torque from zero rpm, the PH EV is pleasingly brisk off the line. Indeed, it would, put the performance of its diesel-powered sibling to the sword with far greater zeal were it not for the feet that it weights a hefty 200kg more than the latter.
Like the diesel, the 2.0 petrol unit doesn’t sound as if it enjoys being over-taxed but, overall, the adoption of an automatic gearbox makes Kia’s hybrid system easier on the ears and markedly less bovine under pressure than those favouring the continuously variable input of complex planetary gearing, if not quite so seamless in operation.
With the system’s electric motor column – rather than rack-mounted (as in the standard car), the steering feels notably heavier and less informative. No matter, because this is not a car that relishes being thrown around. Dynamically it isn’t as good as the Sportswagon by a considerable chalk. The suspension toughening to cope with those 200 extra bags of sugar has done the ride quality no favours, and you feel the weight of the car sloshing about the instant you lob it at a comer. Drive it like you wear socks with sandals, however, and a seven year warranty makes Kia’s PHEV an interesting, if not entirely engaging, proposition.