Kia Optima Sportswagon
Model tested: Kia Optima Sportswagon GT-Line S 1.7 CRDi DCT
Price: £30,595 Engine: 1.7-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 139bhp
There’s only one engine available in the Optima Sportswagon, with the firm’s 1.7-litre CRDi diesel fitted to 2, 3 and GT-Line S models. It’s the latter we test here, which gets Kia’s DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard. However, at £30,595, and with less power than its rivals, the Optima SW needs to be on top form to succeed.
Like its saloon sibling, the Optima Sportswagon’s lines give it an elegant look. The design remains faithful to the Sportspace concept seen at the Geneva Motor Show in 2015, so the wide grille with Kia’s trademark dip in the middle links the car’s headlights.
The design details have been toned down slightly for the Optima Sportswagon, but the basic shape is similar, A narrow, wide air intake sits beneath the main grille, accentuating the car’s width, while two upright vents at the corners of the front bumper incorporate some silver strakes to differentiate it from the rest of the range, breaking up the bodywork.
The Optima Sportswagon’s wheelarches and shoulder line aren’t as chiseled as the concept’s, but for a production car the creases running back from the headlights and down its flanks are a nice design detail thar give it a solid look.This line rises gently to the tail-lamps, while the window line kicks up and in towards the D-pillar, providing the Kia with strong shoulders and elegant, elongated proportions.
A diffuser-style insert in a contrasting colour to the body houses two oval tailpipes and breaks up the rear bumper and tailgate, while the bright silver roof rails are yet another styling touch that means the Kia cuts an attractive figure on the road.
Inside, the styling is a little more subdued. It’s reminiscent of the saloon, so the centre stack features an eight-inch touchscreen above the primary infotainment controls on this GT-Line S model, while the ventilation buttons sit underneath – with the silver accents around the edges of these sections, it looks very similar to a BMW 3 Series.
Material and build quality are solid, while the plastics that cover the dashboard and centre console are soft to touch. However, elsewhere in the cabin the design and plastics aren’t a match for its rivals. But as you’d expect from the top trim level, you get a fair amount of kit for your £30,595.
Sat-nav, all-round parking sensors, Bluetooth with voice recognition and Kia’s connected services that work in conjunction with the sat-nav and climate control are standard across the range. GT-Line S also gets a Harman/Kardon stereo, park assist, wireless mobile phone charging, electrically adjustable heated and ventilated leather seats, adaptive cruise and keyless go. In fact, the only option is metallic paint – as on our test car – which costs £545.
Kia’s 1.7-litre diesel is down on power compared with the 2.0-litre engine fitted to both the Skoda and VW. And while the 139bhp unit delivers an identical 340Nm torque output to its rivals at the same 1,750rpm, you have to rev it harder to match the other cars’ acceleration due to the Optima’s heavier 1,635kg kerbweight.
At the track the Kia served up respectable performance, but when you’re not on full throttle its competitors feel faster. The DCT box manages shifts smoothly, even if it’s not as quick as the VW Group dual-clutch transmission in the Superb and Passat, and helped the Optima cover 0–60mph in a respectable 10.2 seconds given it’s 9bhp down on its rivals, and nearly 200kg heavier than the Skoda. Yet it loses clear ground to its rivals in terms of ride quality. The Kia’s suspension set-up doesn’t feel as calm or collected as the Superb’s, even on smooth surfaces.
Over bumpy, rippled tarmac the difference is even more noticeable, as the Optima’s body gets jiggled about as the dampers struggle to isolate the movement of the wheels. On motorways the ride is better, but the overly light steering feels at odds with the firmer set-up. Plus, the weight doesn’t change as you enter a corner, so while there’s plenty of grip, it’s not relayed to the driver through the steering.
You can still drive the Kia quickly in plenty of safety, but under normal conditions, if you’ve got passengers on board, they might not be as comfortable as in the Skoda or Volkswagen.
Six airbags are standard, and while the SW hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, the Optima saloon was awarded a hill five-star crash safety rating. Along with a host of other systems, autonomous emergency braking is standard.
With Kia’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, there’s peace of mind if you intend to keep the car for more than the usual three years, too, while as the coverage package is transferable, it’ll sweeten the deal if you sell the car before the warranty is up.
Running costs 3.3/5
Large estates like these make up a significant part of the company car market, so despite competitive C02 emissions of 120g/km, the purchase price counts against the Kia. As a result the Optima will actually be the most expensive car to run for business users, with higher-rate taxpayers having to cough up £2,932 eveiyyear. This is £231 and£343 more than those choosing the Skoda and VW respectively, with the latter’s lower emissions helping keep costs down.
Kia’s £329 three-year servicing pack is well priced. Its rivals only offer two-service/two-year deals, so the price per check-up on the Optima works out at £110. It might only be a small margin, but the Skoda and WV come out at £140 and £144 respectively.
Estate cars have to offer practicality, which tends to come from a cavernous boot. While the Optima’s 552-litre load bay will be sufficient for day-to-day use, it might not be for a family holiday. It’s down on the Superb’s 660-litre offering, while the 650-litre Passat also serves up more space.
The SW’s cabin is spacious/but this practical side means it earns its spurs as an estate, with big door bins, two large trays in the ccnrre console, a lidded cubby and divided compartments under the boot floor. A sliding panoramic sunroof makes the cabin feel airy.
Details including levers to fold the rear seats remotely make the Optima easy to live with, but its rivals also pack plenty of neat convenience features.