Summer was in full, glorious, leafy green flush when the svelte silver Kia Optima saloon arrived to add a bit of sleek elegance to the Diesel Car fleet. Now in mid-winter we are bidding it farewell, and it’s time to reflect on half a year spent in the company of a good-value model near the top of Kia’s extensive car range.
This fourth-generation Optima had newly arrived in the UK when we bagged one of the early examples for extended test. Daily living with a car over some months can be very revealing for a warts-and-all appraisal, so we were interested to see how the big Kia would shape up. The quick initial verdict was that this is the best Optima yet, by far. Previous generations had been unmemorable, but this latest Optima has taken a quantum step forward in design, quality and driving calibre.
Over the months those early impressions have been entirely confirmed and we have found very little to dislike. Urged by Mr Editor to be picky and choose some critical What’s Notís, I have found myself with a feast of things to like about the car, and a relative famine of gripes. But here are a few, noted along the way: the door pockets could do with being a bit bigger, the engine could be a little quieter, the lane-keeper is irritating enough for me to have kept it permanently switched off, the Kia badge is still undeservedly short of cachet, and the car lacks a rear wiper like most saloons.
As for the last one, why so? I fail to understand the logic. Maybe in theory the steep angle of a saloon’s back window should dispense with rain on the glass, because of the airflow tipping over from the back edge of the roof. In practice, it doesn’t really work. So I’m tempted to start a campaign for saloon car rear screen wipers, because this is by no means the only model that could benefit from having one. Especially at this time of year, a clearer rear view would be a welcome boon.
Now that winter is biting ñ no, nibbling ñ with colder weather, I’m scratching for another thing about the Optima to take issue with for this final report, and I’m struggling. But here goes. On a really bitter day, I might be grateful for the back-penetrating effectiveness of the seat heater that equips the driving seat (and also the front passenger seat), but with the mild winter we’ve been having, the highest setting is a mite too hot. Yes, I know, a first world problem if ever there was one.
So let’s concentrate on what’s good about the Optima. For a start, the price. Earlier on I described it as good value, and it certainly is, for a large, roomy car that with no changes other than a different badge on the nose, could command a much heftier price. Although this highish-spec model comes in at less than £24k, it is very well equipped with desirable kit. Such as: those seat heaters, plus a heated steering wheel, an electrically adjustable driving seat with memory function, all the connectivity that modern life demands, a navigation system that will take you across Europe as well as around the UK, a reversing camera and much else besides.
I have felt very safe driving the Optima, not just for its size meaning that there’s a peace-of-mind distance between you in the driving seat and any potential dangers, but also for the safety kit that’s already on board. It’s a five-star Euro NCAP car, and it has driver aids and protections that are reassuring to know are guarding your safety. It’s been good to know that the big Kia has electronic stability control, brake assist, emergency stop signalling, even that slightly irksome lane keeping aid that can be a conscience nudger to urge you to stop driving if you’re getting tired. I also love the car having speed limit information, as a constant reminder to stay inside the relevant limit, and not risk falling foul of the proliferation of cash-cow speed cameras.
We’ll be sorry to wave away the Optima as it departs. It has become a good reliable friend of the family: always roomy enough for all we want to carry with us, ever ready, utterly reliable and an enjoyable charmer for a long trip. It’s an underrated car that deserves greater recognition for its friendly manners and many attributes ñ and just a very few minor flaws. But the real icing on the cake is that seven-year warranty, that gives protection for more than double than the industry norm.
Date arrived: 26th May 2016
Mileage to date: 4,111
Fuel consumption: 67.3 (combined) 43.9mpg (on test)
It’s a handsome looking car, with svelte body lines that give it a more prestige look than you expect of the badge.
The seat heater is almost too good. It has three levels of heat, but the highest one is almost too much, even on a cold day.